CoinCDX, a leading cryptocurrency exchange in India, recently secured US$135 million in funding led by Pantera Capital and Steadview Capital.
This round doubled the Mumbai-based company’s valuation to $2.15 billion.
On the backdrop of this massive funding, Startagist talked to CoinCDX co-founder and CEO Sumit Gupta.
Edited excerpts from the interview:
With the Series D funding round, you have hit the unicorn status. How has been your journey so far?
CoinDCX achieved unicorn status in August 2021, when we concluded our Series C funding round, and the experience was that although it was a fulfilling journey, it was also filled with challenges.
When we first started CoinDCX, we recall the Reserve Bank of India ordering banks to stop trading with crypto companies. This was especially challenging for us, as it led to an outflow of investors, leaving us without the funds critical to sustaining the company. With a team we could count at our fingertips, we preserved and worked tirelessly to keep the company operational. Our investors eventually came back after the reversal of the ban.
Today, we are an over 400 people-strong team who supported our journey to bring 12.5 million users to the CoinDCX platform and accelerate our growth at breakneck speed to reach unicorn status.
In India, governments and even individuals have always frowned upon cryptocurrency. Because of these, many early comers could not survive, with some winding up. How did you successfully address challenges, including unfavourable regulations, to grow into a billion-dollar business?
In fronting the country’s pivot towards a digital-first economy, policymakers in India have increasingly demonstrated their receptiveness to crypto-based solutions and willingness to lead stakeholder discussions involving key industry actors and participants.
As a crypto-focused company in India, we have been proactive in our engagements with regulators, holding frequent conversations with the relevant stakeholders to advance crypto regulations in India.
We are also relentless in our push for crypto education, developing comprehensive training programmes and certifications courses and partnering with multiple universities and higher education institutions to support knowledge building and interdisciplinary learning.
You started in 2018. What was the motivation to start CoinCDX? What is the story behind it?
Neeraj and I have been friends since our college days. Our first achievement was materialising our long-held aspiration of moving to Mumbai and attending the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. Together, we had cryptography classes and immersed ourselves in other new-age technologies. While we always had a keen interest in exploring emerging technologies, our passion grew further in university, and we aspired to establish our startup to reach an untapped and underserved market in India. That led to us co-founding CoinDCX to bring crypto to the masses.
How do you work with the central government to allay the concerns around crypto? Do you think the government will legalise cryptocurrency in the near future?
Governmental support is key for digital assets to reach their full potential and impact India’s digital economy. The first step in any regulatory regime is to accept and acknowledge the emergence of a new asset class. We had seen that happening in India when the government classified crypto as Virtual Digital Assets. To us, we believe that this is a step in the right direction.
Furthermore, digital assets were given greater legitimacy when included in the government’s overall taxation framework – this is an important milestone in recognition of crypto. As one of India’s largest crypto exchanges, we continuously look for opportunities to strengthen policy conversations through public discourse and foster continued collaboration with the government to introduce favourable regulations and education support programmes. We are confident that they are working rigorously to bring greater regulatory clarity to the space.
How do you create awareness among the people of India?
Driving understanding, education and adoption of crypto and blockchain has always been a core part of CoinDCX’s business. That’s why we launched DCXLearn, a full-fledged crypto learning platform with courses on crypto and blockchain, so that more people can understand the importance of digital assets and their position in the future of finance. We have now brought this education to our app as well.
Through continuously addressing misinformation and driving public awareness of emerging technologies, more people in India would also be able to make informed decisions about trading crypto and find confidence in dipping their toes into digital finance. Especially with the growing ubiquity of digital assets in today’s financial landscape, it is vital to have a gasp on crypto or risk losing relevance in the rapidly evolving digital asset ecosystem.
You claim to have 1,000 users so far and plan to hit a 1 million user base in 18 months? How do you plan to achieve this ambitious goal?
Currently, CoinDCX has over 12.5 million users on its platform. Only earlier in February this year did we announce our milestone of crossing more than 10 million users. In just a few months, we onboarded nearly three million more — setting us on an unusual upward trajectory. As we continue to grow our business, ensuring that we provide a trusted and safe crypto experience has been and will continue to be the impetus to furthering our user base.
