Meet the team – Pavel Stehno Co-Founder

Hi Pavel! Let’s start with your background – tell us about yourself.

I am 37 years old, coming from the Czech Republic where I studied at the Czech Economic University. I spent 6 years in finance and international tax planning including 3 great years in the PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) M&A team. I was working in transaction structuring advisory on Mergers and Acquisitions to large private equity clients like Advent International, Warburg Pincus or Mid Europa partners. 

2008 Graduating at the University

This part of my career helped me gain perspective on how big business operates and of course formed work ethics. When you are working on a multimillion transaction with tight deadlines and a global investment group as a client, it teaches you a thing about professionalism and responsibility very quickly.   

After some time in the advisory role I started feeling that I needed something else in my work life, though. I wanted to build business myself, not just being an advisor compiling presentations and writing advisory letters to management. 

Coincidentally, in 2008 the financial crisis came and banks stopped lending for the LBO (“leveraged buyout”) transactions and the pipeline of M&A deals went dry. I was less busy at work. My average day changed from 12 hectic hours to 3 hours of work and a lot of time on the internet. That’s when I learned about online poker. 

And you started grinding poker big time?

Yeah, in 2009 and 2010 I spent most of my free time playing online poker. Earning an extra $2,000 – 4,000 per month with a poker hobby next to my job was a pretty good deal for a 26 year old, so I invested more and more time in learning the game. I was reading strategic articles on PokerStrategy.com and following the blogs of most successful Czech poker players on this website. 

The learning and playing totally absorbed me, I had days where I played poker online the whole night and then had to work in the office the other day. It sounds crazy in hindsight but when you’re young, full of energy and passionate about mastering something – you can do it. Making a parallel to crypto here, I feel the “rabbit hole” is similar in crypto nowadays as it was in poker back then – it is a hell a lot of learning, but if you love the topic and are willing to commit the hours, you can truly master it.  

Me playing the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas 2011

Things moved quickly after this. I quit PwC and joined PokerStrategy.com team as Czech & Slovak country manager to work full time in Gibraltar from January 2011. I launched the localised PokerStrategy.com product onto the Czech and Slovak market and it was a booming success. In 2013 I became the COO of the company that had 200 full time employees in Gibraltar and 2,000 freelancers globally. In this huge PokerStrategy.com community of coworkers and customers I met Maťo, now the investment director of Sigil fund and the co-founder of Crypkit, and Marta – our Head of Growth at Crypkit.  

Why do you have a passion for poker? 

I love strategic games in general. It started with chess when I was 5 years old. I’ve played competitively for around 20 years. When I was 15 I won the Czech national championship under 16 years and participated in the World Championship. I ranked 47 there which was a fine result for somebody who never trained chess too much and spent a lot of time with volleyball and other team sports, too. I travelled the world with chess, participated in dozens of international tournaments, played the German league for many years and perhaps best memories go to the highest Czech chess league, where we won the Title 4 times in Pardubice team. 

With my friend and PokerStrategy colleague Arne playing chess after work in Gibraltar 2013

I also love playing all kinds of strategic games on computer or mobile phone. I was “born” with Sid Meyer’s Civilization I. And played all kinds of games ever since. Always having a strategic plan and executing well on it is something that I took with me into business.   

Interesting. Do you still live in Gibraltar?

Yes, I’ve been a resident in Gibraltar since January 2011. I love Gibraltar because of its climate, both from the weather and business perspective. It’s like London but with palm trees and better weather, with good professional service and business benefits. Gibraltar is a financial hub, gaming hub and recently a crypto bastion, too – it’s very progressive in regards to legislation. Gibraltar was one of the first countries that “legalized” crypto with their DLT legislation in 2018.

Gibraltar is a relatively small place with around 30,000 people, so everybody knows each other. For example, I know people from the government personally and I can see first hand how hard they are working to improve legislation and promote Gibraltar as a jurisdiction. You have several top legal firms in Gibraltar too, so the professional fiduciary and legal services are totally comparable with London’s level of standards. 

It’s very encouraging to see this and on a personal level I enjoy being a part of the professional Gibraltar community. People are super nice and we spend time together both in Gibraltar, but also worldwide on crypto conferences, where everybody is representing their own business (of course) and  a “team Gibraltar” together.  

How did you transition from being a COO of a poker website to co-founding Crypkit?

In 2017 we started working on two crypto projects – Sigil Fund and Crypkit, my co-founders and team were full time on the project from the beginning while I maintained a position at PokerStrategy and started as an Investor + Advisor. Over time crypto absorbed me more and more (similarly to how poker did it in 2009) and I migrated to our crypto projects full time as well. Basically, it all started through my relationship with Maťo. 

I met Maťo through PokerStrategy in 2011. He was a professional poker player, VIP customer and later also our top strategic coach doing educational work for the CZ/SK community. We became friends and were mostly hanging out around the VIP events for customers and special occasions for coworkers, for example when Maťo visited PokerStrategy headquarters in Gibraltar. 

 2012 PokerStrategy.com Christmas party in Gibraltar with my wife Monika

Maťo was already into crypto and by the end of 2016 crypto was pretty much all he talked about. I was initially a “no-coiner” who was shorting bitcoin, because China was going to ban it. But through our chats, business interest and my early investments in H1 2017 I got hooked as well.. So I went down the rabbit hole of learning – Bitcoin was just undergoing a hard fork that gave birth to Bitcoin Cash, so there was all this Segwit, UASF and debate about the block sizes. It was thrilling and intellectually stimulating. I quickly identified myself with the ideology of decentralisation and crypto very strongly. I think this will be the case with many of us in crypto – you start because of money and investments, but you stay for ideology and technology.

