We had the pleasure of recently speaking with Shigeki Kakutani, the founder, and CEO of QURAS. QURAS is the world’s first public blockchain that allows private transactions in a smart contract. Shigeki first started QURAS in early 2017 and has since grown his team to span 8 countries, along with an international following of over 45,000 community members and developers.
QURAS has become a well-known project in Japan, where most of the core team resides, and most recently was listed on Bithumb Global, a decentralized digital asset exchange.
Shigeki spoke about Quras, the importance of privacy, adoption, and what he expects to see in the cryptocurrency world in the near future.
Concerning the aspect of privacy and transparency, what is unique about Quras?
It’s strange to consider a world where we have don’t have adequate privacy or adequate transparency. If we don’t have enough transparency in our society, malicious activities and crime can spread easily leading to a dark society. If our society is too transparent, you can’t protect your personal privacy and may inadvertently compromise your own business.
Although we cannot fully control the privacy versus transparency balance, the QURAS protocol is able to achieve privacy protection by implementing technologies such as ring signature suitable for anonymity within transaction involving a group and zero-knowledge proof suitable for shielding transaction data. However, by implementing these privacy technologies, it does not mean that transparency is not allowed. On the contrary, QURAS provides users and enterprises with privacy options, allowing you to choose how transparent or how private you want to be in each transaction that takes place on the QURAS protocol.
I love the decentralized nature of blockchain and think that transparency is key to its adoption. Today, a lot of online applications are too centralized to the point where they cannot protect privacy. As we plan future upgrades for QURAS, we aim to implement new traceable anonymous technology with administrators to be able to handle more centralized use cases.
In consideration of the fact that the company is over two years old, what accomplishments in users’ interest have been achieved?
Nearly three years have passed since the concept for QURAS was started, and finally, it has become a concrete shape. Initially, we heard a lot of criticism regarding our approach to building the QURAS protocol, being told that privacy technology cannot be implemented in smart contracts, and ring signatures and zero-knowledge proofs cannot be technically implemented at the same time. Nonetheless, we continued pursuing our mission to give users a wider choice of privacy protection means and we’re close to finally releasing the QURAS mainnet.
The interest of users has come grown thanks to the need for privacy protection. At the business level, major companies from the medical field to the game development space are speaking with us as they can utilize the QURAS protocol as they would like to, having privacy and transparency at work, hand in hand. To that end, we’re moving to the stage where we can contribute to the fabric of our society. I think that this is a sign pointing to the importance of privacy for both consumers and businesses. Additionally, we have contracted more than 100 stores in Japan to use the QURAS protocol as a payment gateway. Consumers, businesses, and governments are all watching to see whether cryptocurrencies will really be used or not, so we have to show some real use cases to attract more people into the blockchain industry.
With great anticipation for the full release of Quras, what are your expectations from the cryptocurrency world upon launching?
There seems to be some project that implements zero-knowledge proof by forking Ethereum, but we have never seen a project that implements zero-knowledge proof and ring signature like QURAS. In addition, QURAS allows for the refund of a smart contract transaction fees to projects to ensure that we support each project’s sustainability for the long-term. Our big philosophy is “Common Good,” first made famous by Aristotle, in which we consider the good of all people, individually and collectively, that use the QURAS platform. QURAS is designed considering the merits of nodes, remittance users, market participants, and projects.
We care to help the projects that build on the QURAS platform beyond providing privacy protection solutions, and we believe that we’ll create a virtuous circle wherein proper incentives will be given to all ecosystem contributors. Because of all of this, I expect us to be viewed very favorable in the blockchain universe upon launching our mainnet in the first quarter of 2020.
Regarding the economic instability we’re seeing, how do you plan on satisfying Quras users?
