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CEO of Stably: 'Centralized stablecoins are like fake meat, can't replace real beef'

This is a conversation between Coin98 Insights and Kory Hoang, founder and CEO of Stably - a stablecoin project based in the United States.
9 min read
Published Dec 07 2023
Updated Jun 06 2024
ceo of stably

At 31 years old, Kory Hoang has nearly 6 years of experience in the crypto market, having endured two bear market seasons. Born and raised in Vietnam, he immigrated to the United States at the age of 12, founding Stably - a stablecoin project and provider of fiat on/off-ramp infrastructure.

Choosing a different path from other stablecoins in the market, Stably primarily collaborates with emerging blockchains like VeChain and BlockApps. The project has raised $7 million and processed over $100 million in on/off-ramp transactions.

The Spotlight is a series of conversations between Coin98 Insights and industry builders about hot topics in the market.

more stablecoins

- There are numerous stablecoins in the market, why do we need so many? What role do they play in the widespread adoption of crypto?

Kory Hoang: I think we still don't have enough stablecoins.

Looking at fiat currencies worldwide, we have the US Dollar, Canadian Dollar, Australian Dollar, Euro, VND, etc., but 99% of stablecoins in the market are based on the USD. Therefore, there is significant potential for stablecoins based on other fiat currencies to cross-border payments, and fiat on/off-ramp with local currencies.

This is a large market, and opportunities can emerge not only with other fiat currencies but even with the USD itself. Currently, there is no officially regulated stablecoin in the US, and once there are clear regulations, banks, large financial institutions, and even businesses will get involved.

If you remember around 2019-2020, Facebook introduced Libra, their stablecoin concept. Apple currently has Apple Savings accounts aimed at entering banking and finance. Imagine if they had an Apple stablecoin to connect users from traditional finance to DeFi.

Or imagine Walmart’s stablecoin allowing customers to buy and sell everything in their store chain. Or imagine Amazon, American Airlines, or gas stations like Shell or any business with its user network, benefiting from issuing its own stablecoin.

Currently, due to unclear regulations, people are hesitant. But once there is certainty, this will not only be a game for crypto companies but also for other companies with large user networks and values.

- How has the stablecoin market changed since you founded Stably in 2018?

Kory Hoang: I believe, in 2018, the stablecoin market was around a few hundred million USD in value. After 5-6 years, it has increased to around $130 billion. However, the market is still heavily concentrated.

The major stablecoin issuers, USDC and USDT, hold 86% of the market share. There is also concentration in networks: 88% of stablecoins are primarily issued on the Ethereum and Tron networks. Lastly, currency concentration: 99% of stablecoins are pegged to the USD.

Although the market has come a long way, the stablecoin market is still very young. There is a total of $100 trillion in fiat value worldwide, while stablecoins only represent $130 billion.

There are around 400 million crypto users compared to 8 billion people worldwide, half of whom are adults. We have only tapped about 10% of the market potential. Therefore, I believe stablecoins will continue to develop strongly in the future.

- Many countries, such as China and Russia, hope to weaken the dominance of the USD. If they succeed, and other currencies are used more frequently for cash reserves and in international trade, will USD-backed stablecoins lose users?

Kory Hoang: This is a possibility. However, the USD is still the king, supported by the U.S. economy backed by a globally powerful military force.

Moreover, the U.S. not only has many strong allies but also countless talented and outstanding entrepreneurs. And if you've ever lived in the U.S., driving through Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, you'll see these are vast resource-rich areas with few inhabitants. This means there is still a lot of potential and opportunities there.

All these factors indicate that the U.S. and the USD are unlikely to be dethroned shortly. If that were to happen, there would be a tremendous loss of confidence in the U.S. government, the Federal Reserve, the U.S. military, U.S. society, the U.S. economy, and the American dream. I don't think this scenario will happen soon, but I could be wrong; we can only wait and see.

cbdcs

- Many countries are planning to launch CBDCs. How will CBDCs affect stablecoins?

Kory Hoang: Typically, central banks or governments do not want to issue CBDCs on public blockchains. Why? Because it poses a national security risk.

If a CBDC was launched on Ethereum and the network got hacked or experienced a 51% attack, the entire currency of the country would go up in smoke with the network. Or imagine if they placed CBDC on Solana, and the network was occasionally halted - this is a risk that I don't think governments are willing to accept.

Therefore, the trend is to issue CBDCs on managed networks, whether blockchain or not. Essentially, it is a ledger, a closed database for organizations, banks, and government agencies. Also, to "import" the liquidity of CBDCs into DeFi or unmanaged blockchains, you still need to tokenize CBDCs. So, soon enough, we will have stablecoins backed by CBDCs, and it will be no different from stablecoins backed by fiat.

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CBDCs are another way to facilitate the development and promotion of stablecoins to new heights.
Kory Hoang, CEO of Stably
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In this way, CBDCs are just another way to facilitate the development and promotion of stablecoins to new heights. This contradicts the viewpoint of many that CBDC launches will kill stablecoins; this viewpoint just doesn’t fully understand the nature of CBDCs.

- Speaking of Stably, why did the company choose to create a centralized stablecoin instead of a decentralized one?

