During the last months there has been a lot going on here in Malta and in my firm, Dr. Werner & Partner. Today we are allowed to play a leading role in the field of consultancy for companies from the crypto scene and I am also proud that our expertise is so much in demand.
In the past months I have been able to meet many interesting personalities and I have read a lot about companies from the crypto scene. Some entrepreneurs have caught my eye and in this article I would like to mention some of the entrepreneurs who, in my opinion, do a particularly good job. You should definitely keep them on your screen, because I am sure:
From one or the other, we will hear a lot more!
There are entrepreneurs from the crypto scene as well as those from classic businesses in Malta. So here we go.
The 12 most exciting crypto entrepreneurs active in Malta
The crypto scene is booming in Malta.
The innovative regulation attracts many enthusiasts from all over the world and great companies are created by talented entrepreneurs.
Here they come – my top 12 crypto entrepreneurs operating in Malta.
Malta’s reputation as “Blockchain Island” has firmly established itself worldwide. Start-up founders and crypto enthusiasts from all over the world flock to the sunny Mediterranean island. More and more governments are taking Malta’s innovative legislation as an example and examining the implementation of similar frameworks.
However, clear legislation and a technology-friendly government can only create the framework conditions. It is above all successful crypto entrepreneurs who are active here that make Malta what it is as a blockchain island.
Here are the 12 most exciting crypto entrepreneurs who are active in Malta.
Changpeng Zhao “CZ”, CEO & Founder at Binance
At the top of the list, of course, is the crypto enthusiast Changpeng Zhao, the founder of Binance who typically goes by the acronym “CZ”. Only founded in June 2017, it took CZ and his team just 6 months to make Binance the largest crypto exchange in the world.
The Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur, who grew up in Vancouver, had to overcome many obstacles and hurdles. The company was originally founded in China, but after the crypto ban there it moved to Japan as a precautionary measure. But after a Japanese court ruling, the Tokyo office also had to be closed and a new, technology-friendlier domicile quickly found.
Soon he came across the Maltese government, which was in the process of positioning itself as Blockchain Island. In March 2018, CZ, Malta’s Prime Minister Muscat and Silvio Schembri, the responsible Parliamentary Secretary, announced at a joint press conference that Binance would move its headquarters to the Mediterranean island. CZ was delighted about the innovative government, Malta about the perfect coup with such a well-known company – after all, Binance is the world’s largest crypto exchange in terms of trading volume.
What is inspiring about CZ is not only his commitment to crypto- and blockchain, but also his efforts to establish an entire ecosystem around Binance. The Binance Academy also offers free blockchain training. The company also has its own VC fund that invests in promising crypto start-ups. With Binance Launchpad, they have created their own token launch platform. Of course CZ also attends the Malta Blockchain Summit as a high-profile speaker and penalist.
David Zimbeck, Founder of Bitbay
Reading the career of Bitbay founder David Zimbeck, you are in for a long series of surprises. His CV shows diverse achievements and experience like being Ohio’s student chess master, working as a real estate agent, film producer and actor. Without a doubt, Zimbeck’s biggest breakthrough (apart from playing an extras role in Pirates of the Caribbean) came with the founding of BitBay.
In 2014 he taught himself the programming language Python and cryptography. Since then, he has been considered a smart contract pioneer and founder of other blockchain companies such as BitHalo and BlackHalo.
Today, BitBay is the third largest crypto exchange in Europe and also has a Fiat currency exchange and the BitBay Pay payment service. Like Binance and OkEX, BitBay announced in the first half of 2018 that it would move its headquarters (in BitBay’s case from Poland) to Malta as a result of problems obtaining the necessary support from Polish banks. Malta was chosen following the announcement by the Maltese government to adopt the world’s first clear legal framework for DLT technology and crypto companies.
Zoe Adamovicz, CEO and Co-Founder of Neufund
Berlin-born investor and entrepreneur Zoe Adamovicz has co-founded and co-financed numerous successful technology start-ups, especially in the areas of app analytics and software engineering. After following the blockchain scene for some time, she came up with the idea of founding Neufund to democratize and simplify access to finance.
