Digital Money World‘s newest author, Benson, has done us a great favor and gone and ahead and conducted an interview with the Robert, the CEO of Commerce Gold (c-gold). C-gold is the newest kid on the e-currency block so it is most definitely interesting to see it grow and flourish as well as it has. So without further ado, here is the interview. Enjoy!
B: Hi Robert, thank you for taking your time for this interview with us at DigitalMoneyWorld.
R: My pleasure.
B: First of all, tell us more about c-Gold. Are there any objectives in the first place for establishing this Digital Gold Currency?
R: Well, I could use up the entire blog for weeks explaining why Commerce Gold will change the world, but let me just say that I have been managing ventures of the CyberFrontier Group for over a decade, and when we entered this industry, it was because foreign Internet merchants had difficulties to pay for our services (application development initially, then we added hosting, domains, website design, and ultimately our own e-commerce platform, etc.), and worse, had difficulties to accept payments for things they offered over the Internet themselves.
At the time, with the dot-com boom heading for its peak, e-gold.com made an awful lot of sense for many newcomers abroad. Then came the bust, and the industry saw it through and continued to grow, which led me to realign our ventures to focus on digital gold customers.
This was in 2001. I then waited for years for the industry to develop new dynamics and take steps towards fulfilling its immense potential. But it simply didn’t.
Two years ago, after CyberFrontier was well enough established in the industry, I tried to contribute towards that goal by launching the CyberGoldBank project, which was meant to add value to the industry as a whole. Things went well during the pilot phase, but with 1mdc’s accounts being confiscated, the PVCSE closing its doors and e-gold essentially falling out of favor in South-east Asia, I realized that we had to go back to basics. That is when CyberFrontier, which was always a loose-knit group of companies, partners and associates, teamed up with industry professionals and put together Commerce Gold.
In other words, Commerce Gold, and thus the online platform at c-gold.com, is the attempt to rebuild the industry on a more solid foundation, with having mainstream acceptance as its clear aim and goal.
B: Could you let us know how many users are registered and how many active users are there in C-gold now?
R: We had just over 6,000 accounts when you asked the question last week, and are close to 7,000 now. 2,000 of these are active in the sense that they have used their accounts for transactions.
B: How many staffs are there supporting your business?
The Commerce Gold concept takes its cues from the successes of the CyberFrontier system. That is to say, we keep overheads low, employ only as few as we can get away with, and use associates, franchisees and independent contractors wherever possible.
In the traditional sense Commerce Gold would probably be seen to have zero employees. However, there are currently five people actively contributing under a number of outsourcing deal, and we expect that it will be twelve to fifteen by year’s end. By then we might even have a formal employee or two, as well.
B: How much gold is circulating in c-Gold right now?
R: As of today, there are 1,200 ounces in circulation, roughly 37,500 grams.
B: How safe is our money in c-Gold?
R: In one of 12. – Seriously, the gold is spread over several of 12 different safes and only two people know in which of the 12 it is.
Malaysia, especially Penang is a pretty safe place by global standards, and the insurance people considered our safety measures and security systems “state of the art”. So, your GOLD is probably safer at Commerce Gold than it would be in your own pocket.
We also have detailed expansion plans, will continue to add security feature,s and as soon as volume warrants it, apply for a security license that allows us to hire and train our own armed security personnel.
B: Why Malaysia? What sort of license do you apply for in Malaysia? Will there be any risk of our funds being confiscated like how the Feds did to e-Gold in the United States?
R: That’s three questions. Firstly, Malaysia is a nice place with friendly people, decent people in government, and quite low cost of living – especially in Penang – by global standards.
Further, because Malaysia is smack in the Middle between three economic power houses of the future, India, Southeast Asia and China, has splendid relations with everyone, and a plausible development strategy. Add to that pretty good infrastructure, a long standing tradition as a trading nation and the blessings of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultured population, and Malaysia becomes clearly a good choice for a venture like ours.
As the Malaysian company stores the gold and provides customer service to c-gold.com users and nothing else (specifically, it doesn’t retail gold, doesn’t handle cash, doesn’t buy or sell or exchange anything), a general trading license is sufficient. Even if the Malaysian company did trade in gold, no license would be required as the local government deregulated the market and abolished licensing altogether.
