(Source: Fin Tech Roundup)
The Cryptocurrency Answer For Emerging Markets
Most of us take for granted how easy it is to make online purchases. We go to an online retailer, find the product or good we want, pull out a credit card, and make a purchase – all in under ten minutes. We’ve gone through this process hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. But for those who live in emerging countries where credit card usage and bank accounts are far less common, buying online is much harder.
Founded by Sebastian Serrano and Luciana Gruszeczka in 2013, Ripio (formerly BitPagos) is a fintech disruptor that facilitates financial inclusion in developing markets. Through its digital wallet and revolutionary global peer-to-peer lending network, the company is giving thousands of people the opportunity to participate in a digital economy that was, until now, largely inaccessible.
“The Future Of Financial Services in Latin America”
– Company Website
Ripio, formerly BitPagos, initially formed to offer a digital wallet that was specifically built for developing countries where many people don’t have bank accounts or credit cards. In these regions, it can be challenging to borrow money as many do not have traditional credit histories. This is a huge barrier to entry for making online purchases which is growing increasingly important in today’s digital age. Ripio’s digital wallet allows any user to buy and sell bitcoins in local currency as well as send and receive money through an app. With the Ripio wallet, users can transact with bitcoin-accepting merchants who don’t have to risk taking on currencies that are subject to hyperinflation, a real concern in many Latin American markets.
In 2016, the company launched Ripio Credit, a system for loaning out money to wallet holders in exchange for a small premium. For those who already have a bitcoin wallet, access to Ripio funds is easy as the startup already has access to payment histories. New users must provide a national ID, social media presence, and address in order to get approved for credit. Today, there are over 200k Ripio digital wallet holders in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil.
“We Have People From Asia Funding People in South America…”
–Sebastian Serrano, CEO
Ripio was founded by Argentinian entrepreneurs, Sebastian Serrano and Luciana Gruszeczka. Prior to starting Ripio, Serrano dabbled in a number of fintech companies while Gruszeczka worked in the pharmaceutical space. The two came together to form BitPagos in 2013 and raised $600k in seed funding. Four years later, the team raised $1.9M in a Series A funding round and rebranded as Ripio, which means “gravel” in Spanish, an appropriate name for a company that “helps to build new roads in the digital economy.”
The startup recently raised $37M through an Initial Coin Offering to fund the development of the Ripio Credit Network (RCN), a global peer-to-peer lending platform built on blockchain technology and ethereum smart contracts. Currently, there are ~3k Argentinian Ripio wallet holders in the network who can borrow up to $730 each from lenders all over the world. Lenders send funds in RCN tokens while borrowers actually receive fiat currency that can be used to make online purchases. These micro-loans can be paid back in small installments. Ripio is also working on standardizing reporting on loan repayments so that borrowers can use their RCN transaction history to prove their creditworthiness, a tremendous benefit in countries where formalized banking and credit cards are not as common. Looking to the future, Ripio hopes to collaboratively partner with other Latin American governments so that it can expand its services further throughout the region. Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay are currently next on the docket.
Take Your Idea Global
Ripio is transforming the way that many people in developing countries spend and borrow money. The company has found a way to help Latin American individuals and businesses participate in the digital economy by lowering the barriers to entry and using blockchain technology to cut traditional banking institutions out of the currency exchange equation.
This Untold story reminds us that there is huge opportunity outside of developing markets where competition is high and the pressure to innovate is heavy. Rather than trying to develop a blue ocean strategy in a startup-saturated environment, explore opportunities to take a business model or offering that has already proven to be successful and tweak it so that it works in other parts of the world. Now don’t get me wrong, the Ripio team is still highly innovative. They jumped into a space that many others have been afraid to touch. However, there were other digital wallets in existence at the time of the company’s founding, just not many that were focusing on serving emerging markets. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Instead, change the material or alter the design so that it works better on a different kind of road!