MEET OUR CODE_N CONTEST FINALISTS 2018: Airfox from the USA
Our CODE_n CONTEST Finalist Airfox from the USA is making headway in the financial sector using blockchain technology. With a mission to create new banking solutions for underserved low-income consumers, Airfox developed a new mobile financial ecosystem. Offering a revolutionary microloan program that is adaptable and easy to use, Airfox is giving millions of people unprecedented access to much-needed financial solutions. Find out more about the financial app making a difference in our interview with CEO and co-founder Victor Santos.
Jessica: What is Airfox all about?
Victor: Airfox is on a mission to provide more than two billion unbanked people in emerging markets with mobile access to affordable financial services. We launched Airfox in 2016 to address the highly fragmented financial landscape in underserved areas. Our solutions use blockchain technology to create a new mobile financial ecosystem.
The Airfox app facilitates easy cash deposits, microloans, and international remittances for quick and inexpensive money transfers and digital payments. All of this is optimized for use on the low-cost Android phones common in emerging markets. In February 2018, we launched our free Android app in Brazil – giving millions of people unprecedented access to much-needed financing solutions.
By using blockchain technology, Airfox has developed a revolutionary microloan program. In order to get access to Airfox loans, users opt in to the program and agree to share information (like GPS, call history, and app usage with Airfox). This information is analyzed with our proprietary scoring algorithm to determine whether that person should get a loan. It also identifies the suitable loan size and repayment terms.
On the other side of this transaction are the lenders. The Airfox lending platform enables lenders to easily send loans to a group of Airfox app users, at a risk level of their choosing. This fast, secure, and inexpensive transfer of capital is facilitated by AirTokens (AIR), an ERC-20 token built on the Ethereum blockchain. Owners of AirTokens can use Airfox’s lending platform to loan capital to individuals in emerging markets with less friction than with traditional lending institutions.
Jessica: How did you come up with the idea?
Victor: When starting my business, I asked myself, “What sort of impact do I want to make?” My answer was intensely personal. Growing up in Brazil, I understood the struggles faced when trying to gain access to capital.
New banking solutions must fit the lifestyles of underserved low-income consumers. Airfox was created to fill this void. People in emerging markets rely heavily on smartphones. They often have jobs in several locations, run small cash-only businesses, and lack fixed addresses. As more people access increasingly inexpensive mobile phones, the opportunity to use technology to solve the challenges of low-income banking became apparent.
Jessica: What are you trying to solve?
Victor: Traditional banks are failing four billion people because consumers with no credit history do everything in cash, making them very risky borrowers. Take loans, for example: the unbanked and underbanked either can’t get a loan at all, or else they pay interest rates as high as 400% in countries like Brazil.
The aim is to empower people to lift themselves out of poverty through access to high-quality, low-cost financial services. At Airfox, the solution is presented through peer-to-peer lending facilitated digitally on a mobile-only platform, which is already available in Brazil. While initially this may sound like nothing more than yet another mobile app, the reality is that such platforms will revolutionize banking for future generations.
Jessica: What is your current target market? Part of your entrepreneurial vision is to bring about social change to underprivileged communities. What countries or regions are you planning to extend your services to?
Victor: Our initial target market is the 60+ million unbanked and underbanked people in Brazil who have access to a smartphone. Providing the unbanked with financial services has annual market potential of $90 billion (U.S.), with more than 85% of that opportunity in Brazil, India, and Mexico alone. There is enormous potential for the capabilities Airfox provides in countries that lack traditional financial infrastructure. The total target market for Airfox is the nearly two billion people considered unbanked and billions more that remain underbanked globally.
To enable more people to break the poverty cycle and gain entry into dynamic markets like Brazil’s, financial services must be targeted to function within the realities faced by these populations. Hoping to build an entity that adds value to society and makes a positive impact, I collaborated with an exceptional team and created a platform that addresses this conundrum digitally. It supports individuals who struggle to access the resources they need from institutional banks with impossible requirements, and provides access to the kinds of financial services that are paramount to individuals striving to advance in emerging economies.
To be sure, building a business targeted squarely on serving low-income customers carries risks and may initially produce lower margins. But prudently leveraging technology to introduce financial amenities to enormous populations will ultimately prove both remunerative and eminently sustainable.
Jessica: Thank you for the interview, Victor!