Time: At 10:00 PM on March 29
Wechat group: Mars 3.0 wechat group
Dong Zhao: the co-founder and CTO of Moji Weather; quitted Moji Weather team in 2012. In April 2013, he got involved in the world of Bitcoin with RMB 10 million. By the end of that year, his personal assets surpassed RMB 0.1 billion. Later he operated one of the domestic biggest mines. In July 2017, he established Dfund for investment in digital currency. By January 2018, net yield of Bitcoin for Dfund Phase I project reached 620% (USD net yield was 2543%).
Fred Wang: Founder of Mars Finance, founder of Linekong (HK.8267), partner of Geek Founders, and former Senior Vice President of Kingsoft.
The following is the sorted dialogues script:
Fred Wang: you bought Bitcoins since 2013, didn’t you? Investors who believe that “the more Bitcoin falls, the more they will buy” felt they made a good bargain. General people often believe in the logic of “buying up not buying down” in the stock market. So the trading volume is less than before. You were ever famous for excessive loss position, and experienced ups and downs. You often buy more when stock falls. Is this your basic principle in your value investment? You experienced the first excessive loss position in February of 2014, and later experienced it for two times within one year, totally losing RMB 150 million. After excessive loss position for several times, you still succeeded once again, why? In my opinion, the possible reason for the excessive loss position is avarice. And is there any fortune involved in subsequent success?
Dong Zhao: As for the reasons for excessive loss position, firstly I admit that I am stupid. Of course, it is because of my avarice. And I had no any risk awareness at that time, lacking of judgment and recognition on the overall market (before excessive loss position, I had no any huge loss).
Subsequently, I made a success. Firstly because I firmly believe that Bitcoin can change the destiny of human history. So I should stick to it, no matter how difficult it is. I didn’t know how long I could sustain. An impetus always supported me: I must survive!
Of course, in addition to cognition, luck also supports my success. For instance, Dfund I found last year is a success for me. I caught up with the big trend, so I earned money. If a person really wants to succeed, in addition to his own wisdom, efforts and perseverance, etc. grasping the general trend is very important. Otherwise, all efforts will be futile.
Fred Wang: One more question, are you a person who dare put all eggs in one basket? If so (or ever so), what’s your bottom line? What effect of your experiences on your determination on the digital currency investment policy making?
Dong Zhao: Objectively, I am fond of adventure.
Why? You can find the answer from the math. Do you understand a concept called Sharpe Ratio?
For example, two persons toss a coin for winning or losing. Probability of heads and tails is 50% respectively. Each time, RMB 1 is bet. The winning party can take it. The winning probability is 50%, and the winning party can get the return by 2 times. 50% multiplied by 2 is 1.
Sharpe Ratio of 1 means a person playing the game will achieve break-even. What we shall do is to do things whose Sharpe Ratio is bigger than 1, and we shall make continuous trials rather than pin our hope on a success at one time.
Most people tend to do the things with high probability of success (such as 90%), but they neglect the return (such as 10%). If you do such thing, the Sharpe Ratio is 0.99.
What things did I do? Although the probability of success is only 10%, the return is by 10 times, even 100 times. The Sharpe Ratio of things that I do is 10 or 100. This is why I attempt to make an adventure.
If you invest all your assets in one thing even with high Sharpe Ratio, but if failed, there will be no opportunity of doing it again. Therefore, the best lesson I’ve got from the past is that we shall have the risk control awareness and invest all my time and energy in my career, instead of easily investing all the assets in one thing.
Fred Wang: Someone asked you questions in Zhihu.com, and I also referred to some “public opinion”. So I had selected some acute questions from netizens and ask you to make a clarification here: 1. Have you ever traded the currency with the pre-sale amount of miners? 2. How do you think about the fact that you were called “Black Banker”? Have you ever spread the information related to pulling market or nose drive at some scene to affect market for the purpose of getting profits? 3. After excessive loss position, have you ever conducted malicious short selling or low-price buy in? Would you please answer the abovementioned questions?
Dong Zhao: Firstly, I must clarify that those who slander me on the internet are neither my investors nor those who actually participated in the miner pre-sale projects. If you are, please show yourself.
