Interview with Mike van Rossum, the Author of Gekko, a Bitcoin Trading Bot

Cryptocurrencies, blockchain, ICO...there’s probably no person who hasn’t (at least) heard of these notions. We had an interesting talk with Mike van Rossum, developer of bitcoin trading bot called Gekko. Here, Gekko creator unveils all the “ins and outs” of this unique cryptocurrency bot development. What is worth to mention is its position as open source blockchain project. According to Mike, the future of blockchain technology is great but there are several dangers to be aware of.

Interested to know more? Let’s get closer to the world of open source blockchain and cryptocurrency.

  1. Could you tell our readers and us a little bit about yourself? How has your blockchain (cryptocurrency-oriented) developer path started?

I got into Bitcoin in early 2013. I was graduating in digital media at the time and when I started reading about Bitcoin I got very interested straight away. Back than the landscape looked different: the biggest exchange (by far) was Mt. Gox, markets where tiny and people just only started thinking about what a blockchain is.

Around the same time I got very interested in the idea of automated trading and HFT, my boss at one of my digital media internships came from Wall Street (an HFT firm) and started explaining basic markets concepts (of which I knew none). What I love about both blockchain systems and financial markets is that they are basically games on a fundamental level.

My research led me to a bitcoin talk discussion called Goomboo’s Journal, which boiled down to: figure out a simple system to trade bitcoin with (make decisions on when to buy and sell) and stick to it religiously. For me being a programmer the most obvious solution was to simply automate it, Gekko was this solution. The very first version was a trading bot that only did the exact strategy Goomboo suggested and it only worked on Mt. Gox.

2. How did you come up with the open source bitcoin trading bot concept? What was your primary motivation (or inspiration) to start working on cryptocurrency bot?

Gekko started out as an experiment, making it open source meant a lot of things: people would slowly help me spot bugs and fixes, people could work on ideas, people could fork Gekko and change it around. Open source is something I care deeply about.

3. Are there any similar projects? Or is your bot one of its kind?

There are similar projects, these “tradebots” or “robotraders” can be divided into two categories:

  • Open source ones: Gekko is the biggest one for bitcoin, but the concept is extremely similar to quant platforms like Quantopian (which is a lot bigger)

  • Paid ones: There are some paid bots like Haasbot and Gunbot, which are easier to grasp for beginners but can be quite expensive. On top of that there are also platforms like Cryptotrader that do the exact same thing as Gekko in a fully hosted environment where you pay a monthly fee.

4. Some of ‘under-the-hood’ questions. Can you tell us a bit about the specifics of Gekko development? Maybe you can recall some of the issues you’ve faced in the process of development?

The biggest struggle is definitely on the exchange side: Gekko communicates directly with exchanges via their APIs, these are anything but stable and change all the time (without informing anyone or documenting what exactly changed). The majority of maintenance is keeping Gekko work well with all the different exchange APIs.

5. Who are the avid users of your open source bitcoin trading bot ? Are there any aspects to remember about when making integration with your project?

Gekko is a free tool that people can download, so I don’t actually know exactly what it is that most people want (or who they are). I have a rough idea on some power users (some are contributors to the project as well), based on what they tell me (and what I think myself: honestly I am a bit of a BDFL) I have a vision of what I want Gekko to be able to do, and based on that vision I decide what to work on and what changes to accept in the project. This document defines the limits of the that vision (scope): Gekko scope.

An extremely interesting direction that is getting very popular is to use the backtest engine within Gekko to try to build trading models (strategies) by trying out thousands of different variations of the strategy (tweaking parameters and such) and have Gekko run all of them to figure out what model would have been profitable in the past. The cool thing about this is that Gekko acts as a simple black box and people can build different kind of algorithms on top that improve performance (like genetic algorithms for example).

6. What are the benefits of using your project? In what other fields (apart from finance-related ones) do you recommend to use it?

In theory you could use Gekko for any type of trend detection: if you have some sensor data like the outside temperature you could build a prediction model using Gekko. Note that the model will most likely be very bad as all the “tools” that Gekko provides (technical analysis) are all designed for financial markets, so it will most likely be very bad.

7. What Bitcoin Exchanges are integrated within Gekko?

The current stable version of Gekko supports 21 different exchanges, however Gekko has different levels of support. Gekko is not able to automatically execute orders (tradebot) on all of them. See the complete list here: Supported exchanges.

8. Since we target B2B, B2C marketplace platforms development, we’re wondering if any marketplace platform has used your project. If so, could you describe these cases more?

None that I know of, but my biggest “competitor” is Cryptotrader, they have a market place for “strategies” (the algorithms that decide when to trade). People can make them and sell them on there to other people. A lot of ICOs are coming out with similar concepts, some of them also sell the signals instead of the strategies (signals like: “now is a good time to sell”).

9. What are your future plans regarding Gekko? What is your vision behind Gekko?

Gekko started out as a side project and it is currently still is, besides from some tiny donations I don’t make any money by having it open source. I have some ideas to at some point offer a “paid hosted” version, however this depends on my work as well (I am currently working full time). Nothing is certain at this point, except that I want to keep supporting the current open source project: I get a lot of satisfaction and it’s a big part of my resume at this point.

10. What is the future of blockchain technology? How do you see it?

I have been working full time on blockchain/bitcoin projects for a few years now and I have seen a lot of different sides of the table. I am pretty sure that in the future we will use DLT/Blockchain systems for a lot of things in business (finance, healthcare) and government (voting, financial aid). I am just uncertain of how we will get there, I am fearing something similar to the dotcom bubble in the late 90s: to much expectations where build and the bubble burst (with a lot of people losing a lot of money), but a decade later the exceptions actually turn out to be real.

Let’s say “Thanks!” aloud

Apiko team expresses hearty gratitudes to Mike for the great info he provided on his open source blockchain project and cryptocurrency/ICO vision in general.

Are you the expert in any other trendy industry and have a lot of hot things to tell people? Feel free to contact us for the interview talk ;)