Just last week, the Stellar Community Fund commenced its eleventh Round (with a fresh new site design too!), and we’re looking forward to an even more competitive applicant pool than ever. To learn what it takes to be an SCF winner, we decided to chat with LINK, a fintech that promises fast and cheap cross-border payments across Africa and a winner in SCF Round 10.
Wishing to solve the problem of fractured financial systems in Africa, LINK set out to establish the foundation of a digital cross-border payments infrastructure while offering streamlined B2B and P2P products.
Computer engineer Emmanuel Evarist and his team came up with the idea for LINK when he and his friends discovered how difficult it was to make and receive payments in Nigeria while attending university. On top of a difficult user experience, people were losing nearly half of their cash anytime they made cross-border payments from Nigeria to Europe or the U.S.
After sizing up the cross-border payments and remittance market in Africa (an impressive $7B), Emmanuel and his team decided to leverage their expertise to build a suite of products, bridge Africa’s Internet-of-value using blockchain, and, in Emmanuel’s words, “solve real problems for real people around cross-border payments.”
Emmanuel acknowledges that due to the impressive size of the market in Africa, there are many competitors already offering cross-border payment services. But what distinguishes LINK from others in the space is its emphasis on infrastructure. Since LINK’s audience is a global one, how to efficiently move funds without the sender/receiver losing value along the way – what Emmanuel describes as the “multiple exchange rate problem” – is of particular focus to the team.
However, when LINK attempted to solve the problem with traditional financial services and technology, maintaining such favorable rates for the users was unsustainable from a partner standpoint despite the high demand. Needing to pivot from the traditional financial infrastructure, LINK found its answer in Stellar.
By becoming an anchor on Stellar, issuing NGNC, and integrating SEP-6 (“Deposit and Withdrawal API”) and SEP-24 (“Hosted Deposit and Withdrawal”), LINK is able to provide its clients worldwide access to on/off ramps and digital assets through its NGNC dashboard. These clients can quickly send payments at an optimal exchange rate without requiring a deep knowledge of blockchain technology.
At present, LINK has two main products:
Currently, LINK has integrated four businesses with an MRR of ~$825k, with 33 more ready for integration and another 81 on the waitlist for its NGNC dashboard. As for the P2P platform, 262 users have been fully onboarded with more than a thousand on the waitlist for its full launch.
In just one year, LINK was able to bring its products to life on Stellar. After learning about Stellar, Emmanuel applied for LINK to participate in the SDF x DFS Lab Stellar Bootcamp. After the bootcamp, it was off to the races for LINK at SCF Round 10.
“The feedback and insights we were able to get from the Stellar Community Fund allowed us to push our products into production with a bit of confidence knowing that, yeah, here's what the market needs.”
– Emmanuel Evarist, CEO and Co-founder of LINK
Emmanuel encourages SCF applicants to “dig deep into the developer docs and to ask for help when they need it.” For Emmanuel, this was his first foray into blockchain. When he needed to understand the nuances of integration, the SCF community was able to pitch in with advice.
Aside from product feedback, SCF was also an invaluable opportunity for the LINK team to meet other businesses in the Stellar ecosystem. Due to winning SCF, LINK gained more credibility and momentum in identifying potential partners; this is particularly crucial since LINK is an anchor on the Stellar network and can access more markets by establishing more payment corridors with other anchors.
“Just start,” Emmanuel says, “and don't think you're too early to get into the program. Really figure out what you want to do and be passionate about it. Be concerned. Be concerned if it really solves real problems for real people.”
LINK’s clearly defined mission and solution allowed the team to create as concise an application as possible and communicate its vision to a diverse audience. Joining a community that freely shares its experiences with SCF also helped.
“The beauty of Stellar is that you're not building it alone. So reach out to people on Discord channels. There's a Stellar Discord channel with developers, with people that are builders. You'll probably get that help you need to really push forward.”
– Emmanuel Evarist, CEO and Co-founder of LINK
So what direction is LINK pushing towards? Pre-SCF, it was all about building products that LINK users would want. Now, it’s about scale. Over the next six months, the LINK team plans to hit several milestones, including: actively raising a pre-seed round, fully launching and scaling the P2P platform, and adding additional multi-chain support for NGNC.
While the LINK team will be heads down tackling these goals, Emmanuel also encourages other fintechs that are thinking of scaling to Africa or building on Stellar to reach out. He says, “We can see possible ways we could help, even helping them come onto the network so [these companies] don't have any kind of challenges or hurdles we faced when we came in.”
And for those interested in participating in the Stellar Community Fund, go for it! More details on Round 11 can be found here: https://communityfund.stellar.org/