We Built An Open Source Crypto Platform & Make $420K/Year

Adrian Pollard
Founder, HollaEx
$35K
revenue/mo
2
Founders
13
Employees
HollaEx
from Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
started May 2017
$35,000
revenue/mo
2
Founders
13
Employees
440K
alexa rank
616
followers
550
subs
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Start A Crypto Management Platform

Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?

I’m Adrian, the co-founder of HollaEx, an open-source crypto software startup. As a founder with a design background, my primary focus was on the product design of HollaEx, which allows anyone to start an exchange with their own coins and crypto prices.

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HollaEx started back in the early days of crypto around 2016 and has gone through various name changes such as HEX Kit, HollaExShell until finally settling on simply HollaEx. At that time, there weren’t many bitcoin users, so the first app made was simply an app that helps bitcoin enthusiasts to connect, transact and share their interest in this new technology.

Back in 2016, donating bitcoin for free was a thing which the app become popular, however, as the price of BTC and the blockchain fees increased the app began to see less use which forced us to refocus on more general cryptocurrencies and the act of exchange.

HollaEx in 2021 has evolved into a general-purpose crypto service, with a focus on exchange technology and tackles key crypto infrastructure solutions like wallet tech, exchange hosting, and white-label services.

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea of HollaEx?

As mentioned in the early days of blockchain it was very hard to find anybody that knew what bitcoin was. This is why our first creation was this sort of Tinder-like an app where you people could connect to other Bitcoin aficionados within the local area (or globally). It even included a unique crypto chat experience, but the main focus was getting people to send coins to one another. What was cool was the app allowed users to use multiple bitcoin wallets and included a user search list and a way for users to share their public address to accept payments from anyone.

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Today, we are focused on crypto exchange technology because we believe the exchange experience right now is the crypto experience and is where most people interact with blockchains.

Exchanges are where coins live, trades happen, and ultimately where prices form. That’s why we’ve designed HollaEx to be the go-to crypto tool that helps businesses to start their journey into the crypto world. It is the ultimate white-label exchange software, that can be easily rebranded and crypto-customized. It allows coins to be listed at a fraction of the cost of a typical coin listing and provides a complete crypto platform to house the coin with 100% control.

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We’ve also open-sourced the HollaEx to help better share it with more developers in the hopes it will take on a life of its own in the online business world. Many people today are taken the open software kit and have started brand new crypto businesses in all shapes, and sizes.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and testing out your first product.

As we’ve open-sourced the HollaEx we’ve gotten loads of feedback from the forums, GitHub and Discord community channels and have slowly but methodically applied updates to HollaEx’s open crypto exchange kit.

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Worth noting that in the very early days, before HollaEx was open-sourced, it went through a long trial-and-error period internally. Which is always a costly process, particularly timewise, but is the only way to jump-start such a complex project.

Another outside factor that affected the product was the growth of the industry as a whole. For example, as prices of crypto assets rose, so do the demand for HollaEx’s exchange system. The crypto seasons or cycles are great times to get as much feedback as possible.

One of the design goals was to make the HollaEx very quick to run on anything, the more exchange that went live, the better it was for the industry as a whole. And, so you can find the exchange kit software running on an inbuilt Tesla computer or even a tiny Raspberry Pi’s!

As we’ve gotten more feedback we realized it wasn’t always necessary to provide all the software to people to host and manage themselves. In fact, like WordPress or other easy website builders like Squarespace, people often want their website hosted for them and the same goes for crypto exchanges, in fact, more so because crypto comes with inherent security complexities that most people would rather give to experts. This is why the second version of the product came with a built-in cloud exchange option, which allows non-tech-focused teams to start their own crypto exchange.

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HollaEx now can be run on pretty much anything and everything, which very few exchange software kits can do. The exchange is also very quick to launch and can be done in one day. Normally it can take weeks to months to launch a crypto exchange, but HollaEx was built to share with others from the day which is why it is fast. There are videos demoing exactly this.

We’ve slowly realized that pretty much all projects, businesses, and communities, in general, are in a prime position to create an exchange, their own coins, and their very own market economies.

Similar to how every business now has social media, a payment processor, and/or a login there will be a large portion of businesses that will add coins, tokens, and other blockchain systems. It isn’t hard to imagine that even NFTs, which are inherently blockchain-driven technology are going to take over digital ownership rights for content going forward and is within the feature capabilities of HollaEx. We foresee more demand for white-label crypto tool kits that are easy to integrate into business use cases.

