Jia: The Decentralized Bank for Emerging Markets

Name of Project

jia

Proposal overview

jia is the decentralized bank for businesses for emerging markets.

We are solving a $5 trillion global crisis – that’s the size of the credit gap for microentrepreneurs and small businesses in emerging markets. These small businesses represent two-thirds of global employment – what better way to connect crypto innovation with real world impact?

We have dedicated our careers to this problem. We are a team that has worked in the first wave of traditional microfinance and the recent wave of fintech lending across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Even with these waves of innovation, we have seen firsthand how small businesses in emerging markets are still excluded from the financial system or charged exorbitantly high interest rates, slow and frustrating processes, and cold customer service, which lead to low trust and loyalty in local banks. We know what it takes to tackle this problem and we won’t rest until we solve it.

We are using Web3 to solve this global problem in a revolutionary way. We are building a decentralized bank for financially underserved MSMEs in emerging markets. Leveraging Web3 innovation, jia will:

  • Align interests across the community incentivized by a token economy for decentralized ownership & governance
  • Provide a user experience investors & small businesses will love along with world-class customer support to build long-term brand loyalty
  • Provide a more efficient origination process with a decentralized underwriting framework, issuing token incentives & punishments to underwriters for their credit decisions
  • Create liquidity & provide transparency across off-chain operations through the tokenization of real-world collateral
  • Provide a support network onboarding MSMEs to digital economy and start building their Web3 footprints

jia is a bank of, for, & owned by MSMEs.

We know how to scale fintech businesses in emerging markets – we took our previous company from 10K to 10M users across 3 continents in just a few years.

  • We will acquire our first businesses the way we know best – through partnerships on the ground, strong referral incentives, and a product customers love so can’t help but spread with word of mouth. We have started by leveraging our business development contacts to build a pipeline of 10 partners in reaching 100K+ small businesses in Kenya. Unfortunately for emerging markets economies, demand for our product is not a concern.
  • We will attract investors with strong APY on liquidity and the opportunity to be a part of bridging Web3’s massive digital divide. We have begun by working with DAO treasuries to diversify their investments – while there are many interesting applications of crypto and DeFi, sadly very few of them have reached the developing countries that need those investments the most.

This problem can’t wait. We’re starting NOW.

Here’s our roadmap for the next 12 months:

  • Q2 2022: Onboard team & secure market partners
  • Q3 2022: Establish local operations: entity, license, customer support and operations
  • Q4 2022: Build UI/UX, smart contracts & complete integration with payment rails; complete testing & auditing
  • Q4 2022: Launch lending pilot in Kenya
  • Q1 2023: Launch lending pilot in the Philippines

Proposal ask (Updated 3/9/22)

We are grateful for Harmony’s $445k investment! This is part of our

USD $4M Pre-Seed Round

  • Grow our team of passionate changemakers

  • Expand our community to Kenya and the Philippines

  • Make a radical social impact across the world

Metrics for success

2022

  1. Launch: jia lending product is live in Kenya

  2. Reach: 2,500+ small businesses have joined protocol & applied for credit via jia

  3. TVL: USD $10M+ liquidity raised from Web3 investors for lending

2023

  1. Launch: lending live in 3+ new markets (Philippines, India, Mexico)

  2. Value: deposits product live in 1+ market

  3. Reach: 50,000+ small businesses have joined protocol & applied for credit via jia

  4. TVL: USD $200M+ liquidity raised from Web3 investors for lending

External links

Deck

1 Like

Hello, thank you for sending this proposal! I looked at your post/deck in detail and had a few questions, if I may:

1.- “we took our previous company from 10K to 10M users across 3 continents in just a few years.” Can you tell us a little more about this?

2.- What is your strategy in Kenya to reach out to the small businesses?

3.- Crypto regulations are complicated in Kenya, how do you expect the crypto/FIAT offramping to happen?

4.- Where can we find more info on the team’s experience?

Thank you!

4 Likes

Hi @ep2338,

Thank you for your thoughtful questions. We address each of them here.

1.- “we took our previous company from 10K to 10M users across 3 continents in just a few years.” Can you tell us a little more about this?