Kory Hoang: Centralized stablecoins are backed by fiat collateral, so they have organic stability, while decentralized stablecoins only have synthetic stability.

For example, DAI is backed by Ethereum and a basket of collateralized ERC-20 tokens. And Terra's UST is an algorithmic stablecoin not backed by anything specific. It relies on a DeFi algorithm to try to maintain stability. This stability is not real, so decentralized stablecoins can collapse.

We believe stablecoins backed by fiat are the best choice to expand the scale and provide efficient on/off-ramp services. Decentralized stablecoins cannot do this.

I want to use a comparison here: When I go to Vietnam, I often eat at vegetarian restaurants, where they have excellent-tasting fake meat. My American friend thinks it's real beef, but it's actually made from tofu. I like this type of fake meat, but I can't eat it every day. I need real beef; I need the real thing in my body. This is how I perceive centralized and decentralized stablecoins.

- What advantages does Stably USD (USDS) have over other centralized stablecoins like USDT and USDC?

Kory Hoang: We're not here to compete with USDC and USDT, as they have a different target market than us. Stably doesn't focus its stablecoin on major blockchains because that's the playground of USDC and USDT, and they excel in that field.

Stably does provide on/off-ramp services with Tether and Circle, and this is an important part of our business, but we target a different niche market. There are over 200 small, emerging blockchains out there, and 90% of them don't have a stablecoin, so someone needs to work with them.

Tether and Circle are either too busy or not concerned with these small blockchains because these chains don't have enough users, activity, or brand recognition. For whatever reason, they have left a gap for us to fill.

Since 2020, we have shifted our business model to be on-chain, focusing on decentralized exchanges and smaller, emerging blockchains. In summary, on these new chains, when you can't find USDC and USDT, you'll find USDS.

Tether and Circle are either too busy or not concerned with these small blockchains. For whatever reason, they have left a gap for us to fill.
Kory Hoang, CEO of Stably

The presence of USDS on these chains provides a lot of value to the communities there because without a stablecoin, they can't perform on/off-ramp, and they can't do much else. And when there's no stablecoin to handle fiat on/off-ramp, DeFi can't develop, and this prevents the building of the rest of the infrastructure.

vietnam

- Many partners of Stably come from traditional finance, so does the company face any obstacles when working with them?

Kory Hoang: The difficulty in working with partners, suppliers, or even potential customers from traditional finance is that many of them are not very open-minded. They still view crypto and Bitcoin as something obscure or related to criminal activities. And this is not the right way to look at the market. Even BlackRock is trying to launch a Bitcoin ETF, right?

What I mean is that any new industry will have scammers and bad actors, but they do not represent everyone in the industry. I have been in the market for nearly 6 years and always strive to do the right thing.

Calling me a shady person is not fair at all. In the end, I believe people will realize that there are those like us in this industry - those who always strive to make positive changes, comply with regulations, and avoid pump-and-dump schemes.

I believe people will realize that there are those like us in this industry - those who always strive to make positive changes, comply with regulations, and avoid pump-and-dump schemes.
Kory Hoang, CEO of Stably

Secondly, UI/UX is still a barrier for many ordinary people - the main customers of banks, organizations, and financial advisors. Therefore, these parties face difficulties in selling crypto and blockchain ideas to their end users - people who may be 60-70 years old, retired, and have retirement portfolios and the like.

Finally, difficulties come from the government. The government should support and encourage innovative activities and startups in this space, rather than showing a hostile attitude. Looking at the U.S. now, honestly, it's a mess. Many regulatory agencies in the U.S. are very strict with crypto, while the voices of lawmakers supporting crypto are not strong enough or not moving fast enough.

As you can see, recently, many crypto companies have stopped operating in the U.S. and moved abroad. Stably still plans to continue operating here but is also restructuring its team and operations to serve the international market outside the U.S. I hope traditional finance, the public, and regulatory agencies will quickly support entrepreneurs like us, or we will leave. What can I say, currently, I am in Vietnam.

- Speaking of Vietnam, have you seen any notable crypto projects here? And what do they need to do to attract large capital when a bull market comes?

Kory Hoang: Speaking of crypto projects in Vietnam, I will mention Ninety Eight. I have been following the company since Solana appeared and you became one of the largest wallet providers on the network. I am truly proud to see a Vietnamese project develop and become popular globally like this.

The people, entrepreneurs, crypto developers, and companies in Vietnam certainly have a long way to go to effectively compete with projects from China, Japan, Korea, the U.S., and Europe. But we are doing very well, and Vietnam is among the top countries globally in accepting crypto. I think we just need to continue doing what we are doing here.

Furthermore, one way for Vietnam to attract more international capital is to collaborate more closely with the government. Currently, the stance of the Vietnamese government on crypto is neutral. Therefore, if the country provides more official support for crypto in terms of regulations, such as reducing/exempting taxes, the flow of capital into Vietnam will be tremendous.

Currently, a lot of capital is leaving the U.S. for places with crypto-friendly regulations such as Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, and even Bermuda and random islands in the Caribbean Sea. I don't understand why Vietnam is not one of these places. I think Vietnam will be the golden island for crypto if we have clear regulations for this space.