At nearly six years old, Huobi is one of the globe’s oldest (and largest) digital exchanges built to bring the benefits of bitcoin, ether and other cryptocurrencies to customers. The company was founded in 2013 as a means of providing a more user-friendly exchange method for those looking to trade and dabble in bitcoin. The platform — known as Huobi Global — quickly emerged as one of the world’s top digital exchanges by trading volume.
Since then, the company has branched out into other regions of the cryptocurrency and blockchain space. Huobi’s “side ventures” include a cryptocurrency mining pool (known as Huobi Pool) and a peer-to-peer OTC service.
Ross Zhang is the head of global marketing initiatives for Huobi Group and Huobi Global. He’s also the CEO of Huobi Canada. Speaking with Distributed, he explained what he sees as differentiators for the company compared to other cryptocurrency exchanges.
“Huobi has been around for more than half a decade — a long time in the crypto world — and has built up a stellar reputation for flexibility and liquidity,” he said. “From the beginning, we’ve designed our exchange from the ground up with safety and security in mind. We offer a broader range of trading methods and services to our users, which includes being able to use our OTC service, the ability to trade coin-to-coin on Huobi Global, the ability to trade on margin through our margin trading service and trading crypto contracts through Huobi DM, our crypto asset trading platform.”
With a background in computer science and finance, Zhang became interested in blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies in “the early years” while working as a portfolio manager for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB).
“I really got excited about the possibilities of blockchain [technology] after reading the Bitcoin and Ethereum white papers,” he recalled. “I became an early advocate for blockchain technology at large financial institutions. After organizing a series of cryptocurrency meetups in the Toronto region, I joined Huobi in 2018 as CEO of Huobi Canada.”
A growing concern in the crypto arena right now is regulation. Zhang said that cryptocurrency is going through a “transitional period” and is being examined for the first time by regulators as a true and valid asset class. He feels this is a positive step in the long run, though there are likely to be ups and downs along the way.
In Singapore, where Huobi Global is headquartered, officials have already issued draft regulations for the monitoring of virtual coins, along with regulatory sandboxes.
“Regimes for managing digital currencies have also emerged in places like Japan and Gibraltar,” Zhang added. “I would not be surprised to see other Asian regulators follow suit over the next year or so. Possibly even sooner.”
While this possibility may scare some cryptocurrency advocates, Zhang’s convinced this will lead to more mainstream acceptance of digital assets. He also believes it’s a sign that cryptocurrencies are maturing.
“When it comes to institutional traders from more established financial markets, for example, we see a lot of people interested in crypto, but not very comfortable jumping into unregulated markets,” he said. “The emergence of these regulatory regimes could really start to change this.”
Another concern in the industry is the consistent demolition of crypto prices, particularly those of bitcoin and ether. Just over a year ago, bitcoin was trading for nearly $20,000, while ether was at an impressive $1,400. Today, these prices have fallen by over 80 percent.
The sudden price depressions, Zhang said, make it somewhat difficult to predict the future, though he’s certain the prospects of both blockchain and cryptocurrency remain bright.
“I still think blockchains can change the world,” he said. “It’s important to remember that what we’re experiencing is part of a pattern we’ve found ourselves in before. When the dotcom bubble burst, many wondered if the internet was all it was cracked up to be. It was only after that point that mainstream adoption truly began and Google, Facebook, Alibaba and other tech giants started to reach their full potential.”
Zhang’s also confident that the current market downturn won’t last forever. He expects platforms like Bitcoin’s Lightning network to become fully operational in the coming months, which could lead to new spikes in the bitcoin price. He also believes that the Litecoin halving, scheduled for this June, and the transition to Ethereum 2.0 will help boost the market.
For 2019, Huobi is planning to focus primarily on the exchange side of its business. The company is also set to release its own stablecoin later this year and will likely add several more coins to Huobi DM.
“We just added TRX contract trading, and we will be adding XRP very soon,” Zhang confirmed. “In addition, expect to see a lot of development on our dedicated EOS exchange.”