Tomas Forgac is a renowned face among the pioneers in the space in South.East Asia – running the well-known Bitcoin Meetup in Singapore in the early days.
His passion always was in providing real world solutions with the technology at hand.
Initially launching his startup career with Coin of Sale which served as the first.crypto payment gateway in Singapore back in 2013,.he is since two years back in the game full-time.
As a co-founder of Unicrow he is aiming to bring trustless escrow solutions to the marketplace.
While you might trust established OTC brokers such as BitcoinVN,.in many situations – be it in international trade finance or interacting.with counterparties you don’t really know/trust with limited ability.of successful enforcement – being able to trustlessly escrow the funds at stake might turn into a real game changer.
Making trade possible where before the lack of trust and high risk made it impossible.
Unicrow captured the attention of the illustrious industry veteran Arthur Hayes.who became one of the early angel investors and advisors of Unicrow.
Meet Tomas Forgac – a man with stories to tell.
BitcoinVN News: Tomas, you have been one of the founders of the Bitcoin Singapore meetup about a decade ago. What is your favourite story from these pioneering times? And what do you remember most fondly about the early days?
Tomas Forgac: My favorite was how in 2013-15 the attendance strongly correlated.with the price. You could reliably predict the number of attendees by dividing the price.in dollars by ten – we went from 20 to a 100 as the price grew to around.$1,000, and we went down to below 20 when the market was bottoming below $200 a couple of years later.
What I remember most fondly was how united our mission was.– we were about p2p cash, free market exchange,.we paid our beers with Bitcoin,.and years later the merchants would use what they saved from those meetups to open new pubs and cafes.
BitcoinVN News: Since about two years you are back dedicating your life full-time towards building tools for the crypto economy, building Unicrow.
What brought about the initial idea for Unicrow and what initial target market did you have in mind? And did the latter expand / change as you were bringing your solution to the market?
Tomas Forgac: A good friend of mine from the Swiss crypto community brought up the idea how to make escrow possible without a 3rd party using this simple mutual challenge mechanism. We designed a platform around it and he offered to seed it with some initial investment if we were able to raise the rest of the round. We initially thought about p2p marketplaces as the first applications, not much else.
Two things changed as we were building and learning the market.
First, we realized the no-3rd-party model wasn’t really appealing. People understandably still prefer to have a human who can understand the full picture to decide a dispute. But the way we designed the protocol, how we used the programmability of crypto as a medium of exchange, how we strictly separated the roles, and how we made the contracts immutable, we minimized the trust that the users needed to put into the 3rd parties.
The second thing we learned was that the use-cases go way beyond p2p marketplaces. We’ve seen demand from crypto-OTC desks, domains trading, tokenization platforms, trade finance, and other sectors who rely on various forms of escrow which tend to be slow, expensive, and subject to onerous regulations..
BitcoinVN News: How does Unicrow work in simple terms and who and why should look into contacting you and your team in order to excise some of the problems they face?
Tomas Forgac: Let’s imagine a typical trade finance or factoring deal – you’re a Vietnamese supplier with a new European customer. The customer wants to buy some capital goods from you. You want to see that the customer is good for the money, but they don’t want to pay you upfront directly. You can approach banks and use LoCs, but those are slow and, depending on the size of the deal, can get expensive.
Instead, the customer can deposit the amount in e.g. USDT to the Unicrow smart contract-based escrow. You both agree on an escrow period of how long it should take the goods to be delivered, and a 3rd party that you both trust that could decide a dispute if one arises.
If all goes well and the goods get delivered and quality checked,.the customer simply releases the funds to you or,.after the escrow period ends, you can claim the funds yourself. What’s great about that is that, because the contract knows the status of the escrow and the identities of the parties, these operations can be done unilaterally, so the UX is much better than with e.g. multisig where two parties need to get together.
If, however, there is a dispute, that 3rd party arbitrator you agreed upon can decide whether the money should be returned to the customer or released to you. But again because their role is strictly defined, they can’t run with the money or freeze them, and their decision is executed on-chain instantly. Of course they can, and presumably, would charge a fee that you all agreed upon.
If the deal took place on a platform that connected you two, like a b2b marketplace, that platform can integrate Unicrow and charge a small fee for their service, without ever holding custody of the funds, or even without having any sort of sophisticated key infrastructure.
Finally, the separation of roles also makes it easy to have the funds received directly to a platform like BitcoinVN for a quick conversion to fiat.
BitcoinVN News: In building Unicrow, what has been the most challenging part of your entrepreneurial journey? What did you learn and would you advise other founders in the space?
Tomas Forgac: I should have been selling much sooner much more than I did. We are builders, we love to build, so that’s what we did mostly, but I didn’t focus enough on building the initial set of great customers to go live with us soon after launch, but luckily we’re making up for that these days.
Also, speaking to more customers earlier would help us realize that some of the bells and whistles that we built into the platform were not that necessary. With most of the customers these days we never get to a discussion about those and if we did, we could have always added them.
So in short – try to sell more earlier and really stick to that M in MVP 🙂
BitcoinVN News: Arthur Hayes, an industry legend as the founder of Bitmex which for a long time dominated the global exchange landscape, was an early investor into Unicrow.
What did Arthur see in Unicrow with his vast industry experience to make him pull the trigger and how did you get in touch with Arthur?
Tomas Forgac: I’ve known Arthur from the early Singapore Bitcoin days,.so I’m lucky to have earned his trust I suppose. And we share the vision of building unstoppable crypto protocols,.so when he saw we had really designed the platform around this idea of immutability.and trust-minimization, he agreed to support us.
BitcoinVN News: Talking funding: What is your general roadmap at Unicrow and are you guys planning a further raise any time soon? And if so, what type of investors are you looking for and how should they get in touch with you?
Tomas Forgac: We are trying to raise a round as we speak,.but to be honest the market is such that we’re not putting any effort into it.and rather focus on bringing more customers on board to show more traction.
But if there are investors who have experience in helping b2b crypto-infrastructure, or that have a network of startups that fit our customer profile, we’d be happy to talk of course.
BitcoinVN News: You have relocated a while back from the fast-paced Asian financial capital of Singapore to the more serene life in Zurich / Switzerland. How do the two places compare and what is your favourite upside about life in Zurich / Switzerland?
Tomas Forgac: Well, first off, I wouldn’t really contrast Singapore’s pace to Zurich. They’re both highly innovative and entrepreneurial cities. I would even argue that Zurich punches way above its weight.when you realize it’s much smaller than Singapore. I certainly enjoy Zurich’s weather more 🙂.and the access to nature and mountains is, without doubt, one of its absolute highlights.
But one important difference which, unfortunately,.it of Singapore’s own making, is in the mindsets. The Singapore government has systematically suppressed free expression.and no matter how much you surround yourself with friends.and associates who have broken out of that,.you can’t help but feel the lack of individualism in the society as a whole.
Swiss, to the contrary, are some of the most open-minded,.freedom-loving, and entrepreneurial people in the world.