Neufund is well established in Malta and is also working with the Malta Stock Exchange and Binance to create the first regulated, global, decentralized stock exchange. The aim is to capitalize on the market capitalization of equity tokens, estimated at up to 1 trillion euros, and to establish an early foothold in the emerging market.
Adamovicz is also involved in Gaza Sky Geeks, a charity that supports entrepreneurs in the Gaza Strip region.
Star Xu, Founder of OkEX
Star Xu is another entrepreneur who has chosen Malta as the location for his huge crypto exchange. OkEX is the second largest crypto trading platform after Binance and has also been relocated from China after the local crypto ban.
OkEX, together with the Maltese government, announced the move to Malta in April 2018. Since then, a team headed by General Manager Jovan Gavrilovic has settled in Malta and offers VFAA compliant financial products to its European clientele. In addition, the company is working in cooperation with the Malta Stock Exchangeto set up a platform for security tokens.
Ben Goertzel, Founder of SingularityNET
The mathematician Ben Goertzel has been a pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence for more than 2 decades. For some years now, he has also been working intensively on the topic of blockchain. That is why Goertzel is one of the go-to experts when it comes to the exciting question of how AI and blockchain can be combined to realize innovative applications.
With his company SingularityNET, Goertzel is following the vision of using blockchain technology to create an open, decentralized marketplace for AI algorithms. Standing out from the crowd with his long, curly mane and sometimes a distinctive hat, he is a much sought-after authority as a speaker at AI conferences and congresses all over the world.
Of course, he was also present at the Malta Blockchain Summit 2018 and is also among the top speakers at the upcoming Malta Blockchain & AI Summit 2019. His own invention steals the show: AI robot Sophia – the first AI citizen of Malta – amazes the congress participants with her AI-controlled conversation and discussion skills. As a member of the AI Task Force, Goertzel works closely with the Maltese government to explore the topic of artificial intelligence.
Steve Tendon, Founder of Chainstrategies.com and strategic consultant on Malta’s blockchain framework
The Swede Steve Tendon is undoubtedly one of the creators of the Blockchain Island Malta. It was his strategic advice and concept that was adopted by the Maltese government in 2017. He was also nominated as a member of the Task Force for the Implementation of Malta’s Blockchain Strategy.
As an experienced consultant and researcher, he eventually founded his own consulting firm, ChainStrategies, which supports interested companies in the design and implementation of suitable blockchain technologies. Tendon is of course also a welcome guest at major Blockchain congresses – whether in Malta or internationally. In 2018, he received a Malta Blockchain Award for his outstanding services to Blockchain Island Malta.
Gregory Klumov, Co-Founder of STASIS
Kazakh serial entrepreneur Gregory Klumov is another exciting entrepreneur who is shaking up the blockchain scene in Malta. After more than 15 years of entrepreneurship in the fields finance, IT, digital assets and blockchain technology, he has become a leading entrepreneur in the Malta blockchain scene.
Having already served as a consultant in the Maltese Blockchain Task Force, it came as no surprise that Klumov also decided to set up STASIS on the island. STASIS – a tokenization platform for digital assets – was created in close coordination with the Maltese government. STASIS is fully compliant with the Maltese DLT technology framework, offers triple verification processes and has a wide network of service partners.
Based in Valletta, the company offers customers the ability to digitize any type of financial asset in a legal, secure and transparent manner. More than 10 employees are already on board and are working to realize Klumov’s ambitious vision. I am already curious to see what range of assets STASIS is going to tokenize in the near future.
Maryna Petrychenko, Founder & CMO of Incenti
Unfortunately, female entrepreneurs are still rather rare in the crypto scene at the moment. Maryna Petrychenko stands out here as a special example. The Ukrainian is a thoroughbred crypto evangelist. For more than 5 years she has played a decisive role in Blockchain projects and has collaborated both with individual crypto currencies and crypto exchanges.
