Hussain Elius is best known as the co-founder of Pathao, one of the leading ride-sharing apps in Bangladesh. For his latest startup, however, Elius is exploring the world of DeFi Wind.app, a self-custodial, smart contract wallet with three main features. The first is to enable businesses to send payments to remote employees around the world. The second is to allow people to use Wind.app as a virtual bank account. And the third is the on-ramp/off-ramp infrastructure built by the company so that users can exchange their crypto holdings for fiat or vice versa.
Currently, Wind.app has done over $3 million in annualized gross transaction volume (GTV) within a few months of its launch. The Singapore-based startup announced today that it has raised $3.8 million in pre-seed funding led by Global Founders Capital and Spartan Group, with participation from backers such as Saison Capital, Alumni Ventures and Tiny VC.
By the time Elius left Pathao, it had become one of the most dominant consumer technology companies in Bangladesh and Nepal, offering food delivery, payments and BNPL, in addition to ride-sharing, and acquiring investment from supporters like Gojek. During the COVID pandemic, Elius started exploring crypto. But he knows how difficult it is to employ people who, unlike him, have no background in technology.
“I” am a tech savvy person. If it takes me seven to 10 days to learn things like MetaMask, gas payments, private keys, public keys and mnemonics, that’s from me coming from a consumer technology background and going into crypto. , I realized that crypto is still for nerds,” he said. said.
Elius decided to create an app accessible to people with little experience in blockchain and crypto. For one thing, users don’t have to deal with gas charges. And they also keep their money in stablecoins, because bitcoin is very volatile. Instead of using private or public keys, users can sign up for Wind.app using their emails or phone numbers.
Wind.app started by targeting freelancers and remote workers for payment, especially in Southeast Asia. It lives in the Philippines, India and Bangladesh, and plans to enter more countries. Many of its first customers were other Web3 startups. “It’s easy to deliver our value proposition to other Web3 companies because they get it from day one,” says Elius. Wind.app allows them to use it instead of a high-fee exchange to pay their remote workers.
Elius says Wind.app is different from Wise or Payoneer because it uses blockchain for settlement and is able to charge lower fees. Another benefit is the ease of opening an account as the self-custodial Wind.app wallet does not require advanced KYC.
“Eventually, we want to go down the ladder and target the underbanked segment, who don’t have much KYC information anyway, to give them a very easy way to start receiving money,” said Elius.
While Wind.app has users all over the world, it started in Southeast Asia—specifically the Philippines—because the USD remittance market is huge there. Elius says the country is also very crypto savvy, and many people are familiar with crypto.
“I’ve been in the Philippines a few times and even some of the tuk-tuk drivers have their own crypto,” he said. “They have some bitcoin. So it’s both a remittance market and a big crypto market, which makes it a good first market to start with.
One feature that may make Wind.app attractive to consumers is that it has built its own offramp and onramp for fiat and crypto coins.
“The reason we did that was because we initially tried to use different partners and found it quite expensive,” Elius said. “Anything else on ramps and off ramps pay between 2% to 3%, which is a lot especially if it’s a dividend. So we do it ourselves and we get the cost down to 30 pips or more. And now we’re starting to offer that to other businesses, and other money-moving businesses.
Some companies in the same space as Wind.app include Binance and Coinbase, but Elius said he doesn’t see them as competitors because people use them mostly for trading. However, more direct competitors include Payoneer and Transferwise. “We came in and said hey, you know we’re different because our whole tech stack is different, we have a different regulatory advantage,” Elius said.
Wind.apps’ new funding will be used for technology development, and obtaining licenses and compliance as it builds it and ramps up. Part of this applies to the startup’s customer acquisition strategy, including directly approaching businesses and individual users, too.