We were a part of the early team at Tala, a pioneer of the fintech lending industry. We launched the world’s first mobile microcredit app – creating an entirely new business model for the fintech and lending industries that paved the way for hundreds of copycat apps and banking products. Tala leverages mobile data to provide unsecured loans to borrowers in emerging markets via a mobile application.

  • Cheng joined Tala in 2015; Zach in 2016. At that time, Tala’s microlending product was only live in Kenya and had just ~10K customers. At the time it was called Mkopo Rahisi – Swahili for “Easy Loan”.
  • Over the next six years, we led cross-functional efforts to expand Tala’s products to new countries across emerging markets - Philippines, Tanzania, Mexico and India. We were intimately involved in leading every single step of the expansion process – from market scoping, acquiring a lending license, establishing local offices, conducting user research, localizing the mobile app, executing rails integrations with local partners, building economics models, through publishing the app in Google PlayStore.
  • We developed go-to-market strategies for each country we launched and served as general managers of the new markets with P&L responsibility until the product fully stabilized (measured by 300k borrowers & targeted % repayment rate).
  • We coordinated digital marketing efforts to reach customers and scale while minimizing customer acquisition costs. We participated in PR & comms efforts as well as offline marketing activities to build the brand in each market in a way that resonated to the local nuances of each market and customer segment. Finally, we executed strategic partnerships with in-market players to reach customers through large networks with tailored products.

Tala now has well over 10M users and has disbursed over $2.7B in loans. We anticipate a similar growth trajectory for jia.

2.- What is your strategy in Kenya to reach out to the small businesses?

We will reach small businesses the way we know best from our time leading business development and strategic partnerships at Tala – through partnerships on the ground, strong referral incentives, and a product customers love so can’t help but spread with word of mouth.

We have already started by leveraging our business development contacts to build an initial pipeline of 10 partners in Kenya, who count in their networks some 100K+ small businesses in Kenya. Unfortunately for emerging markets economies, demand for our product is not a concern.

To provide examples of these partners:

  • A large ecommerce platform with 80K merchants who have a need for inventory financing to keep up with demand

  • A network of 10K informal retailers who have a need for working capital to provide FMCG products in their communities

  • A rideshare app with 12K drivers who have a need for vehicle financing and cash advances to pay for fuel and maintenance.

3.- Crypto regulations are complicated in Kenya, how do you expect the crypto/FIAT offramping to happen?

3a. Regulation

We chose Kenya starting from the customer’s perspective. As of today, Kenya has the fourth highest crypto adoption in the world and highest in Africa measured by percentage of its population holding cryptocurrency (8.52%). We know there is strong crypto demand there.

Uncertainty around crypto regulation is a problem faced by the entire industry in every market. Fortunately the Kenyan regulatory environment remains relatively friendly. Although there were mixed messages last year, the Central Bank of Kenya’s latest public view was to remain “patient” rather than starting to regulate or ban the crypto market. Our sources close with Kenyan regulators tell us that indeed Kenya is as good a place as any to begin in Africa. This is consistent with our understanding of the market from our past experience – the country’s politicians have a record of being open-minded and supporting initiatives that drive financial inclusion in the long run.

At Tala, we developed close ties with regulators and industry experts. We were a part of the effort to create the Digital Lenders Association of Kenya, the industry body that interfaces with the Central Bank and other Kenyan regulators. In preparing to launch an account product in Kenya, we spent considerable time working for regulatory approval for a nontraditional financial product. From this, we have a strong sense of how the local regulators work and have further confidence we are the team to do this as compared to other Web3 enthusiasts who may not have as much experience in Kenya.

3b. Crypto/Fiat Offramping

As far as crypto/fiat offramping, we are committed to providing the most seamless user experience that enables them to put capital to use for their business as easily as possible. At the same time, we have a bold vision to onboard these small businesses into the Web3 economy and will provide education as to other options for what they might do with their crypto assets.

We will be integrating with various on/off ramp providers to enable this optionality to choose where to send their capital once they received it in the form of stable coin – e.g. bank account, MPesa (local mobile money wallet), or hold their crypto for other uses.There are a number of local and regional offramp providers we are considering, including KotaniPay, MoonPay and Coindirect. We are in the process of evaluating their APIs, tech stack, functionality, support, and customer reviews. We are open to feedback and recommendations from the Harmony community on these providers or others you might recommend for offramping in Kenya.