At the beginning of 2019, she founded Incenti, a start-up company that wants to realize decentralized games using Blockchain and Smart Contracts. With Incenti, Peteychenko wants to establish a completely new gaming world in which in-game currencies can be freely traded and transferred. The games developed by Incenti can be freely enhanced; the in-game currency can be used in all Incenti games.
In doing so, it is also pursuing a kind of democratization of online gaming, in which large game providers currently set the tone as intermediaries. Now, she wants her company to grow as well. As can be seen on the startup page AngelList, she is currently looking for reinforcement in the area of copywriting & marketing.
Damian Mifsud, Co-Founder & CEO of KnowMeNow
A veteran in the payment industry, Damian Mifsud has 20 years of experience working for companies in Belgium, the UK, Ireland and Malta. He has worked for well-known companies such as Barclays Bank, Omnipay and MasterCard. Familiar with the stringent requirements of KYC and the tedious verification processes, he founded KnowMeNow to drastically simplify this required process using blockchain technology.
KnowMeNow is a software company based in St. Julian’s and currently employs 7 people. As its name suggests, the company is committed to the blockchain use case of digital identity. The company offers a particularly user-friendly and innovative KYC solution for financial institutions that allows users to onboard in seconds. A beta version is already available for download as an Android app.
Although the topic of digital identity or self-sovereign identity using blockchain is still in its infancy, it is seen as one of the largest and most exciting areas of application in the future. With solutions like KnowMeNow’s, users can create a verified digital identity and reuse it in registration and KYC processes. This eliminates the time-consuming and nerve-wracking process of filling out forms. It will be exciting to see whether KnowMeNow can establish itself as an important player in this future market.
Markus Behmann, Co-Founder of MoonZebra
Markus Behmann is truly a jack-of-all-trades in blockchain and digital marketing. The multitude of his projects has a common denominator: digital marketing, but since 2017 the blockchain area has also been added. As co-founder of MoonZebra, he pursues the vision of making the purchase and sale of crypto currencies as easy as buying milk.
MoonZebra is based in Sliema and already employs several employees. It is known for its “Two-Way-ATM” – an ATM where crypto currencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin can be bought and sold. This is unique, because other ATMs currently only allow the purchase of crypto currencies.
Beside his involvement at MoonZebra, Behmann runs his own digital marketing agency and founded a CoWorking-Space in Il Gzira. With VEO Capital he invests in Maltese and international blockchain start-ups.
An amusing fun fact is how the company name “MoonZebra” came about. As stated on teh company’s website: Zebras are like tokens – a bit wild and lively, but still incredibly strong and beautiful. Personally, I really like the fact that MoonZebra’s ATMs make cryptos more suitable for everyday use.
Ilya Bere, former CEO of Changelly
Ilya Bere originally came from the ICT sector, where he gained more than 10 years of experience in business development and delivery management. As a product owner and project manager, he has worked in a variety of industries, including mobile and contactless technologies, payment and loyalty systems, and consumer devices. In 2017 he followed the call into the crypto world, when he became Chief Operating Officer of Exchange Changelly, which at that time was still based in the Czech Republic. From September 2018, he finally took over as CEO of the company. In the same month it was announced that Changelly had decided to move from the Czech Republic to Malta in order to take advantage of the favourable legal framework for DLT companies and exchanges. At the end of March 2019, Bere left the company which in total employs more than 50 people.
Changelly is a so-called “non-custodial crypto exchange”. Unlike classical crypto exchanges, one does not transfer between wallets located at the exchange. You do not have to create an account, you can simply enter your existing wallets and exchange between 130+ common crypto currencies in a matter of seconds. Changelly thereby realizes its mission to make it possible for anyone to trade crypto currencies, as the operation of often complex user interfaces of crypto exchanges can thus be completely eliminated. For this valuable service, the company always collects +0.5% of the transaction amount, regardless of the volume.
