In a country of over 100 million people, with one of the fastest economic growth trajectories in the world, it is astounding that up to 70 percent of the population remain unbanked and have extremely limited access to financial services.
This disadvantage gave Ron Hose and Runar Petursson the idea for Coins.ph, which they founded in 2014. Hose had been based in the United States where he built a startup that he sold five years later. He then founded a prominent venture capital fund. His goal has never been to live an easy life but rather to build a life of meaning.
Coins.ph is a financial technology platform using Bitcoin, a digital currency, to transfer funds, pay bills, and remit and receive money. The beauty of this platform is that it uses the internet, making transactions more efficient, faster, and cheaper.
“When I moved here four years ago, it was a gamble,” Hose said. “I didn’t know anyone here. I just saw the potential.”
He said he did his due diligence before choosing to come to the Philippines out of all the emerging economies around. After spending a week in every market in Southeast Asia, the Philippines emerged as the most attractive place to him.
The reasons? The country is a large market with open industry verticals like banking and finance yet to be exploited, promising economic growth trends and a population that is predominantly young, heavy user of social media, fluent in English and hungry for opportunities.
In banks and other financial service centers, Filipinos must spend a long time in queues just to pay their bills or remit money to loved ones. Hose found that he could empathize with the people after he experienced the same things when he started living in Manila.
What made the Philippines unique was that both the mobile market and social penetration were high. These proved to be opportunities for Coins.ph for leveraging on an underserved market for banking services and having direct market access to them via the internet.
It is not unusual to hear stories of people having to borrow money at 20 percent interest. So Hose decided to create an inclusive business that would make financial access a sustainable endeavor.
“This is something I believe in. I think that the thing that will take us so far is if we believe in something and we pursue it. If you believe in it, pursue it. Everybody else will align with you. They will look at what you’re doing and come to help you,” he said.
Coins.ph is a financial technology platform using Bitcoin, a digital currency, to transfer funds, pay bills, and remit and receive money. The beauty of this platform is that it uses the internet, making transactions more efficient, faster and cheaper.
The remittance service operates in 40 countries where bitcoin transactions are allowed. Because everything is conducted online, there is no need to set up shop in these countries, significantly lowering barriers to market expansion and availability.
Compared to the typical 7.5-percent remittance fee charged by existing institutions, Coins.ph charges only between 1 and 3 percent for money transfers. The goal is to achieve efficiency by using internet platforms and in effect serve as a complementary layer to the existing financial systems.
Coins.ph grows exponentially, servicing over 17,000 locations and catering to hundreds of thousands of customers
In the last two years, Coins.ph has grown exponentially, forging partnerships with 7-Eleven convenience stores to bring its service to over 17,000 locations and cater to hundreds of thousands of customers, with transaction volumes consistently rising.
One such customer is Rommel Sario, an 18-year IT teacher in Roxas City, Capiz, who also does freelance web design, development and search engine optimization (SEO) marketing online with both local and international clients.
“Aside from using it for trading, I allocate funds to my peso wallet. It is very helpful, especially for loading my family’s prepaid mobile network, as well as for remitting funds to my friends and business partners. I want to teach my children how to manage their own money and I’ll be teaching them using Coins.ph,” Sario said.
Another Coins.ph customer is #GirlBoss Janina Lagman, a lawyer and businesswoman from Pampanga who supports various causes financially. To this end, she created a business called Ten Virtues, a clothing brand that features empowering statements for women. Her goal is to help more women discover their inner strength and remind them of their worth. From her shirt sales, she has committed to donate 50 percent to various causes.
Meanwhile, Hose and his team continue to work toward their goal of a market where anyone can pick up a phone and make a loan, receive or send a payment, access various financial services and set up accounts as easily as creating a Facebook account.
With more than a thousand Coins.ph accounts being opened every day, the future for this platform indeed looks bright.
This story is part of a series of articles written by GO NEGOSYO writers being published by GoodNewsPilipinas.com as part of our support to Philippine businesses.