Phil Siarri speaks to Sam Kawtharani, co-founder and CEO of Corl, a Montreal-based startup combining crowdfunding and blockchain.
Hi Sam, nice to connect with you. Can you tell us a little about your professional background?
I am a fintech entrepreneur with an extensive background in the marketplace lending industry. Before Corl, I spent the past 6 years leading the definition and go-to market strategy of innovative fintech products and solutions in the payments and lending industry, most recently as Head of Product at IOU Financial (TSX:IOU).
For the past year, I have been the Co-Founder & CEO of Corl, and we are launching the Corl Token, which is aiming to become the world’s first revenue-sharing token designed to support and participate in the growth of emerging technology companies, built on top of the Polymath platform.
I am also an advisor at Lend Mart and Fundica.
What is the company’s mission?
Investing in early-stage companies is becoming more popular than ever; and with operating costs at an all-time low, easy access to global markets, and the emergence of new technologies coupled with a lack of innovation among incumbents, the number of small fast-growing companies is higher than ever before. With the influx of these fast-growing companies, the need for adequate funding is essential to fuel expansion and innovation. However, the funding market today is centralized, fragmented, inaccessible to retail investors, and lacks the sufficient capital needed to support the growth of the tech ecosystem.
Traditionally, investments in companies are structured via equity through venture capitalists and angels, or for later-stage companies, via a debt instrument offered through banks. However, these options are starting to present their inadequacies for both entrepreneurs and investors due to their long fundraising timeframes, lofty eligibility criteria, inflated cost of capital, lack of investor liquidity, and dilution of founder influence and control.
Unlike most financing companies, Corl does not issue debt or equity investments, but rather, “dequity”. Companies that meet our strict funding requirements are financed through a revenue-sharing arrangement, whereby companies receive upfront capital in exchange for a percentage of future monthly revenue until some pre-determined repayment amount is met.
We believe it is time for investing in early-stage companies to become more intuitive and evolve into what we call, Capital-as-a-Service.
Corl recently went through a thorough re-branding process. What have been the main challenges and what have you learned through this experience?
After a year of building our startup, we’ve evolved from an equity crowdfunding platform that focused on early-stage startups to revenue-sharing on the blockchain with a vision to expand our target market over the years. The old name of Seedlify didn’t cut it anymore. The name was confusing, didn’t reflect our vision and people pronounced it wrong (including employees).
The main challenge was finding a name that reflected the vision and not the actual product. The founders had different preferences. Derek and KC preferred logical and literal names, and I have always been a fan of abstract names.
The fun part is that whenever we found a name we liked, we could not find the domain or social media handle for it, so we had to go through a repetitive process a couple of times.
A versatile logo was one of the most crucial requirements we had. But for some reason designers were either not creative, or just copying what’s out there. Sometimes the answer to a design problem comes from focusing on what you already have, just in an unorthodox manner, and I am happy with the rebranding results we got.
We’ve been met with a wide range of appreciation for the new redesign. People have found the new name easier and were able to connect with it more. This was reflected in a 40% growth in our early access list over 2 months.
Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you need to make tough choices, like rebranding your company and redesigning your product from scratch. When you make those choices, you need to convince your team, shareholders, and advisors that this is the best possible move for the company. As soon as you finalize that choice and get everyone on the same page, you move heaven and hell to execute on that decision.
Tell us about your upcoming ICO. How are you navigating local and international regulatory obstacles?
Corl is launching the Corl Token (CRL), planned to be the world’s first revenue-sharing token designed to support and participate in the growth of emerging technology companies. By design, CRL represents equity ownership in Corl, a company that provides revenue-sharing financing to high-potential early-revenue companies. The Corl token utilizes blockchain technology to issue tokenized dividends to its investors and provide a transparent and KYC-compliant decentralized market for peer-to-peer (P2P) token transfer. Unlike traditional tokens on the market, CRL is based on a profit-sharing model, whereby investors receive a continuous stream of quarterly dividends in the form of Ether (ETH), based on future earnings of Corl.
CRL will be developed using the Ethereum (ERC20) and Polymath (ST20) protocol. The Ethereum protocol provides the many desirable properties that blockchain assets possess, such as decentralized consensus, peer-to-peer exchange functionality, and a universal storage standard, whereas the Polymath protocol provides the mechanism for ensuring regulatory compliance with securities law, such as Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know-Your-Customer (KYC) regulation.
CRL tokens will only be available-for-sale during the token presale period of December to February 2018 (pre-ITO), and token sale period of March 2018 (ITO). One Corl token (CRL) is equal to one US dollar (USD) during the token sale period. Since only Ether (ETH) will be accepted during the token sale period, the amount of CRL tokens received will be calculated based on the ETH/USD exchange rate at the time of the transaction.
We are in talks with the regulators and they have been keeping an open mind, especially that we admitted that we are a security and trying to navigate through the local fintech sandbox while adhering to all the KYC and accreditation rules. We plan to target accredited investors and non-US (or jurisdictions where there is elevated regulatory risk, such as China) retail investors.
Through our token offering, investors from around the world will have the opportunity to participate in the revenue growth of early-stage companies, without the disadvantages associated with traditional investment options.
People who are interested in our token sale can get access our white through our website at www.corl.io/crltoken, or ask us direct questions by joining our slack and telegram community channels.