Changelly has become the largest Instant Exchange in the world. The company has more than 50 employees and over 1 million visitors per month who are able to use the service via app or website. Currently, the company is in the process of obtaining the Maltese VFAA Class 4 license, which is intended specifically for Exchanges based in Malta.
The company’s success is also driven by partnerships with industry giants such as Binance, Coinomi and CoinmarketCap. Personally, I am very curious and eager to see how Changelly’s success story will develop.
David Alexandre Yana, Co-Founder & CEO of Blackwave Tech
In his Master’s degree in Security & Diplomacy, Yana was deeply involved with the subject of government security risks and problems in the physical and cyber worlds. Combined with his 10 years of experience as a software developer, he came up with the idea for his current start-up Blackwave in 2018.
Blackwave’s goal is to set a new standard in the encryption of private and organizational communications. The company’s vision is that users can surf the Internet without restriction, but that their communication is encrypted and confidential at all times.
Blackwave of course also uses blockchain technology for this purpose. All sent messages are encrypted with private keys and addresses, so that only the specific recipient can decrypt and read them. Communication metadata is also encrypted so that – contrary to social media such as Facebook and YouTube – no operator or provider can access or analyze it.
Blackwave is still at an early stage of its development, but its vision of absolutely confidential communication is particularly appealing to me. It remains exciting to see whether and how Yana can use Blackwave to advance and realize his vision of fully confidential online communication.
Another 12 inspiring entrepreneurs in Malta
Malta has also been attracting capable entrepreneurs from other sectors for years…
…and for good reason!
Today I would like to introduce you to 12 other entrepreneurs whose work I find outstanding and who deserve attention in any case.
Entrepreneurship is always a daring endeavor. Founders enter the market with innovative ideas and concepts that first have to be proven. Business plans are created and preparations made, but usually have to be discarded quickly as market reality turns out to be different.
Numerous factors determine the attractiveness of an economic location such as Malta. Of course, politics has the important task of implementing attractive location and economic policies and creating a clear legal framework for entrepreneurs. Ultimately, however, politics can only prepare the ground, a business location can only thrive through the initiative and courage of entrepreneurs who pursue their ideas with passion and adapt them until they can successfully gain a foothold in the market.
Malta is currently flourishing as a business location. Malta’s economy grew by an impressive 6.57% in 2017 and 5.65% in 2018 and therefore boasts an economic growth ratesignificantly higher than that of any other EU country. In this blog post I would like to introduce you to some of the most inspiring entrepreneurs and their impressive companies on the sunny Mediterranean island.
Angelo Dalli – Co-Founder & CEO at Umnai
Angelo Dalli, PhD, is a Maltese primitive rock and grew up on the sunny Mediterranean island. Already as a student he received awards at talent competitions in computer science and has stuck to his path. As an AI expert and scientist, he has published over 20 articles on artificial intelligence, including a widely used AI format for time stamp extraction.
Together with Olga Finkel and Mauro Pirrone, Dalli has founded Umnai, a consulting company that develops AI solutions for companies in Europe and the USA. For his work, he has been awarded Maltas Entrepreneur of The Year in 2014. He is a member of the Malta AI Taskforce, which was commissioned to develop a legal framework for artificial intelligence, and is always present at AI events in Malta as a speaker or moderator.
Quentin Albrecht, Co-Founder of Knipster
As an entrepreneur, the 28-year-old German Quentin Albrecht brings his experience and passion for soccer to Malta. As a middle forward, Albrecht has received a scholarship to Florida International University and has also played for several football clubs throughout Germany. Albrecht can also draw on several months of work experience at Bayern Munich. Since 2017, however, he has taken a break from professional football and founded Knipster Ltd together with co-founder Sergio Alvarez.
Knipster allows players to choose from real games in top European leagues and bet on the best players and results. Who will be the top 5 players on the field? How many fouls, assists or goals will there be? You can bet on such questions and compete against friends, acquaintances or players from all over the world. It’s what they call “Fantasy Football”.
