Wind.app makes DeFi accessible to the average consumer

Wind.app makes DeFi accessible to the average consumer 1

Hussain Elius is best known as the co-founder of Pathao, one of Bangladesh’s top ride-sharing apps. For his latest startup, however, Elius is exploring the world of DeFi with Wind.app, a self-custodial, smart contract wallet with three main features. The first is enabling businesses to send payments to remote employees around the world. The second is allowing people to use Wind.app as a virtual bank account. And the third is is the on-ramp/off-ramp infrastructure that the company is building to enable users to change their crypto holdings for fiat or vice versa.

So far, Wind.app has facilitated 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 co-led by Global Founders Capital and Spartan Group, with participation from backers like Saison Capital, Alumni Ventures and Tiny VC.

By the time Elius left Pathao, it had become one of the most dominant consumer tech companies in Bangladesh and Nepal, offering food delivery, payments and BNPL, aside from ride-sharing, and gaining investment from backers like Gojek. During the COVID pandemic, Elius began exploring crypto. But he realized how hard it is to use for people who, unlike him, do not have a tech background.

“I”m a tech savvy person. If it takes me seven to 10 days to figure out things like MetaMask, gas fees, private keys, public keys and mnemonics, from me coming from a consumer tech background and going into crypto, I realized that crypto is still for nerds,” he said.

Elius decided to build an app accessible to people with minimal blockchain and crypto experience. For one thing, users don’t have to deal with gas fees. And they also store their money in stablecoins, since bitcoin is too volatile. Instead of using private or public keys, users can sign up for Wind.app with their emails or phone numbers.

Wind.app's team pictured against a blue background

Wind.app’s team

Wind.app is starting off by targeting freelancers and remote workers for payment, especially in Southeast Asia. It’s live in the Philippines, India and Bangladesh, and plans to enter more countries. Many of its early customers are other Web3 startups. “It’s easy to get our value proposition across to other Web3 companies because they get it from day one,” Elius said. Wind.app allows them to use it instead of an exchange with high fees to pay their remote workers.

Elius says Wind.app differentiates from Wise or Payoneer because it uses blockchain for settlement and is able to charge lower fees. Another benefit is being able to open an account quickly because Wind.app’s self-custodial wallet doesn’t require advanced KYC.

“Eventually, we want to go down the ladder and target the underbanked segment, who don’t have as much KYC information anyway, to give them a very easy way to start accepting money,” says Elius.

While Wind.app has users around the world, it started in Southeast Asia—specifically the Philippines—because there is a very large remittance market for USD there. Elius says the country is also very crypto savvy, and many people are familiar with crypto.

“I was in the Philippines a couple of times and even some of the tuk-tuk drivers own crypto,” he says. “They own some bitcoin. So it’s both a remittance market and a big crypto market, which makes it a good first market to start off with.”

One feature that may make Wind.app appealing to consumers it that it has built its own offramp and onramp for fiat and crypto coin.

“The reason we did that was because we initially tried to use different partners and saw it was pretty expensive,” Elius said. “Any other on ramps and off ramps charge between 2% to 3%, which is a lot especially if it’s a dividend. So we do our own and we got the cost down to less than 30 bips or so. And now we actually started to offer that to other businesses, and other businesses that are moving money.”

Some companies in the same space as Wind.app include Binance and Coinbase, but Elius says he doesn’t see them as competitors because people use them mostly for trading. Instead, more direct competitors include Payoneer and Transferwise. “We are coming in and saying that hey, you know we are different because our entire tech stack is different, our regulatory advantage is different,” Elius said.

In terms of user safety, Wind.app is a self-custodial wallet, which means the startup doesn’t have access or control of user funds, Elius says. Similarly to Coinbase Wallet, MetaMask or Trust Wallet, wallets are secured cryptographically in the blockchain and their private keys are stored directly in users’ phones. If Wind.app was to shut down, users would still have access to their wallets and can transfer funds to other wallets.

Wind.apps new funding will be used for tech development, and procuring licenses and compliance as it builds it off and onramps. Part of it will also be used on the startup’s customer acquisition strategy, including approaching businesses directly and individual users, too.