Newtown Partners, the venture capital firm founded by Llew Claasen and Vinny Lingham, has invested in blockchain start-up Wala to solve financial exclusion affecting 3.5 billion people.
Wala is a South African blockchain-powered financial services platform for the unbanked and underbanked that provides access to transactional banking, remittances, loans and insurance.
The start-up said in its blog that the new equity investment in Wala will enable it to deliver on the promise of zero-fee financial services.
Banks have failed to provide basic financial services, opening the door for Mobile Network Operators to provide a much more accessible solution called Mobile Money. But Mobile Money has proven too expensive and border-constrained to engage consumers en masse. As a result, cash still rules in emerging markets and it does so to the detriment of its users.
The Wala Financial Platform was spawned from an online community of over 1 million emerging market consumers who became members to improve their financial well-being and obtain free financial services. This community grew through an incentives and rewards program designed to improve financial behaviour. Now, on the path to financial prosperity, the users are ready for the free financial services to be offered through the Wala Financial Platform.
Wala is the world’s first borderless, rewards-driven, zero-fee financial platform built on the Ethereum blockchain & powered by the Dala utility token
“We are thrilled to be working with Newtown Partners,” Wala founder and CEO Tricia Martinez, said in the company’s blog.
“The depth and breadth of their expertise as both entrepreneurs and investors in technology, combined with their commitment to creating globally successful startups will be key to the future success of Wala. We are excited about taking the next steps in our journey with Llew & Vinny.”
Vinny Lingham is best known as the Founder of mobile gift card company Gyft, sold to First Data in 2015 and more recently, Civic, a Silicon Valley-based startup that completed a $33m token sale for a digital identity management platform in July 2017.
Newtown Partners previously assisted their portfolio company Augmentors, operating in the augmented reality space, to complete a very successful $1m token sale in February 2017, at the time the largest gaming token sale in the world.
As part of that journey, Wala will be the launch partner for a new financial services utility token, Dala, which will be sold and issued in a crowdfunding token sale this October.
Dala will support the operationalization and further development of scalable, blockchain-enabled financial platforms for developing markets around a common unit of account and microeconomic incentive structure to create strong network effects.
The Dala token sale will look to crowdfund $30 million over a 4 week period and issue participants with their share of 300 million Dala utility tokens. The Dala token sale will also use the Civic app to provide identity verification services to backers.
The Dala token is a general-purpose utility crypto-token created to enable free banking and remittances for emerging market consumers. The token is fractionally divisible and, by design, is more isolated from the volatility of local currencies and global cryptocurrencies. Consumers will be able to engage in the Dala ecosystem by making transfers using their own token wallets, via the Wala Financial Platform, or through other partner applications that make use of the Dala API.
The roll out of the Wala platform is initially planned for emerging markets in Africa, following the footprint of local banking services partners, before expanding globally.
“Wala’s blockchain-enabled platform will enable greater access to zero fee financial services to billions of consumers in emerging markets and enable everyone to become economically active, no matter where in the world they are. These are the kinds of big problems being addressed by bold innovations that we like to back” Claasen, managing partner of Newtown Partners, said in a statement.
Wala originated through Martinez’s work directing unconditional cash transfers to subsistence farmers in Uganda. While on the ground, Tricia observed that even though the mobile money technology and offerings were being utilized, the farmers were not securely storing their money. Most individuals were withdrawing all of their funds and storing the amounts in a local village cash box.
The limited access to affordable financial products and services proved to be the primary problem that stifled the potential growth for these consumers. No banks can reach these regions and mobile money is too expensive to justify sustained use.