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  • Writer's pictureMustafa Hourani

Full Interview with Rong Kai Wong, CEO of PARSIQ

Learn the story about how a police commander went on to become the CEO of PARSIQ, a leading blockchain data company.

Rong Kai Wong, CEO of PARSIQ

This week, we are excited to share with you an exclusive interview with Rong Kai Wong, the CEO of PARSIQ. PARSIQ is a blockchain data company that provides Web3 and AI projects with real-time data and infrastructure tools to help speed up their development. PARSIQ creates custom and robust APIs tailored specifically to the different needs of each individual project

Beyond his work as the CEO of PARSIQ, Rong Kai Wong has obtained a diverse range of experiences across numerous industries. He spent 8 years working with the Singapore Police Force, serving as both a Commanding Officer as well as a Head of Operations. His first foray into Web3 was with Binance where he managed their $100 million BSE accelerator fund, investing in 30+ different projects, including PARSIQ. He is a natural leader who has managed teams as large as 1000 people.

In the interview, Rong Kai Wong not only tells us about his unique story but also provides valuable life and professional advice for students and young professionals. His candid and thoughtful insights are timeless.

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Read the Full Transcript

Tell us a little bit about your story and how you got into the Web3 space.

My story is probably quite hard to replicate in this space. I didn't start off in the Web3 space after graduation. I graduated from Imperial College London in 2012 with a Masters of Chemical Engineering. I never did engineering after that because I actually went back to Singapore. I'm a Singaporean. I became a senior police officer with the Singapore police force. I had a scholarship from there and I worked with them for 8 years. I enjoyed my time over there. It gave me a lot of training in terms of critical thinking, stress handling, and man management. I was a superintendent of police, so I managed 1000 officers. And that was a really good experience that I had. I left public service for various reasons. There's a pool of factors, but at the end of the day, it really boiled down to what I wanted for my life.

That's something that I hope the listeners – if you are young, fresh out of university, or still in university – start to think about. And you also need to know that your life priorities change over time. When you're 23, you're young, you have a lot of energy, you can go three days without sleeping, you can tackle anything in the world, and you want to go all out for a career – that's great. Go ahead and do it if that's what you want. However, you also need to know that's not going to last. You need to know that down the road, when you're 30, when you're 33, or maybe you’ve found someone and you’ve settled down and you have kids, then your priorities change with life and you need to be able to adapt.

So effectively, what I did was actually live a public service life for my family. I joined Binance after that. That's how I got into the Web3 space in 2020. I did investments with them for more than a year, as well as ecosystem growth. I was actually managing the 100 million BSE accelerator fund, of course with my team. Out of the 500+ companies and projects that we looked into, we only invested in 31 of them by the time I left. So that's how strict we were. But of the 31 companies that we invested in, PARSIQ was one of them. I was very impressed with PARSIQ. I liked the team, I liked the technology, and I liked how well their growth was. When I left Binance, PARSIQ actually hired me, initially as COO, and now as CEO.

My path is not traditional, and it's not typical. PARSIQ hired me back then as COO because of my experience with the police force which was very operational. I've experienced growing teams from less than 10 all the way to 1000. So anything more than 1000 is new to me. But in Web3, this is usually good enough. They hired me as a COO, and now they made me a CEO. So that's my story.

What are the similarities and differences between leading a police force division and leading a Web3 company?

In public service when I was in the Singapore police force, it was very structured in a big company. And actually you tend to realize that whenever you grow a company to a certain size, once you go past 50, you're approaching the upper limits of how well interpersonal connections can get between humans. There's studies into it. They say usually that the limit is probably about 200, but the 200 also includes your friends as well. So if you filter it out to just your workspace, then that's probably about 50 or so. Beyond that, you really do not have the same kind of interpersonal connections. The web of communication gets too complicated. You need to put in systems and you need to put in communication protocols and hierarchies, so to speak. It doesn't have to be very high up. It could be as flat as you want to make it to be, but there needs to be a system.

Joining a big organization from the very beginning in my career really helped with that. So I think that for a lot of young students, one of the key challenges that you might be thinking of is this: “Should I join a big company and get the money? They will usually pay me higher right at the beginning, I will get a relatively straightforward career trajectory, and I will learn a lot from there”. There's pros and cons around it. The pros I got from joining the police force was learning about very structured leadership training and management training. Those two things are different, by the way. You might meet very good managers, but they are poor leaders, or vice versa. They are different skill sets.

I think another very important thing that I brought from my previous experience is, when you're in the police force, you're always managing crises and managing the worst things that ever happen to anyone. That gave me a very good and solid operational foundation. In the police force you need to make snap decisions in seconds usually, and if you do the wrong thing, someone may die. After that, and then translating it into the private sector, it's different. I would say that psychologically it's a bit easier. Mentally there might be very difficult decisions, but psychologically it's easier because you do not need to make snap decisions in seconds. And if you make the wrong decision, no one is going to die. So to me, that's already a win. I had good, solid, and foundational training with the police force and I'm eternally grateful to them for it.

