From Auditing to Web3.0: How this CA fell victim to a crypto scam, bounced back to start a DeFi platform and raise $3 M

Chartered Accountant Co-founder DeFi platform Spherium

  • Aanchal Thakur, a chartered accountant by qualification, fell victim to a crypto scam in 2016, losing money in the process.
  • This pushed her to understand more about Crypto and Blockchain.
  • In 2020, Aanchal co-founded Spherium Finance, an all-in-one decentralised finance (DeFi) platform.
  • Here is her journey in the space of Blockchain, crypto and metaverse. 

 

QAPITA

Back story

In the beginning, Chartered Accountancy did not figure in my career plans at all.

After writing my first line of code in high school, I grew fond of technology and planned to pursue a BTech in Software Engineering after Grade 12.

I appeared for one of the competitive entrance exams but unfortunately, I was unable to get a good rank.

For the first time, I felt lost in my life. I was struggling to figure out my next move.

Immediately, I did what I think everyone should do when coming across a similar situation – find a mentor.

I sought guidance from one of my high school teachers. After learning about my situation, she suggested that I pursue chartered accountancy (CA)… and I did.

Fortunately, it worked out well and after clearing all the exams on the first attempt, I qualified as a CA in 2007.

As a fresher, I received multiple offers from large organisations - Ernst & Young (EY) and Infosys, among others. However, my natural inclination toward technology led me to work in the Information Technology (IT) sector as an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) consultant for over 12 years.

 

QAPITA

Change in direction

Blockchain had already caused a sensation in India around the mid-2010s. But I came across this technology towards the end of 2016 because of my father.

He told me about an organisation that offered high returns on Bitcoin investments. I fell right into their trap.

It turned out to be a multi-level marketing (MLM) scheme and they defrauded me to the hilt. I was devastated, it was my hard-earned money after all. 

Having a background as an IT auditor which is finance and technology combined I wanted to learn more about this space.

As they say, everything has two sides - a positive and a negative. The positive side of the mishap was that it made me explore the Blockchain space.

But then came the big question - how should I start learning about this new technology?

My journey in the blockchain space started in 2016

Everything is available online and this is another beauty of the blockchain space.

First, I tried to learn as much as I could about bitcoin and then moved to different types of Blockchain. Before I knew it, my obsession with the whole Blockchain ecosystem began.

You actually do not need a University to learn about it. This is something which never used to happen because I am a Chartered Accountant also. I have done my information system audit course. I've done a lot of courses, but there is always an organization teaching you. 

There are two blockchains, private and public. So if it is a public blockchain project and it does not have a white paper or does not have an open application do not believe in it. 

Most Blockchain projects release white papers before the product is ready where they detail everything from what they are going to build, and how they are going to build it. This is very beneficial as it helps others who want to learn and create something similar or even better. It is one of the reasons why this space is growing at such a fast pace.

What fascinated me most about Web 3.0 was its approach. Usually, when a new technology comes in, tech gurus adopt the top-down approach. On this approach, the government first recognises the new technology, then bigger organisations adopt it, and finally, the public gets access to it too. 

On the other hand, Web 3.0 and blockchain have been adopted in a bottom-up manner where the public adopted it first, bigger organisations are following it now, and finally, governments and regulators are creating regulations to support the ecosystem.

Also being from the finance industry helped me quite a lot because the whole space of blockchain and the technology behind blockchain is actually trying to make the whole world go from traditional centralized systems to decentralized systems where the whole economy converges together and all the businesses are impacted one way or the other. 

So my journey in the Web3.0 space was a gradual shift. You cannot just move to a new technology, leaving everything behind.

 

QAPITA

Co-founding a DeFi platform

Time went by and my knowledge of Web 3.0 improved. 

Sash Jeetun had just established a Decentralized Finance (DeFi) startup called Spherium. 

After all the learning, it was time for me to build a career in this space. In 2020, I joined the Singapore-based startup, performing a ‘not-so-huge’ role at that time. However, I soon realised that it was something I really enjoyed and I could offer so much more to the company. 

Eventually, I became the Co-founder of Spherium and we started expanding the team.

What we are trying to solve at Spherium Finance 

The barrier to entry in Web 3.0, for a layman is very high, in terms of technological capability. It is very complicated. 

People who start learning about Blockchain will get to know about various Blockchains namely Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain (BSC), Near, Solana, Polygon, Avalanche and so on.

