How did Topp Jirayut Srupsrisopa become one of Asia’s foremost crypto tycoons and the entrepreneur responsible for creating one of Thailand’s most dramatic FinTech unicorns? Find inspiration in a life story that begins with Topp at school and concludes when he has turned 31 years old and completed an eight year marathon, piqued with peaks and troughs, to successfully lead Bitkub to officially become a FinTech Unicorn in Thailand by 2021, just four years post launch.
Topp Jirayut Srupsrisopa is the Founder and CEO of Bitkub, Thailand's leading regulated cryptocurrency exchange which, in 2021, accounted for 95% of all cryptocurrency transactions in the country. He is also the co-founder of Thailand’s first and largest Bitcoin Wallet company. However, prior to 2021, Topp’s parents had pleaded with him to shut down his cryptocurrency business (coins.co.th), fearful that the company was going to land him in jail and prior to 2015 nobody had heard of him.
Topp Jirayut’s Early Years
At school Topp was not a good student. He didn’t like studying and, like many of his peers, dreamed of becoming a professional footballer. His favorite team was Manchester United and his idol, Cristiano Ronaldo. Topp frequently got into fights and even broke his friend’s arm, a deed that very nearly got him expelled from school by the Headmaster.
His grades at school were not good and it dawned on him that unless he instigated change he would not be offered a place at university. The University of Manchester, UK eventually accepted him and he remembers this chapter of his life well; the relief of being offered a second chance because when you are given a second chance in life, that is when you are willing to sacrifice anything to make sure you fix your regrets and redress past wrongs.
University: Manchester and Oxford
On arrival at Manchester University, Topp found the library and proceeded to spend from four to six hours a day there studying and revising. Meanwhile, his undergraduate peers were out partying, having relationships and generally living the lifestyle that a typical university student has in the UK.
He forfeited all of that lifestyle and worked progressively harder through his second and third years to graduate first in his year from Manchester University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics.
Wasting no time, Topp went straight to Oxford University to complete his Masters Degree. On arrival he was by far the youngest in a class of fifty students.
“If you really want something you need to sacrifice other things.”
His absolute, unwavering dedication to study whilst at Oxford University continued unabated and he graduated with a Master of Philosophy in Economics.
By his own admission, he had no life whilst at either university but he did learn a valuable lesson. It taught him that if you really want something you need to sacrifice other things.
After graduating from Oxford he found himself completely lost and had no idea what to do with his life. He dabbled with investment banking in Shanghai, a not so illustrious career path which lasted a few months. He tried his hand working for a financial consulting firm in San Francisco, and that was the same. He wanted to get a job at Facebook or Google in Silicon Valley but neither accepted his application. The best job he could get, related to economics, was consulting.
Whilst working in San Francisco, Topp spent his weekends visiting Silicon Valley where he took photos in front of Facebook’s headquarters. He visited the Intel museum and wrote Google bytes. This was the best he could do.
Can anyone arrange a meeting?
He decided to ask around and to see if anyone he knew working in Silicon Valley could set up a meeting. A colleague responded saying he knew Dan Shatt who, at the time, was General Manager of Financial Innovations at PayPal. The meeting was scheduled and the venue confirmed at a local pancake shop.
Meeting Dan Schatt
(Former) General Manager of Financial Innovations at PayPal
Topp asked Dan Schatt what he thought of Bitcoin and the latter confessed that PayPal’s original mission was to create a digital currency, not for it to be a payment gateway. Dan said to Topp that Topp represented the luckier generation, a generation that had 4G internet, cloud computing, bitcoin and smartphones. Dan declared that Bitcoin would change the world.
This meeting reinforced Topp’s belief about Bitcoin and after a few more weeks he came to the conclusion that he was wasting time and decided to book a ticket back to Thailand and start a Bitcoin company.
Launching Thailand’s First Bitcoin Company
Returning to Bangkok, Topp was conscious that his parents had already spent a lot of money on his education and he was reluctant to ask them for more. He decided to bootstrap his Bitcoin startup. His parents ran a small clothing shop in Pratunam and he asked his mother if he could use the spare room there to set up his office. His aunt donated a table and chair and it was from here that he launched Thailand’s very first Bitcoin Wallet company.
He remained in the little spare room above the clothing shop for almost a year. He had no money, could not socialise and relied on his parents for food each day. There were times when he felt like a complete failure and loser during that year. His parents, after having invested so much in his education, were disappointed. The high expectations they had for him seemed lost.
To keep the startup momentum going and expenses at a bare minimum, Topp undertook all business functions himself during those initial months; operations, customer support, website design, accounting and legal. During that initial year, Topp has said that he learned an incredible amount about how to start a startup. In his own words it was the best education.
The Anti-Money Laundering Office Come Knocking
One of the happiest days of his life was when he was able to move out of the spare room above the clothing shop and into co-working space to be joined by a newly recruited team of 13 people.
Things were going very well. Imagine what it would have been like getting into Bitcoin back in 2013, 2014. This was blue ocean territory, rich with opportunity. Then Topp received a letter from the Anti-Money Laundering Office and he was under investigation.
Topp called friends who he had been with at Oxford University and who were now working in Bangkok’s top international law firms. Their response was unanimous: “Topp, good luck!”. Even though he could now easily afford to pay their legal fees, no-one would help as they were not prepared to risk their reputation.