Bringing that into the private sector, into what I'm doing now, for example as CEO, it's a lot about identifying where the weaknesses in communications are, and putting people together with different interests. Different teams have different interests. Even if you're in a relatively smaller company, you have to recognize that. And I think one of the big problems with people, especially in Web3, is that leadership training is not solid. Many people think that if they are in a leadership position, they look at the skill sets needed as the managerial skill sets. These include how to grow the company, how to scale, how to organize the company accordingly, how to hit the KPIs, how to bring in the money, the commercial stuff, etc. Those are great, they are managerial skills. But leadership skills are different. They are from the heart. Leaders come earlier in human evolution. When we talk about leadership skills, it's always about bringing people together, convincing them to go above and beyond what they're supposed to do, aligning them with the company's vision and making it their own. And they say, “Yes, this is what I believe in, this is what I'm going to do”. So it's different. Those skill sets are very hard to train, but they are trainable.

What have been the differences, in terms of your workflow, transitioning from COO to CEO?

Especially in Web3, COOs usually take on everything internal, and they take on everything that doesn't fall under anyone else. So essentially when I was COO, I would say 80% to 90% of my time was focused internally on operational aspects. Things like how teams would work with each other. Things like operational campaigns, such as having a campaign going on and then the next one and the next one. How to push for commercialization of the product, etc. So those are operational issues and a lot of my job is really at a center node, bringing people together from marketing, community management, sales, business development, product, and even tech guys. The tech guys are usually a little bit untouched compared to everyone else because, by right, they shouldn't be disturbed, they should focus solely on the code and building it. The product guys talk to them, and get all the requirements, so the product guys are usually the in-between. They understand the business needs from everyone else, such as marketing, and then they talk back to the tech guys.

As COO, I want to make sure that the whole machine is well-run. As a CEO, it's a lot more external, especially in a Web3 sense. It's a lot about talking to investors, building the brand name, building the recognizable aspects of the company in this industry. It’s a lot about finding out what's going on out there, and knowing whether we are in the right market space or not, and maneuvering it along the way. Since its infancy until now, Web3 has probably been around for more than 14 years (when Bitcoin was first published, and the whole Bitcoin ecosystem was set up). But it is still in its infancy. Everyone is just trying something.

One of the major criticisms of Web3 is that it is a solution trying to find a problem. I would argue against that, but I could see why people say it. A lot of it is pushing the boundaries. In the first place, why blockchain and the related technologies around it were invented, was because of a problem (the 2008 financial crisis). There was a lack of trust regarding all the centralized entities, the banks, and everything started from there. There was a problem and blockchain was and still is a potential solution to that. But we've gone way beyond that now. We have tried to apply that principle and those technologies to all sorts of different use cases: DeFi, NFTs, insurance, supply chains etc. And once you do that, a lot of the use cases are very exploratory. And being in the space that I am in right now, which is blockchain data, there are a lot of potential use cases among our clients as well. They're exploratory, which means that not all of them stick. Sometimes things fail and we have to navigate it, both from a technological standpoint, the product, and the sales standpoint. We have to say that, okay, we have to adapt to market changes. That's one. But as much as possible, we should try to stay ahead of the market as well. Set the new trends, and be ready for when new waves come in so we can ride them. That's basically what a lot of my job as a CEO entails.

Some of the product offerings at PARSIQ include Tsunami API and Data Lakes. From the perspective of clients, what would you say are the benefits of using one?

Tsunami API – tsunami is basically the brand name. If you say a blockchain API solution, that's probably it. You can find many types out in the Web3 space right now. But essentially what an API solution does, including Tsunami API, is that there is a problem with blockchain data access where if you attach to a node and you want to pull raw data from a node, it is raw. So it is basically a series of zero and ones. That's it. And you have to translate it into something that you can understand and that you can read as a human.

So there are different processes that you need to do. And even after you do them, you need to look at the blockchain data from block one to block, maybe 20 billion right now. Across the 20 billion chains are blocks of data. If you have a search query, it will search block 1 to try and find what you want. And then, it will go to the second block, the third block, all the way to block 20 billion. So that is essentially what you get from the raw data. If you run your own node, or you gain access to a node service, an API service usually indexes it, which makes it easier for you to do all this processing. Indexing means bookmarking it. And that's essentially what the Tsunami API does. So it takes the entire blockchain, and it bookmarks the whole thing. So when you want to search for certain fields, the search engine, think about it this way, does not have to search through all 20 billion chains anymore to just flag up all those that are relevant. Maybe it's just 1000 blocks and that's it. And it makes it way faster, it makes it way neater. The power of our technology is that it indexes the latest block in milliseconds. Once it comes in, on the blockchain, the latest block with all the data inside our system already indexed the bookmarks in milliseconds, and our users can get it in milliseconds as well.

There are a lot of providers out there, but usually they are probably a couple of blocks behind. There's historical reasons for it. I think part of the reason is because they come in and they build this whole suite solution. So the majority of the time is spent to make sure that the historical data is queried properly. And then as the latest block comes in, the newer the block, the harder it is to do it because you need to act very quickly, you need the developmental resources to do it, etc.

