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When It Comes To The Metaverse, The Future Is Already Here


By Hillel Fuld

The fintech space is yet another vertical in which Israel is a significant player. Among the big fintech companies in Israel, eToro leads the way.

If you look at the most successful tech companies, they all have one thing in common: democratization. Uber democratized transportation, Airbnb democratized hospitality and eToro democratized trading the markets.

I’ve followed the company and its CEO and cofounder, Yoni Assia, from day one. It has been truly incredible to see the company grow into a market leader and evolve with trends like the blockchain, for example.

Yoni Assia, CEO and cofounder of eToro. (Courtesy of Yoni Assia)

It’s been fascinating to watch Yoni reinvent the company and adapt to the new reality of a global pandemic. That’s what differentiates a good entrepreneur: resilience and the ability to be lean and flexible.

Yoni and his wife, Mor, are a serious power couple.  Mor is cofounder of iAngels, a platform that democratizes investments.

I recently sat with Yoni for an in-depth discussion about the company and the market trends.

Hillel Fuld: Please describe yourself in less than five sentences.

Yoni Assia: Cofounder and CEO of eToro, father of five, proud husband of Mor, who is a fintech entrepreneur. My two biggest passions are finance and computer science, and I was able to merge them both along with the social revolution to develop eToro’s investment network. I am a great believer in global markets, a keen believer in blockchain technology and in crypto assets.

HF: When and how did eToro come to be? What contributed to its massive success?

YA: We started eToro in 2007 with the vision of opening the global markets for everyone to trade and invest in a simple and transparent way. I believe in every person’s right to engage, learn and invest responsibly in order to shape one’s future and make a difference in the world. We created a user-friendly platform to make investing accessible and capital markets easier to understand.

We expanded our global offering throughout the years, and in the past two years, we have grown even further. Covid-19 has accelerated an already existing high growth trend as a new generation of retail investors has begun to participate in the capital markets. We have added more than 15 million users in the past two years and today we are the world’s leading social investment network.

HF: Tell me about all the different components of your offering.

YA: We created an investment platform built around social collaboration and investor education and created a community where users can connect, share and learn. On eToro, users can view other investors’ portfolios and statistics, and interact with them to exchange ideas, discuss strategies and benefit from shared knowledge. Each user’s past performance is displayed, alongside their risk score and details of their investment approach. Investors who meet the criteria can become “Popular Investors.”

Our users can hold traditional assets such as equities, currencies or commodities alongside “new” assets such as bitcoin and ether. eToro also offers its users a choice of how to invest — users can trade directly themselves, invest in a portfolio, or replicate the investment strategy of other investors on eToro’s platform at no extra cost, all with the click of a button.

In addition, we offer eToro’s portfolios that group assets or investors together based on a predetermined theme or strategy, such as 5G, cloud computing and renewable energy. Some portfolios utilize advanced algorithms, machine learning and AI to build investment strategies and curate assets to form particular CopyPortfolios based on market conditions.

HF: What excites you so much about crypto, and are NFTs really here to stay?

YA: To me, crypto, Web 3 and the metaverse are as revolutionary and impactful to the world as the Internet revolution.

As an entrepreneur, I always look at the world with the future in mind. I tend to think that the future is actually much closer than it seems to be, and that it unfolds quickly before our eyes. It helps me tap into the future.

When it comes to the metaverse, the future is already here. More than anything, the metaverse is a cultural phenomenon. It signifies the transition from a limited, local culture to a global one. The metaverse is a projection, not just a buzzword.

“With NFTs, an artist can generate their art 10,000 times and create a global impact that otherwise would have taken a lifetime to achieve. NFTs, in this sense, create a redistribution of wealth.” 

One of the interesting things about NFTs is that this technology is being embraced by a variety of people (rather than just us geeks). NFTs have reached an inflection point as some of the best-known people in the world are showing growing interest in them — artists, athletes, businesspeople and celebrities alike.

The world of art is going through significant changes, since the metaverse has opened up new possibilities for local artists whose initial market was relatively small. It would take years for such artists to build their reputation and circle of influence. They had to travel across their region, country and go abroad for years to reach their business potential.

With NFTs, an artist can generate their art 10,000 times and create a global impact that otherwise would have taken a lifetime to achieve. NFTs, in this sense, create a redistribution of wealth.

NFT activity allows you to be part of a community, whether it is “Bored Apes,” punks, doodles or any other kind of digital art. It allows you to communicate and share with other people who have the same interests and set of values.

HF: How many people work at eToro and in what locations?

YA: There are almost 1,800 eTorians today. More than 1,100 work in Israel, and the rest work in our global offices including the US, UK, Cyprus, Australia, Germany and various other locations. We keep growing and expanding globally.

HF: I know you can’t share a lot but what are some public numbers you’re proud of?

YA: 100-plus: The number of countries in which we operate

27 million registered users in our global community

2.4 million funded accounts

2,220 Popular Investors in our platform

15 years that eToro has been around

HF: What were your biggest misses?

YA: When we started working on the colored coins whitepaper back in 2012, we found a talented developer who helped write the original protocol to tokenize assets on top of the bitcoin network. We spent some time together in eToro’s office in Tel Aviv, but I did not realize just how talented he was.

Later on, he forked from the colored coins protocol because the other contributors were bitcoin maximalists. He offered to invest in the Ethereum ICO, but I missed out on that offer. His name was (is) Vitalik Buterin.

HF: So how do you do it? Husband, father, CEO, investor, and somehow you find time for friends. What’s your secret?

YA: I don’t get too much sleep! And I don’t have hobbies as I don’t need to — I do exactly what I love doing. I’m very lucky to be able to do this and I truly enjoy my time.

Produced in association with ISRAEL21c.

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