All anyone needs to break into crypto is an exchange system that shares the coin and helps price the coin. HollaEx cost-effectively does this with the free DIY crypto exchange kit (self-hosted and even has a cloud solution for those that prefer not to handle servers. To start your own crypto project or exchange and/or coins just sign up and complete the 5-step exchange setup.

Describe the process of launching the business.

We started a company pretty early on. We just wanted to go through the process of having something on paper and it was a good move because the age of a company can hold merit.

Partnerships can be advantageous and sometimes all you need is a small transaction to start that lasting business connection. As your business grows and your partners and connections witness that, so will their desire to work with you and their willingness to recommend your service or product.

Establishing a website domain was also a big step that every company should start as early as possible because sharing a site is pretty much the easiest way to get your idea across these days.

Before the initial launch, we learned just how hard it is to get found. Google ads can only take you so far and so honing in on SEO keywords and plastering helpful information around the place in the form of blogs, forum posts, and generally engaging with the community is a good way to get links back to your site which in turn gets it ranked higher on the search engines.

One thing we should have done a better job on in the launching of our business was more activity on social media because that can help down the line when customers come to review your company and product.

You can think of social media as a tool for proving a company's timeline.

Just having a social media historical record on various platforms can pay off dividends in the long run. But for our company, as we shifted our product line a few times this made the management of social media challenges and I recommend being careful shifting product as it means you will have to start social media all over again.

Another thing for those starting a business or crypto exchange business is to consider the idea of starting your own coin, even if the coin does not have many functions or proper pricing it is just one of those things that will require time, no matter what, and so starting a coin early can pay off. This is one of HollaEx’s strong points and is why coin creators love it.

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For HollaEx, the customer base only really started coming in 2020 and 2021, as it took people awhile to trust and understand cryptocurrencies. That was the gamble taken on HollaEx.

We believed coins and exchanges would eventually go up in demand, and they did, but just took a little while, a while being 5 years starting back in 2016 till today. However, this goes to show that no matter what the idea is, that idea may need time to develop but having it ready and waiting can be a tough experience, but half the battle.

Lastly, beware of launching too early as it comes with extra costs from marketing, and communications, to customer support which sucks up resources fast. Resources that could better be spent on developing the core product.

Saying that releasing something in a low-cost manner is always something worth doing if the chance arises, as the information gathered by early adopters can be invaluable.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

As mentioned once we open-sourced the software we got much more attention because people like free stuff.

Another thing that helped us attract customers was making things more automatic. Our crypto exchange kit was made so that non-coders could still have a fighting chance using it. This obviously means an overall friendlier user experience for business-minded folk.

How did we do it? Essentially two versions of HollaEx exist, one that can be used for free but must be assembled and self-hosted (DIY exchange). The second version of HollaEx is a paid version where you get an automatic crypto cloud exchange. Cloud exchanges can be spun up within minutes.

Putting the responsibility on the user to make their own choice of how to set up their crypto exchange has made it so that the effort put by a DIY exchange user was worthwhile as they are rewarded with a free service. And, for those that require speed, they appreciate the ease of use of the cloud exchange version of the HollaEx and don’t mind paying as long as the heavy lifting is managed for them.

Another thing that boosted our customer base was when we started sharing content online from videos on YouTube to articles, software review wesbites and even doing exclusive interviews with the likes of Starter Story has made a big difference as it helps get the name out there and helps SEO. Content overall in crypto is a win, win as it allows users to do their own research through all the content while leading to potential sales.

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Product review sites like G2 or similar ones bring legitimacy to your company and/or product and spending time setting these accounts up can be a good on-going practice.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

HollaEx is now at the stage where we can share it. And in the future, starting now, we are introducing the HollaEx Token (XHT). We’ve purposely left the token coin last because we wanted to make sure the exchange kit software was thoroughly battle-tested.

As the number of exchanges using the kit has risen, so has the utility for XHT.

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Anyone holding the HollaEx Token today can stake it to earn more XHT, pay for exchange software, activate their own crypto coins, and unlock extra features within the kit.

Lastly, in the future, in my opinion, there will be many more thousands of smaller crypto exchanges. Anyone can attach an exchange to their existing business. This increases competition and increases global business opportunities, no matter where you are.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

When HollaEx was started we learned that crypto exchange technology was valuable because it includes many essential parts, all in one system. Coins, storage, charting, pricing, branding, and most importantly an automatic blockchain connection. These are built within the HollaEx turn-key white label.