After the mainnet is launched, holders who own XQC, QURAS’s main digital asset, can stake XQG approximately every 18 seconds. XQG is used for smart contract transactions and remittance. As a supporting factor of the price of XQG, the scarcity that Bitcoin has in its protocol design is applied. It is possible to stake XQG with a public address, but it is not designed to stake XQG with an anonymous address. If 15% of users use an anonymous address, it is designed to reduce the number of XQG issued by 15%. Based on the idea of the Common Good, we’ve designed this in a way to share profits with QURAS users. However, in the future, we plan to distribute all transaction fees on the QURAS protocol to XQC holders. We’re also discussing the idea that the token of the project used in QURAS will be XQC.
What adoption techniques do you plan on using for Quras in Japan and beyond?
On the consumer side of things, we’ve already contracted over 100 stores in Japan already to use QURAS token for payments and we expect to expand to more stores in the future. The number of stores that will be able to use the QURAS token is probably the largest among altcoins in Japan. However, there are more than 300 stores in Japan that accept Bitcoin as payment, so we hope to increase awareness and adoption by growing our footprint even more than Bitcoin in this capacity. We have many Japanese team members that reside in Japan, including me, so we will continue to strengthen our relationship with enterprise partners, audit companies and blockchain consulting firms that can help us grow.
To gain international recognition, we listed our main digital asset, XQC, first on Bithumb Global, which is the international brand of Bithumb. Bithumb the top digital asset exchange in South Korea. In terms of adoption in Korea, cryptocurrency payments continue to progress in that country, so the introduction of the QURAS token itself may go relatively smoothly. I think the Korean beauty industry is worried about protecting the privacy of its patients, presenting a major opportunity for QURAS, so we would like to understand the needs of that industry. In China, we’ve secured a partnership with BiKi, which is a growing Singaporean exchange that is building its following and influence in China. We are also making progress with several other companies in China. I think the Chinese market is very influential in the blockchain industry.
After building our reputation and adoption in Asia, we are preparing to go to market in North America, Europe, and Africa. At the same time, we want to activate the developer community and make sure they build great applications on the QURAS protocol. There is still a lot to do, but I feel the great potential for QURAS and look forward to growing alongside my team and partners.
What challenges do you visualize in cryptocurrency as a whole for the next 12 months?
The market outlook is bright for the halving of Bitcoin mining which is scheduled from May to June 2020. It has been estimated that selling pressure will decrease by $63 million USD per week. Now, as the hash rate increases day by day, I’m worried about whether miners can bear the mining cost even after halving. In Japan, there are some companies that profit from the purchase of Bitcoin mining machines that can be depreciated while making mining profits and saving taxes. These types of businesses may be necessary to raise awareness to support the Bitcoin network.
And it’s been quite some time since security tokens, tokens that are treated as securities, first entered the scene in the United States. Security token projects have been raising funds since the second half of 2018, and security token offering platforms and product launches have begun to appear. To me, it seems that security tokens will become a reality in the future, perhaps within the next twelve months.
Initial exchange offerings (“IEOs”) have become popular in 2019. However, even with a good amount of IEO options that carry low requirements for projects, the type of fundraising will not last long unless IEO fundraising is well-balanced and aligned for the benefit of all involved, the exchanges, investors, and projects. There is also a new fundraising method called Initial Model Offering (“IMO”), and its goal is to leave as much money as possible on the project side and bring a large return to investors. The project will have multiple token sales while being able to raise funds over the long term. Although a very complicated design for the token economy and price formation will be required for IMO, various new funding methods are bound to emerge in the same way that the IEO and IMO have been born. There will be a delicate balance in play between the project, the investor, the growth of the project, the return to the investor, and the timing and volume of funding.
In Japan, leveraged crypto trading is limited by up to four times an initial investment. In addition, regulations on exchanges are becoming stricter and there is a possibility that the government may prohibit order books. Even with these roadblocks in Japan, there is still a positive movement for blockchain in greater Asia. In Malaysia for example, 2019 saw digital asset exchanges approved for the first time. Also, Malacca, Malaysia announced plans to prohibit the use of cash altogether and have its residents and businesses only use cryptocurrency for payments. In China, digital RMB will have a great impact on the market if it is issued in the future. I think there will be a big movement in 2020 by nation-states in the cryptocurrency market.