Part of the reason the team decided to set up their company in Malta was of course the island’s reputation as an iGaming Mecca. Located in Sliema, the start-up is already considering recruiting further employees. The app entitled “Knipster Fantasy Football” can be downloaded for iOS and Android.
Alfred Pisani, Founder and CEO of the Corinthia Group of Companies
The 80-year-old hotel titan Alfred Pisani founded the now Europe-wide hotel chain Corinthia in 1966. Since then he has managed the company’s business and has scaled it from the first hotel in Attard, Malta, to a diversified international hotel group.
Born in Malta, he was awarded the Order “Officer to the Maltese National Order of Merit” in 2001 for his services to Malta as a business location. His dedication and enthusiasm for the hotel industry make Pisani undoubtedly one of Malta’s most inspiring entrepreneurs.
David Vella, Founder and CEO of Altaro Software
In 2009, David Vella decided to found Altaro Software. After 11 years as product manager and compliance officer at a major software vendor, he wanted to implement an innovative backup solution. The company’s success story is impressive.
Altaro Software now provides backup solutions to more than 40,000 companies worldwide. The company resides in a state-of-the-art office building in San Gwann with more than 90 employees. When he is not busy steering the company’s further growth plans, he is involved as a mentor and consultant for other start-ups, where he passes on his knowledge and experience.
Dianne Izzo, Founder & CEO of the Dizz Group of Companies
Dianne Izzo founded the Izzo Group in 2000 when she was merely 20 years old. Since then she has succeeded in building up a real fashion empire. As CEO of the Group, she continues to work with full energy on the growth and expansion plans of the Izzo Group.
She is supported by her husband, Karl Izzo, who is responsible for PR and customer relations. The Izzo Group is also active in cosmetics and catering. The fashion is not produced in-house, but imported as a licensee of numerous international labels. In total, the Izzo Group employs around 500 people.
Diane Izzo was ranked among the leading candidates for the Malta Entrepreneur of The Year Award in 2017.
Kristoff Zammit Ciantar – Aqubix
Born in Britain, Kristoff Zammit Ciantar has worked as an IT consultant and IT analyst for companies such as Capgemini and Novacroft. In 2004, he founded Aqubix, an IT consulting and IT development company. The company focuses primarily on compliance and due diligence processes.
With the “KYCPortal” Aqubix offers a complete solution for KYC and Due Diligence processes for companies of all sizes. No wonder, then, that the company has settled on the Mediterranean island known for its financial sector. In addition to its headquarters in Malta, Aqubix also has offices in Madrid and London.
In 2017, Ciantar was also shortlisted for the Malta Entrepreneur of The Year award.
Edward Borg, Co-Founder of Thought3D
Born in Malta, Edward Borg already has a very colourful and extensive curriculum vitae for his young age. This includes positions as an assistant in a clinic for diabetic retinopathy and almost 4 years as a software engineer at HOB in Germany before he ventured into self-employment. Borg founded the company “Thought3D” in March 2014 and has since concentrated on the development of innovative solutions for the emerging 3D printing industry.
Borg has developed a unique adhesive that is used exclusively for 3D printing. The name of the adhesive? “Magigoo” – an artistic term made up of magic and glue. Borg therefore sees his invention as a kind of “magic glue”. And yes, he may be right!
The adhesive is completely free of fragrances and toxins. In addition, the adhesive adheres to a variety of materials (such as polylactides and ABS (the most commonly used materials in 3D printing) and can be easily removed.
In 2015, Borg was awarded the prestigious Malta Innovation Award for his unique invention.
Jonas Eneroth, Founder of Karmafy
Born in Sweden, Jonas Eneroth has been active in the field of video games for many years. He has already launched more than 100 video games. He originally started as an investment banker, but soon pursued his passion and entered the gaming industry in the mid-1990s.
He is responsible for game classics such as Hitman, Deus Ex and TimeSplitters as well as the founding of and successful exit from game development companies in Chicago, London and San Francisco. Since 2015 Eneroth has been active in Malta with his most current company Karmafy.
