Rune Evensen is the CEO and Founder of C.O.S.S., a Singapore-based company that aims to be the a one-stop portal that brings cryptocurrencies and blockchain-related solutions accessible to the masses. Rune founded C.O.S.S after experiencing various challenges exploring bitcoin and shares his interesting legacy-driven entrepreneurship journey.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am Rune Evensen, a soon to be 49 year old entrepreneur from Norway. Based in Singapore since 2010.
I do not consider myself a “ tech-guy” but more from a sales and marketing background. Before Singapore I also lived in both Hong Kong and mainland China, so I guess it is safe to say that I have become more and more of an Asian over the years. Always been involved with startups in various industries and have been leading international teams from the few people start-ups to larger organizations growing to over 100 staff. Found the big interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies a few years back and quickly noticed that skills in coding/programming and in sales/marketing didn’t always go hand in hand.
What is your business venture about?
COSS.IO (or C.O.S.S. Pte Ltd which is the incorporated name) aims to be a portal functioning as a One Stop Solution within the cryptocurrency area. We are not only limited to cryptocurrencies as we are very inclusive of anything related to blockchain and/or other tech. We are very much a start-up and we just went live with our beta platform on 1st April 2017.
What is your mission at the outset?
We aim to not only develop and launch multiple features ourselves, but also to be a preferred launchpad for other startups (especially from Singapore, but others are more than welcome). As stated earlier IT skills and sales and marketing skills doesn’t always go hand in hand, and that is where we feel we have found our niche. By inviting other startups to launch their products/services on our platform, we aim to create a true win-win situation. They get access to customers from day one, and the offering from COSS becomes stronger.
Many of the startups are in need of funding to stay afloat, but ends up in a “chicken or the egg” kind of situation when investors/VC’s ask for traction and customer base before investing. By offering this through a mutual platform where we all unite our strength, I feel that this can truly become a door opener for many start-ups.
How did you get your idea or concept for the business?
As mentioned earlier, I am not a “tech guy”, but I got an early interest for the industry. SO the idea came from my own personal experience. I heard about bitcoin, but didn’t know how to get hold of it, so I asked Mr. Google. I first found out that I needed some kind of online wallet, so I started to search. I found many options, but didn’t know which one was good or which one was bad. And to have a wallet doesn’t give you BTC, so I searched again and found that buy and sell was performed on crypto exchanges.
Again same questions arise, I didn’t know which one was good and which one was bad. Anyhow, ending up with a wallet and knowing where to buy/sell wasn’t really enough for my business to start accepting BTC, I also needed a payment gateway that could be implemented to my websites, and I needed some that offered conversion to FIAT (my staff, my landlord etc doesn’t accept BTC as payment). And also I wanted the world to know that I started to accept BTC and other cryptocurrencies.
Long story short, after adding all these “challengers” up I quickly understood why cryptocurrencies are not “mainstream” yet. It is in the human nature to back off if it is too complicated, so an idea came to mind, why haven’t anyone bundled all of these services in one website. This way it will be much easier for anyone to get involved.
This stayed as an idea in my head for a long time, until I took a FinTech course with MIT. I used my “one-stop solution” as submission for my elevator pitch along with a 150 word write-up. When receiving the score from MIT giving me a 100 out of a 100 and with brilliant feedback from the lecturers, I decided that that’s the “kick in the butt” I needed to take the idea out of my head and to actually start developing it.
What is unique about your business?
The uniqueness about it is the bundling in itself. Exchanges, wallets, POS, payment gateways, crowdfunding portals, market cap overview, whitepaper library, forum and the list could go on. All these exist in the market today, but I guess you need to have an account at 10 different websites in order to find most of it. So the idea itself is the uniqueness : ONE-STOP SOLUTION. We are far from there yet, and the first few features are developed by us such as exchange, POS, payment gateway, merchant platform etc.
We are now entering stage two, and this is when we want to invite any startup within the industry to a cooperation to find out if there is an interest in launching their products/services on COSS.