4.- I have not had the pleasure to meeting you personally… and the slides don’t say much about the team. Where can we find more info on the team’s experience?

What a bummer we missed you in ETH Denver. Would have been great to chat in person there. We can’t recreate the Deadmau5 concert for you, but we would love to do a Zoom sesh any time or buy you a coffee or chai if you find yourself in LA, NYC, Nairobi, Bangalore or Manila! :earth_asia::earth_africa::earth_americas:

We’re a fun group from different walks of life. Fintech fiends, foodies and musicians, lovers of languages from around the world. We’ve worked across 50+ countries on every continent — except Antarctica…still looking for our penguin! :penguin:

2 Likes

Per Harmony X (Boris and Matty) we both approve a $445k investment.

@lij

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Per Harmony X, Boris and Matty both approve a $445K investment @lij

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looking forward to all of the positive impact this project will have on the world.

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Exciting news for such exciting project. I’ve seen Tala here in the Philippines used by several people, and several of patients that avail loans for medical use as well as business growth. Excited for the team and for Harmony as your chosen platform.

3 Likes

@lij @Mattyontap @Boris_Polania @Jacksteroo This news is Harmony to our ears! :notes:

We are excited to work with you to match crypto innovation with incredible real-world impact! :heart::earth_americas::earth_africa::earth_asia::rocket:

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@drja_one Salamat po! Let’s connect on how we can work together in the Philippines. :philippines:

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Lovely! Sure just message me anytime here and/or in twitter (@drja_juan), also left a message in your inbox here. Anyways, hoping to see the successful progress for the project. :pray:t2:

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Congrats on the grant btw! :raised_hands:t3:

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Hi Team,

For anyone just tuning in, wanted to share an updated deck. Our overall raise is for $4m, not $1.5m. :earth_africa:

Excited to keep building something great with this community! :rocket:

:pushpin: Deck Link

Hi Harmony Family :wave: :blue_heart:

The Jia team is excited to share our April milestones:

  • Fundraising :money_with_wings:
    • Our goal is to close our funding round by end of month. We are in the final stages of diligence with several firms and determining round allocation.
  • Product UI/UX :iphone:
    • Our product & design gurus are iterating the mobile app UI/UX based on initial feedback from local partners and fintech experts. We are preparing for usability testing sessions with prospective users in Kenya in May.
    • We have scheduled four rounds of usability tests (each round with 20 users) to inform the final design of UI/UX flow. Within these usability testing sessions, we will sit next to prospective users, observe how they interact with our app, ask them how they understand each page and button, then iterate on the UI/UX through many rounds until first-time users can fully navigate the app easily on their own and complete the loan journey.
  • Team & Operations :family_man_woman_girl_boy:
    • We are kicking off the legal process to set up local entities, and begin applying for necessary licenses for both Kenya and the Philippines. For this, we are currently diligencing several local law firms.
    • We are in the process of hiring a smart contract engineer, a credit/risk lead, and a data lead. We are interviewing an impressive group of candidates for each role.
  • Ecosystem Design :globe_with_meridians:
    • We have completed our pro forma financial model mapping out the lending economics.
    • We are aiming to release our lite paper in May.

See ya,

  • jia! :rocket:
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:rotating_light: Top 3 Top 3 Top 3 Milestone Progress for @mattyontap & Harmony Fam :rotating_light:

:one: Currently oversubscribed for $4m pre-seed round: there are a lot of investors out there excited to expand access to the ownership economy and push crypto into the realm of real-world value creation! :money_with_wings:

:two: Expanded team to include data scientists and credit risk analysts! :woman_technologist:t2::man_technologist:t5:

:three: Secured go-to-market partners in the Philippines to serve sari sari stores! :convenience_store::philippines:

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Pretty exciting. Have you thought about connecting with Brankas? It’s like Plaid, but for Southeast Asia. They have a big presence in the Philippines.

Yes indeed, great suggestion @GeorgeofEmmaInterest!

We have been in touch with Brankas. Great minds think alike :brain: :brain:

Very cool! I’m trying to make a dApp that will connect with their dashboard by onboarding the unbanked into Forex trading though cute characters and visualising seeing it through a game. Looking for pre-seed investment if you happen to know anyone. We have a MVP available on Harmony testnet as well.