Ian Estrada is the CEO and Co-Founder of XLD Finance, a web3 company that aims to bridge the gap between web3 and web2 by linking crypto projects to the global financial system.
What were you doing before Web3?
I am a product manager by trade, with experience in fintech and inclusive finance.
Besides that, I also worked for some of the largest startups and financial institutions in the Philippines, including GCash and Oriente.
I was also the founder and COO of a corporate venture capital firm for one of the top 3 conglomerates in the Philippines.
How did you get into Web3?
I became interested in cryptocurrency as a retail investor in 2016 and 2017. However, I was focused on traditional finance at the time.
As I researched cryptocurrency more, I realized its potential to give more people access to financial services.
In 2020 and 2021, I started looking into opportunities in important sectors. Then I stumbled on play-to-earn (through Yield Guild Games, its co-founder Gabby Dizon, and Axie Infinity) and saw a problem in emerging markets for people to use their earnings in real life.
What was your first crypto or NFT project?
How would you explain what you do to someone outside of Web3?
I tell people that we’re creating a PayPal for crypto.
Which creator or thought leader do you enjoy learning from?
I’m inspired by the knowledge and insights shared by Gabby Dizon, co-founder of Yield Guild Games. And Herbie Fu, my co-founder at XLD Finance and an early DeFi investor.
Herbie’s analytical mind and expertise in analyzing protocols are invaluable. I also find reading Vitalik Buterin’s blogs and work to be like looking into a crystal ball into the future. It’s very influential because a lot of the technology is EVM-based.
What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
I’m proud to have built GScore. It is a credit scoring system that measures the credit histories of GCash users. It now has 50 million users in the Philippines.
What tech or crypto trend are you watching this year?
I am closely following two tech and crypto trends: liquid staking and cross-chain messaging.
Liquid staking, which involves lending and staking, has several use cases. Genie Yield is one of the key examples for anyone who wants to onboard into crypto.
Cross-chain messaging is also very important because, in the future, I believe there will be multiple blockchains that need to be interoperable.
I’m also watching this trend to get inspired with ideas for how to build a more efficient web2 financial infrastructure that can serve emerging and developed markets globally.
What advice would you give someone starting out in Web3?
I do think there are two ways to become a founder. The first is to be a crypto native and have experience in the market — understanding the delivery and workings of the business.
However, this is a contained bubble, and many of the principles do not seem to apply in the real world. The second way — which is what I took, is to solve real-world problems with the technology and economic structure of cryptocurrency.
My advice to founders is to ask themselves what type of person they are. If they are stronger in research or theoretical knowledge, it may be better to be more crypto-native and figure out how to make a solution within the crypto space.
However, if they are an operator with real-world web2 experience, especially in start-up technology, it makes sense to solve real-world problems or revolutionize current technology or address users’ needs in the real world through crypto or blockchain.
If you could do a TEDtalk on any topic, what would it be?
Access to banking services has a profound impact on people’s daily lives, and I’d like to discuss that impact.
As crypto natives, we all take it for granted because many of us have access to credit cards, and we were born in developed markets where we take the ability to move money around for granted.
But in many parts of the world, it can take hours for people to be able to transact or transfer money. People who have great ability but very little access to liquidity are unable to start businesses and contribute to their economy or provide for their families.
I’d want to share my thoughts on how crypto can help speed up this process on a global scale and how my work, over many years, has allowed me to witness people’s lives transform as a direct result.
What is the one thing you would bring if you were stuck on a deserted Island?
I would choose a machete as my ultimate survival tool. It’s versatile. I can use it to hunt, protect myself from danger, and build a shelter.
POW stands for “Proof of Work.” It is a new feature article series in The Mega Maxi to highlight the savviest builders in the Web3 space.