June 2nd 2020
@Ishan PandeyIshan Pandey
Technology Lawyer working on code and everything law. Founder : Blockchain Paper
I sat down with Mr Ido Sadeh-Man for an exclusive “Behind the startup” interview to talk about his story, his journey and the future of stablecoins and digital currencies.
1. Welcome to our “Behind the Startup” series Ido Sadeh-Man, it is an honour to have you here. Can you tell us about your story and your journey into the blockchain industry?
I started my professional life as a jazz musician. After transitioning into the world of tech entrepreneurship, over the last decade, I led product and development for several Israeli startups, including Odysii (sold to Gilbarco Veeder-Root), and Mobli, where I was COO.
2. Can you enlighten our readers about the potential economic and financial impact of a globally recognized stable-digital currency?
National currencies were designed centuries ago as a solution to a mostly national scope of commerce and economy. Our reality has changed in the past few decades with an increasingly global economy, where no single nation-state monetary and fiscal policy is enough to ensure the store of value function of money when it comes to global spending.
Take a UK citizen as an example. Her government has decided to Brexit, the pound is volatile – yet it is designed to face the changes the British economy is undergoing. The prices on Amazon, on the other hand, are not reacting to Brexit. I think that the COVID 19 crisis shows us just how much the economic development is global, and with it the prices of goods and commodities – we need a global currency to address it.
At the same time, there are those who will claim that we already have one – the US dollar. An America first policy, the massive money printing designed to assist the US economy proves that while it may be a terrific US currency, it is definitely not designed to be a global one.
3. Who are the stakeholders in the Saga ecosystem, and can you explain the role of the Saga Foundation?
Accredited partners and early backers of our endeavour include Lightspeed Venture Partners, Mangrove Capital Partners, Vertex Ventures, Disruptive, Lool Ventures, and others have already demonstrated confidence in Saga’s vision by participating in its $30M seed funding. This funding has made possible Saga’s launch of the SGA token and the first steps toward the realization of Saga’s vision for a fair and reliable global currency.
After registering in the UK, we are no longer a foundation, but rather a UK company, limited by guarantee, working under not-for-profit principles. Saga is governed by applicable UK laws and regulations and has adopted KYC/AML procedures compliant with the strictest international standards and regulations.
4. How is Saga different from Libra? Why do you believe
that Saga would not come under the lens of the regulators and the government?
After Libra withdrew from its initial intention, to make its underlying asset
composition of currencies in an unclear mix, and decided to rely on the SDR as well – same as we’ve been doing from our very inception – the main difference between us lies in the question of control over your money. In Libra, the controller and governor of the currency is the consortium of commercial conglomerates, each with its “army” of board members looking to get a return over their investment and participation in the endeavor.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this, but when it comes to one’s money, we at Saga believe the issuer should work solely for the holders. That’s why the most essential difference between Libra and us is our governance mechanism. In Saga, the owners of the currency and its “fate” so to speak are the SGA holders. Our carefully-crafted governance structure ensures optimal alignment of incentives between the issuer, Saga, and the currency holders, and this structure is embedded into the smart contract. In other words, Saga has built a democracy to prevent the case of plutocracy.
As for the concern regarding coming under regulatory scrutiny – we would gladly welcome any regulatory institution wishing to regulate us. We took upon ourselves to meet in advance and voluntarily any regulatory demand and are positive we meet the highest standards. In fact, Saga operates under the AML 5th directive standards even from before they were published and remains in full compliance with them.
5. Can you explain the functioning of the International Monetary Fund SDR and the concept of Saga backed basket of fiat currencies? What are the similarities, and how does the architectural and economic framework of Saga ensure compliance under national and international laws?
Gladly. Let’s start with a quick explanation about the SDR. As mentioned, the SDR is a financial instrument introduced by the IMF some five decades ago. It is a composition of the world’s five most prominent national currencies: The USD, GBP, EUR, JPY and RMB. Central bankers all over the world have been using this tool to hedge their country’s reserve in national currencies against price fluctuations.
It was a natural go-to in view of our vision to create a global currency. What if we could grant individuals and business entities the ability to access this tool?
What if we could use the blockchain to turn this tool from a composition of
currencies into one robust unit of account, with its own intrinsic value? And
so, while you can’t directly access SDR within the crypto economy, you can
acquire its surrogate — SGA, the low volatility crypto-asset whose reserve is based on the same basket of fiat currencies and at the same ratio.
There’s a reason why SGA has been one of the most stable digital assets while the rest of the market has been racking up double-digit percentage losses. The low volatility crypto asset, whose reserve attestations emulate the SDR basket of currencies, proves its worth in times of economic turmoil.
As for your question about Saga’s compliance under national and international laws: Saga operates in the UK and is fully compliant with UK regulation in regards to AML and KYC practices. As a matter of fact, The compliance model was introduced before the 5th AML directive was published and stands to its standards and requirements.
6. Currently, price slippage in stablecoins is a big problem. How do Saga smart contracts ensure that the price slippage does not happen? Because in future, even a 0.09% slippage price would cost a lot.
Saga’s smart contract serves as the primary market maker for the SGA tokens. The pricing algorithm embedded in the smart contract offers full liquidity and ensures SGA price will follow Saga’s monetary model regardless of the transaction size.
