Tomas Alvarez Melis and Hannah Kim co-founded Volabit (formerly Coincove) with the aim of creating Bitcoin-based financial services for the underbanked population in Latin America. Tomas, an engineer-turned-entrepreneur who previously founded two startups in Mexico–one of which involved designing and distributing low-cost solar panels to Mexico’s poorest–clearly understood the big impact that Bitcoin could have on financial inclusion. The two set out to create an easy-to-use and reliable service that would open up the world of Bitcoin to Latin America, starting with Mexico.
Since then Volabit has gone on to build Mexico’s Bitcoin infrastructure from the ground up, launching the country’s first exchange upon leaving the Boost VC accelerator in February. They have paved the way for Bitcoin access in Mexico and are now looking to build financial services on top of the Bitcoin protocol. One current initiative is a partnership with a global peer-to-peer lending platform that will give Mexican borrowers access to a competitive lending marketplace. With APRs ranging well beyond 100%, Mexican borrowers find it difficult to access loans. Another opportunity the team is exploring involves allowing Mexicans without banks and credit cards to use cash deposits at convenience stores to make payments for international services (such as travel sites and digital goods). With less than 8% of Mexicans using credit cards for online transactions due to lack of access and rampant fraud, the opportunity is ripe for an innovation in the online payments space.
The team has raised around $550,000 to date and is seeking to close a $1 mm seed round in the near future. Current investors include Tim Draper and Barry Silbert’s Bitcoin Opportunity Fund. They are quickly expanding their reach to other Latin American countries and are looking forward to the challenge, as there is no shortage of problems to tackle when it comes to the Latin American financial space.