Then they will start investing their hard-earned money into one or two blockchains without understanding the transaction costs involved only to realise there is another blockchain, which is cheaper.

For instance, Ethereum might be charging them $50 to $100 for a transaction. BSC is way cheaper. Plus, every Blockchain has its own DeFi applications. And every application has its own learning curve.

We noticed the DeFi ecosystem was extremely fragmented since there are multiple Blockchains in the market. 

That is when we decided to create one platform where you get all types of DeFi applications, whether it is Swap (Swap is when you convert one token into another), wallet, lending/borrowing or yield farming (where you actually put in your money and get some return on that), etc.

When you have control, you can take that money out whenever you want.

After discussing with Sash, we transformed Spherium into an all-in-one DeFi platform to ensure all DeFi applications will be in one place.  And to make it an all-in-one platform, we had to bring all the chains also in one place. So, we decided to build all DeFi applications, cross-chain interoperable.

Now, this may sound very complicated, but it is not. For a user, it means, whichever blockchain you are comfortable with or have a wallet with, you can come and use DeFi applications on Spherium’s platform.

And this means, no new learning every time. Just use Spherium once and you will get every aspect of finance on one platform. 

Another glaring issue that needed addressing was user identification. Digital wallets do not have verifiable names - if someone sends funds from one wallet to another, it is difficult to verify if they are not terrorists or fraudsters.

Currently, the DeFi applications in the market do not follow the know-your-customer/client (KYC) procedure, which is a very big concern in the Blockchain and Crypto space. We aim to be 100 percent compliant.

We are also on a mission to implement a layer of KYC in Spherium. We are already in talks with some of the KYC providers and are focused on institutional adoption.

Because of that reason, for anyone who wants complete anonymity, Spherium may not be the right platform.

Building Spherium Finance

Fortunately, we were able to bootstrap the company till the MVP stage when we decided to raise funds. It did not take us long.

Recently, we did a token sale round of $ 3 million from top VCs in the industry.

In fact, we had to let go of several investors since our goals did not align with their demands.

However, the biggest challenge we faced initially and, in the present, is finding the right talent.

We needed experts who knew how to build different DeFi products, on various Blockchains. But that was quite difficult in the initial days.

Currently, the major problem is the scarcity of good developers of Rust, an open-source systems programming language. We face the challenge whenever we need to build a product on a different Blockchain such as Solana, Terra or Near Protocol.

But despite these challenges, we have a highly motivated global team of over 15 people. All of them are experts and leaders in their own space and have been with Spherium for a long time now. I am very proud of my team and am looking to hire more such talent.

We have definitely come a long way since our inception, and have a long way to go. 

Future of Blockchain

I see that the future will be decentralized. 

In fact, a few banking organisations have already started adopting blockchain for cross-border transfer of funds.

Most banks are doing POCs, to ensure that the technology works for them.

But I think that DeFi will be taking over a lot of activities of the current banking system. What is pending is adding a proper layer of KYC and AML because it is borderless and permissionless.

The major challenge is that other countries also have to create an ecosystem that is coherent and everyone has to come together to create a system where every application has similar kind of a KYC and AML procedures.

Normally, CAs use the double-entry bookkeeping method. In Blockchain, there is a concept called the triple-entry accounting system, which seals transactions cryptographically, making it impossible to alter entries. 

A finance professional might be interested in that aspect of Blockchain, which will enable automated auditing.

It is still at a nascent stage, but I believe it has the potential to be more efficient than the current financial ecosystem.

Therefore, it is imperative for finance professionals, whether CAs or otherwise, to understand Blockchain technology.

In conclusion

People often ask me, “Which cryptocurrency do you think I should buy?” I do not like this question at all.  

Crypto Asset is the most volatile class of assets. It is still at a nascent stage.

Start exploring the blockchain space rather than just blindly investing because it is a very, very risky space.

If anyone is serious about it and wants to start their career in this space, I have a few suggestions.

First, choose a crypto wallet - some of the best options are Bitcoin wallet, Trust wallet, or MetaMask wallet.

Second, create an account on any of the exchanges. Just invest $1 in a Crypto of your choice and start using the application. Send that $1 to your MetaMask wallet and start exploring all the things you can do. Once you start exploring it, you will understand why there is so much hype around this space.

The invention of Blockchain has certainly created a host of job opportunities and it is only going to increase in the coming years. So, join us in bringing Web 3.0 to the world.

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