Young Startup Founder Brings Crypto Investment to the Masses

Wilson Huang, founder of Taiwan-based crypto hedge fund Steaker, has a vision of making cryptocurrency a payment option for daily purchases. Photo: Meet Global

By Aimee Wu, Meet Global

Steaker, a crypto asset management platform founded in 2019, currently has over US$60 million in assets under management. The scrappy startup’s team envisages a blockchain ecosystem in which cryptocurrency can even be used to pay for beer.

Binance, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange, recorded a crypto trading volume of US$798 billion last September, an explosive uptick from the US$454 billion reported just two months earlier in July. Cryptocurrency trading had soared, an indication of its booming popularity.

As a result, the supply of financial derivatives in the crypto market is now on the rise. For example, staking cryptocurrencies allows investors to earn a kind of interest income through their digital asset holdings. However, since markets tend to be volatile and diverse, crypto hedge funds like Taiwan-based Steaker are now flourishing in this space, managing assets and maximizing returns for investors.

Wilson Huang, Steaker’s founder, has been immersed in the blockchain space since the very early days of crypto development. Around 2014, he invested in Bitcoin (BTC) when it was valued at US$225, a tiny fraction of its current market price of around US$40,000.

Huang emphasizes the dynamic landscape of the blockchain industry. “Around 2017 to 2019, financial derivatives in the crypto market were seeing an expanding number of different portfolios,” he says. “Diversified combinations would allow investors to hedge their bets. Dispersed risks then made way for mom-and-pop investors.”

Founded in 2019, Steaker marks Huang’s fourth crypto-related project. The young entrepreneur has been a crypto enthusiast for many years, having entered the BTC market in early 2015. While he was studying for a master’s degree in computer science at National Taiwan University, Huang’s prolific work on blockchain earned him a reputation as a source of crypto knowledge and a master of the application technology behind it. Word of his ability to perform processes in a fast and reliable manner soon spread.

In 2017, Vitalik Buterin, co-founder of cryptocurrency Ethereum (ETH), visited Taiwan for the Beyond Block Taipei conference. During his trip, he began searching for Taiwanese talent after hearing that the island is home to a growing number of blockchain-savvy engineers. Huang was given the opportunity to join the Ethereum team, where he helped develop and optimize Plasma, a scaling solution for the cryptocurrency that helped lower “gas fees” – payments made by Ethereum users to compensate for related energy and transaction costs – and ramp up transaction speeds.

At the dawn of blockchain development, Huang was an up-and-coming blockchain engineer. A friend introduced him to Machi, a well-known Taiwanese rap artist and entrepreneur who made Huang VP of Product and Engineering at MITH, the first made-in-Taiwan cryptocurrency listed on Binance.

“I’ve long been drawn to the idea of earning big bucks by means of a computer and the internet,” says Huang. He has participated in a vast array of blockchain applications, including building the underlying technology of blockchain with Ethereum, assisting with the rollout of the initial coin offering (ICO) of MITH, developing the third-largest decentralized finance (De-Fi) lending platform (C.R.E.A.M Finance), and now making crypto investment easy with Steaker.

Steaker currently boasts around 6,000 daily active users, mainly 20- to 40-year-olds from Taiwan and Hong Kong. “Crypto hedge fund platforms like Steaker are bound to proliferate in the future,” Huang says. As tech-savvy millennials grow to be the main force in the investment market, efficient and profitable investments made through mobile devices will become the norm.

Steaker’s users are given a wide assortment of investment portfolios to choose from. Some are looking for stable returns with lower risk, while others are taking bigger risks in exchange for generous interest packages. Steaker has developed portfolios variously dedicated to conservative, robust, and adventurous investors.

To date, the company manages a total of US$60 million in assets. Its average annual percentage yield is around 38%, but at its peak it reached 212%.

“All in all, Steaker strives to maximize returns, whether in a bull or bear market,” says Huang. The company’s investment strategy places capacity limits on its financial products. For example, Steaker’s high-rate plan has a US$1.5 million cap in place to account for market depth, ensuring its ability to provide stable yields for its clients.

Crypto for beer

When asked what the future holds for Steaker, Huang says the company is seeking to build an ecosystem that integrates offline channels into the virtual blockchain sphere. Imagine as you leave a bar after a great night out with friends, you pay the bartender with Tether (USDT) or ETH by just tapping your phone on a sensor.

“These shops within the Steaker ecosystem can decide whether they want to convert crypto into cash, or channel them into Steaker and make interest,” says Lola Chen, a marketing manager at Steaker.

“We carried out market research in shops we consider trendy and attractive to our young demographic,” says Tesia Lu, the company’s head of marketing. “The results were favorable, as shop owners see ‘allowing crypto’ as a selling point.”

Swapping is another feature Steaker hopes to provide to its users in the near future. “With Steaker, you will be able to easily trade between different kinds of cryptocurrency, including USDT, ETH or BTC,” said Lola. This cross-chain update could make trading crypto even more convenient, as it would enable the integration of different assets.

Currently, the Steaker team is hunting for hybrid talent in two fields – blockchain technology and finance. “We are eagerly looking for program-trading strategic engineers,” says Huang, adding that such talent is hard to come by. Will people with this kind of state-of-the-art knowledge become the new much-sought-after professionals, similar to data scientists over the past few years? It seems possible, but only time will tell.

Startup Spotlight is part of a content exchange partnership between Taiwan Business TOPICS and Meet Global. The article featured this month first appeared on Meet Global in December 2021. It has been reprinted, with editing and updating, with permission from the publisher.

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