Interview with He Yi, co-founder and the CMO of Binance
Launched in July 2017, Binance has grown to become the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the world by trading volume. In just nine months after its launch, the exchange rose to the number one spot and has managed to retain this position ever since, thanks to its excellent strategic choices.
With over 13 million active users, Binance’s average daily trading volume was $54B as of January 2021. This makes the company a multi-billion business. Undoubtedly, much of the company’s success comes from the team behind Binance, among whom is He Yi.
He Yi is the co-founder and the CMO of Binance. She has been in the cryptocurrency space since 2014, starting by leading OKCoin’s branding and marketing strategy and later moving on to serve as Vice President at Yixia Technology, a leading mobile video tech firm.
Even though the current cryptocurrency industry is male-dominated, Yi stands strong, leading one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges globally. Yi shared her interesting story with BTC Peers. We covered everything from her specialty, marketing, to what she thinks about gender inequality in the blockchain industry.
Please share your backgrounds before founding Binance with CZ and briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I am He Yi, leading marketing, user operation, user growth and many new business lines at Binance. Before joining the cryptocurrency industry, I have had many different attempts exploring different career opportunities, such as a university professor, a psychological counselling assistant, a host for reputed travel TV show as well as an executive leader in leading technology company, Yixia Technology, where I led the branding strategy which drove the firm’s valuation to USD 5 million.
After I joined the cryptocurrency industry, I first founded OKCoin, where I have transformed it from a small exchange platform to one of the top players of the industry. I always firmly believe in the cryptocurrency’s potential to change the world, and that is why I co-founded Binance. I’m always passionate about providing transparency and empowering communities in the cryptocurrency industry and championing economic freedom.
As the CMO, what are some initiatives that are memorable among the ones you planned/executed since Binance was first founded?
In the entire industry, I would say our unique community culture has been something very special about Binance. We value community users’ feedback a lot and we have a group of passionate Binance Angels (up to hundreds of them) who have been voluntarily supporting our community users without being paid. Many of the funny / interesting / beautiful images and videos of Binance which are very popular online, are great works by our angels. We’re proud of our angels.
Also, generally speaking, Binance founders, CZ and myself, try to listen to our users’ feedback carefully and from all aspects. We want to interact with our users actively; tweets, AMAs, Clubhouse sessions, online conferences, etc. We try not to act as authorities and we want to be as close as possible to the users to listen to them and meet the needs.
Binance became #1 crypto exchange after 180 days of its launch in 2017. As the CMO, in your opinion, which strategy do you think is the most effective to make that happen?
I think the secret to Binance’s growth was true commitment to putting our users first. In fact, if you take a look at the entire journey Binance has gone through, you would find many decisions made really with users in mind.
When we make such decisions, users always come first in our considerations.
A recent example to share is a project (Meercat) runaway occurred in BSC. We all know BSC is in fact a public blockchain, where countless projects are run on a daily basis. This project Meercat has claimed it was drained of $31 million in crypto assets just one day after launching on the BSC. Together with this exit scam, their twitter profile and website also disappeared. BSC is a decentralised and open-source ecosystem, it’s extremely difficult to trace and search for the scammer and money. But Binance still has dedicated a lot of resources and efforts in doing so, in the hope to retrieve users’ money back one day. What Binance is doing may not be favoured by some community voices, as our efforts may be deemed as centralised involvement in decentralised space.
Why would Binance spend so much time and efforts on it anyway? As we see it, for Binance Chain or Binance users alike, if there is anything we can do to make a difference, allowing the sector to change for the better or truly offering users the service or support they deserve, we will make our best efforts, as long as it works for our users. Of course, best efforts aside, there is no way to guarantee successful recovery for every runaway project on BSC. All we can do and have been doing is to try our best on everyone of such projects with our tracking efforts.
Do you own cryptocurrencies?
Yes, All of my assets are in BNB. This is because I know the Binance team very well - the top global team. To be honest, I’ve never seen so many brilliant / smartest people working so hard together for common objectives. Not to mention that, if I don’t believe in it, then how shall I expect others to believe in it?
What are some problems in our society that blockchain technology can solve in your opinion? Which sector do you think will be affected in a good way by blockchain?
Many problems could be solved, such as copyright issues (traceability), credibility issues of voting systems, and maybe archiving of government information. Paper or electronic files could be easily accessed and modified, storing information using blockchain technology would prevent such problems. If needed, blockchain could also help to ensure the transparency of important information.
NFT (Non-fungible token) is a prominent example to demonstrate how blockchain technology helps to effectively guarantee the authenticity of digital artwork. In the past, when people talked about print arts, Andy Warhol was the most representative figure in this area, who has successfully transformed the way art could be presented and how people perceive print works. Recently, NFT has made Beeple the Andy Warhol of the new generation. Christie as the first major auction house, has offered a pure digital work by Beeple with a unique NFT and realised $69 million. Christie has never offered a digital work with NFT of this scale and importance before - this serves as a high recognition for Beeple’s work carried by NFT from traditional art space.