I made the miner pre-sale in 2014, because my capital was insufficient after excessive loss position. Otherwise, I could do it by myself, and it was not necessary to make a pre-sale.
As for whether I have traded the coin with the pre-sale capital or not, In fact, I planned to buy A-jie miners after pre-sale. But the price of miners rose at that time. So we didn’t think it was appropriate and we abandoned this project. Later, we refunded the money to all investors. Within less than 10 days, we refunded all funds to the investors. And all accounts were open to the investors.
Actually, I was ever called “Black Banker”. Because when I traded the Bitcoin, I ever thought I could manipulate the market within some time. But actually, it proved that I was wrong.
As for “malicious going short” or “low-price buy in”, first of all, I disagree with the word of “malicious going short”. If “going short” is malicious, will “going long” be meritorious? We all want to earn money. So it is not necessary to attach more emphasis on one thing than another.
Fred Wang: Peter Thiel, the early investor of Facebook, ever said to Zuckerberg: “The biggest risk is not to take risk in such a rapidly changing world”. Mike Cai ever said that the blockchain is the biggest bubble in the human history. But the bubble is the catalyst for promoting technological revolution. We can only embrace the bubbles, for non-participation is the greatest risk.” I ever heard that you love the sentence “The greatest risk is not to take risk” very much.
Opportunities and risks exist simultaneously. In another word, no risk, no opportunity. Facing the risk, how to grasp opportunities? Facing the opportunities, how to reduce risk without blind submission? Such two aspects can be hardly balanced. At the time of bear market, I would like to hear about your suggestions for ordinary investors. Actually, I was ever afraid that many people were bankrupt because of following you.
Dong Zhao: Opportunities and risks exist simultaneously. No risk, no opportunity. How to reduce risks? Actually we can’t reduce risks. What we can do is to control risks. Risks mean the opportunities ahead of us. But what we should do is not freely investing all in one thing.
Risk control contains an important Kelly Formula: f=（bp-q）/b. For example, if you do a thing with success possibility of 10% with the anticipated return by 100 times, then f=（100*0.1-0.9）/100, namely, you will make a bet with 9.1% of your assets. With the 10% success possibility, your assets will increase by 100 times if you succeed, while you will only lose 9.1% assets if you fail. Will you make a bet or not?
Therefore, the clever people calculate the winning and losing probability, while the stupid ones often want to become the millionaires overnight.
I utilized this formula to demonstrate risk control. If I carefully considered the formula in 2013, I would not invest all of my assets and lever in Bitcoin.
Fred Wang: Winston Churchill ever said that a notable person often has the historical imagination. “Spiritually, they live in the historical track and can freely travel.” The latter sentence is from me. Taking history as a mirror, we shall summarize the “problem + method + efficiency” to provide people with future consideration. You ever said that reviewing the history is to avoid falling into the same old trap again. Can the development history of digital currency be reviewed and referenced? Since last November, the digital currency market has had great ups and downs, which of your previous historical experiences is similar to it? How do you think of the reason for bear market since January 2018? What rules have been changed by the bear market? When will the bull market emerge again?
Dong Zhao: Great ups and downs during the period from November 2017 to March 2018 were very similar to the situations in 2013 when the Bitcoin reached the record high of RMB 8000.
The market has its own rules which can’t be controlled by anyone. Basically, any market can be divided into three states: rise, fall and flat period. Why did the bear market exist? Reasons are not needed for the bear market. The so-called “reasons” are only the blasting fuse for “rise” or “fall”.
I believe that the market has its own rules, but seldom has a rational state. The market is either in a non-rational rise process with continuous increase of bubbles or in a non-rational fall process. The non-rational rise will last until its price far surpasses its real value. While the non-rational fall will be continuously lasted till its price is far below the real value.
Therefore, in case of bear market or bull market, never ask why since the market has its rules.
When the market move towards rise? Historically, the Bitcoin has a cycle of four years, with the mining reduced by half as the key time point. If we regard the year of 2013 as “summer” of Bitcoin, then the year of 2014 will be “autumn” and the year of 2015 will be “winter”. I did fail in “winter” of 2015.
