Q&A Terry Koutsios Founder and CEO of fivesquid and SQUID
Following the announcement of the strategic partnership between BLOCKLOAN, fivesquid, SQUID, and Lodex, we wanted to delve into the backstory on fivesquid, its cryptocurrency and why we think it is such a great alliance.
Below Terry Koutsios, founder and CEO at fivesquid and SQUID, talks through their journey, SQUID Credibility Score, ICOs and the future.
“Being a part of this process relatively early on is incredibly exciting. What appeals to me with the SQUID proposition is that the blockchain can, and I believe will be, a force for good – transparency and control in the hands of the user.
Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Terry Koutsios, Founder and CEO of fivesquid and SQUID the cryptocurrency that is set to shake up the world of freelancing and financial credit scoring systems, but more on that later. When I’m not working, I’m a father to an energetic 2 year old daughter. I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life, before fivesquid I had my own sports coaching business which I sold, allowing me to focus entirely on fivesquid and now SQUID – although I still try to find time to get on the court a few times a week.
Tell us about fivesquid and how you started?
Running my own business I knew how important it was working with a small budget. Most freelance sites at the time were project based, complicated, and freelancers were charging by the hour. I wanted to create something that was easy to use, where a buyer would know upfront how much something was going to cost them. I raised some money and fivesquid was born on a shoestring from my kitchen table. From this humble beginning fivesquid has grown into a thriving community with members in over 120 countries offering a host of freelance services, from graphic design, voiceovers to more lifestyle services like online personal training.
Who uses the platform?
It’s probably easier to say who doesn’t. The beauty of the fivesquid platform is that is open to anyone that has a skill they want to sell regardless of where they are in the world. Freelancing stats speak for themselves with 77m freelancers globally and growing – trends indicate that working 9-5 will be a thing of the past and freelancers will overtake those in full time employment. This clearly shows that the potential for the platform is exponential.
Our community is diverse, we have professional freelancers using the platform to market their services as their main source of income, individuals testing out skills before deciding to leave formal employment and go freelance, others use it as a way to boost their income when they need to. Buyers tend to be start-ups and SME’s based in Europe and North America, however we have some bigger organisations using our freelancers too. Some of our sellers have earned over £20,000 GBP on the site which makes them incredibly loyal to the platform and our freelancers are becoming more dependent on this income for accessing credit.
The only barrier to people trading on the platform is our reliance on payment processors that exclude certain territories or have transaction charges that for our lower price microtransactions are not viable. SQUID will change that and really open up the platform to everyone, regardless of where they are, who they bank with or in fact if they are banked at all and this prospect really excites me.
How has fivesquid developed over time?
One of the things I’m most proud of is that our founding principle of being fair to everyone hasn’t changed since we started. It’s always a concern that as organisations grow the founding principles get diluted and fizzle out. Thankfully by having a strong team that live and breath the fivesquid ethos we’ve managed to ensure that the platform is fair to everyone and the community comes first.
Other than that, fivesquid has evolved dramatically from the early days. When we first started we had a lot of cheeky services, I’ll leave that to your imagination. As we attracted more ‘serious’ freelancers the work became business orientated, but we still have a good section of services that will have the team laughing out loud.
Our original marketing campaign asked people what they would do for a fiver? It was a hoot. We’ve moved away from our namesake with fivesquid PRO Sellers being able to offer services at any price and we see many jobs being sold for some serious squid. We continuously add new features and add-ons (such as PRO Sellers, the request board, subscription services etc) to the platform.
The community are fully engaged, they ask for new features and come up with some great ideas which keeps our R&D team on their toes. The community as well as growing in size is incredibly loyal, reflected by our incredibly low churn rate and members just keep coming back. Best of all, we get a lot of unsolicited thank you’s, our favourite one to date is from Zoe one of our freelancers; she sent us a picture from her holiday in Jamaica funded by her work on fivesquid. When we see things like that we know we’ve got it right.
What are your plans?
We’re embarking on a significant private fundraising programme which forms part of the run up to the ICO and launch of the SQUID cryptocurrency. The funds raised will be used to develop and implement all the technical solutions in and around SQUID; including, the blockchain interface both public and private, the SQUID Credibility Score, SQD Wallet, SQD Card and Reward Programmes. It will also allow us to aggressively market the fivesquid platform – heading for 20 million users, with most using SQD in their daily transactions.
The glue that really holds all of this together is the SQUID Credibility Score, an alternative to the traditional credit scoring system, where members data is taken from multiple feeds through deep learning and AI to build their own Credibility Score which in turn gives them access to financial services currently unavailable to them. In effect the SQUID ecosystem will provide a real way for the unbanked to become banked. In addition to being rewarding for trading on fivesquid members will also be reward in SQD for the data that they share and crucially they will have complete control over who sees their data – using a combination of public and private blockchain with private keys.
The team are seeking global partnerships with players in the right industries such as Lodex and BLOCKLOAN and we’re delighted to be working together so early on. This partnership will help all of us to bring forward many items on our roadmap such as the SQD Card and Wallet, and also credit facilities to our community.
Any tips for people using the platform?
You really don’t need any tips, we pride ourselves on a platform that is intuitive and easy to use. Simply go to fivesquid.com, find a service you want, buy it and the seller will prompt you on what info they need. If you want to sell you just need to describe what you want to offer, have a great image and off you go. It really is that simple.
Any tips for someone starting their own business online?
Before launching into your new business you must have a clear idea and a plan. Really know the purpose of the business and most importantly if it can be profitable. You’re going to need help, find a mentor or business advisor, someone that can tell you the hard truths and be the sounding board of reason when you need it.
Finally never give up, going alone isn’t an easy choice but hand on heart it’s never been one I’ve regretted. You’ll need an endless supply of determination and perseverance. Once you’ve got that cracked you’ll need an array of practical things set up and that’s where fivesquid can really help, from Brand ID work, website/online shop creation, business planning, slide decks for potential investors (so important), administrative support, you name it you can find a service on fivesquid at a price that is palatable to start-ups.
Thoughts on blockchain technology?
I read a great article in the Harvard Business Review comparing the blockchain to the internet. The basic premise being that blockchain is not a disruptive technology but a foundational technology, explaining that it will take decades for it to have mass global adoption economically and socially, but the impact of it will reshape the global economy.
Being a part of this process relatively early on is incredibly exciting. What appeals to me with the SQUID proposition is that the blockchain can, and I believe will be, a force for good – transparency and control in the hands of the user. Our members will have more control over their data, in turn granting them a greater financial freedom through the SQUID Credibility Score especially now we are partnering with BLOCKLOAN.
Anything else you would like to add?
I and the rest of the team are truly excited about the opportunity, not just for the business and the platform, but for our community. With partnerships already in place such as this one with Lodex and BLOCKLOAN, we also have conversations with the African Union, the Open University of Mauritius and also the Indonesian Government seeking to use a intra-regional version of fivesquid with the SQUID Credibility Score. This really does make this way more than just a good idea on paper. We already have traction, established businesses and government agencies want to partner with us. The potential is phenomenal – we really do mean it when we say SQUID will be a cryptocurrency with real purpose.
Thanks so much for your time and story Terry. It’s an inspiration, and your platform really enables so many others to get started on their new business and innovation journey. We’re thrilled to be partnering with fivesquid and SQUID – exciting times ahead!