In this interview, we’re chatting with Janine Grainger, Kiwi-born co-founder and CEO of Easy Crypto. Under her leadership, Easy Crypto has become New Zealand’s leading cryptocurrency trading platform, making big waves in just four years.
Janine’s journey is as unique as it is inspiring – from leaving school early to pursue her ambitions, to starting a business from a hammock in Bali. In our conversation, she opens up about her early encounters with cryptocurrencies, the challenges of bringing digital currency to the mainstream, and how her unconventional path led to tremendous success.
Janine, your entrepreneurial story is fascinating – Easy Crypto was started from a hammock in Bali! Can you share with our audience what sparked your interest in cryptocurrencies and how you turned that passion into a thriving business?
Having left school at 15 – I was ambitious and impatient to learn more than the lessons a traditional schoolroom provides and my pathway into tech and crypto has been anything but conventional. I quickly landed a job working at House of Travel, at first in reception but soon moved on to an accounting role; paying for my part-time studies and finishing Uni with a double major in economics and finance.
I first came across cryptocurrencies in 2014, when I found out about bitcoin. The concept made a lot of sense to me – we had a global village with the internet and using this ‘digital money’, we could build a global payments system that everyone could access.
While I continued to learn more about this space and the tech behind it, it continued to be mostly ignored by the world at large. This changed in 2017 when the crypto ‘bull run’ meant that bitcoin and blockchain entered the public consciousness and people started asking me how they could get involved.
In late 2017, Easy Crypto was born with the goal of making crypto assets accessible and understandable for all, so everyone can benefit. My Co-Founder and brother built our first website while lying in a hammock in Bali; while I worked on the strategy and business plan from my home in Auckland.
The business really took off during lockdown. We may have been ‘locked down’; but we were not ‘locked out’ of innovating and we soon had hundreds of people investing through our exchange. We’ve since transacted over NZD$2.5 billion in total sales to date.
Your platform has achieved incredible success in a short time. For those new to the world of crypto, could you explain in simple terms what makes Easy Crypto stand out in the crypto market?
Easy lies at the heart of everything Easy Crypto does – it’s in our DNA. In particular, with more and more people starting to take responsibility for their own financial freedom, we’re passionate about empowering everyone to become an investor easily (within minutes) in alternative assets. Along with ease, we really want to enable confidence – we’ve made sure we provide education and information at every step for those who use our platform.
We’re on a mission to give people the tools to make better financial decisions and re-educate people about crypto’s potential. This includes simplifying tasks like remittances, peer-to-peer exchanges and cross-border payments; but also providing tools, such as a digital version of the NZ dollar (NZDD) that enable others to innovate and build new products and services.
Today, Easy Crypto is not just the leading cryptocurrency platform in Aotearoa but also the one with the most diverse client base — serving significantly more women, minorities, non-urban communities and older customers than others in the crypto industry.
We recently launched a suite of products that make the on-ramp to digital currency even easier. This includes two new products that address two of the biggest barriers to crypto adoption – volatility and complexity.
Our NZ dollar backed stablecoin called NZDD offers a stable entry into the digital marketplace, marrying the trustworthiness of the New Zealand Dollar with all the benefits of blockchain. And to store the asset – a brand-new crypto wallet offering one easy wallet for all your cryptocurrencies.
Crypto really is entering the mainstream – including institutional investors – and our mission is to leave no one behind.
As a leader in the tech world, you’re involved in shaping policies and digital trust. How do you explain the importance of this work to everyday people who might be new to understanding digital currencies?
By their very nature, blockchain technologies foster digital trust because they are resistant to tampering or fraud. However while the underlying tech is incredibly safe and trustworthy, there’s always challenges when tech meets real life. For digital assets in particular some of the biggest risks are around scams – which can range from massive frauds like FTX to a direct message on a social media platform offering you a ‘too good to be true’ investment opportunity.
There are three key tools which we can use to increase digital trust and protect consumers…
- The first is improving the coverage of existing policies and regulations across the crypto ecosystem – things like anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) regulations. This also helps contribute to legitimacy for our industry.
- The second is improving the use of the capabilities inherent within blockchain to fight crime. Every transaction on the blockchain is publicly visible and enables law enforcement agencies to track and analyse financial transactions, making it more difficult for criminals to engage in money laundering, fraud or other illegal activities.
- The third is education. Through educating people about common scams and providing tools to verify platform legitimacy, we help create proactive defence against fraud and as individuals become adept at identifying threats, they contribute to building collective digital trust, fostering a safer digital environment.
I have been privileged to be invited to join the Digital Trust Centre of Excellence being formed under APEC – Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Through this forum, leaders and senior officials from APEC Governments and private sector organisations are sharing learnings from across the 21 economies with the goal of solving the challenges of economic integration, sustainable growth and digital innovation. Solving for Digital Safety will be critical as part of this and something close to our hearts at Easy Crypto.
You’ve been a trailblazer for women in tech, especially in the crypto space. What advice would you give to young women aspiring to enter the tech world, and how do you think their involvement can change the industry?
I am a firm believer in embracing the philosophy that breaking barriers should become a way of being. I have faced down overt gender discrimination within the industry; but I want to be part of helping us move past that, imagining a better future and then setting out to achieve that future.
It wasn’t an easy journey, but in a recent TVNZ documentary series on crypto, I talk about overcoming my fear and ‘doing it anyway’!
Everyone should feel welcomed to be part of the world of web3 and crypto; but if we want the world to change; we have to not only be part of that change but also drive it. People cannot be what they cannot see – and being willing to ‘go first’ is critically important. We need to get comfortable with being the ‘only one’ if we want to see change! By definition, leaders go first by embracing what feels uncomfortable, and then others follow.
Someone in industry also challenged me recently to “Break the glass ceiling; and sweep up the glass behind me…” by ensuring that others don’t ever have to encounter the same barriers I might have faced.
Why is this imperative? Because success is never a solitary venture—it’s a collective effort that thrives on shared opportunities and open pathways. By being intentional about dismantling barriers, we not only elevate ourselves; but also ensure that those who come after us have a smoother ascent.
Easy Crypto is known for its great work-life balance and remote work culture. Can you share some tips on how you achieve this balance, and maybe a bit about the coolest place you’ve worked from?
I’m proud of the team we have created and its influence on the industry. Our company is fully remote, but we have built an incredibly engaged team through a belief that culture isn’t accidental; but deliberate. It doesn’t just ‘happen’ – you need to get stuck in and create it.
The strength of our team comes down to each individual member; but the strength of each member is the team.
For us, remote work does ‘work’ (our 95% staff engagement rate measured every two months flies in the face of anyone who says you can’t build engagement remotely), but there’s power in building IRL connections too; which is why we’re flying our entire team (from 6 different countries) to Bali this year for an all-company retreat. That will probably be the most epic location we’ve all worked from!
Outside of the tech world, you’re into hiking, travelling, and pottery. How do these hobbies help you in your role as a CEO, and what’s your favourite way to unwind after a busy week?
As an ‘active relaxer’, I plan activities in my downtime and that helps me commit. There’s no backing out of downtime when it’s a hike or pottery class!
I believe in setting goals around what the business is going to deliver; but also in simultaneously setting goals for how I’m going to manage my mental health and energy to help enable that delivery. It’s a bit of a juxtaposition, but just like the cliche ‘fit your own mask first’, getting that balance right is the only way to ensure achievement that can be sustained for the long term.