Why the year 2013 is “summer”? The essential reason is that mining output in 2012 was reduced by one half. In “autumn” of 2014, we lost money, but we still had some funds to do something. While in the year of 2015, we had no money except for huge debts, many employees left the company because they were not paid. Taking the Bitcoin reduced by half as the opportunity in 2016, a new-round bull market emerged. The year of 2017 became a big bull market for Bitcoin. If we regard the year of 2017 as summer for Bitcoin, then the year of 2018 would be another autumn, while the year of 2019 will be winter.
There are different public opinions today. Actually, all of us can’t survive for a few days, like the grasshopper after autumn. I don’t specially refer to anyone, but everyone.
But autumn is not a bad thing since winter wheat can be sowed in autumn. For winter wheat in last autumn, I missed the bull “Ethereum”. Of course, you can’t sow the crops which can’t survive in winter. In winter, we can figure out which team is getting down to some things. If Token drops too much then, you can buy it.
Similar to the four-season change in the nature, bull market and bear market always continuously change. And there is no eternal bull market or eternal bear market.
I can’t promise my anticipation is correct. But if my anticipation is right, it will ensure my team can still exist in this industry four years later. If I make the wrong judgment, it would be better. If it is not the bear market but the bull market, my team will do better.
In a word, please have the hope for the best and prepare for the worst. A saying in The Book of Changes is: life going on is called change.
Fred Wang: During the period from when you established Moji Weather together with Li Jin in 2009 and the point you left two years later, the cumulative downloads surpassed 180 million. Now there are more than 500 million users. Moji Weather is a kind of typical product with a lot of users which isn’t commercialized well. You ever said that three founders (including you) are not good at making profit. Do you still think so now? Do you think investment is more suitable for you compared to entrepreneurship?
Dong Zhao: Firstly, I am a person who doesn’t refuse a new opportunity and loves adventures. Before founding Moji Weather, I did work for others. At that time, Li Jin inspired me. He told me that the internet surge was coming and we should create applications in the smartphone. We had a meal and we decided to do it together. We were college classmates and could trust each other. And we had also cooperated with respect to some projects. So we easily started our cooperation. Soon, we found another partner who was also our college classmates.
However, I always like to pursue something fresh. Two years later, I felt there was nothing fresh to do. So I would like to put an end to it and established a new thing. In addition, some contradictions existed in the team. So I left Moji and stayed in Garage Cafe for about two years.
During my stay in Garage Cafe, I acted as a CTO, a volunteer basically. And I didn’t get any salary there. On the contrary, I invested some unreliable projects.
I often write codes. When writing codes, I feel I were the God who could create what I want. Programmers are most creative. I believe that if you can’t programme in the future, you will be abandoned by the society. Why? Robots may replace the human being with respect to repetitive work, but I don’t think the robots (AI) can replace us with respect to creative work.
About money earning, everyone shall continuously practice and learn how to earn money. When we developed Moji Weather in the beginning, I actually believed that none of us had business mind and was good at earning money. I myself, including my subsequent company, also experienced a continuous practice from being unprofitable to being profitable, to losing money, then to being profitable. Compared to the past, my capability in money earning is certainly stronger indeed.
Which is more suitable for me, investment or entrepreneurship? I don’t believe that investment is more suitable for me. Actually it is only one of our businesses. Our team is called DGroup. In addition to Dfund, we still have several profitable projects, and we also incubate some new projects.
Both the investment and entrepreneurship actually “invest in” ourselves. There is no essential difference. What everyone cherishes most is their time. The actual currency everyone owns is the limited time, so how to do the greatest thing within the limited time is the key.
Fred Wang: Di Su told me a story. Here is the story. When you left Moji Weather, you had no confidence in fund raising. By chance, you met an old lady in Changping, Beijing. She told me my fortune, saying that you would raise RMB 6 million in three months. Finally, you made it. I heard that you still keep in touch with her. During an interview, you said that before developing Moji, you ever let a fortune teller to study the date of birth of the founders including Li Jin. Do you believe the fate? Someone says that “the first is fate, the second is luck, the third is geomancy, the fourth is accumulated virtue, and the fifth is reading”. What do you think of it? During the ups and downs of your coin trading encountered with the uncertain market, have you ever asked that old lady?
