• World Biz Magazine

MICHAEL WU, CEO OF AMBER GROUP - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO


Amber Group - Michael Wu, Co-Founder & CEO

Michael Wu, Co-Founder and CEO of Amber Group has been selected by the Judges of World Biz Magazine's Annual Awards to be a recipient of the Top 100 CEOs in Innovation Award 2022. This selection follows a stringent process that evaluated over 40,000 nominees to select the exclusive list of 100 winners.


 

Michael Wu is co-founder and CEO of Amber Group, a leading global digital asset company. Prior to founding Amber Group, Michael was a quantitative analyst at Goldman Sachs, a macro trader at Morgan Stanley, and a portfolio manager at a billion-dollar hedge fund. Michael is a member of Mensa International and a 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia honoree.


Founded in 2017, Amber Group is a leading global digital asset company operating globally with offices in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Amber Group provides a full range of digital asset services spanning investing, financing, trading, and spending. Its 24/7 trading desk serves over a thousand institutional clients globally while the integrated digital asset platform WhaleFin serves the individual investors via mobile and desktop applications.


To date, Amber Group has raised a total of $328 million in funding from world-class investors including Temasek, Sequoia Capital, Paradigm, Tiger Global Management, Dragonfly Capital, Pantera Capital, Coinbase Ventures and Blockchain.com. Amber Group’s Series B + funding round of $200m valued the company at $3B.




"Amber Group sets itself apart through its vision and values; transforming the financial ecosystem to be one that is more progressive, inclusive, transparent and sustainable. Beyond the typical suite of financial services, our team is guided by this ethos and we embody this in all of our products and services."


Please tell us about your mission. What drives you and why the crypto industry?


MW - I come from a traditional finance background. I served as a quant analyst at Goldman Sachs, a macro trader at Morgan Stanley and a portfolio manager at a billion-dollar hedge fund. These experiences exposed me to the intricacies of the current financial system including its inefficiencies and constraints.


Pairing this experience with my innate interest in emerging technology, I became increasingly aware of the possibilities for innovation within the financial system. The most exciting innovations were happening in the crypto space and I became inspired by the spirit of DeFi.


I decided to focus on contributing to these financial innovations, by bridging the gap between the crypto asset industry and the traditional finance industry. Working towards a progressive financial ecosystem that advances our global economy, without forgetting the spirit of opportunity and community of creating a better world for everyone.



Share with us some insight into Amber Group’s journey from a 6 person trading team to becoming a top crypto finance platform and unicorn in less than 5 years.


MW - We recently surpassed $1 trillion in cumulative digital assets transaction volume, since our inception in 2017. Our recent growth focus has been on three fronts - our institutional business, a rapidly expanding consumer business with WhaleFin, and an emerging creator-focused venture. Client assets on the company’s platform have exceeded $5 billion, and these are expected to continue to rise rapidly, especially with the launch of WhaleFin at the end of 2021.


Our journey from inception to where we are today is only possible thanks to the commitment of our team, as well as the support from our partners and investors. Our team is dedicated to our shared mission, bringing their many varied experiences in the traditional finance and technology sectors to redefine the financial ecosystem of the future.


To date, we have raised a total of $328 million in funding from world-class investors including Temasek, Sequoia Capital, Paradigm, Tiger Global Management, Dragonfly Capital, Pantera Capital, Coinbase Ventures and Blockchain.com. Our company is strategically expanding its influence in the digital assets ecosystem. In 2021, we tripled the size of our team, from less than 200 to more than 650 employees. Now our global workforce stands at nearly 800. We are looking forward to growing our team further and we are excited by the possibilities of what we can achieve in the next five years.



"We recently surpassed $1 trillion in cumulative digital assets transaction volume, since our inception in 2017. Our recent growth focus has been on three fronts - our institutional business, a rapidly expanding consumer business with WhaleFin, and an emerging creator-focused venture. Client assets on the company’s platform have exceeded $5 billion, and these are expected to continue to rise rapidly, especially with the launch of WhaleFin at the end of 2021."


How is Amber Group different from the other digital asset platforms?


MW - Amber Group sets itself apart through its vision and values; transforming the financial ecosystem to be one that is more progressive, inclusive, transparent and sustainable. Beyond the typical suite of financial services, our team is guided by this ethos and we embody this in all of our products and services.


WhaleFin, our flagship digital asset platform, is a good example. We wanted to integrate our offering into an all-in-one platform that empowers mainstream investors to build wealth in the digital era and further democratize access to crypto finance. It is designed and built as a gateway to crypto finance for everyone, regardless of their investing experience and needs.


At Amber Group, building a better and more sustainable future is at the heart of what we do. WhaleFin empowers users with the opportunity to invest in a sustainable future. Our latest partnership with a leading non-profit organization, Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) serves as proof of our commitment.


It's the beginning of a long journey towards shaping a better, more sustainable future. In January, WhaleFin partnered with the WDC to adopt a 46-year-old female humpback whale named Salt. This initiative comes after our strategic partnership with climate tech firm Moss Earth last year, when Amber Group bought 250,000 carbon tons offsets’ worth of MCO2 tokens, enough to offset the cost of more than 280,000 bitcoin transactions.



