Global cryptocurrency exchange Amplify Exchange will open its U.S. operations at 4 Market Square in Knoxville with hopes to create and lead the way to "Vol Valley," an area for high-tech companies to thrive, the company's acting Chief Operating Officer David Weil said.
Amplify is a sister company to Substratum, an open-source network building a decentralized internet, founded by Justin Tabb in 2017. Substratum uses blockchain technology to allow anyone in the world to access the internet, regardless of internet regulations.
The Amplify exchange will operate on Substratum's decentralized internet, so global users can buy and sell cryptocurrencies, Weil said.
One of approximately 200 cryptocurrency exchanges, Amplify is one of a few that allows fiat money (dollars, euros, yen) to purchase altcoins (cryptocurrency tokens) without first purchasing a major coin like Bitcoin or Litecoin.
It also provides a tool that determines whether or not a person should invest in cryptocurrency based on their risk profile.
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Amplify also offers paper trading, a fictitious account with fictitious investments allowing the user to get a feel for the process before investing real money.
Weil expects the exchange to be up and running in about six months with 20 to 25 employees, whom he hopes to recruit locally.
Looking to Knoxville for developers, high-tech talent
The 20 to 25 employees Amplify will begin with is expected to grow to 50 to 60 in the next 12 to 18 months, Weil said. Most employees will be developers who will code cryptocurrency exchanges and turn them into something understandable. Some will be customer support and administrative staff.
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When Tabb recently moved to East Tennessee he tasked Weil, of New York City, to research the area's best location.
"A lot of people said 'You'll never be able to do this in Knoxville,' " Weil said.
He did his research and disagreed. Weil believes the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the city's focus on new business development make Knoxville the perfect spot for technology startups.
"We want to come here and have a mutually beneficial relationship with the city," he said. "We want the rest of the country to take notice."
Danny Pope, associate director of employer development in the Center for Career Development at UT, said increasing the number of technology-focused jobs available in Knoxville would help retention.
"Right now that talent is going to Nashville, Huntsville for the aerospace industry, your bigger cities," he said. "We have a strong computer science program, so yes, I definitely think it's only going to be a positive for Knoxville and for students who want to stay here whether they're from here or not."
The Amplify space
The 6,000-square-foot space above Cafe 4 in Market Square will soon be transformed into an open design work area that can hold 50 to 60 employees.
Developers will have standing desks, tables, couches and chairs to work on, as well as a phone booth for private calls, with a white board wall for note taking. The meeting/conference room will feature floor-to-ceiling white board walls and rolling library-style ladders.
The break room will have couches, an Xbox, a PlayStation, a foosball table and a pool table if space allows.
The space also features a full kitchen and three bathrooms with full showers.
"We want developers to have everything they need here," Weil said. "If you want to bike to work, we'll have a space to hang your bike. If you need to go for a run, you can shower here. We don't want them to have to leave for anything if they don't want to."