Dong Zhao: The story about the old lay being a fortune teller in Changping, Beijing. My partners in Garage Cafe who were familiar with me may testify it since even I didn’t know the result in advance.
I had three partners. When I decided to develop Moji together with Li Jin, I didn’t study their dates of birth. While another partner of ours believed the fate very much. He asked a fortune teller about the dates of birth of Li Jin and mine, and then he said ours were matched. So we developed Moji together.
Objectively, I don’t believe the fate, but I believe personal efforts. In addition to the efforts, we shall grasp the historical trend. If you wrongly judge the overall trend of the history, such efforts may be useless. I only talk about the fact. I am not superstitious in the fate and won’t make a decision by fortune telling.
I believe I am fucking great! And I believe I will be fucking great! So I must survive in facing the troubles!
Fred Wang: which city of Shanxi Province do you come from? Shanxi merchants, as the earliest merchants in China, could be traced back to the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. They had been dominant in China for 500 years. You ever said that soon after you contacted Bitcoin, you felt you were gifted in doing Bitcoin and relied on credit. After excessive loss position, you did the over-the-counter trading step by step, and then paid back your debts by relying on your accumulative credit.
Dong Zhao: I come from the south of Shanxi Province, which is very close to Henan. Due to great elevation, and harsh climate conditions and natural conditions, drought often occurs and crop yields are not desirable, so it is difficult to feed us by natural conditions.
I believe that integrity isn’t a thing at moral level, but at commercial level. Why I keep the integrity? Because by doing so, I can make profit and earn money. We should keep good integrity rather than keep integrity for the purpose of keeping integrity. A smart person will select integrity while the stupid one will select fraud.
In Pingyao, Shanxi, with bad natural conditions, people hardly live on the weather. So they have to go on an errand and send money for others. Businessmen often transfer funds by the errands. The errands may get money through fraud or earn money by means of integrity. As time passes, Shanxi draft bank was generated following credit accumulation.
You possibly don’t believe that I am called “Uncle Dong” actually because my family was very poor. I was born in an ordinary family while Chandler Guo was born in a very rich family.
From entering college in 1999 till graduation, I only had monthly expenses of RMB 300. Later I was addicted to cigarette. A packet of cigarettes cost RMB 2-3 at least, and a better one cost RMB 6-7. If I chose the better one, I would spend RMB 180 in cigarette per month, and the living cost would definitely be insufficient for me. I even made a miracle by living on only RMB 80 for two months.
Later, I bought a cigarette holder. Because a package of tobacco shreds worth not less than RMB 10 could be used by me for one month. I often used the cigarette holder in the classroom. A schoolmate said I was like an underworld kingpin in Hong Kong gangster films, and he called me “Uncle Dong”. But actually I was the youngest in my class.
Fred Wang: What do you think the essence of Shanxi merchant thinking and culture is? Who is the representative of Shanxi merchants in your eyes? How do you think of your fellows Chandler Guo and Yueting Jia, both from Shanxi?
Dong Zhao: The essence for Shanxi merchant culture is its understanding of “integrity”. To achieve the integrity, many Shanxi draft banks went bankruptcy. When I am encountered with my own commitment, I opt to undertake it rather than escape or commit suicide in order to achieve long-term benefits.
However, integrity does cost something. Especially when others commit fraud, you opt to stick to integrity. With integrity, your short-term benefit may be possibly damaged. But I believe that persons with integrity will certainly get profit in the long run. So the integrity of Shanxi merchants is just because of their sharp-sighted point.
Confucius said that: “ancient scholars work for themselves while current scholars work for others.” Integrity is mainly used to give a clarity to himself and then to others.
Chandler Guo is actually a very smart person. If one person can accept all insults and abuses from others directly, how smart could he be? I find that some stupid often abuses others. So Chandler Guo is very smart, although he looks low.
Fred Wang: Let’s talk about leeks again. Someone says that the reason for that leeks are leeks does not involve technology but the way of thinking. If you always refer to others’ comments to find the direction and sense of safety whenever investing in a project, you will lose money in the long run. There are also some hardworking guys who have less money while not willing to miss any fluctuation in the market. They may keep sleepless for 36 hours and even 72 hours to conduct uninterrupted trade round the clock in global digital currency market. They are tormented so that they cannot sleep or eat. How painful and sorrow they are.
