Justin Sun Yuchen, 28, founder of the Tron Foundation, has just moved into a new office in Beijing's technology center, Zhongguancun, and is already planning the next move: creating the first block-block start-up office in India.
This expansion ambition could have been unthinkable nine months ago, when China banned initial fundraising (ICO) and ordered the closure of the local cryptocurrency trade. Tron was fortunate to have completed his ICO just before the ban came into force, collecting $ 70 million.
After the ban was announced, Tron returned the funds raised by Chinese Chinese mainland investors. "His [the clampdown] removed the fire [the market]. Now it's more sensible, "said Sun in an interview at the South China Morning Post.
"It's better for industry, most companies have followed the ruling of the government, and nothing negative happened if there was a financial risk [the ban] I would have solved it, "said Sun.
Explain: What is an ICO and why does the Chinese central bank forbid?
Last September, Chinese regulators led the boom on ICOs, pushing dozens of Token broadcasters to Hong Kong and Japan, among other jurisdictions that have a more favorable view of the disruptive form of fundraising. Tron is one of many coin issuers as the developer of Up.Live Asia Investments, which seems to thrive and invest with the money it has collected from their ICOs.
But there is little sign that the ICO's gold rush is fading. There were 537 ICOs globally in the first five months, with a total of US $ 13.7 billion, almost double all of 2017, according to a June report by the Crypto Valley Association with the PwC strategy and the Strategy & Consulting Division
However, skepticism has grown on the credibility of Ico. Despite the millions of dollars raised by investors, about half of all ICOs came to nothing, based on the statistics collected by the research firm Token Data. Many developers have struggled to launch products, attract users and create a sustainable business model.
Tron is an entertainment and content sharing platform that uses blockchain technology to provide digital content producers with control over ownership and distribution. The final game is to allow content creators to bypass Google Play or Amazon, avoiding charges from these centralized platforms.
For now, Tron has no active users, based on its blockchain-based Peiwo – a Snapchat-like app that compares and connects users through a 10-second audio sample – for profit. The app, with 10 million active users, could be a candidate for a raising of capital, said Sun.
Tron paid $ 120 million in June for BitTorrent, a software program used to store and distribute data and electronic files on the web, according to a report CoinDesk last week, citing BitTorrent's co-founder, Ashwin Navin. This allows Tron 180 million users and a consolidated business that can be integrated into the platform for future expansion.
Further reading: it takes 556 days of processing and a heavy energy bill to extract a single bitcoin. Is it worth it?
Sun, who had graduated from Peking University in history, had never been a stranger to the controversy. When Tron launched his ICO last year, members of the blockchain community, including the founder of ethereum Vitalik Buterin, accused Tron of plagiarism due to similarities between his white paper and those published by other blockchain projects.
Sun has maintained an active presence on social media such as Twitter and Weibo and does not hesitate to respond to criticism.
"We wrote the white paper ourselves," he said, adding that the document was modified to correct a translation error and that he had tried to offer an explanation to the blockchain community. "We have not deliberately copied the work of others".
Sun's name popped up again this month when Li Xiaolai, one of China's best-known virtual currency entrepreneurs and CEO of the ICO Press.one project, called Sun an "imposter" in a leaked recording that became viral online .
Li, a former English-language teacher, was a vocal critic of speculative hype within the Chinese mainland start-up community.
However, some members of the community saw Li as a double standard, as he also ran an ICO and was a co-founder of the Yunbi exchange.
Sun said he had a more favorable view of Beijing's start-up culture, adding that some cynicism could be due to a lack of understanding of specific companies.
However, there were cases where investors lost money in ICO after the founders disappeared.
At one point Sun was reported in the Chinese mainland media to have disappeared with 6 billion Tron coins after rising to a record high of 23 cents in December.
"It was a nervous moment and brought some speculation, it was a voice created by a competitor who paid for a reporter to recover [a story]"Said Sun.
Gabriel Chan, secretary general of the Hong Kong Blockchain Society, says that it is not uncommon for project developers to criticize one another to gain credibility.
"These days, competing ICOs compete to attract attention as politicians engage in electoral campaigns," Chan said. "Ideas on a napkin do not fly anymore, yet people still push incomplete solutions to ICO."
Sun became a paper millionaire by investing in bitcoins soon. He also successfully invested in Tesla shares using his college funds. After completing a master's degree in political economy at the University of Pennsylvania, he returned to Beijing in 2013, founding Raybo, his first blockchain project, the following year. Sun claims to have a belief in the value and potential of the blockchain, even if the technology was little known in China.
"It was too early for China in those days [when it comes to blockchain]"Sun said." For a while the company had a difficult time. The worst for me was when I borrowed $ 700,000 and I struggled to pay it back. The company was close to collapse, "he said.
Raybo is now in a strategic partner with Tron, focusing on creating blockchain solutions for companies.
While China has said it wants to be a leader in blockchain technology, it has not yet decided to reverse its decision to freeze ICOs and cryptocurrency trading.
At the beginning of this month, the Chinese central bank said it had blocked around 88 cryptocurrency trading platforms and 85 ICO platforms. It has also blocked 110 sites including the largest Huobi and Binance exchanges on which Tron is listed.
"Tron has a global strategy," said Sun. "I still think that China has a lot of resources in research, development and education, which is why we are building blockchain smart contracts in China."
Tron opened an office in San Francisco at the start of this year, bringing his global staff to 400. Sun said the salary should rise to 1,000 in the next year.
Currently, there are over two million Tron token holders worldwide, with the token ranked 11th by market capitalization. Tron won the approval of computer security visionary John McAfee who tweeted that the token was a "long-term take".
Meanwhile, the feeling on cryptocurrencies has become bearish in recent months. The value of Tron has fallen by 85% since it hit a maximum of 23 cents in December. The token was recently quoted at 3.7 US cents, compared to its ICO price of US $ 0.0019.
Sun said he had tried to overcome the criticism of some of his contemporaries while remaining focused on the daily challenges of running his business and achieving quarterly performance targets.
"Measure the success of an attacker [in football] you will see how many goals scored. To see how successful a sprinter has, look at his record time. For an entrepreneur, you will see if his products are purchased, if he adds value to the community and to customers. I feel that what we are doing is useful. "