Maxine Ryan, Co-founder and COO of Bitspark, Asia’s leading cryptocurrency money transfer system, finds comfort and happiness in disruption. Unafraid of breaking away from the status quo, both in her personal life and her career, she had the idea for her company when she saw the opportunity to solve real problems in the banking industry — so it’s no surprise her typical university education had to be cut short.
“Starting Bitspark has been an invaluable experience and better than anything I learnt in university,” she says with the self-assurance found in most businesswomen of her ilk. Having dropped out of a degree course, she took a giant leap of faith. “In university, there’s no course or degree that prepares you to be an entrepreneur in new technology. When I learnt about the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, it took my interest immediately because of its power to remove [people’s] trust [in banks], improve transfer of value and increase transparency.”
Bitspark was founded in 2014 in Hong Kong as a blockchain-based remittance platform. Essentially, this means that users can send cash overseas at never-before- seen speeds with cheaper exchange rates and no difference to people’s everyday habits. This garnered worldwide attention, leading to a presence in Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria, locations where customers don’t need an understanding of cryptocurrency to use the service. Bankless businesses also benefited after direct foreign investment in Bitspark allowed the company to expand to traditionally bankless populations, where it’s able to make a real difference.
“Retail banking is dying,” Ryan says. “That’s why we see so many fintech solutions, both blockchain and non- blockchain, available for consumers today, which perhaps explains best why businesses like Bitspark are cropping up everywhere.” Ryan explains that the goal of the company is to have customers who are completely bankless but belong to their financial system. “Knowing no system like this exists yet creates its own set of challenges, but it’s a huge opportunity. Bitspark is a growing team of only 20 people with headquarters in Hong Kong and the Ukraine, and it’s incredible to see all that the company has accomplished.”
In addition to money transferring, Bitspark’s online platform for crypto- currency and Bitcoin trading has raised more than US$4.5 million through the sale of its token currency, Zephyr. “Bitspark is a commitment to build a better financial future without banks. With this being our mission, we’re in it for the long haul. I’d like to see the company continue to help more and more bankless people and businesses worldwide.”
Asked whether being a woman has been one of the challenges of starting a new business, Ryan is quick to shut it down. To her, being a woman is an asset, and more people need to see it that way. “I want to change the thinking behind the idea that being a woman in the world of business could be a disadvantage, but oftentimes the biggest challenges for women are the ones they put in front of themselves.”
As she continues to grow her company, she’s sure Hong Kong will be at the forefront of the action. “Hong Kong has a great community of disrupters who are working together to solve issues. If being one means bringing something new to disrupt the status quo then I’m happy to be a part of that community.”
As she looks towards a bright future, Ryan has no regrets about the past. She knows that a degree is always an option for her, but right now she chooses to focus on what she loves, while making time for the simple things: like picking up a good book and catching up with friends. Finding ways to recharge is crucial to her success. “Doing something you’re truly passionate about is an opportunity of a lifetime. I’m lucky to have a family that trusts my decision making.”
Accessories: Bottega Veneta