7. The FSB recently issued a report where they mentioned that stablecoins were a threat to the financial stability of the word. What are your views regarding this? Further, does Saga fall under the same categorization?
The ECB document focused on two main risks: the risk of liquidity runs impairing the functioning of the stablecoin arrangement, and the risk of contagion spreading to the broader financial system as a result of an impaired stablecoin arrangement. The monetary model of SGA and the smart contract have been designed to eliminate the risk of a “run” on the currency -so that is not a worry. Since the SGA mechanism is robust, the likelihood of an “impaired arrangement “causing contagion to the broader system is so unlikely as to be virtually non-existent. In any case, there are always present risks in the conventional fiat regulatory structure that
are a much higher concern than any new risks posed by SGA.
Most of the concerns regarding risks posed by the asset management inherent in backed currencies. The asset management policy of SGA is very conservative, modelled on that used by central banks themselves, and would not pose any stability risks in and of itself.
The ECB document took a very narrow view; we believe that the diversification and sophisticated model behind SGA actually contribute to lower overall risk to the system, as well as to the user of SGA.
8. According to you, what are the regulatory and compliance challenges for stablecoins ahead? Further, would governments and financial institutions be ready to adapt Saga as a stable-pegged digital currency?
I believe the biggest challenge, as it was reflected by the FSB recommendation is to reach a unified, global regulatory standard for regulation and compliance.
On the KYC and AML front, the European 5th directive seems to be a step in the right direction. Regulation as to reserve adequacy, custody and transparency, as well as privacy is falling behind. It is crucial though for regulation to escort the development of these currencies, their impact on stability and to regulate following the risk, rather than suffocating the possibility of innovation by halting their ability to exist and evolve.
9. What governance model is Saga foundation employing? In regard to the governance of the blockchain ecosystem and governance by the blockchain ecosystem.
We refer to SGA holders as “Saga’s Participants”. This is more than just
a name because, in Saga, the current holders are in essence and in practice, the sovereign. Accordingly, Saga’s governance was designed to facilitate the genuine representation of Participants and to generate long-term success for the currency. This is achieved through a multi-branch checks and balances governance structure.
The multi-branch checks and balances structure includes – the Executive Council – the currency’s executive agency; the Assembly – the Participants’ deliberative entity run mainly by their chosen delegates; A Monetary Committee and other auxiliary entities.
Let’s put it like this: We’ve created a mechanism that enables Participants to remove me from my role and choose someone they find to be a better fit instead. This was my motivation from the very beginning – to create the first truly democratic and free blockchain-based currency system.
10. Can you enlighten our readers regarding the Saga team members and its advisors?
Saga is home to a community of lateral thinkers, hands-on inventors and technology explorers who share a curiosity about the potential of blockchain to unlock new forms of governance and truly transform our use of money. With us as our Chief Economist is Barry Topf, who worked for over three decades in the Bank of Israel as founding member of the Monetary Policy Committee and as Senior Advisor to the Governor, Stanley
Next to him on our Israel-based operational team is a list of product, research and marketing professionals, Among the senior members of our strong and involved advisory board can find Prof. Jacob A. Frenkel, PhD, chairman of JPMorgan Chase International and former governor of the Bank of Israel; Prof; Myron Scholes, Nobel laureate in economic sciences and professor emeritus at Stanford University; Leo Melamed, former chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME); and Prof. Dan Galai, PhD, former dean of the School of Management at Hebrew University Jerusalem.
11. What market trends do you see in the year 2020? Has the recent FATF report affected the confidence of the stablecoin industry and the market players?
I believe that 2020 and 2021 will be years of recovery from the crisis and from the illusion of stability. This is an illusion is as accurate to stable coins relying on a single currency as it is to the fiat world. I expect the philosophical debate surrounding cryptocurrencies will give way to a practical one – focusing on the safety and stability of value storage.
We already see such narrative in countries that grew accustomed to instability, such as Argentina, Turkey, Brazil and South Africa – leaders in adoption trends of crypto and stable coins – not because of an ideological framework, but because of a soring need to rely on a different centre of trust than their government and Central Bank.
12. How is the Saga foundation fighting the Coronavirus pandemic, and do you think that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital currencies?
We cannot “fight” the pandemic itself, but we heed to the health recommendations and wish for this crisis to recede with as little victims as possible around the world. As for its implications on the adoption of digital currencies – I believe it is still early to say because I think the masses again do not experience the results of their governments’ qualitative easing measurements. This is not 2008, and the world has much less “weapons” in its monetary arsenals. Therefore, I firmly believe people will start being more concerned about maintaining the value of their money and will realize that focusing their entire assurance on one asset type is mostly like running from one burning building to another. The secret lies in diversifying one’s holdings, and if cryptocurrencies will become a more
significant part of this diversifying approach still remains to be seen.
13. Do you have any suggestions or advice for young entrepreneurs and companies who are finding it challenging to remain afloat amidst the coronavirus crisis?
Survive. Reset your expectation, focus on staying alive and making sure your burn rate is aligned to this new uncertain trajectory. Diversify your assets. Once you feel you have done enough to secure the survival of your company, start looking for the opportunities that this crisis created – for the gaps and challenges it has introduced into peoples lives – and solve it.