Kraken’s new Managing Director for North America, Guy Hirsch, talks about his crypto journey
Guy Hirsch is Kraken’s new Managing Director for North America and he joined the Kraken team this month after building crypto businesses at Samsung and eToro. He’s an experienced operator in the crypto space and has some forward-looking ideas about the future of the industry.
Hirsch will oversee Kraken’s businesses across North America and will be responsible for growth and expansion. He has been in crypto since 2010 and is excited to join the team to drive the industry into the next decade.
We sat down with Hirsch to talk about his experience and crypto philosophy.
Kraken: Why don’t we just go through a little bit of your background. How did you become interested in crypto?
Hirsch: I started in 2010. That’s when things started to get more active around Bitcoin. I was in San Francisco and I was very much involved in startups and startup accelerators. I had my own startup at the time, a retail analytics platform called Saygent, but I started hearing the chatter about bitcoin.
We had a few regular dinners with people from Silicon Valley and I was sitting with Vinny Lingham, the founder of Civic. We spent three hours talking about bitcoin. He was urging me to put at least $10,000 into it and to convince my friends and family to do the same. I didn’t take his advice unfortunately, but I did get back home and downloaded a wallet and started kind of actually experimenting with it.
I was super curious and slowly I got a bit more of an understanding about the people behind crypto, meaning the cypherpunks. I understood that it was also an ideological movement to create native digital money. That is when I got fully ensconced in crypto.
Then in 2013, my startup was hired by Samsung to develop the first point of sale system for Samsung retail stores. I proposed they incorporate Bitcoin as a form of payment, perhaps for tourists who didn’t want to spend local currency. That was the first time I worked officially on something related to Bitcoin.
In 2017, Yoni Assia, co-founder of eToro and an old friend, offered me the role of the managing director of eToro in the US. Basically the pitch was that eToro was growing dramatically and that crypto is the future. I would help accelerate that mission. That was very appealing to me. I spent five years really building a crypto business in the US. I was doing marketing, working on compliance, working on regulation. A little of everything.
Kraken came along and I think it’s very unique to find a company that advocates for a set of public values and supports the crypto mission.
K: What are you most excited about in crypto in 2023?
Hirsch: So I think there are a number of things. One is the institutional adoption of crypto. I think that means both on the trading side and also adoption by trad-fi shops like banks and brokers. In fact, trad-fi is starting to offer crypto exposure to their customers and they’re trading it on their own books. Even corporate treasuries are looking into allocating crypto to have a more diversified portfolio. And lastly on the institutional side, I’m particularly excited about registered investment advisors in the US becoming more educated about crypto. They’re bringing together a simple, viable, and compliant way to expose their customers into crypto.
I’m also excited about NFTs. But when I say NFTs, it’s about how culture meets technology. NFTs are the ultimate way of marrying those things. I think we’ll see “real” NFTs with new partners who use the technology for ticketing, events, and actual physical goods. That will be the next wave of getting a billion people onboard into crypto because of affinity rather than speculation.
K: Last question: if you could sit down with one person, living or dead, to talk about crypto, who would it be?
Hirsch: That’s a good question. I think former treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin because I want to understand why he was so adamantly against crypto. What were the forces pressuring him to try to do all these anti-crypto moves? I thought that we had a number of people in that administration who were very pro crypto. I’m wondering why Mnuchin was so adamantly against it. I would love to spend three hours with him on that and maybe change his mind and figure out how to help current and future officials adopt crypto.