When did you start with Crypkit platform?

With Crypkit, I started as an angel investor.  My career with PokerStrategy reached its peak between 2013-2016. In 2013 we were bought by Playtech for $49.5m and the new era of PokerStrategy.com started inside the Playtech group – which is the leading software technology provider in the gambling space. We integrated the company into the Playtech group and achieved some top level business targets at the end of 2016. 

At that stage I felt like “what’s next”? My new passions were Investments and Technology at this stage. I wanted to invest money into good startups and eventually involve myself with something I would enjoy building. So when I met Michal and Maťo things clicked. I like the guys, I love our team and I am strongly driven by crypto ideologically – so here we are, building things in crypto together. 

The idea of Crypkit started when we realised there is no crypto fund platform to track your assets and automate all admin work. We needed that for our Sigil Fund and there was nothing good on the market. 

So Crypkit was a tool that you needed for Sigil fund?

Yes, we were scratching our own itch with Crypkit. We needed a solution to track all of our investments and transactions for monitoring our portfolio values, PnL, but also for compliance and reporting purposes.  

Originally we were keeping track of investments in those Google spreadsheets that were pulling price feeds from CoinMarketCap and other sources. But once you have more than 5 investors that enter your fund at a different time, so they have different performance and portfolio values – you just want to bang your head against the wall having to use  this manual solution. We had to upgrade our tools. And as there was nothing suitable for crypto funds on the market, we created the Crypkit Fund platform, initially for ourselves but with a view to service other crypto funds and traders as well. 

The origins in 2017 were funny. MVP was in a red and black design suitable for cypher punks and anarchists. We had just 1 developer and everything was kinda hacked quickly in rapid deployment. Fast forward 3 years and we have a big team of developers, infrastructure was upgraded twice and in 2019 we have redone the codebase from scratch, embracing the micro services and scalable development via modules.

What is your role in Crypkit and your unique contribution?

At first I took a more passive role as Investor and Advisor and I was helping mainly with the business development. I was visiting crypto conferences in my free time and generally networking in crypto space. In March 2019 I reached out to Gnosis in Gibraltar and they turned out to be more than happy to use the platform and offer us feedback on their needs for further product development. This was also the beginning of Crypkit Accounting product.

Nowadays, my role is revolving pretty much around the Business Development, Investor relations and Strategy in Crypkit. I am not deeply involved in the development process or the daily operations, which is in the strong grip of Michal. I designed some of our Finance processes too, but I don’t interact in the operative flows of the finance team –  my main job is really developing our business strategy, bringing new customers, investors and new employees, where needed together with Michal.  

I am constantly networking with potential users and helping with promoting the product in a direct way. I am speaking as a panelist or lecturer in various events, workshops or webinars about cryptocurrency funds and software tools. This includes keynote speeches on events  organized in cooperation with Gibraltar Finance Investment Association (“GFIA”) and Gibraltar Association of Compliance Officers (“GACO”), which you can see in the Crypkit blog section

2014 travelling in Peru

Also, as a person in contact with potential users I gather their feedback and deliver it to the product development team to implement new features and help shape the platform with these needs in mind. As this customer facing agenda grew bigger over time, we hired Marta as a Head of Growth to oversee the Marketing, Sales, and Customer service departments in Crypkit. 

She is doing a great job in our Operations, which allows me to focus more time on business development, strategy and also on our Sigil fund (www.sigilfund.com), which is growing amazingly well and where I am the CEO. 

While we are on the subject of features, Crypkit offers a wide range of tools and use cases. Who can benefit from them the most? 

We aim at developing Crypkit as an all-rounded solution so basically every business that operates in the crypto industry can benefit from using it, but traders, DeFi users and cryptocurrency funds are still our main target users that could benefit the most. We have a specialized fund product that was built with these users in mind. 

Our second and brand new product – the Accounting Suite – could potentially be useful for every single business that deals with crypto transactions. Every business needs to get their accounting right and crypto bookkeeping is not easy. This product was in development for 18 months and it’s absolutely impressive, you should watch the 2 min introduction video if you have not yet. This week we are just ramping up the distribution and marketing, so you will hear about this more often soon.

What do you see driving crypto funds to Crypkit?

I would say DeFi would be the main driver of new customers because of the complexity associated with tracking these investment products and their variety. DeFi tracking makes the Crypkit fund module and the Crypkit accounting module even more useful to the existing customers but will surely attract new ones as well.

There is no single killer feature of Crypkit. You could argue that real time NAVs and ability to share data with investors 24/7 are the biggest selling points for Crypto funds. But where would this be without valuation rates, various price feeds, support for blockchains and DeFi services? My point is that Crypkit is a huge product and only once it all comes together, users feel the power of everything in one place.

2018 Ha Long Bay

OK Pavel, thank you for your time. You have shed the light on how and why Crypkit came to be. Anything else you would like to add?

Sure, some important life advice. Buy bitcoin. Use Crypkit. Always pursue doing the things that you love. Surround yourself with people of a similar mindset. Take it easy. Never look back.

Now specifically – we have spent over 3 years building amazing crypto software. So if you are a crypto business, trader or investor, please check them out. You will find Crypkit useful and you can sign up for a free trial now. We would be grateful to receive your feedback too so we can further improve the platform based on the needs of our customers. Have a nice day everyone. 

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