What do you think the typical features of leeks thinking are? If you wouldn’t like to be cut like leeks, how can the individual thinking be upgraded? How to perform thorough reform, or to avoid being cut?
Dong Zhao: Some friends said to me that it is believed that the reason for that bankers exist in market is as follows: If bankers exist in market, I lose my money not because of me but because bankers harvest me. And if you think that you are so smart that you earn money, why would you blame the banker when you lose your money? Why wouldn’t you admit that earning money is because of banker while losing money is because of your foolishness? Therefore, leeks refer to those who fail to be responsible for their own decision and behavior.
Those who can earn money for a long time grasp the big trend. The conclusion I’ve reached after excessive loss position is that excessive loss position has nothing to do with any one, but because I was very stupid. I didn’t blame any “banker”, and even any exchange for being evil.
I think about a topic which sounds a little bit “dirty” that the only harmfulness of masturbation is that you think it is harmful. Consequently, I think that the reason for that leeks” are “leeks” is that you believe that there is a “banker” who cut leeks in the market. Therefore, success or failure depends upon yourself, and has nothing to do with others.
Fred Wang: When you stayed in Garage Cafe, you were a waiter and programmer while studying Bitcoins. At that time, you couldn’t image you can become a good endorsed brand of blockchain project. I remembered that not long ago, I read a book named Thank You for Being Late written by Milton Friedman, who also wrote The World Is Flat. He firstly quoted a saying of American litterateur Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every time there was a pause, I heard the call.” Then, he asked the readers that: what do you do when there is a pause? I thought about this sentence for a long time.
Weixing Chen felt very painful after selling his Kuaidi. He turned to drinking and reading, then decided to break from classical internet investment. You’ve changed from a technical entrepreneur to coin poker figure, what a big change! I want to ask you, when you left Moji for Garage Cafe with RMB 6 million, what call did you heard?
Dong Zhao: Actually, when I developed Moji Weather, I ever wanted to open a café where entrepreneurs can freely communicate with each other. When I left Moji Weather, I found Di Su opened such a café, so I immediately went there.
I think Di Su is a great person. Di Su is actually a Buddha in my eyes.
Like all of us, Di Su also loves money and women. But when he developed Garage Cafe, he didn’t consider his personal interests. He told me that he just wanted to have a story to tell when he was more than 70 years old. So he opened it for his dream. Among the persons engaged in public benefit, Di Su is the only one who does it wholeheartedly.
For a long period, including now, I have been considering that I am a person who likes technology. I don’t care what people think of me. What I care the most is whether I can be satisfied. The sense of satisfaction is got from continuous progress and creation, while not by thinking of others.
Therefore, when others call me a stupid, I may also call myself a stupid. Only when you admit you are a stupid can you become smarter.
As a saying goes, no enemies can match someone who is too basebred. Just the saying in The Tao-te Ching: “Water benefits everything without competing with them, and can stay in the place where others dislike, so it is closest to Tao”.
Fred Wang: One more question, what have you got during your stay in Tokyo?
Dong Zhao: If a blockchain company goes abroad, I think Japan is the destination of first choice. The reasons are as follows: firstly, Japanese society needs reform and new growth points, but there are not enough entrepreneurs with dreams and motives in Japan. Secondly, Japanese elite class has a deep understanding on the blockchain, and they welcome and embrace the reform. Thirdly, Japan is found with persistent deflation, and lower salary for employees in internet industry compared with domestic peers, i.e. low human cost. Fourthly, Japan has good natural environment. Fifthly, it is close to China, only 3 hours’ flight away, resulting in convenient correspondence.
Of course, Japan also has heavy tax burden. But Japan is a country under the rule of law, resulting in low policy-related cost. So, comprehensive cost for a blockchain startup enterprise is possibly lower than that in China.
I increasingly realize that the competitive power among countries lies in the attraction for cutting-edge talents to a great extent.
