This probably won’t shock anyone, but the week leading up to the listing of FTT was the busiest of my life.
Every part of our operation was stretched more than it had been before. We were receiving 500 new KYCs each day, and the majority of those registrations became active traders. We promised to process all submissions within 24 hours, and so our compliance department started trickling out of the office around 1am each day, refusing to leave until we hit our target. We were simultaneously listing on three exchanges--FTX, BitMax, and CoinEx-- and had to make sure our systems were ready. There were four different ways people were buying FTT and a corresponding menu of operational, programming, and customer support challenges. Our communities were seeing explosive growth in multiple languages, to the point where we had one person managing a few thousand active users. We were rolling out the UI and content for the new FTT landing page, communicating actively with FTT holders and prospective buyers, and facing questions from all corners about what would happen to FTT after listing. To add to our load, a couple days before listing, the SIM swappers struck again, temporarily wresting control of an employee’s phone number. We were ready and it had been years since we relied on phone authentication for our important systems, but in the middle of the constant deluge of work, we had to take a few hours off to argue with AT&T. (A tip--don’t secure anything with SMS. Phone companies are notoriously willing to hand over your number to anyone who asks for it.)
About a day before FTT listed there was a calm; at 10pm on July 29th came the storm. We had one person monitoring each market, and our senior developers ready to put out any fires that came up. The temporary reprieve ended about an hour before listing, and we raced to get all of our systems online and ready. It was stressful and pivotal and energizing: there’s nothing that makes me feel so alive as knowing that what I do right now matters. We had been excited coming into the day, but also nervous. In the end a decent amount of the success of FTT would depend on the initial demand, and no matter what our users said in Telegram and WeChat we wouldn’t know until the time came whether they were really going to put their money where their mouths were. We had put tens of thousands of hours into building out FTX and FTT, and now a round of judgement was going to be cast on our child.
Ten o’clock came and there was chaos; the frantic clacking of mechanical keyboards drowned out as we shouted back and forth. After about ten seconds I asked for a status update: where was FTT trading? It was up from $1 to $1.10 on CoinEx, and $1.20 on FTX. And BitMax? “One forty!”, Zhi shouted back. “To confirm--that’s up 40%?” Zhi paused for a second to double check. “Yeah! Customers net bought a few hundred thousand so far on BitMax.”
At 21:59:59 we stood waiting for judgement. At 22:00:10 we all breathed a sigh of relief. Just one sigh, though, because that’s all we had time for. FTT was running up more; duty called.
Things have calmed down a bit since listing, and so it feels like a good time to reflect on what we’ve done so far, and where we’re going.
We’re spending this week rolling out backlogged features. We’re cleaning up non-USD collateral on FTX--adding in FTT, and waiting to convert negative PnL into USD until we have to. You can now reset withdrawal passwords from ftx.com/profile, and we’re revamping the displayed average entry price and PnLs. We’ve also sped up withdrawals a bit, and trailing stops should be released soon.
We’re also taking the opportunity to get some feedback from the community about which features people want. We’re considering whether to list altcoin vs BTC futures, whether to list more spot markets (potentially including leveraged tokens), and which products to list futures on next.
Finally, we’re adding a bunch of features to the FTT landing page. We’ve split out the tokens by category and locked them up in smart contracts, and revamped the market cap UI to be more consistent with industry norms. This has also helped FTX and FTT to get added to both CoinMarketCap and CoinGecko.
Some companies are sometimes called Too Big To Fail, but the common wisdom is that, way before that, companies become Too Big To Try That Hard. It’s a refrain we hear over and over again from employees of other companies: nostalgia for days when their company was small and intense, and a bit of frustration with how slowly things now move. How the time to roll out a new feature went from a week to a year, and the process for giving feedback to management became so cumbersome people just gave up trying to do it. We see this all around us: exchanges and trading desks and token projects that had early success and then just stopped getting better. Maybe it’s because one billion dollars is enough; maybe it’s because no one wants to accidentally kill the golden goose; maybe it’s because it’s just hard to manage 1,000 employees.
I was fortunate to get to spend the first years of my career at Jane Street. I have a lot of good things to say about my time there, but one of them--something that permeated the culture--was that, even as it grew, it was still innovating, and quickly. I had an open line to my managers and the freedom to build new trades and systems; there was energy on the desk, a sense that we could always be doing more. I’ve kept that with me, and the drive to always keep doing more has been a founding principle of FTX, and Alameda before that.
And so, as we wrap up a week of minor mendings, we’re looking to the future of FTX. We have a lot of features on the horizon, and a bunch more that we’re mulling over. We’re hoping to launch options in the next couple months, and are looking into hashrate, BTC dominance, and commodity futures. We’re in talks with a variety of exchanges over listing both leveraged tokens and FTT.
And meanwhile, FTT is up to $1.81. We’ve completed our first buy and burn, and are expecting to get listed on more platforms throughout August. FTT is now one of the world’s only exchange tokens gaining utility from both futures and spot markets, not to mention OTC trading.
As FTX grows, so does our workload, and we’ve been hiring to meet the demand. But one of the most frustrating things that Alameda has dealt with is exchange employees who have no real power in their company; and so rather than hiring 100 new employees, our goal is to hire 10 kickass ones. We’ve recently hired former employees of Huobi, Kraken, and Circle, with more to come.
Finally, we’re working to rapidly expand FTX’s userbase. In addition to our growing WeChat and Telegram communities, we’re starting to roll out user acquisition strategies in Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and Australia. Our volume has grown recently; today FTX was the 13th highest-volume exchange globally--trading over $300m--after just over three months of existence. But we don’t see that as success--just a proof of concept that there’s no reason we can’t move up twelve more spots.
With all of this growth inevitably comes some FUD, and I’d like to explicitly address a few of the more outlandish rumors we’ve heard floating around. Unless the SEC begins by giving an exclusive heads up to professional gossipers on crypto twitter I’d like to clarify that we have no reason to think we’re under any sort of investigation from any governmental body anywhere. And although I appreciate their vote of confidence, my sex life is about as active as you’d expect from someone who sleeps on a beanbag under his desk and last had a gym membership in college. Finally, there have been some sporadic (and extremely suspicious) questions about my twitter feed when it was briefly commandeered; I’d like to respond by posting the message the SIM swappers sent after their first failed attempt:
Responding to the FUD has been made much easier, though, because often we don’t even have to: often our supporters have already done it for us, tirelessly weaving together Zendesk articles and common sense.
On that note, I’d like to again say how much we appreciate everyone who’s given us a chance. No matter how well it’s built, an exchange doesn’t accomplish anything if it doesn’t have any customers. And although we started FTX already knowing how to build a matching engine and how to margin futures, when it comes to users we were mostly starting from square one. FTX wouldn’t be where it is today--or anywhere, really--if it weren’t for all of your ideas, support, bug reports, promotion, and of course trading. I’d like to give an especially strong shoutout to the moderators of our Telegram and WeChat groups, who are answering questions 24/7 and seem to know our platform as well as we do; to the organizers who have introduced FTX to their community; to the holders of FTT who have been with us from day one; and to the advisers who told us to go for it a year ago.
That’s all for now; it’s time to get back to work.