What are the other major challenges faced by India’s cryptocurrency sector? How do you currently operate in a challenging atmosphere?
The regulatory hurdles have often been a major challenge for crypto companies in India. From threats of crypto bans to stringent regulations such as the hefty crypto tax and the onerous tax deductible at source, India’s crypto sector’s resilience has been tested time and time again. However, through all these, CoinDCX has remained steadfast, growing and thriving even in the face of regulatory uncertainties and adversities. Being cognizant of the changing policies, strengthening discussions with policymakers and encouraging a greater understanding of digital finance and emerging technologies such as crypto and blockchain has been essential to overcoming the challenges.
Do you think India has favourable factors to become a fast-growing crypto market?
Yes, definitely. Asia is a fascinating place to be for digital assets right now. It has all the makings to become a hotbed for crypto and mobile-first societies, a growing middle class, and an ambitious young population that is open-minded and willing to be early adopters of innovative technologies.
India, in particular, has greatly surprised market watchers with the rapid adoption of digital assets in recent years. Despite the regulatory back-and-forths happening in the market, India still ranked second on the 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index. This speaks to the strength of the market – its demographics, strength in technology and a general willingness by the Indian population to explore crypto.
At CoinDCX, we are passionate about how crypto education can raise awareness and unlock the potential of digital assets. We believe that once people understand blockchain technology and how it can revolutionise the finance industry (and others), mainstream crypto adoption will be inevitable. CoinDCX, as India’s first crypto unicorn and the nation’s safest cryptocurrency exchange, will be leading India in this charge towards the new Web3 economy, and a future where crypto is more prominent and easily accessible.
Why do you need a huge amount of capital of $135M? What are your plans with the capital raised?
With the latest successful Series D funding round, CoinDCX is on track to become India’s first decacorn – a testament to how far we have come since the inception of CoinDCX in 2018. With the latest capital raised, we want to grow our existing business/platforms and focus on nurturing India’s crypto and Web3 industry. Education, Innovation and Compliance remain key cornerstones of CoinDCX’s strategy, and we will continue building on these strengths.
In addition, CoinDCX remains committed to crypto education and spreading awareness amongst Indian investors on crypto and blockchain. We have already launched several educational initiatives and campaigns working closely with universities, and will continue to expand DCXLearn, our educational platform that works towards fostering greater understanding and trust for this emerging asset class. We also have plans to launch an Innovation Center to further Web3 and Blockchain adoption in India.
To help support CoinDCX’s vision, we seek to triple our talent pool to over 1000 employees by the end of the year. We aim to nurture local talent through our various outreach programs, research initiatives, and strategic investments. As we continue to expand both our team and outreach, our goals remain the same – to make crypto accessible to all and lead India into the new digital economy.
The web3 industry has not even kicked off in India. How do you plan to make a change here and popularise web3?
We recently announced the launch of CoinDCX Ventures – with a mission to do just that. CoinDCX recognises the importance of leveraging this space and the unlimited opportunities and potential it brings. We are passionate and serious about enabling the growth of the Web3 ecosystem in India. CoinDCX Ventures will have resources to invest in early-stage crypto and blockchain startups, both in India and globally. The CoinDCX Ventures’s mandate is to nurture the crypto and Web3 industry in India and beyond, hoping to serve as India’s gateway to the broader international crypto ecosystem that has already been established.
Do you plan to enter web3 and metaverse gaming in the future?
We are continuously seeing an influx of unique, creative and innovative collaborations between the worlds of business, technology, fashion, sport and art — particularly as lines between physical and digital worlds become increasingly blurred.
While we have no concrete plans to enter the gaming market for now, it is something we might consider in the future. The crypto and blockchain industry is moving at such a rapid pace with new innovations disrupting the space every day. CoinDCX wants to be at the forefront of it, spearheading the charge towards a new digital future where finance is increasingly decentralised.