Our new Disruption by Blockchain series aims to highlight companies that are leveraging the incredible potential of blockchain technology to disrupt and revolutionize their industry. Through one on one interviews, we'll speak directly with industry leaders to cut beyond the hype and get directly to the heart of practical use cases and examples of how it will change the world, one industry at a time.
The following is an interview we recently had with George Li, CEO of WeTrust.
1. What’s the history of WeTrust? How and where did you begin?
GL: WeTrust actually got its start back in October 2016, when I started kicking around ideas for a blockchain project with (future COO) Patrick Long over a few beers at my place in San Jose, CA.
I had previously heard of “chit funds”, a type of community savings and insurance mechanism heavily used in India, from a housemate and the concept of ROSCAs from former colleagues at Google. After doing a little digging, it seemed like an ideal use case that would benefit from the efficiency and scalability afforded by the blockchain. With a bit more research, Patrick and I realized that regularly-funded community savings mechanisms known as ROSCAs (short for Rotating Savings and Credit Associations) were being used all over the world- with a total market size in the hundreds of billions. We recruited our good friend Hoang, the third co-founder and technical lead, and started work on a prototype of what would eventually become our Trusted Lending Circles dApp- the first product to implement a ROSCA on the blockchain.
2. Who are the founders and key team members?
George Li, CEO
A Stanford GSB graduate (Rutgers undergrad- Go Scarlet Knights!) whose previous work experience has included stints at McKinsey and Google.
While at McKinsey, George lived over in Frankfurt, Germany for several months.
Patrick Long, COO
A UC Berkeley graduate who previously worked as a CPA with Ernst & Young.
His first job was actually coaching badminton.
Hoang Nguyen, VP of R&D
A UC Berkeley graduate who was able to join PayPal in a Senior Engineering role shortly after graduation.
In addition to our three founders, we have Justin Law, a veteran of over half a dozen software startups, serving as our VP of Engineering. Tom Dimopoulos (formerly employed in senior product roles at Google, GREE, and Brigade) serves as VP of Product, and Director of Growth Jake Kuczeruk is leveraging his extensive business development and startup background to help WeTrust scale (2x 500 Startups companies, West Agile Labs, MegaBots).
3. What problem are you solving? Who are you solving it for?
GL: Honestly, we’re solving the problem of people wanting to retain more of their own money- which is something that everyone can relate to (well, maybe not 90’s-era MC Hammer).
Our products aim to provide insurance and savings/loan mechanisms for the billions of unbanked and underbanked throughout the world. Digital currency promises to revolutionize the financial system for these individuals- but they need access to fair and efficient financial services to actually bring that promise to reality.
While helping the unbanked is our core mission, that’s not all we’re focused on. Our solutions are benefiting other companies and developers within the blockchain ecosystem as well as those who do have access to stable traditional financial tools. For example, a TLC is a great way for a group of friends to pool money for their annual camping trips or help fund a friend’s new startup idea.
4. What is your solution to this problem?
GL: Upleveling the blockchain ecosystem by making it safer and more welcoming to use right now for as many people as possible. We’re working on creating a platform mechanism that addresses the concerns and observations of a number of participating folks – and makes it easier to engage in transactions and contracts on blockchain. We’re confident that a platform solution is the strongest way to impact the blockchain ecosystem- much in the same vein as how PayPal facilitated easy online transactions during the early days of the internet.
We might not even be the ones creating them, as multiple teams and have expressed interest in building products for the WeTrust platform. By replicating all of the advantages traditional institutions offer us on the blockchain, we’re shifting control back to the people.
5. Why is your industry ripe for disruption?
GL: This is an easy one (just ask Bernie Sanders).
Globally, banks just aren’t the best option for many of us. For example, if you’re a “Director” level employee in certain parts of the world, you’d actually have a tougher time securing a loan than your own employees, since Directors tend to have a high propensity to default on their loans. It begs the question- why should you be penalized for whatever unfair biases your lending or insurance institutions may have?
Social savings and insurance groups, often funded with cash, are used by more than 2 billion adults, which comprises over 40% of the world’s adult population. The total market for ROSCAs alone is over $500 billion. However, these groups are often plagued by inefficient means of contribution, poor management, and dishonest behavior by bad actors. Leveraging the blockchain enables a simple, painless way around that.
6. What’s the future of your industry?
Prediction #1: Blockchain technology and digital currencies will find widespread application throughout the developing world, where financial services are often lacking. WeTrust is responsible for helping spearhead that charge.
Prediction #2: At least 10% of all social savings activity will occur on the blockchain by 2025.
Prediction #3: Using dApps to pool funds will enable new classes of insurance products to emerge and find widespread use. This one may actually happen sooner rather than later, so stay tuned.