Founder Spotlight of FUELHASH: Katsuya Konno
FUELHASH is on a mission to help crypto achieve mass adoption. Established in March 2021, FUELHASH is a crypto mining business that sells and operates some of the world’s most advanced mining machines, such as Bitmain, Canaan, and BITFURY. They have sold over 1000 machines in the nine months since their founding. In order to solve the major energy issues that comes hand-in-hand with crypto mining, the company is promoting “renewable energy x mining” using solar power and hydroelectric power. While they began with crypto mining, the company plans to expand its business in the Web 3.0 domains, including NFT, and DAO.
Founder and CEO Katsuya Konno spent eight years at SoftBank Group, where he was involved in M&A, fundraising, credit rating, and venture capital. He assisted with Softbank’s $22 billion acquisition of Sprint Mobile and the ARM acquisition project. In October 2016, he joined Quoine, an FSA-registered crypto-asset exchange as CFO. In March 2017, he became Head of CEO Office, leading the company’s FSA registration application, Qash ICO, and fundraising from IDG Capital, which turned Quione into a unicorn company. In November 2019, he became the Japan representative of BITFURY, a global mining company. In June 2020, he launched Japan’s first Bitcoin mining fund.
Headline Asia has invested in FUELHASH’s seed round in January 2022. Our investor Jonathan Hayashi was in charge of Headline Asia’s investment in FUELHASH, and also interviewed the insightful founder for this piece.
I’m going to go off on a tangent from the get-go, but did you do any sports when you were in school?
Yes, I played rugby for four years in college! I played the “stand-off” position, which is the first person to receive the ball, and was in charge of directing the attack by making decisions such as kicking, passing, and running by myself.
The interesting thing about rugby is that it starts with a set play, but when it starts, it becomes very free! Each player needs to be flexible and make their own best decision. I liked that kind of freedom.
It’s more like that in American football. Also, unlike American football, in rugby, smaller people have their own way of fighting, and one of things about it that appeals [to me] is that smaller people can actually beat bigger people.
Before entering the startup world, you were in charge of finance and M&A at Softbank. Did you work with Mr. Masayoshi Son closely and what did you learn from him?
I was in the same meetings with Mr. Son over 10 times, and he was amazing! Without any prior briefing, he was able to immediately understand what he heard for the first time on the spot, and he was able to negotiate accurately. When I was in Softbank, I always think Mr. Son was very good at setting out a big vision, and he put a lot of emphasis on financing to make it happen.
Not only Mr. Son but also the entire organization as a whole is a company, that is extremely strong in financing and understands the importance of financing. In order to achieve growth, they utilized their capital strength, formulated finance strategies, and implemented them throughout the company. They have built a team of professionals to do this and I think they have one of the strongest finance departments in the world. From corporate bonds and bank loans to asset-backed securities, convertible bonds, margin loans, and numerous other financing methods were utilized both domestically and internationally.
However, Mr. Son doesn’t like dilution, so we didn’t do much equity financing (laughs).
After Softbank, you joined QUOINE, a crypto-asset exchange as CFO, and then became the Head of CEO Office, which put you close to Mr. Kayamori, the CEO of QUOINE. What did you learn from Mr. Kayamori?
Mike Kayamori was the biggest reason why I joined QUOINE. To be more specific, I was attracted to the fact that he could articulate a clear and big vision in his own words. He is also a shareholder of FUELHASH, and I still go to him for advice.
In common with Mr. Son, I think Mike is very good at fundraising. I joined the company at a time when it just raised a round of about ¥2 billion led by JAFCO. Nowadays, venture investment is becoming more active, but back in 2016, it was very difficult for an unlisted venture company in Japan to raise ¥2 billion! Mike pulled it off, and after that, he continues to actively use other financing methods.
Seems like both Mr. Son and Mr. Kayamori are good at “articulating a big vision” and utilizing financing methods. You later served as the Japan representative of BITFURY, a major crypto mining company. Did you see the same things in the CEO of BITFURY?
Yes, I do. BITFURY has raised hundreds of million dollars and recently listed its subsidiary viaSPAC, so it was also utilizing various financing methods. It is the only major company in the crypto mining industry that does not have a Chinese background.
What you are doing now at FUELHASH is a bit similar to what BITFURY is doing, so can you tell us what are the things that you couldn’t achieve staying at BITFURY and what you want to achieve at FUELHASH?
It’s a double-edged sword that BITFURY provides end-to-end solutions. When I was at BITFURY, I could only offer clients BITFURY’s own mining machines, while clients did ask me a lot about other companies’ machines. Compared to that, FUELHASH can introduce solutions and products from a more independent standpoint, so we can guide our clients to the right machine for their needs.