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Mike van Rossum is the founder of Folkvang an HFT prop firm based in Asia. The man has built an entire highly profitable system single-handedly, believe it or not without the use of monitors. In this talk, we journeyed into the path that led him from coder to quant, to the founder of a crypto trading platform. A candid speaker, this episode is full of insightful tidbits for the attention paying listener.

We start in the countryside of the Netherlands where Mike grew up, his days of high school, and following an apprenticeship in an IT company. From there, the jump into university and how a digital arts degree turned into a programming degree, which in turn birthed CS side projects in his free time. Projects that would much later become essential in the learning to create trading systems. His early introduction into cryptocurrency and a Bitcoin thesis on measuring coin usage in 2013.

The cryptocurrency space, although intriguing and exciting to Mike, wasn’t yet quite big enough for him to see a valid career in it; as such he got a job at a digital marketing agency. After a period here, he decided he was ready for a change and took off to travel the world, doing various noteworthy adventures such as the entire Trans-Siberian Express. This whole time he continued his work on Gekko, an open-source trading system that kept his mind on crypto.

Upon concluding his trip, he began working at a bank on a multi-bank permissioned blockchain system to improve commodities trading. Here was his first real dive into the underlying blockchain technology, and it came intuitively to him. After a couple of years on this project and continued work on Gekko, which kept him connected to the crypto world, Mike decided to quit his bank job upon finalizing the project. He was on a small island in Thailand at this time, and amid the crypto buzz of 2017, he saw that there was a strong market and turned his focus onto ramping up his trading systems. This is when he became a full-time crypto trader.

From here the story becomes about what it means to build a HFT firm, the programming and trading strategies involved, as well as the risks and excitements of crazy moments in the field. We close our conversation with a list of tips from Mike to future quant traders or algo builders.

00:00 – 00:30 Introduction

00:30 – 02:12 Backstory and apprenticeship

02:12 – 04:40 University, art urges and introduction to programming and things learned from it

04:40 – 06:27 University continued. Github and Youtube adventures begin

06:27 – 10:40 Bitcoin thesis: Measuring coin usage/popularity in 2013

10:40 – 13:16 The crypto space after graduation and first job in a digital agency

13:16 – 14:39 Trans-Siberian Express and crypto hobby continued

14:39 – 20:30 Working for a bank building blockchain infrastructure to improve commodities trading

20:30 – 24:23 Gekko open source trading infrastructure

24:23 – 26:18 The jump from traditional job to crypto trader

26:18 – 28:20 Agent Smith and first business attempt

28:20 – 33:22 Coder or quant? How does this relationship work?

33:22 – 35:40 Folkvang trading firm

35:40 – 38:35 Coding languages, Java Script empire

38:35 – 41:48 Largest technical challenge, how quality writing matters and a tip to future bot makers/traders

41:48 – 45:53 Pricing crypto is hard and what to do about it

45:53 – 49:31 The risk of trading crypto with crypto as collateral and why it was all the rage

49:31 – 53:38 How to deal with crazy moments as a quant and a re-cap of March 12th

53:38 – 55:16 Folkvang now and investor returns [email protected]

55:16 – 57:16 Wisdom for future quants