Filling the financial void with Bitcoin
Bidali was set up to power a safer, more inclusive global financial system. Using blockchain they’re helping people to transact on a global scale – and filling the financial void which billions of people around the world find themselves in with no access to traditional financial institutions.
This quarter Ding talks democratising financial access, Facebook Libra, defining humanity – and boyish good looks, with Bidali’s CEO & Co-Founder Eric Kryski.
Ding: Eric – thanks for chatting tell us a little about Bidali and the inspiration for the company?
EK: Our company is about enabling anyone on the planet to have adequate financial access and control of their own wealth. We think blockchain technology and digital currency have the ability to make this a reality.
I was bitten by the blockchain bug after buying my first Bitcoin in 2016. At the same time we were doing software consulting and were looking to hire good developers that were familiar with our open source software and could work remotely. We found amazing people in Nigeria, Venezuela, Argentina, Iran, Ukraine and many other countries but we weren’t able to hire them because it was too difficult or impossible to pay them. By talking to these people we also learned about all the problems they were having within their own financial systems.
This is when it hit me – that Bitcoin (or other blockchain based digital currencies) could solve a huge global problem. Fast forward a few years and Bidali was born!
Ding: Tell us a little about how Bidali works?
EK: At Bidali, we provide payments infrastructure for the next generation of money and are using blockchain payment rails to enable anyone with a smart phone to have a multi-currency bank account and transact in digital currency.
Today we have two main products – our e-commerce store and developer friendly Commerce SDK that enable people to pay bills, buy gift cards and mobile phone and data plans with over 100 different digital assets in 140 countries. Our recent partnership with Ding has played a crucial role in this global coverage. And our digital currency payments platform, which enables businesses to accept cryptocurrency payments and get paid out in digital currency to their wallet or bank account. All without the tax headaches and need to know how blockchain works.
“….our typical customers are either underbanked, people in high inflation markets, or holders of crypto assets.”
Ding: Who is your typical customer?
EK: Because we have two products we have two different customers: consumers and businesses. For businesses, they are typically e-commerce businesses that wish to expand their market internationally by accepting low cost digital currency payments.
For consumers our typical customers are either underbanked, people in high inflation markets, or holders of crypto assets.
“…enabling the more than 3 billion people that lack global financial access to finally be able to contribute to the global economy.”
Democratising financial access
Ding: What can blockchain add to the financial inclusion debate?
EK: We think that blockchain technology will democratise financial access. Already today, anyone with a smart phone can have a multi-currency bank account in their pocket. This is incredibly liberating for many people around the world that don’t have the same levels of trust in their financial institutions or relative currency stability that we enjoy in North America and elsewhere are the world.
We think this will enable the more than 3 billion people that lack this global financial access to finally be able to contribute to the global economy and not just be stuck in their own local one.
Ding: What’s your view on Facebook’s Libra – will be help or hinder the growth of blockchain?
EK: Tough question. I actually wrote an entire blog post about this because we performed one of the first transactions on Libra’s test network.
In short, in my opinion we’ve already seen that it has helped raise public awareness of blockchain and cryptocurrency and has now forced a lot of politicians to really think hard about how to manage a digital currencies responsibly, which is a good thing.
We share the same vision of what a digital currency like Libra could enable. Providing more than three billion people with global financial access that they didn’t have before will likely bring many people out of poverty and increase the GDP of the world. That’s something we can rally behind at Bidali.
I’m not sure if Libra will be The Solution but if and when it launches we’ll be ready to support it, enabling any business accept it as a form of payment.
Ding: What were the biggest learnings for you when the company started?
EK: Wow. I feel like I have a list a mile long. However, I think the two biggest learnings I’ve had since we started Bidali 18 months ago are:
The first is just how hard it is to build quality software. This is something we pride ourselves on and something we took for granted. Not everyone can do it, especially in the blockchain space.
The second is how effective small teams can be. I’m a firm believer in this but even as a small team, because we leverage a lot of automation and custom tooling, we’re able to achieve a lot. Looking back over the last year I’m shocked at how far we’ve come in such a short time.
“This new kind of money enables people in financially under-served countries to now take part in international commerce and buy online.”
Ding: What are the benefits of your service for your customers?
EK: For the majority of our consumer customers today, we streamline how they can realize the value stored in their crypto assets. However, we have many customers around the world where the value is much more than that.
This new kind of money enables people in financially under-served countries to now take part in international commerce and buy online. This wasn’t previously possible because there are many places where you can’t get credit cards or it’s impossible to do international digital payments.
In high inflation markets people can also preserve their wealth in a more stable currency instead of suffering through inflation.
For our business customers, we enable them to accept lower cost global payments from anyone in the world without the risk of fraud or credit card chargebacks. This allows businesses to expand their customer base to anywhere they can ship their product.
Ding: What regions are you seeing most growth in?
EK: We are seeing the most growth in countries that are financially underserved or that are facing high inflation because we enable people to store funds and transact in more stable currency. However, we have customers from all over the world, and many use our service because of how convenient it is for them to realize the value locked up in their digital assets.
“…..the best way to build customer loyalty is to solve a real problem they care about and make the experience amazing.”
Ding: How does Bidali approach the issue of building customer loyalty?
EK: We focus on providing incredible customer service and competitive pricing. I’m not a fan of being locked-in to a product myself so I feel like the best way to build customer loyalty is to solve a real problem they care about and make the experience amazing. I think this is why we’ve been seeing great word of mouth growth since our inception.
Ding: What does the future look like for Bidali and crypto in general?
EK: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we are focused on making cryptocurrency, which is really just ‘cryptographically secured currency’, easy to use as money. It really should just be money. I don’t think people need to know too much about blockchain or even that it is cryptocurrency, just like how most people don’t know how computers or credit cards work but they still use them every day.
We feel this better version of money will have a huge impact in countries that are lacking US dollar liquidity, are financially underserved and/or facing high inflation. So that’s where we are primarily focused today.
EK: Outside of blockchain, I think we are seeing some incredible work being done in genetics and AI. I think these three technologies are going to completely change human history and maybe even how we define humanity. It’s a very interesting time to be alive!
Quick fire questions:
iPhone or Android?
Both! Mostly iPhone though.
What’s the last book you have read?
Principles by Ray Dalio. Great book both for professional and personal introspection.
What’s the last concert you have been to?
Oooh… that’s a tough one. Between kids and work I don’t get out much but I was recently in Las Vegas and saw O! by Cirque du Soleil. Does that count? It was amazing by the way.
What’s your favourite saying?
People often overestimate what they can do in three years but underestimate what can be done in 10.
What political – contemporary or historical – figure do you most admire?
Nelson Mandela. Having the resolve to be jailed for 27 years for what you believe in, stick it out, continue to fight for equality, and then rise to become a president and globally recognized humanitarian is an incredible feat. A true ‘phoenix from the ashes’ story.
What do you wish you had invented?
The computer. It has completely changed human history and dramatically accelerated our collective knowledge and power.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you recently?
A person finding out I have a six year old and asking me if I had my first kid when I was a teenager. I’m much older than 24 so I thought that was pretty funny.
And finally – what would you like to be when you grow-up?
Definitely an astronaut.