Who do you sell to and how do you get customers?
We have chosen to do a mix model in our “go to market” strategy. We do traditional marketing, by advertising, press releases etc. But we have also developed a Ethereum-based token, named VEROS to work as fuel for the portal. The release process of VEROS is very special as it is design to only be released to affiliates that brings merchants/services/products to the platform. Again we are aiming at a win-win situation by letting the affiliates be the supply side at the same time as they contribute to build the demand side.
Why will customers stay or do repeat business with you?
We hope and aim that they actually find the platform easy to use, and that it adds value to their business. Many entrepreneurs are developing products/services because they can, but not everyone is asking the vital question: Does my product/service solve anyone’s problem. If the answer to this is YES, then you have product/service that is fairly easy to sell. And if you have in mind how my business idea came along, I/we feel that we really discovered a huge problem first, and then decided to develop the solution rather than doing it the opposite way.
What have been the biggest obstacles?
There is an expression that says: “too many chiefs and not enough Indians”, and I think this fits us well.
We sit with tons of ideas , paper upon paper filled with different potential features to add. But thing takes time. We would love to launch a “complete” one-stop solution, but we have realized that the development of COSS will be a “never ending story” and this is because the industry moves so fast. So to keep the overview of where the market is moving, which features/services to focus on next etc has been a big obstacle.
Another obstacle that is more less related to the first one, is that we haven’t been able to hire all the staff that we feel we need. We have a solid development team for COSS based in Bucharest , Romania although our operational HQ is here in Singapore. We are not a typical start-up as we have never been on any funding round of any kind. We are 100% self-funded, but that also comes with its own limitations. We need to balance everything, and by having multiple offices, over 30 staffs and has been developing for over a year with zero turnover has its obstacles in itself. But now we are live, and we see light at the end of the tunnel.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
You have to be in it, to win it. If your idea stays in your head, it is merely a dream. Get it out there, talk about it, get validation and go for it. Somebody made millions by having flying pigs and birds crashing stuff, so don’t worry if you think your idea is a bit “over the top”. Present it, share it and try to get it validated.
Do you have any final thoughts?
As we now are entering the stage where we look to hook up with other start-ups in Singapore (multiple meetings scheduled already) I would like to reach out to the community and say: Feel free to connect, lets see if we can make the road ahead easier for all of us.
Who is your biggest inspiration or drive to do what you are doing?
The very short answer to this is my kids. It might sound bold, but my goals have never been financial. In my mind there has always been a voice telling me to create a legacy. Yes it is a big goal, but even after I am long gone, I want my kids and their kids again to be able to point/visit/go to someplace and say “grandpa/dad” build that.
What’s next for you and for COSS?
Keep on developing, schedule meetings with potential partners in the industry. We will also be hosting a blockon conference in Bucharest, Romania in June in alliance with the Romanian Chamber of Commerce. As it seems right now, we will be bringing a few of the influencers from Singapore to the conference as speakers and panel participants, so by doing this we aim to further strengthen Singapore position as a start-up nation.
We have also been in discussions with some institutions in Singapore where we now are invited to come to do speeches/classes regarding our project COSS and the importance of eco-system in this industry.
As these are not nailed down yet, I can’t reveal any names, but it will shortly be out there. We are also aiming to get more involved with the community. We are corporate members of both ACCESS and SFA, but by being based a bit in the outskirt up here in Clementi, we don’t get to “hang out” as much as we would love to with the rest of this fantastic community we have here in Singapore. Hopefully we can improve on that part. Thank you.
Hock Lai has 18 years of experience in the financial industry, having performed roles in both business and technology. He graduated from the National University of Singapore (Real Estate), Nanyang Technological University (Infocomm Technology) and Nanyang Polytechnic (Fund Management & Administration).
He is also a Fellow of the Singapore University of Social Science, advisor to FinTech Startups and mentor to student FinTech projects.
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