But, as I said, the Malaysian company doesn’t buy or sell or exchange, and is registered as an outsourcing company that specializes in arbitrage, back office and customer service.
You see, Commerce Gold is another project of Private Gold Equities Exchange Limited, a Mahe, Seychelles company, which itself is owned by several shareholders that are not part of the industry and who gave us valuable outsider perspectives when planning this project.
Ultimately Commerce Gold will be incorporated as an independent venture with view to a public listing in Malaysia, Singapore – or both – by 2010. Of course, if recent growth is anything to go by, then this will probably happen much earlier, but 2010 is in the business plan and contacts to Singapore regulators and licensing bodies as well as to the National Bank in Malaysia have been made, to work towards that goal.
As to the risk of confiscation, I’m not sure I understand the question correctly. Obviously there should be no risk of confiscation by US authorities as they have no jurisdiction over the Seychelles, nor over Malaysia or Singapore for that matter. However, if there were legal grounds and court orders demanding that Commerce Gold hand over specific assets the Malaysian company stores for c-gold.com users, then Commerce Gold would probably instruct the Malaysian company to comply by those orders, depending on the case in question and which court the orders were made at.
Maybe this is a good time to mention that one of the shareholders of PG2E Limited is partially owned by a constitutional lawyer that used to teach at Harvard.
B: Do you allow HYIPs to use your DGC?
R: The answer to this very general question would be a qualified “Yes”. We don’t allow ponzis or frauds, but as we can’t really police the activities of all users, we have to rely on users to point out bad apples, so to say. Generally, we won’t play judge and jury until there is a valid complaint.
That said, users are bound by our Terms of Service and the User Agreement, and are therefore obliged to ensure that their activities are lawful not only in their own jurisdiction, but also in those of their users.
So, if someone wants to put together a group that invests in her projects and if those projects are legal in his or her jurisdiction of residence, and if the risks are clearly outlined, then we don’t have any problem with that. On the other hand, if someone just says send me $ now and I’ll send you more tomorrow, then we’ll shut him down in a hurry.
B: Are there actions taken against suspected accounts that deals with HYIPs?
R: You mean in the sense that action might be taken against investors that put money into HYIPs?
No, most certainly not. It is their gold and we won’t tell them what to do with it. We DO however warn users every chance we get, not to believe the unlikely, or deal with operators that promise the improbable. If they then decide to ignore reason, suspend better judgment and throw their gold at a likely trickster, then they probably can’t be helped.
On the other side of the coin there are plenty of great opportunities in the Third World, and we definitely want to support budding entrepreneurs and allow them to search for investors for their projects and ventures. The principal of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh who popularized the micro loan concept there, won a Nobel prize, I think.
So, it is up to the user to figure out the difference between a HYIP that is essentially a ponzi scheme, and those that are feasible, possible and probable. We are not investment advisors, and it’s not our job to tell people what to do with their own gold.
B: How anonymous are our transactions?
R: On the surface, completely. We don’t even disclose where we store the hard copies of the compliance documents.
But Commerce Gold is a closed book entry system, so we can trace every speck of gold from when it enters the system all the way to when it leaves again, and as users are required to comply by our KYC policies, there is not much anonymity once we start looking at any particular user – usually because that user gives us a reason for doing so. Until that time however, we respect and protect our users’ privacy, and only analyze overall transaction patterns in the system.
This is by the way how we picked up on a hacker that had penetrated a merchant web site and changed the code there, redirecting payments to his own account. When the volume exceeded 200g the flag went up because the account wasn’t verified, and when gold moved on to exchangers in rapid succession we contacted them and requested that they hold the gold until the account was verified. As no compliance documents were forthcoming, we then shut down the hacker’s account and are now working with online currency operators to track him or her down.
B: I don’t really see many merchants listed with c-Gold now, but the exchanger’s list is impressive with many reputable ones. Is there any reason to this?