For PARSIQ, we were actually purely a real time data service for 4 years of our existence from 2018 to 2022. Which means that we actually solved the hardest part and then we decided to build backwards to cover historical data and that makes us really fast. And that is probably purely on the generic Tsunami API. That is really our strength. If you want to query data, but you want to have the freedom to query whatever you want, you want the full data, then Tsunami API is probably for you.

Data lakes is probably where it gets really fun because I think in this space we are the only ones who actually do fully customized data. So why would people use the customized data rather than say the generic API? For the generic API, you’ll probably be thinking, “Oh, I don't know whether my requirements may change, so I'd rather get the generic API”. Fair enough. But most of the time actually companies find that they get a generic API, they still need to process it further because they need the search queries, they may need to change the search queries, and after that they need to change it to the output that they need based on their specific use case.

That's what Data Lakes is for. We fully customize the output, and we fully customize the inputs. There are very complex projects, especially now compared to 2021. Things have gotten a lot more complex. Especially when you are a project or a business building on blockchain, you might be looking at your own project and already have 100 different smart contracts just purely on your platform. But very often you are not only monitoring your platform, you're monitoring someone else's platform, especially your competitors. And you find that maybe you need to look into, as a hypothetical example, 5000 smart contracts. Each smart contract may have 50 different conditions that you are looking into. We're going to hundreds of thousands of different filters, so to speak. And if you ask any API solutions, they're going to tell you no, you can't do hundreds of thousands of filters. That doesn't make sense and that is too complicated.

Then what happens traditionally, is that most people do it themselves. This takes a lot of development time and it takes a lot of adjustments. And if you need to change certain parameters, you need to redo the whole thing again. So it's extremely time and money consuming. Our Data Lake basically takes the whole thing and says that for your inputs, even if it's hundreds of thousands of different filters or fields, we change the inputs according to exactly what you need. And then we also change the outputs at the bottom that says that, if your output is in this format, we will give it to you in the same format. So as an end user or as a project or a company, you do not need to do anything else. You get what you are trying to find, and straight away you can do whatever you want with that data.

What advice would you give Web3 students? What learning resources would you suggest for them to learn more about how to work with data on the blockchain?

There are actually quite a number of good educational platforms available. And if you're already studying data and you know how to code, you should go straight to the SDKs (software development kits) of various different platforms. Very often, especially if you're new to Web3 but you know all the fundamentals, check out those blockchain educational pages, such as the Ethereum Foundation. They will tell you, if you are building a project, these are the things you need to look out for. Building a smart contract is one. Data is another layer that is a complete monster you need to look into.

I think that data is something that most projects neglect. They look at the data layer and they say “It's all on the blockchain, what’s so hard?”. Then, after their computers start running and the data volume starts coming in, they ask, “How do I connect to it?”. The first instinct is to just go to a block explorer and attach the API and then draw it. But then people realize that they need to process it further. That is where things escalate. You realize that you need to put in a lot more resources than you actually initially allocated for, especially on the data layer.

Do your own research as much as possible. Find out exactly what you need. Talk to projects like us, PARSIQ, find out our strengths. There are other people in this space that are trying to create a solution for data as well. And I think that's great. Everyone has different strengths. For PARSIQ, our strength is we have extremely fast, and extremely customized data. That's what we dedicate to our clients, and this is what we want to give to them. So we have AI projects coming to us, and they use us because we are literally the only company that can give them what they want. They crash our servers, that's how much they're using us. And we fix it within half an hour, for example. And they crash our service perhaps like twice, and then it never happens again because we grow with them as well.

Once you build further and you have more experiences, joining hackathons becomes a good way to learn the basics. But at the end of the day you need to ask yourself how serious are you in terms of the idea that you want to bring into fruition? Talk to people, join incubators if you are really interested in it because there's going to be a lot more help from those platforms. It's not just about building. You need to learn about the business side of things. You will learn about bringing together the team.

One last advice is when you're forming a team, form it with the least number of people with the most number of skill sets. So make sure there's no two people with duplicative skill sets. If both of them have the exact same skill sets that they're bringing to a table, then one of them is redundant. Form the team with the smallest number of people. Make sure everyone is in it together. They have skin in the game and they are willing to go all out for this and then start building from there. Bring in different skill sets. That's very important. The tech guys, maybe you just need one person, maybe you need two. It depends on what kind of skill sets they bring.

But you always need the financial commercial guys. At the end of the day, someone must sell this product. Operational guys as well, don't neglect that. Bring in someone with the organizational skill sets, but it’s fine if everyone comes from university and you don't really have the work experience. Find someone from the club or from the usual work assignments that you already know. Someone who is pretty good with organizing things, structuring things, who thinks like an engineer basically. And I think that is a skill set that is often neglected as well.

Closing Remarks

Thanks for reading (or listening)! We deeply appreciate Rong Kai Wong for sharing his insights and lessons from a lifetime of valuable experiences. This interview is one of many insightful discussions we've had with industry leaders. If you're keen on delving deeper into similar stories, we invite you to check out our interview with Kevin Henrikson from Dust Labs. We're committed to bringing you more in-depth conversations with the frontrunners of Web3. Stay tuned!

To connect with Rong Kai Wong, and learn more about the amazing work underway at PARSIQ, please check out the links below:


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