AirTM, a fintech start-up aiming to bring US dollar-denominated financial services to the developing world, has surpassed its funding goal of USD1 million with lead FinTech investor BnkToTheFuture.
AirTM plans to use this funding to further develop its platform and bring its services to more people who need to preserve their savings in the midst of devaluing currencies. It took just two weeks to reach its funding goal.
AirTM Founders Ruben Galindo Steckel and Antonio Garcia Aerenlund, both from Mexico City, started AirTM in 2015 with a clear mission – to help people in the developing world preserve their savings from devaluing currencies and free their money trapped in money networks disconnected from the global financial system. They had both seen first-hand the effects of the devaluation of the Mexican Peso.
For the world’s unbanked, holding dollars in cash is dangerous. AirTM is a US dollar-denominated e-wallet that enables any consumer or business in the developing world to save, spend, pay or get paid in USD without having to resort to risky, dangerous, and inconvenient street dollars. It is estimated that the total amount of street dollars circulating in the developing world is between USD250 and USD400 billion.
Ruben Steckel, co-founder AirTM, says: “The peso has dropped by a third since September 2014 against the dollar. This has severely impacted the Mexican middle classes, who are not allowed to hold USD bank balances and holding cash is very risky in a country where the incidence of violent crime is high. I saw there needed to be another way, AirTM is our solution.”
In Venezuela, where the local currency has devalued by over 98% in two years, the services provided by AirTM have proved a lifeline to its users, allowing them buy to dollars to escape the hyperinflation.
Arturo Stucco, an AirTM client from Venezuela, says: “I live in a country where I have to wait on a box of food to feed my family, where I can’t go out without feeling unsafe, where everyday people die because of lack of medicine. By using AirTM, I have been able to buy dollars in a reliable way and save up enough money to relieve my family from the constant state of despair in which we lived in.”
Fernanda Barreto, another AirTM client from Venezuela, uses the platform to circumvent currency restrictions. She says: “I work from home as a freelancer, which brings great advantages but also many challenges. Exchanging the money I have earned into local currency had become nearly impossible. Thanks to AirTM, I can exchange my earned money into local currency in a way that is safe.”
AirTM already has over 100,000 users and has processed 200,000 transactions in over 90 countries. It is currently growing by 25 per cent per month in revenue. It uses cashiers on the ground to deliver the service and these cashiers act as advocates for the technology helping to grow the service through word of mouth.
AirTM wishes to use the money it has raised in equity funding to grow its P2P network and expand to address more use cases of wealth preservation and freeing trapped money. It will create its own cryptocurrency for the developing world, AIR, which it will use to incentivise and reward its users. AIR will be distributed in a token sale, otherwise known as an initial coin offering, in early 2018.
Ruben Steckel concludes: “Most people in Venezuela have never heard of Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies, they have more basic requirements of figuring out where their next meal will come from. However, as a method to enable frictionless payment transfers on which to base our platform upon, there is no better solution. With our AIR token, we can build applications on top of an ecosystem that will benefit millions. We are excited that we have completed the first step towards our bigger goal of an initial coin offering in early 2018.”