R: It is the chicken-and-egg problem, really. Merchants follow the gold, and customers follow the merchants. Our priority was to attract large and reputable exchangers first, and begin promoting to merchants second. This will start during this month.
Of course, it was also easy to get the exchangers on board, considering that most of them had, and many still have, dealings with CyberFrontier and so know some of the people who are working for Commerce Gold. Having been in this industry for almost a decade goes a long way, apparently.
B: What do merchants have to do to use C Gold’s Click To Pay gateway? Do they have to register? What sort of fees are we talking about?
R: Anyone can use the click-to-pay gateway. There are no special registration requirements and no fees involved. Of course, they do have to comply by our KYC and AML procedures and policies, but aside from that, there are no other requirements.
B: Why should anyone be using c-Gold instead of any other digital form of currency?
R: Because Commerce Gold is avoiding the mistakes other currencies made, and is probably the first ever operator that looks to the market to see what people want, rather than telling them what to use. This is at the root of our offline Commerce Gold shops concept, and we will probably see franchises open in the UK, France, Switzerland and Hong Kong, this year. Germany and Dubai are also on the table and we are looking for partners elsewhere.
Furthermore, the almost (no really) completed multi-lingual platform will see the launching of German, Dutch and French interfaces in the coming weeks, with Russian and Mandarin not too far behind. Why would anyone want to limit his prospects to the English-speaking crowd, when Commerce Gold will present them the better part of the online world during 2008 and early 2009 as potential market?
And that doesn’t even account for our development plans of MobileGold and GoldBeam yet, which may well be what the industry needs to find main stream acceptance amongst the younger generation, especially in Asia.
B: Interesting new products in the line huh! ;) Now how regular are audits being done for the gold storage, accounts and circulation of c-Gold?
R: The Malaysian company is obliged to file audited accounts every year, and the CPA already declared that he will have to inspect the bars in storage on that occasion, as well. Other than that, we actually publish the particulars of each bar we store, and are considering to make the purchase certificates for all of them available to users, as well.
As Commerce Gold differs from other providers in the sense that we actually buy physical bars and have the Malaysian company store them, I don’t feel that any additional audits would be required.
If users on the other hand demand it, we’d be happy for them to nominate someone (or more) who could drop by any time and inspect the bars themselves.
B: I’d volunteer when I go to Malaysia for a visit! We’ve seen the problems that is being faced by e-Gold now with the Feds and Liberty Dollars with the FBI, do you think e-Gold and Liberty Dollars can pull through the ordeal?
R: I have to admit that I am very surprised about what has happened, and even more so about the way the US authorities are handling those cases. However, they seem to believe to have actual cases against the defendants, and the cases are being heard in court. So I can’t really say much about the fairness – or lack thereof – as I see it, until the courts make their rulings. That aside, I do think that the fact that the US authorities are applying forfeiture rules against the principals in those cases stinks to the high heavens.
If the authorities believe that the defendant companies were engaged in unlawful activities – or benefited from unlawful activities – then they should make their case, and if found guilty seek redress. Taking the private property of the principals without having proven anything as ye,t is not what a foreigner expects from American authorities who preach human rights, democracy and the rule of law to everyone abroad.
As to the cases themselves, I think OmniPay should win its case, if not now, then on appeal, based on the information that is available online. I never dealt with NORFED / LibertyDollar, even though I opened an account with them early on, so I can’t really say much about that particular case.
B: Are we expecting anything new or exciting in this coming 2008 from C-gold?
R: As I said, we’ll launch several language platforms throughout the year, expect to open at least five franchise locations, and maybe even show some test applications of MobileGold.
And, based on the feedback of c-gold.com users, we’ll continue having the best customer support in the industry by far – their words, not mine.
B: What do you think about DigitalMoneyWorld?
R: Many misunderstandings about this industry are founded on misinformation or plain lack of information. Sites like DigitalMoneyWorld can help to overcome this, which is of course a good thing.
Have a happy 2008
I wished all colleagues a Prosperous and Uneventful Year 2008, so I guess I’ll wish your readers that they’ll get the best of what they wish for.
B: Thank you for your time Robert, it’s been a real pleasure interviewing you ;)