Central Banker's Next Act: Helping Merchants Mint Cryptocurrency

A former Russian central banker has spun a blockchain startup out of a traditional payments firm, focusing on helping merchants mint cryptocurrency.

AccessTimeIconSep 29, 2017 at 8:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 6:58 a.m. UTC
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While the Bank of Russia has long been at the forefront of central bank cryptocurrency exploration, for Vadim Kalukhov, its recently departed director, exploration alone wasn't enough.

Instead, Kalukhov wanted to move faster than central banks typically do, experimenting and in turn, launching a product. So in May, Kalukhov left the central bank to start something of his own. Flash forward to today and Kalukhov is chief information officer at Crassula, a brand-new blockchain startup that's anything but ordinary.

In his first interview revealing the project, Kalukhov, who helped develop the Bank of Russia's masterchain blockchain platform, described how his experience in global finance prepared him to help others do what had previously been the exclusive domain of central banks: mint money.

Kalukhov told CoinDesk:

"The Crassula open system will allow merchants to build add-ons including their own cryptocurrencies."

Similar to how ethereum enables users to launch tokens through initial coin offerings (ICOs), Crassula is aiming to help corporations, and eventually governments,  issue their own cryptocurrencies. While Kalukhov declined to share details about the platform's construction, he did give insight into a couple key features that stand out.

Unlike ethereum, the platform will be designed as a private blockchain solution with a native wallet for digital fiat and cryptocurrencies. The platform is also expected to run code from the open-source Lightning Network, a scaling proposal originally developed for the bitcoin blockchain.

But technology aside, what is perhaps the project's most interesting trait is the company's evolution out of an existing payments startup in Russia, one with both real clients and profit.

Evolving payments

Indeed, the story isn't as simple as Kalukhov just launching his own endeavor.

Shortly after leaving the Bank of Russia, Kalukhov began discussing ideas with Daria Dubinina, a co-founder of Payment Ninja, a venture-backed startup that bills its service as "almost free" payments using the Symfony PHP web application framework.

With Payment Ninja's similar mission, save for its use of technology, Crassula was soon spun-off with the goal of creating an ecosystem where users could spend cryptocurrency on everyday products. It wasn't a huge leap, in that Payment Ninja had already created an ecosystem of merchants and was interested in experimenting with blockchain as a way to make its platform even more useful.

After exchanging a series of "small white papers," Kalukhov was won over by the idea of a collaborative effort with the Payment Ninja team.

In interview with CoinDesk, Dubinina described the network, saying:

"The final stage of building the Crassula ecosystem would be an open platform on which each company, no matter if it's a small business or a big business, a financial organization or a governmental organization – any company – could issue their own cryptocurrencies and build their own payments systems."

But whereas ethereum has helped startups use the ICO mechanism to raise capital, Crassula hopes to leverage its existing merchants and new clients to create an ecosystem that powers the exchange of goods.

Planning for growth

And for this, the potential of having existing merchants migrate to the Crassula platform could prove highly important. For one, they mean the newly launched company is not only generating revenue, but profit, according to Dubinina.

As a result of that nascent momentum, earlier this month Crassula hired its eleventh employee and first lead blockchain architect, Anatoly Resin, who was previously a core developer on the Decent blockchain.

Yet, building the blockchain platform won't be cheap, and so to continue growing the team Crassula is planning to launch its own ICO.

Fresh off winning a startup "battle" in Kiev, Crassula plans to formally reveal details about its token sale campaign, which will have a soft cap of $7 million and a hard cap of $35 million, this autumn.

But while this all may seem like an unlikely turn for a central banker, Kalukhov argued that utilizing the more experimental capabilities of blockchains is perhaps best viewed as a matter business.

Kalukhov concluded:

"We are doing this work because we believe in the project, and we invest our time and our money in order to reach the time when our project is live and it will be easy to deliver this widely to the people."

Vadim Kalukhov image via Crassula


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