Topp started a new work regime. From 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM he ran the company and managed his team. From 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM he learned all he could about Thailand’s anti money laundering laws and set about preparing to defend himself. Topp has admitted that this was one of the most stressful times of his life.
Topp’s father drove him to the hearing at the Anti Money Laundering offices in Bangkok. Returning to his office afterwards, Topp learned that half of his staff had packed up and left the company for good after they learned that the company was being investigated.
Rebuild, Rehire … Reinvestigated.
Stress levels remained high as Topp set about rebuilding his company, Coins.co.th, and rehiring. Crisis apparently solved, he was ready to move into bigger offices in Chidlom and the team expanded to thirty people. Then another letter arrived, this time from the Bank of Thailand. Topp and his company were back under investigation.
My Father Told Me to Shut the Company Down Now!
Topp showed this new letter to his father who said that he thought his son would have had enough after his experience with the Anti-Money Laundering Office. His father told Topp, in no uncertain terms, to shut the company down, and all operations within, now!
Company Rebuild #3 and the Happiest Day of My Life
April 1, 2017 is a date indelibly imprinted on Topp’s brain. It was the day that Japan officially announced that Bitcoin was a legal tender and method of payment. Consumers could now use Bitcoin to buy flight tickets, pay for hotel reservations, use it to buy products and more.
BITCOIN SPIKES AFTER JAPAN SAYS IT'S A LEGAL PAYMENT METHOD
Bitcoin trades up 2.8% at $1,133 a coin as of 7:08 a.m. ET on Monday. The cryptocurrency's gains come after Japan announced on Friday that bitcoin would be accepted as a legal payment method beginning on April 1, 2017.
Source: Business Insider
Friends began to emerge from the woodwork saying "Hey Topp, I can't believe you were the minority who was right about this Bitcoin thing while the majority has been completely wrong about it”.
After almost five tough years, Topp decided to exit his company. In “Coins.co.th”, he had created Thailand’s largest Bitcoin wallet company and it was duly sold to Indonesian tech company, Gojek.
SEC FinTech Challenge
Later in 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Thailand launched the country’s first FinTech Challenge program. Topp applied.
An in-depth look at the Thai Fin-Tech Club: An incubator for Entrepreneurs
July 16, 2018 | Source: Techsauce
He created a team and together they designed and produced a hypothetical but functional “Stock Exchange 2.0” where people could trade stocks and tokens. His team won the challenge but now Topp had been re-inspired.
He went to SEC Thai and announced to them that he intended to turn this project into a real business. Slightly stunned, SEC Thai responded saying that he couldn’t turn the project into a business because of the current regulations; you can’t create an exchange that competes with the Thai stock exchange.
Thailand: Central Bank asks all banks to avoid crypto, Pending regulations.
The central bank of Thailand tells all banks in the country to stay away from cryptocurrencies until a regulatory framework is implemented.
Molly Jane Zuckerman | Feb 13 2018
Source: COINTELEGRAPH: The Future of Money
Topp continued to work with SEC Thai for the remainder of 2017, further developing his sandboxed “Stock Exchange 2.0” for Thailand. As the year drew to a close though, Topp realized that digital asset exchange licenses were on the brink of being made available.
Record Breaking Seed Round
Topp had been pitching to the Board of SEC Thai about the benefits of making changes to the heavily regulated FinTech space. When it became apparent that licenses were to become available he switched into overdrive to raise funding for a new company.
Approaching Siamrath Group, DTAC Accelerate, and SeaX Ventures, Topp received seed funding of approximately 67 million baht (US$2.1 million). The amount was the largest seed investment round ever to have been achieved among Thai startups.
Having secured both a licence from the Thai Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 and remarkable seed funding, Topp continued to move quickly, taking over an IT company with a team of 20 people. That company became Bitkub which was to experience a phenomenal annual growth rate of 1000% over the ensuing three consecutive years.
Thailand’s Most Dramatic FinTech Unicorn
In Year One, Bitkub recorded revenues of Bt. 3 million. In year two, revenues grew to Bt. 30 million and in year three, revenues exceeded Bt. 300 million. During the first quarter of 2021, Bitkub achieved revenues of Bt. 800 million and, during the same year, clinched a deal with SCB which officially cemented its status as Thailand’s newest fintech unicorn.
“To be honest, I really enjoy my life right now.”
Topp Jirayut Srupsrisopa, 2022
One Simple Secret of Life
In 1994, during a video interview with Santa Clara Valley Historical Association, Steve Jobs delivered a statement that had a profound impact on Topp:
“Life can be so much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
Steve Jobs (1955 - 2011)
Topp’s journey from teen to crypto tycoon and creator of a FinTech Unicorn in Thailand, has been one filled with doubt and spiked with challenges and obstacles. He has had to fight to prove his business's legitimacy to family members and Thai regulators.
From the outset though, since graduating from Oxford University, Topp remained passionate, dedicated to and focused on driving a Cryptocurrency ecosystem forward in Thailand. He continued to take action and pursue his quest to spark change every single day for eight years to get to where he is today.
Throughout his journey though, this crypto tycoon has said that he could not have achieved what he has today without committing to take small, measured steps every single day in his quest to make an impact and spark change.
This is the real life story of Topp Jirayut Srupsrisopa who sparked change in himself, Thailand’s FinTech business and the regional cryptocurrency business landscape in Southeast Asia.