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Success Stories

Founder Spotlight: George Bordianu, cofounder and CEO of Balance

Balance is a digital asset custodian—a secure storage solution for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many others. Their platform provides secure offline and online storage for cryptocurrencies across 11 major blockchain networks, including the two most used currencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum.

August 3, 2022

Welcome back to our Founder Spotlight Series interviews, where we share insights, experiences, and advice from some of our client founders. In this interview, we sat down with George Bordianu, cofounder and CEO of Balance, a secure storage solution for cryptocurrencies.

You can't scroll through Twitter or LinkedIn these days without reading a story about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. These digital-first currencies are the backbone of a growing movement to decentralize the internet and disrupt how people and businesses make everyday transactions.

As with any new technology, cryptocurrencies come with their own challenges. Stories over the last few years about cybersecurity incidents with cryptocurrencies can make it feel like we're back in the wild west—and that's something that George Bordianu, co-founder and CEO of Accelerator Centre grad Balance, is looking to change.

Balance is a digital asset custodian—a secure storage solution for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and many others. Their platform provides secure offline and online storage for cryptocurrencies across 11 major blockchain networks, including the two most used currencies, Bitcoin and Ethereum. Today, Balance custodies over $750 million worth of digital assets for its customers.

Bordianu is no stranger to tech. He graduated with a Master's degree in Computer Science from McGill University and then spent the next few years working at companies in Montreal, Quebec City, and eventually Toronto as 500px's Director of Engineering. After a 3+ year tenure in the digital media space at 500px, Bordianu said he was ready for a new challenge.

"I had reached a point in my career where the space I was in and the impact of my work would have become my main motivation, rather than the tools and technologies we used. I knew I didn't want to spend another five years in the digital media space and the crypto space had just the right mix of finance and cryptography. That's when I got involved with digital assets which eventually led to me co-founding Balance. We've been passionately building ever since," Bordianu said.

Bordianu and the team have quietly worked to build Balance into Canada's largest digital asset custodian. The next big target for the company is to become what's known as a qualified custodian, which would address a significant gap in the market, as currently, most structured investment products traded on Canadian markets have the underlying assets held by U.S.-based custodians.

"Anyone that currently wants to build a structured investment product like a crypto ETF or a mutual fund by far and large has to eventually send the crypto assets to the U.S. Hundreds of millions worth of such assets are currently held with Gemini and Coinbase. I have a bit of a Canadian chip on my shoulder. There's plenty of talent and brain power here. Why can't we build our own financial infrastructure to hold those? This is what motivates and drives us into work each day," Bordianu said.

Since launching in 2019, Balance has acted as a digital asset custodian for businesses that do not have regulatory requirements regarding the custodian they use. Bordianu said that the market's potential rests on the market entities with those requirements.

"As far as qualified status goes, there's no license that I can go and get. Rather it's a very complicated criteria that we have to meet. The challenge in Canada is you have the various crypto trading platforms, for which the securities regulators have figured out a path to full compliance. However, that path comes with a requirement to move your assets to a qualified custodian. The principal regulator for banks and trusts in Canada hasn't given the green light to any of these institutions to get involved in the business yet and until they do, we won't have a viable Canadian solution. We're an early-stage startup, we're profitable, we're growing, but we're by no means a bank. Rather we need to work with one," Bordianu said.

While there are still regulatory hurdles to overcome, Balance is continuing to work towards building trust with customers. Balance completed its Systems and Organization Controls (SOC) 2 Type I audit in July. It's a significant milestone for Balance that Bordianu told BetaKit "further assures prospective clients that typical concerns they might have with respect to security, availability, processing integrity, privacy, and confidentiality are addressed."

Balance was founded in 2017 and ran as a bootstrapped startup for over a year before participating in Techstars in Toronto. In 2019, the company applied to and was accepted into the Accelerator Centre.

Bordianu said they had a strong core founding team of engineers who knew how to build technology but found themselves at an inflection point where they needed specialized advice on the business side of things. While the funding from the program nonetheless helped them get through a challenging time, Bordianu said the mentorship helped them overcome multiple challenges.

"I'm not saying that we were expecting any less, but the quantity of the mentors was amazing. We've been through a few programs including, Techstars which is arguably is the flagship accelerator in the Greater Toronto Area. Mentors like Don Thompson, Rob Farnham, and Kevin Hood helped us navigate challenges from building the product to getting the first couple of clients," Bordianu said.

Don Thompson mentors product management at the Accelerator Centre, and Bordianu said Thompson's experiences at Amazon helped them refine their product pitch.

"Don had had some very interesting ground floor experience with getting into a highly stressful sales pitch. His advice helped us refine ours quite a bit," Bordianu said.

The Accelerator Centre has mentors and programming for every startup, whatever the industry or vertical you're trying to disrupt. Bordianu said he recommends that every founder should take a look at what the Accelerator Centre has to offer.

"It's a no-brainer in my view. You don't give up any equity, you get access to the program, and you get a little bit of extra funding which never hurts," Bordianu said.

With the completion of their SOC Type I audit, Balance is now focused on the Type II audit and continuing to build trust with customers in Canada and abroad. Bordianu said that even with the volatility in cryptocurrency prices, Balance continues to find success by focusing on the product and its customers.

"For a time, it felt like everyone was getting rich fast except us. But if they go up fast, they also go down fast. We're focused on building a cash flow positive, profitable business. It has been challenging to build in the crypto space because of some of the negative stories, but that's not us. We're a legitimate business. The space itself needed a bit of a clean-up and we're glad it happened."