Thibaut Sahaghian speaking about Multis backstory, YCombinator experience and DeFi markets.
Hello! What’s your background, and what are you working on?
Hi there! I’m Thibaut Sahaghian, CEO and co-founder of Multis. I started my career in legacy investment banking services - whoops, picked up the dark side first. I’ve been a blockchain enthusiast since 2014, though, and I truly discovered Bitcoin’s potential while campaigning for a French political candidate running for office, when I was investigating blockchain applications for online and decentralised voting.
That’s when I met Richard Caetano, CEO of Stratumn, a blockchain enterprise software company backed by the Nasdaq. I joined the team to become first sales and learnt the hard way how to sell blockchain techs to financial institutions. 😬
I co-founded Multis in 2018 with Theo. We’re building a banking solution designed for companies holding cryptocurrencies. Multis helps them store funds with multi-signature wallets, earn interest through DeFi and streamline payments with custom workflows and accounting features. It’s a business bank, with crypto!
What’s Multis backstory?
Our starting idea was simple: help companies run a business on crypto, with a user-friendly experience and strong security standards. Current solutions are not designed to help multiple users perform basic business operations like running payroll, paying vendors, or earning interest, which you can currently do from your modern business bank account.
So we end up in this crazy situation where crypto entrepreneurs build fantastic projects with crypto but are still reluctant to use it in a business environment. Without more dog-fooding, this industry can’t go mainstream. If we want to prove the world that ETH is money, well, we should be the first ones to use it to run business!
We initially started testing the idea with our crypto network, went to Dapcon in Berlin, and built the first prototype: a neobank-like interface sitting on-top of the gnosis 2017 multisig smart contract, to help founders manage their funds with multi-signatures conveniently, with no technical background.
We got our first beta testers and joined Y Combinator in summer 2019. Our background helped a lot: Theo and I have expertise in banking, crypto, and B2B SaaS…seems like the perfect equation to build tomorrow’s banking! We went through Demo Day closed our seed round in Q4 2019 with US & European fintech investors and can now focus on taking Multis to the next stage.
Our vision goes further indeed: the number of companies building and transacting with crypto is exploding. This is happening. But fiat currencies are not going away. It’s clear that a bank will have to merge those two separate worlds into a single account, with a fantastic experience. Multis will be that bank.
What went into building the Multis?
Ok, let’s see what’s under the hood 😁
We built our banking interface on top of the 2017 gnosis multisig wallet: it’s the perfect compromise between security and flexibility. We made it super easy for teams to invite users and set up roles and permissions—no need to rely on cold or hot individual wallets anymore.
Now, remember: we want to make those business wallets business-friendly, which means we have to create a seamless experience and go around one of the biggest friction created by smart contracts: gas fees, or transactions fees. They create anxiety, and frictions, for a poor UX. So we upgraded the 2017 Gnosis smart contract wallet to make it compatible with the GSN smart contracts, and conducted thorough audits with Quantstamp (We wrote on security here). Multis now covers for transactions fees, to offer a better experience. There’s still a lot of work to get onboarding frictionless, but that’s a decisive step towards it.
Finally, we have to provide actual financial services, beyond storage capabilities. That’s where DeFi comes in. We’re using protocols like Compound, Kyber, Set, etc. as our decentralized banking infrastructure. Our job is to put them together, pretty much like the money legos bricks everyone is raving about, to create the best possible business-grade financial utilities.
With Multis today, companies can do a lot in a decentralized fashion:
- pay staff & vendors with DAI or USDC = stable currency
- store with wallet with a company unique ENS (soon) = current account with IBAN
- lend with Compound = interest-bearing account
- convert with Kyber = Forex
- And there’s more live or and on the roadmap 👇
What’s your business model?
Our business model is fairly simple: we’re making revenues through commissions on conversions, and we’ll charge a monthly subscription fee for premium features. These will include EUR/USD accounts, IBAN, and business payment solutions such as debit cards and wire transfers.
Companies have both product and market alternatives to what we do today. Product-wise, they can use self-custodian solutions such as Gnosis Safe or Aragon. Those are great products but are more adapted to DAOs, governance management, and dev teams. We’re more focused on day-to-day treasury operations and payments, and we’re building proper fiat integrations.
This leads us to market alternatives: online business banks. I won’t expand: they’re necessary today, but suck at delivering high-quality & innovative services to entrepreneurs, including DeFi. And let’s face it: they rip us off. That’s where we come in.
Our users today are mostly teams from the crypto industry - from layer 1 and 2 to dapps. We want to be their primary banking account. In the long-run, we’ll also target companies that can benefit the most from cryptocurrencies and DeFi: e-merchants, marketplaces, and platforms with peer-to-peer and cross-border transactions, etc.
What’s your position on the regulatory landscape today?
Multis is a self-custodian solution, which is still in a grey area. FinCen and SEC issued a guidance in May 2019, stating that self-custodian wallets and dexes don’t fall under their rules since they do not effectively store and process transactions on behalf of users. Same thing goes in France, with the DASP optional status. Typical lag that most technologies go through before moving from gray areas into proper regulatory oversight. In this regard, we feel that building Multis from Europe makes more sense: the fintech industry is more advanced than in the US, and most of the existing open banking framework is likely to be adapted quicker to crypto.
We’re optimistic: regulators have made tremendous progress in understanding our industry, business, and tech-wise. There’s a general sense that crypto is inevitable and, therefore, must be supported rather than obstructed.
What are your goals for the future?
Crypto payments for business bring a radical innovation: they’re the most time and cost-efficient way to transfer funds to partners and teams, anywhere in the world. We can help crypto-native companies, e-merchants and marketplaces save a lot on transfers, and earn passive income when they don’t spend. But virtually any company transacting abroad could benefit from crypto. Our goal is to be the top of mind banking solution for them.
To achieve this goal, we will focus on two main things this year: keep removing web3-related frictions to deliver a top-notch UX, and bridge our solution with the legacy banking system, with local fiat accounts and payment solutions. We’re hiring in tech and product to get there!
What are your future thoughts for the DeFi market?
The velocity of the space is incredible, and we’re excited by two developments: the rise of stable coins and all these new asset classes joining DeFi.
ETH and BTC have been known for high short term fluctuation. That’s an opportunity for speculation. Not for payment. Stablecoins are a game-changer for businesses, and beyond, and now account for 80% of daily transfer value on Ethereum. They’re time and cost efficient payment rail, and they’re not volatile. They exist across the whole decentralization spectrum, from centrally-issued and fiat-backed like USDC or USDT, to decentrally-issued and fiat-pegged such DeFi’s fav’ DAI, and beyond. Libra is likely to launch too at some point, and will undoubtedly crypto adoption. Another one I recently discovered is the VOTE token, built by Democracy Earth, which is decentrally-issued and pegged to a radically different anchor value: time.Those models are just fascinating.
Another trend we’re excited about is the increasing number of projects willing to make non ETH-based assets interoperable with DeFi. STOs have been in the air for quite some time but don’t really take off. Other digital assets such as Bitcoin with tBTC, real estate with RealT, invoicing with Centrifuge and even auto/aircraft-backed loans with DMM will provide additional incentives for mainstream users to join DeFi and create further network effects. We’ll make them accessible from Multis too, composability-style 😀