Peter Großkopf co-founded Solaris Bank and built a crypto marketplace for the Stuttgart Stock Exchange. With Unstoppable Finance he now plans to merge traditional and decentralized finance, TradFi and DeFi. He has achieved a lot with this.
Peter Großkopf has no shortage of big plans. The Berliner by choice is building the app Ultimate with Unstoppable Finance, which, according to the promise, will put the bank in people’s pockets.
With a non-custodial wallet for Bitcoin, Ethereum and Solana, it is intended to make the new financial world (“DeFi”) easier to access. He is also now planning to help issue digital euros.
No small mission. But you can’t say that the 42-year-old doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
“You can build on that – but without me”
The computer scientist comes from North Rhine-Westphalia. His first company helped companies go digital. He then went to Berlin and became a co-founder of Solaris Bank, a white label bank. From 2016 he slipped into the blockchain topic and entered into partnerships with Bitwala and the Stuttgart Stock Exchange.
Peter then moved to the Stuttgart stock exchange to set up BSDEX, a trading platform for digital assets, as CTO. But then Corona came, and a lot changed for Peter during this time. “At the beginning everything was great. Building it was a lot of fun and I learned a lot about the world of marketplaces. Later, however, we had to spend a lot of time on governance issues, so I longed to go back to working in a real startup.”
The platform itself is a “solid product in every respect,” he comments, “on which you can build. But without me.”
“I could hardly imagine that everything could happen so quickly”
So Peter switched again, this time to himself, to Unstoppable Finance, the startup he founded with Maximilian von Wallenberg-Pachaly and Omid Aladini in the summer of 2021. It goes back to the idea that has always been at stake when talking about Bitcoin, crypto, Web3 and blockchain: creating a world with fewer middlemen.
With the Stuttgart Stock Exchange, Peter basically did the opposite: he helped a middleman to remain a middleman. This is also referred to as CeFi – Centralized Finance. This may make other middlemen superfluous in the long term, but it leaves a bitter aftertaste. In the end the old system wins. “The rise of traditional, centralized stock exchanges seemed inevitable for a long time. But with DeFi there is now an opportunity to become more decentralized again.”
DeFi, short for “Decentralized Finance”, means decentralized exchanges like Uniswap, which are nothing more than a smart contract on a blockchain like Ethereum. Peter had it on his radar, but was surprised at how quickly the trading volume has increased in recent years. “It wasn’t just a simple retail exchange. Various protocols interact as open interfaces based on smart contracts,” he enthuses, “I could hardly imagine that it could all happen so quickly. “
With Unstoppable Finance he is now trying to keep up with the pace of DeFi.
From deep integration to Dapp browser
Basically, Unstoppable Finance is a motto: traditional and new banking should come together, CeFi, TradFi and DeFi. But how does one do it? How do you become the helping hand that makes the other helpers unnecessary – ideally yourself too?
The first product is a non-fiduciary wallet, the Ultimate.App. It’s easy to use, for iOS and Android, and works with Bitcoin, Ethereum, Solana. The users already hold their own keys. In addition, the app should become an interface that picks up users in the traditional world and brings them to Web3.
However, with a first draft, Peter and his co-founders went down the wrong path. “First of all, we wanted to firmly integrate the DeFi protocols directly into the user experience, thereby simplifying DeFi.” That would be practical, as DeFi causes headaches when it comes to taxes at the latest. However, it soon became clear that something had been overreached. The deep integration, says Peter, was too high-maintenance. “Protocols change and are often poorly documented. There is still a missing layer that mediates between the wallet and the Dapp.”
A sustainable solution is needed in the wallet. “We then launched a Dapp browser, but one with a better user experience than others,” explains Peter. The Dapp browser allows you to start a browser in the wallet app and use it to access DeFi apps, or Dapps. It is more flexible than deep integration, but can still significantly improve the user experience.
“No longer so super bullish that colorful monkey pictures and the thousandth cryptocurrency will bring the technology to the masses.”
Overall, Unstoppable Finance has now become somewhat disillusioned. On the one hand, it is complex to maximize towards the goal of becoming the perfect interface between smartphone and Web3. Here you play against stronger opponents and have little to gain in detail.
At the same time, the market is somewhat sobering. DeFi and NFT have had their peaks and bubbles behind them, are still using up a little of the capital that has flowed in and are showing little signs of being widely adopted.
“I became a blockchain realist. It is incredibly fascinating what blockchains can do and what developments they have triggered. That’s an extreme innovation.” But he sees things realistically: “Colorful monkey pictures and the thousandth cryptocurrency won’t bring the technology to the masses. When I ask around among my circle of friends, there are absolute blockchain maximalists, or those who think it’s total (sorry) crap. Both are extremes. How do you bridge that divide?”
The answer, says Peter, is “RWA”: real-world assets.
The lowest common denominator of something big
A classic real-world asset is real estate or stocks. These could be put on a blockchain as tokens, which would then function as an international settlement system. DvP – Delivery vs Payment. Such tokens can then be integrated into other protocols and can be borrowed and lent, which, says Peter, “can lead to very cool use cases.”
“We are still at the very beginning here. Real markets for real estate, for example, are not that liquid. And a smart contract can’t sell real estate either, there’s still a lot of copper wiring around it.”
That’s the paradox: it takes RWA for adoption to happen – but it takes adoption for RWA to work.
Peter Großkopf responds to this by starting with a real-world asset that already has a certain product-market fit, that is useful and easy to scale: stablecoins. The euro and the dollar are the lowest common denominators.
Euro with rocket propulsion
“A tokenized euro: It’s like strapping two rocket stages onto it and sending it around the world.” There is still no global unified financial system. “We have different zones connected via Swift.”
The Internet, Peter continues, “became mega successful because the entire stack (ISO-OSI) is open source, anyone could build a router, the protocols are open, from the electrical signals to the web server. The same standards everywhere. That’s the difference and beautiful!”
It’s not like that in the financial system. It is based on silos and many standards are not open or not openly accessible, which slows down almost all progress. Each jurisdiction has its own standards. “We need an Internet of Money. And the most promising technology we have available right now is blockchain.”
Blockchains started with Bitcoin. But in the end they become a decentralized open structure for all values. And the euro continues to be the measure of all things for Europeans.
The bank for the token economy
But the plan only begins here. Unstoppable Finance wants to build a bank for the token economy, which also includes a euro stablecoin.
. “We want to become the reserve bank of stablecoins and thus bring offchain and onchain together.”
“The euro can come in offchain, via a bank transfer, the token is mined, goes to the wallet onchain, and when someone redeems it, the path goes back again. This is how stablecoins work.” With a wallet, there can also be interfaces to smart contracts, for example to earn interest, but it makes no real difference to the user whether he earns interest on his euros with overnight money or DeFi.
“With everything we have learned in recent years, a better financial system can be built. Decentralized digital identities can create transparency while maximizing privacy. Someone has to get it together now and do it.”
So there is enough to do. Tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, in a year.
The problem of the bear market
And today? The Ultimate.App with browser has been live for a few weeks, on Android and iOS for eight months, with selected, curated Dapps. We currently have around 20,000 users, admits Peter. Not so many.
The situation is difficult for wallets: in a bear market, few new users come onto the market, most already have a wallet. After all, most users who try the Ultimate.App once come back, so the product is a success. “And we are growing faster than others in the market, but we are impatient :-)”
This is probably the old problem of the bear market. Where the good atmosphere is missing, everything is missing. But Peter is sure that he has the staying power needed to get a project like the bank through the bear market. “This is probably also because we are sober business people and don’t rent the Eiffel Tower for a party like other startups in the crypto sector…”