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A turn-key crypto solution should be made as accessible as a tool like WordPress or Squarespace. These tools made website building possible for many people and not just for coders. This realization pushed HollaEx into the open-source shareable exchange software kit it is today and allows anyone to unlock the power of blockchain technology for business applications.

Another thing we learned is that crypto's complex nature takes a lot of educational marketing. Even writing this particular Story Starter is a trade that may pay off later as readers learn about starting their own exchange business. Educational marketing material is something worth considering if the product is complex or the industry.

Finally, partnerships can be advantageous, and sometimes all you need is a small transaction to form that lasting connection. As your business grows and your partners and connections witness that, so will their desire to work with you and their willingness to recommend your service or product.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

In the past our business used Jira. However, found the fluidity of Notion to be best suited because it allows for easy formatting of things like tables, graphics, and even videos.

Google calendar and the simplicity of organizing meetings can’t be underestimated as Google manages the timezones well, and as a global crypto service business, we’ve had to deal with people around the world. Google calendar and its doc system have been a great free service.

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Video recording software like OBS Studio has given us the ability to teach people how to use HollaEx which a static document or article just can’t do. Utilizing video has been a great time saver as it helps educate people faster because everyone nowadays prefers to learn through YouTube.

For business documents, we’ve found using DocSend can pay back great divides as you get tools to protect your docs from being copied, sign NDAs, and feedback on your document engagement.

Medium blog has also been a useful tool and can attract new customers. Other free blogging platforms with a big readership for crypto, however in the long term it is always better to have your own blog on your own domain.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources

Recently it has been all about Bankless and breakdownwith NLW (Nathaniel Whittemore), these resources have consistently provided up-to-date information, without the hype and go into a variety of topics at depth.

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For books, Masters of Doom is hands down the best as it gives an insight into the emerging computer game industry and just how radical the team was.

When it comes to fintech news resources the website Finextra is a great source as it covers useful information about white-labels and crypto tools kits.

Otherwise, Twitter is the king when it comes to real-time crypto news.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?

Not changing too frequently and just surviving is half the battle. This can be tricky as there is a constant temptation to start new things.

Most people in the crypto industry deal with non-stop price distractions of coins and projects. In 95% of cases those building anything in crypto end up giving up too early once the market takes a long and extended dive, only to miss all the upside when the market returns.

Another point, striking a balanced life in crypto is difficult and comes with the 24/7 territory of the industry. Having the staying power of at least 2-3 years, no matter what will give any startup founder invaluable experience that can be used in life beyond the startup.

It is our personal belief that tokens, cryptocurrencies, and their blockchains will likely play a big role in every sector. Similar to the internet changing all sectors.

Those taking the time to actually use blockchains today, learning how to harness their powers, these entrepreneurs will get paid big dividends with their technological edge.

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Lastly, doing things alone might be good to start but as they say, if you want to go fast go alone if you want to go far go together. The difficulty of finding a team can be what makes or breaks an entrepreneur but having team members with complementary skills is what brings success long-term.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are always looking for global talent and much of that just comes down to showing us what you got. Since the kit is open-source and out there to use, people can start learning how to do crypto by using HollaEx. Once the basics of handling the exchange kit are there, it is easy to contribute to the HollaEx Kit .

Another way to contribute and to be considered for hiring is to use the HollaEx jobs forums which can be used to find tasks that can be paid out in XHT rewards.

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Making suggestions in Discord channel is also a good way to get your foot in the door by providing valuable feedback and giving back to the open-source exchange community.

For non-developers, we are always looking for active social media community people to help. This would require some knowledge of how the kit works but simply creating content in the form of videos, articles, and even just answering questions on HollaEx forums to get noticed within the community.

Where can we go to learn more?

To learn more about HollaEx visit the resources page, to start your own exchange.

For people that just want to see what the exchange kit can do, they can visit the HollaEx Pro Exchange which is a live running exchange using the open-source HollaEx Kit. What you see there is pretty much what you’d get once and will include crypto liquidity for the larger markets like BTC/USDT and Ethereum markets.

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To get a sense of what has been going on recently I recommend follow HollaEx on Twitter and Telegram.

For a behind-the-scenes experience or for tech-specific questions, then the HollaEx Discord channel is the place for you. The Discord channel is where you’ll be able to help contribute directly, answer other questions, and even get your ideas implemented.

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Adrian Pollard, Founder of HollaEx
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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