The Silicon Review
The banking industry needs to move beyond viewing fintech firms as competitors and embrace the opportunity of bringing fintech solutions to an increasingly digital consumer. Collaboration can increase revenues, generate new business and enhance the consumer experience.
In light of the above-mentioned scenario, we’re thrilled to present Billon Group – an interoperable, enterprise-grade software platform.
The company created a high-performance DLT system unifying national currency transactions, document management and identity management into a single platform. Solutions built using Billon’s system provide a secure, unified view across the entire enterprise, simplifying processes, lowering costs, directly connecting companies with their clients while empowering data privacy and control.
The company was incorporated in 2015 and is headquartered in London.
Wojtek Kostrzewa, Billon Group CEO, spoke exclusively to The Silicon Review. Below is an excerpt.
Can you brief us about the history of your company?
Billon started as a R&D project. In 2010, a group of specialists in algorithms, cryptography and IT started working on a core technology that would overcome the shortcomings of first-generation blockchain. Led by Andrzej Horoszczak in Warsaw, the ideas they built into the software were absolutely revolutionary. Then, to commercialize the technology, we created Billon Group in 2015 and began commercial sales in 2018. Some of our most important achievements were:
From the beginning, we wanted to be the enterprise blockchain for the financial services industry so that financial institutions can reap benefits from the safest, most transparent and cost-effective technology for money, identity and documents.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
There were many challenges that we faced initially, such as working on a project that very few people understood except for engineers and advanced IT specialists. It was too early for banks to assess our technology, and we needed their participation to show product and market fit.
We broke the cycle at that time by starting a pilot with Plus Bank in Poland, allowing us to learn how to adapt to regulatory requirements using our core system, and build solutions that were acceptable to regulators in the UK and Poland. In parallel, outside of Poland, banks started to experiment with open source blockchain, which proved to be slow and more expensive than our solution.
So now we come to the point where banks finished their experimentation phase and they now want high-performing DLT systems with proven regulatory controls. And we are at the point where we have solved both the performance and regulatory challenges and we are ready to provide the solution that banks and other clients need.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
The team is always the most important. In addition to having a technology visionary in Andrzej, we’ve attracted former banking executives to our team, and they have attracted the sort of angel investors who believe in our vision and who gave us the time to complete the technology. And, if I could add another factor, we have had two breakthroughs technologically: first, we digitized national currency and delivered high-throughput micropayments, and second, we put document and identity ‘on-chain’ with minimal impact on performance.
‘It is difficult to start a venture, but far more difficult to maintain it’. How would you interpret this saying?
When you build a company, you are running a marathon at the pace of a sprint. You will need to overcome your fatigue and many times you feel like giving up, especially when unpredictable events occur. As well, the market changes faster than you think, including your competition. So you need to maintain your own stamina, and to attract people who add new energy and stamina. Some experts say that simply surviving creates 90% of the value of the company, and people who have lived through successful start-ups know that overnight successes rarely happen overnight. They can take a few years.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Expect that whatever you plan to do will take you much more time and money than you expected. Plan accordingly and be ready to work extraordinarily hard.
What do you hope to accomplish in the long run?
Billon’s vision is to unleash the power of DLT technology to solve everyday problems. We want to attract developers, partners, and clients who share the vision that sometimes it is better to ‘disrupt from within’ existing regulations. We believe deeply in the philosophy that payments, documents, and identity must be unified to achieve the next wave of disruption, and we have dedicated ourselves toward this vision.
Wojtek Kostrzewa: An Entrepreneurial Leader
Wojtek Kostrzewa is the Chief Executive Officer of Billon Group. He has a successful 28-year history of building large banking and media companies. Mr. Kostrzewa worked as the CEO of the media conglomerate ITI Group and banks: Polski Bank Rozwoju and BRE Bank (today mBank). He also managed the activities of Commerzbank in Central and Eastern Europe. Currently, Mr. Kostrzewa serves, among other positions, on the board of directors of the Swiss Stadler Rail and on the supervisory boards of the insurance companies of the ERGO Hestia Group.
Mr. Kostrzewa is a graduate of the Economic Faculty at the University of Kiel (Germany) and also studied law at the University of Warsaw.