Fred Wang: As you said, Dfund adopts the strategy of cornering quality projects and keeping away from impractical projects, but it emphasizes that it doesn’t conduct technical analysis. What is your standard in evaluating a project? You said that the investment logic is essentially the investment in person and prefers to skillful entrepreneurs since you like “continuously successful entrepreneurs” more. Will the “experienced entrepreneurs” who continuously start business have the bigger chance to succeed? In the process from individual coin trading to fund investment, what’s the challenge for you? How do you manage your funds now?
Dong Zhao: The entrepreneurs I hate most are those who pursue the hot spots every day. “Never invest in those entrepreneurs who always cannot seize the best opportunity.”
The founder is indeed the first element we focus on. But we pay more attention to his moral quality, like integrity and sense of responsibility compared to the “continuously successful” and other ability elements. Without moral quality and integrity, we won’t consider it even if the founder has strong ability and a good project. Because we believe that a person with integrity can go further. And we are willing to progress with such founder.
However, the prerequisite to perseverance is that the overall direction and trend is right. The reason for that he fails to seize the best opportunity is that he is not aware that where the next best opportunity is at all, and that the opportunity has gone when he finds it.
The first-class person is able to predict the overall direction, like Jack Ma. He predicted the overall direction of internet in 1990s. At that time, he didn’t know how to develop. What he only believed was that the direction was right. So he led people to explore that direction. Actually, in terms of intelligence quotient, I don’t think Jack Ma is much smarter than us. However, he has wisdom and foresees the overall trend and direction in decades. Furthermore, he insists on it like a stupid.
Fred Wang: Are you homesick? In what circumstance will you consider returning to China?
Dong Zhao: Whether I return to China or not, it is just a matter of time. I believe that the overall historical trend is overwhelming and the history has its foreordination. I think that China will enter its most prosperous period within 20 years. Just like my viewpoints on Bitcoin: the bear market may appear in the short period, while the bull market will appear in the long period.
Of course, the so-called “short period” is a little longer than what people think. Based on the judgment of most people on the future, they may be too optimistic in the short period, while they may be too pessimistic in the long period. Bitcoin won’t rise to USD 1 million each tomorrow, but may fall to USD 1000. However, in the long run, it will rise to USD 1 million in 10 years, 20 years or 50 years.
Fred Wang: I remembered that I once asked Bo Shen how he thought of the domestic blockchain projects, like the newly-emerged so-called public chains of some kind. His answer was that foreign projects should be determined to be good or bad while domestic projects should be determined to be real or fake. So, many new investors were confused. Someone was often fraternized with me enthusiastically, and even asked me to help support the introducer. Many chain teams had no real engineer available, only inviting a part-time engineer or even the inside celebrity as a nominal engineer. How many projects do you think are fake? How to avoid such problems? I think the media should disclose such problems to the public. Many people suggest us cracking down on the fake projects. What is your suggestion? You know a lot, so give me some effective methods.
Dong Zhao: My answer is slightly different from Mr. Shen’s. Based on my experience, we can’t conclude that there are more swindlers in China than in foreign countries. I even believe that there are more swindlers in foreign countries who exclusively swindle money out of Chinese.
I did not make detailed statistics. But among the swindlers that I have been encountered with, foreigners take a great share. In 2016, I earned RMB 10 million, of which RMB 4 million was swindled out of me. The remaining was used to repay the debt. As a result, I got nothing in 2016. Until 2017 when I succeeded, I paid the debt fully and established the fund.
In addition, some projects unintentionally become the swindler. For instance, after fund-raising, some projects sold Bitcoins too early for the purpose of project expenditure. After “September 4” Policy was promulgated, ICO projects are required by the government to refund money. Since Bitcoins rose sharply and cannot be bought back, some teams were forced to escape and disappear.
I offer my firm support for media exposure and track-down against the fraud project or those projects involving false publicity. I also support the track-down against those unreliable projects that we’ve invested in. Due to our negligence, we have inevitably invested in some unreliable projects. For such projects, we, as the investor, are also the victim.
For these projects, we expect for media supervision and exposure. Of course, I don’t expect to get my loss covered. Instead, I hope that with media supervision, more project owners can cherish their own reputation and reduce the false and fraudulent behaviors in the market.