Please educate us about WhaleFin (Amber Group’s platform for individual investing).


MW - As the concept of wealth changes, with innovations in the financial ecosystem and digital assets going mainstream, there is an urgent need for investors to rethink the way they build wealth. In response to this need, Amber Group launched its flagship digital asset platform, WhaleFin, in December 2021 to empower mainstream investors to build wealth in the digital era and further democratise access to digital assets.


WhaleFin is built with the deep expertise that Amber Group has developed serving both institutional and retail markets. It’s an all-in-one platform that bridges the demands from both markets, serving as the preferred gateway to crypto for users, regardless of their experience. Designed with universality in mind, WhaleFin combines institutional-grade features of the Amber Pro, launched in 2019, with the intuitive user interface and features of the Amber App, launched in 2020.


WhaleFin also empowers users with the opportunity to invest in a sustainable future. WhaleFin plans to harness resources from across the industry to support public education campaigns on the climate crisis as well as to mobilize communities to take action for our planet.



"WhaleFin is built with the deep expertise that Amber Group has developed serving both institutional and retail markets. It’s an all-in-one platform that bridges the demands from both markets, serving as the preferred gateway to crypto for users, regardless of their experience."


Share some insight into Amber Group’s institutional services.


MW - Our institutional services include algorithmic execution, electronic and OTC market-making derivatives, structured products, as well as mining and staking services as part of our institutional services offering. We are the crypto market’s leading liquidity provider. We currently have more than 1,000 institutional clients onboarded with Amber Group, and we expect this figure to increase with rapidly increasing digital asset adoption globally.



Crypto has navigated unprecedented challenges in the past year, how do you think this has shaped the industry’s confidence going forward?


MW - In the past year, the crypto landscape has been rapidly evolving. We have seen new all time highs for leading cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have gotten huge — even becoming the Collins dictionary’s Word of the Year. The global regulatory landscape is also quickly adapting to these developments, and while much has been said around the sustainability of the industry, the road ahead is still full of potential and opportunities.


Overall, there is a growing interest in crypto assets, which are gaining recognition and acceptance amongst the mainstream. This industry is going to continue to evolve and adapt to future challenges. There are a multitude of innovative solutions being led by both newcomers to the ecosystem as well as market movers. From Ethereum’s upcoming upgrade to a Proof-of-Stake mechanism to lower energy consumption and address the pressing issue of sustainability, to traditional finance players like JPMorgan and Mastercard making official forays into the crypto space, it is clear that the crypto asset industry is here to stay. We are at the economic frontier, at the intersection of technology and finance.



Amber Group founding team

What are your predictions for crypto's long term future?


MW - I expect crypto to continue to evolve and set the pace for shaping the future of finance. With Web 3.0 on the horizon, decentralisation across industries is going to become increasingly commonplace. Crypto offers opportunities for financial inclusion and equity and will certainly be a mainstay as global adoption picks up pace.


Looking ahead, new use cases of crypto are going to be invented. The growing utility of NFTs, for instance, is an indication of what’s to come. From the advent of play-to-earn, crypto-based NFT games such as Axie Infinity, to Propy facilitating the sale of the first real estate-backed NFT, crypto possesses the potential to radically change boundless industries that even the most traditional of organisations cannot ignore.



What's next for Amber Group? There are rumors of a listing in the coming year?


MW - Our priority this year is to continue growing Amber Group - both our team and our business lines. A listing could support us in doing this but we don’t have a definite timeline for that. For now, we are working on making key hires to support our institutional business in Europe and the Americas where we have been receiving tremendous interest from traditional financial institutions and large family offices.


We also want to expand WhaleFin’s global footprint in both developed and developing markets worldwide, and continue making progress with OpenVerse, our creator-led venture that already has a strong line-up of gaming studios, sports collectibles, digital artists and other partner brands. Beyond business expansion moves, our team has plans to deepen our commitment to building a sustainable future for all and we will continue to broaden our support of sustainability initiatives.



"Our priority this year is to continue growing Amber Group - both our team and our business lines. A listing could support us in doing this but we don’t have a definite timeline for that. For now, we are working on making key hires to support our institutional business in Europe and the Americas where we have been receiving tremendous interest from traditional financial institutions and large family offices."


Talk to us about diversity at Amber Group.


MW - At Amber Group, our vision of wanting to transform the financial ecosystem to be one that is more progressive, inclusive, transparent and sustainable for all, is embodied across all our global offices. As we expand rapidly, we boast a burgeoning team of bright individuals across all levels that share in this vision. We are in an industry that sits at the intersection of tech and finance — two sectors that have traditionally been white and male dominated, yet our company boasts a diversity of ethnicities as well as female leadership.



What are your top 3 traits for entrepreneurial success?


MW - A successful entrepreneur is a leader that:

  • Espouses a commitment to excellence

  • Possesses foresight to anticipate the future,

  • While daring to will and act upon this vision

In addition to these, one needs to be adaptable and constantly learn new things. But all of these things mean little if one does not balance them with humanity — it is important that a good leader exercises this through empathy and humility, especially towards others and the natural environment we live in.



For more information, please visit www.ambergroup.io



 

This article appeared in World Biz Magazine's Q2, 2022 Issue





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