How do you see the future of blockchain and cryptocurrencies in the next 10 years?
I believe that blockchain technology will spread into every different industry and every aspect of our lives. Cryptocurrency would also become part of the mainstream finance industry. Top global institutional investors / bank also started to consider cryptocurrency as part of their portfolio. For instance, Morgan Stanley became the first US bank to offer its affluent clients access to bitcoin funds.
Why do you think BNB’s price soared recently? BNB is now ranked at 3-4 at CoinMarketCap with its market cap.
In my opinion, BNB’s current price reflects all the values we have been building since the inception of Binance.
When Binance was small, Binance user base was small, and BNB had limited influence and values. With exponential user growth in Binance, BNB has gained much more influence and could be used in many places. Currently, BNB is the native token of BSC, and trading volume using BNB has exceeded that of ETH, and the number of active users using BNB has reached 70% of that of ETH. So to certain extent, BNB’s value has been underestimated, there is much room for growth.
Also, BNB is burnt every quarter, which means BNB has been persistently deflating its total supply.
Now Binance is one of the top global exchanges, what are some things that you would like to improve? What are your future plans for Binance?
There are two parts for this question. First part is about Binance. Currently, Binance is composed of two parts, decentralized Binance and centralized Binance and eventually, BSC, the decentralized Binance, will continue to be decentralized until the day it no longer needs the support of Binance. We would like to continue taking actions in the upstream and downstream parts of the industry until the decentralized Binance can stand alone. Binance has acquired and invested in many projects for the past years and incubated them to be able to be market leaders, and the same goes for the BSC.
The second part is about myself. I will slow down a bit and simplify my life, because running a startup is really tiring and I can feel that I have aged a lot in recent years. In 2017, I felt like I was 18 but now I feel like I am middle-aged. Still, there is a lot of information and knowledge that I have to absorb everyday in order to keep pace with the fast-changing industry. I have focused a lot on management up until now, but for the next one or two years, I plan to spend more time learning.
Some experts have predicted that governments would try to kill cryptocurrencies. Do you think this is possible?
There are many countries in the world. Countries which are more open and democratic, they may like Cryptocurrency. Countries which tend to be more dominant with strong control over finance, they might not like cryptocurrency that much. This is just like how different governments perceive the internet, the North Korea government still has certain constraints on people’s access to the internet. In general, this is a big world with many different governments, so there are many different possibilities.
One interesting thing about Binance is its evolution. From just a simple exchange, the firm has expanded its offering to include a Launchpad, Smart Chain, and more recently Binance Pay. What is the motivation behind these expansions?
All the time, Binance keeps challenging itself and this process is continuous. Our real competitor is not other players in the industry but Binance itself. So Binance has been in the continuous process - kill the past Binance and upgrade into a better one. Through this process, Binance aims to achieve freedom of values as our optimal goal for keep challenging ourselves is to gain the freedom of value. This is similar to the Internet, where the Internet has realised the freedom of information and We aim to realise the freedom of value. It is our vision and objective. We would like for everybody to have free access to value.
In the last few years, blockchain tech has spread to literally every aspect of our lives – finance, gaming, logistics, etc. What critical area do you think crypto has a chance to fix that hasn’t been attempted yet?
Finance and logistics reflect some of our basic needs, while the appearance of NFT has indicated that blockchain technology is starting to shape how artworks are presented. This reflects a positive sign in how blockchain could create positive changes to our spiritual pursuit. Maybe very soon blockchain could play a part in our social life and how we interact with each other. Time is the best answer.
What can you describe as the biggest break for Binance? At what point did things start to change?
Binance never stops challenging itself and having consistent self breakthroughs. I think one of the greatest challenges and breakthroughs would be ‘Binance Smart Chain’. With the BSC, we could provide the environment for the developers to build their own dapps. BSC’s decentralised nature is sort of conflicting with our centralised business, so it’s a great challenge.
Speaking of gender inequality, do you think the blockchain industry is any better?
In earlier times, women don’t have access to education in east Asia. In the west, women didn't have voting rights until the late 19th century. So it’s an objective fact that gender inequality exists, but our society has always been improving. Both men and women have more access to information and knowledge, with a mobile phone and internet, we could learn anything that we want to learn.
Speaking of the cryptocurrency industry, it’s an entirely new industry with enormous new opportunities offered to those who are passionate about blockchain and willing to learn. And now is the best time, for both men and women, as we’re empowered with the freedom to knowledge access, which helps to advance gender equality. This is also aligned with what Binance aspires to build - a platform which allows freedom of financial values.
If you had the power, what are some of the things you would change in the cryptocurrency space?
I’m happy with where I am right now. I’m empowered to initiate and to make impacts on things that I always want to be changed. For instance, Binance charity foundation to help people in need, African pink coin and free lunch initiatives etc.
It’s a very natural thing to do, when organisations are strong enough to initiate changes, this helps to push for social advances and by doing so, organisations will advance faster and gain more to give back to the society.