Fintech Forces Mounting in the Philippines

Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) is focused on financial inclusion, and was founded in March 2014 by entrepreneurs John Bailon, Miguel Cuneta, Nick Galan, and Jardine Gerodias. The holding company is headquartered in Manila, Philippines. The Founders, “discovered true Bitcoin believers in a country where skepticism reigned due to the immaturity of the Bitcoin space.” explained Sabina Lopez-Vergara, Director of Operations for Satoshi Citadel Industries.

Remittances from Filipino expatriates contribute to 8.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Philippines. It seems that this part of the world is ripe for fintech companies with frictionless transactions.

- Sabina Lopez-Vergara, Director of Marketing for Satoshi Citadel Industries

A perfect example of this disparity, according to Lopez-Vergara, is that despite a booming informal e-commerce industry the bulk of payments still happen manually, with cash-on-delivery and bank deposits. “It’s not surprising that many startup companies are looking at this gap and innovating solutions around it,” Lopez-Vergara explains.

With only 10% of its population banked, Lopez-Vergara states that Filipinos could benefit from technology that provides easy banking solutions. “By eliminating cumbersome steps in getting access to financial products and services, we hope to reach a point where an average Filipino is empowered to manage his money with a few taps on his phone,” said Lopez-Vergara

SCI provides a range of financial tools, focusing on ease of use:

  • Rebit.ph - The popular remittance tool utilizing bitcoin to send money quickly and freely.
  • BuyBitcoin.ph - Recently acquired by SCI, gives the Philippines an easy and localized option to buy and sell bitcoin in the Philippines.
  • Bitmarket.ph - Provides merchants with the ability to sell their products using digital payments.
  • Prepaidbitcoin.ph - Provides prepaid Bitcoin cards, which indicate the value of cash to be exchanged in real-time.
  • Bitbit - The e-wallet solution which allows the user to send, receive and share money with friends and family with only a few taps. This service is yet to be released, but once available it will have both a web and a mobile app.

SCI finds themselves in a challenging position. Their target market may not have a bank account, let alone understand the benefits of Bitcoin. “It is one thing to convince a person to switch service providers and it is an even more challenging task to introduce a new technology altogether,” explains said Lopez-Vergara.

- Lopez-Vergara

SCI focuses on the convenience of their products. “Using bitcoin is still far from effortless so most of our energies are really spent with hands on guidance for anyone willing to learn.  This requires a lot of patience and we believe that by consistently providing the support, SCI will become top of mind when they think of Bitcoin in the Philippines,” Lopez-Vergara advises.

SCI seem to be getting attention from the right people. Joe Maristela made his interest known by investing US$100,000 into SCI’s ongoing seed round. The SCI team met Maristela in early 2015, “He was really excited by what we’ve built, as well as the plans we had for the future,” Lopez-Vergara explains. “We went through several meetings after that but it was a great fit from the very beginning. We’re very excited to have him on board.”

In the future SCI want to see themselves not only as a force in the fintech industry, but a household name to average consumers.

- Lopez-Vergara