Two years ago, the publication Brave New Coin dubbed the Philippines an “ideal market for Bitcoin.” Rapid growth in smartphone adoption was one reason for the distinction, but its massive remittance market was the real opportunity. According to Focus Economics, it is worth upward of $26 billion.
In recent years, several cryptocurrency startups have sprung up in the Southeast Asian country, creating low-cost remittance services for overseas Filipino workers and building a young but growing blockchain ecosystem.
Here are four to keep an eye on.
Coins.ph offers a mobile-first platform that uses blockchain technology to allow users to pay bills, purchase mobile airtime top-ups and help overseas workers send remittances to family members back home. Justin Leow, head of business operations for Coins.ph, told me earlier this year that he embraced blockchain technologies after realizing “how they could be used to provide widespread financial access.”
“Cryptocurrencies work very well as railways for seamless fund transfers and being able to pay for services,” Leow said in the same interview.
To date, Coins.ph has attracted roughly half a million users and established a network of over 22,000 disbursement and collection locations throughout the Philippines, where the company is based.
Satoshi Citadel Industries
Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) bills itself as “building the Blockchain ecosystem” in the Philippines. The company operates several Bitcoin-based services, including a remittance service, a Bitcoin exchange and an app that allows users to invest bitcoin in international stocks.
SCI champions blockchain technologies as having “created a global, transparent and decentralized source of value and trust,” and SCI cofounder Miguel Cuneta expressed confidence that cryptocurrency will streamline financial services for millions of people simply by powering the back-end of vital financial services.
Like many blockchain-powered remittance services, Toast uses the technology to facilitate transfers but users needn’t even know the term “cryptocurrency” to use the service.
Its target consumers — overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Singapore and Hong Kong — don’t even need formal bank accounts to use the Toast platform, which allows them to send money home to their families for lower fees than traditional banks charge. Toast boasts that its fees are 86% lower than those associated with bank transfers. Users can complete transactions through the Toast app, and their remittances are sent within two minutes. The recipients can then pick up the cash payments at more than 7,000 locations throughout the country.
Recently selected for the Google Developers Launchpad accelerator, Bloom Solutions offers businesses an API that lowers their transaction costs and disbursement times across hundreds of remittance channels. The BloomRemit API allows for instant payments to both the Philippines and Vietnam. Bloom Solutions is also developing BloomNet, a domestic remittance network that will ease financial transactions for unbanked Filipinos.
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