Founder Spotlight: Ahmed Attia, Synquote CEO
This month, we’re sitting down with Ahmed Attia, CEO of Synquote, a decentralized options trading platform, which allows traders to access institutional quality pricing on-chain through a request for quote (RFQ) execution layer. Before Synquote, Ahmed was an engineer at Google where he discovered a gap in the market while watching the DeFi derivatives space.
Here’s a lightly edited version of the conversation:
Q: Tell us a little about your background and why you decided to become a founder.
A: I went to college intending to go into biotech, but got drawn into crypto during my junior year when I learned you could write code that runs on a blockchain called Ethereum. Having a long-time interest in privacy and cryptography, it felt magical to use a decentralized application for the first time, even if transactions took minutes to confirm.
I ended up joining an early decentralized exchange and spent most of my senior year (2017-2018) working on that instead of attending classes. Afterwards, I spent a few years as an engineer at Google until I found there weren’t any good decentralized exchanges for options and set out to build one myself.
Q: What sparked the inspiration for this company?
A: Initially, I was looking for a place to trade crypto options on-chain. I couldn’t find a decent venue and soon realized that options were a challenging financial derivative to build for with the technical constraints of a blockchain, and that drew me in.
Simultaneously, there was a surge of retail traders entering the equity options markets while crypto was gaining mainstream adoption, so the timing was right to bring crypto options to market.
Q: What challenges did you face in starting Synquote? Why has this never been done before?
A: A significant challenge was onboarding institutional liquidity providers to Synquote. We were typically the first decentralized derivatives venue that the market makers we worked with had integrated. Bringing them on board meant making them comfortable with this new model, and being an evangelist of sorts for on-chain trading.
The approach du jour for building DeFi derivatives when Synquote began was using Automated Market Makers (AMMs) but it was evident to me that they could not compete with a trading desk on price. Time has shown that this belief was correct, options AMMs are more or less dead today.
Q: In what specific ways will your technology change crypto trading in the next decade?
A: Financial markets, both crypto and non-crypto, are traditionally opaque. Opacity in the financial markets inevitably causes harm to everyday consumers – we’ve seen this play out in various financial crises and in crypto we’ve seen it play out recently with FTX being one notorious example. Over the next decade, Synquote will make transparency a standard in the financial markets.
Q: What advice would you give to other founders looking to build in a similar space? Things you wish you could tell your younger self?
A: It’s easy to become distracted when building in crypto and other industries prone to cycles of excessive enthusiasm. It pays off to stay focused and grounded in reality.