With Karmafy, Eneroth has founded a company based in Sliema that produces mobile games of all sorts. Most of these are premium games, with a portion of the proceeds going to a charitable organization determined by the game site operator (who uses Karmafy’s games) or from which the player can choose.
Apart from his involvement with Karmafy, Jonas is also very active in Malta’s entrepreneurial scene. He acts as Governor of the ICT Malta Foundation and assists the non-profit Gaming Malta Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting Malta as an attractive location for digital and remote gaming.
Doriana Landi, Co-Founder of TripMedic
Doriana Landi, a doctor from Rome, founded the Mosta-based start-up TripMedic together with several co-founders. As a respected researcher and specialist in neurology, she has published more than 40 peer-reviewed articles in international journals. At TripMedic, Landi is the Chief Medical Officer responsible for patient rights and interests.
TripMedic offers travelers and expatriates around the world the opportunity to find local medical professionals and doctors speaking their language. Are you looking for a German-speaking doctor in Barcelona? TripMedic is the app for that. They are already active in numerous major European cities and act as matchmakers between patients and doctors. But that’s not all. TripMedic is also working on an internationally available patient file so that travelers and expats can better manage and secure their medical care while being on the move.
Angele Giuliano, CEO & Founder of iSmart
Angele Giuliano is what you call a thoroughbred entrepreneur. For almost 2 decades she has founded and successfully scaled numerous start-ups in the EdTech and HealthTech sector. She is also familiar with the European funding jungle and has led several EU-funded transnational research projects.
At the end of 2016 she founded the EdTech start-up iSmart, which supports children with learning disabilities or dyslexia with innovative learning technologies. Thanks to EdTech’s integrated software solution, children and parents have a tool that fulfils all their requirements – from text-to-speech to mind mapping and home exercise management. As CEO of iSmart, Giuliano is primarily responsible for investor relations, business partners and pilot projects in schools.
Giuliano is closely connected to her home country Malta. Not only did she grow up here, but she also completed her studies and worked in several start-ups. In addition, as President of the Maltese Foundation for Women Entrepreneurs, she is committed to ensuring that even more women venture into entrepreneurship.
Fabien Courtellemont, Founder of GreenrCabs Malta
“Best mobility in an environmentally sustainable way.” This is how Fabien Courtellemont’s vision could be summed up. The Frenchman has worked in France and Poland before coming to the Mediterranean island in 2012 as Operations Director of the Maltese Bus Service. In 2013, he then managed the private bus company Arriva Malta.
In February 2015, Courtellemont decided to combine his experience in transport with green mobility. He founded GreenrCabs Malta with the vision of taking passengers from point A to point B with taxis powered solely by renewable energy. The company has since built up a fleet of more than 10 cars and employs 12 people.
The specially developed Greenr taxi app was the first taxi app available in Malta and makes a valuable contribution to more environmentally friendly transport on the island.
David Darmanin, Founder & CEO of HotJar
David Darmanin comes from the world of digital design, where everything revolves around usability. Having already started multiple businesses, he knows the ins and outs of user-friendly and creative design.
With almost 15 years of experience, he has recognized that companies with increased usability of their websites and e-stores can significantly increase conversions and revenues. This is exactly the goal his company HotJar is dedicated to. HotJar enables website owners to use technologies such as heat maps, polls and surveys to find out why their website is not yet generating the desired new customers and revenues. HotJar’s success story is more than impressive!
The entrepreneur, who was born and raised in Malta, founded the start-up in January 2014 and has since scaled it to a company with 73 employees and customers in over 120 countries. HotJar is based in the St Julian’s Business Centre in San Ġiljan.
However, he is also committed to Malta as a start-up location, which is why he co-founded the Startup Malta Foundation for Entrepreneurship. Moreover, he has also initiated the Startup Malta Business Plan Competition. Every year, a promising startup receives an award and is supported with urgently needed prize money.