Take a step into the future and you’ll see that virtually everything is, well, virtual. Technology is making once tedious tasks easier and faster. Billon is solving problems related to monetary transactions. If you’ve ever tried to transfer money, you used some type of intermediary, but Billon eliminates that. Billon gives you the opportunity to exchange funds and transfer them directly to another person — like handing them cash. Mateusz Stawarz, business development director of Billon, discusses the technology and the corresponding benefits that Ohio and companies in Ohio enjoy from a fintech perspective.
|Mateusz Stawarz, Business Development Director|
|Blockchain-based payments platform|
What does Billon do?
Stawarz: Billon has basically built a new payment roll system based on distributive payment technology.
What is Billon’s story? How did Billon come to be? What sparked the idea?
Stawarz: I’m an early investor and an early joiner, not an actual founder. The guy who found the company, Andrzej Horoszczak, is a guy who has a lot of experiences. He was a programmer, at first. Then he set up a publishing business in Poland. As he opened his publishing business, he found out that he wanted to find new ways to monetize his content. He was basically selling medical journals, but he found out that people didn’t want to pay the subscription fees. As a result, he looked for ways to monetize individual obstacles.
He found that the current payment methods, such as fixed fees, which were way too high, were not really appropriate. So, he started exploring online payment methods. Things like bitcoin. With his programming background, we dug into it and found that the back-channeling bitcoin isn’t really fit for payments because it’s not scalable. There’s a lot of underlying economic costs for these transactions. He decided to just build something, a blockchain, from scratch. And that’s where it kind of lays the focus on micropayments.
We also focus on real currencies because Andrzej discovered that there is a lot of excitement around bitcoin, but the everyday person isn’t that interested in bitcoin and isn’t ready for it to be the main method of transaction.
Why is Billon important?
Stawarz: To me, the most exciting aspect is that we can move money and information at truly zero cost. We open a whole new world of possibility for content creators. For those selling content online, maybe like a video streamer, and who want to be able to accept a 5 cent donation or sell content for 5 cents – we make that possible.
Right now, it’s pretty much impossible to do that. We can open all these opportunities and democratize payments for new business models. One of the best used cases is financial inclusion as well because there is no need to set up a new account. Instead, users can access an existing billing account, which is pretty much free to operate and requires a much lower level of KYC (know your customer). This is a big opportunity to bring content creators into the digital economy in other ways not limited by the traditional banking infrastructure.
What are Billon’s goals as a company?
Stawarz: We’d love to be global. The reason we are a part of Fintech71 is that we want to expand our network in the United States and establish permanent operations here. Following the United States, the next step is to go to markets like India, Africa, Asia and especially China. But really, our goal is not about our brand. It is really that we want to be an innovator in the next generation of solutions.
What are the biggest fintech trends? Which of these fintech trends is most likely to impact Billon?
Stawarz: There are a lot. The one that I am seeing most is regtech. We are hearing that about 80 percent of banks that are investing in innovation are budgeting for regtech and regulatory innovation. That’s mainly because there are new tools coming in.
However, I think that one of our strengths is that we’re not in a regulatory gray area. For example, we have our Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) money license, so we can actually work with banks. Because regulations are changing so fast, banks overseas are very skeptical about working with anything related to cryptocurrencies because it is outside of the regulatory framework.
How did Billon hear about Fintech71?
Stawarz: Through a colleague. It may have been through JobsOhio. I believe Valentina was attending a lot of conferences like Money20/20. I think he met Valentina in Las Vegas during Money 20/20 in 2016, and then I met Valentina and more some other representatives from Fintech71 at Copenhagen’s Money 20/20 in 2017. They told us about the program. They seem to be interesting, smart and fun, so we applied and thankfully got in.
What appealed to Billon about Fintech71? Why did Billon apply to Fintech71?
Stawarz: The change to get to America and explore a new city. Initially, I’m not going to lie, I was quite skeptical about Columbus because I hadn’t really heard of it. I had heard about Cincinnati and Cleveland, but not Columbus. I wondered where this place is and if it is in the middle of nowhere.
Now that I’m here and have done the research, it is quite incredible how connected Ohio is to Fortune 500 companies that have set up headquarters here. The cost of living is good and the infrastructure is great. From here, we can access locations such as Chicago, New York City and Washington D.C. easily. The more I looked into it, the more I began to get excited.
What is Billon hoping to get out of Fintech71?
Stawarz: I’m learning a lot from meeting mentors and hearing their advice. They have extensive knowledge and experienced careers. Getting that perspective on their companies, even life in general and goals is fascinating.
There are intense rounds of back-to-back meetings involved with Fintech71, but what Fintech71 really offers is that, within 10 weeks, we can go from having zero connections in the U.S. to having a huge base of mentors and people to help us progress our business. It’s a fantastic base to grow from.
Have you been to Ohio before?
Stawarz: No. I’ve flown over it, but a lot of people have.
What was your perception of Ohio before Fintech71? What do you like about Ohio thus far?
Stawarz: Initially, I didn’t know much about Ohio, but then I became interested after doing some research. I’ve heard a lot of interesting stories about objects that people rely on every day that started in Ohio. It’s also the state with the most presidents. Ohio is like this benchmark of American history because it has the industrialized cities but it has a rural aspect, as well. It is one of the key swing states.
How does Ohio have a fintech advantage?
Stawarz: I think it’s a mix of a lot of things. There are already a lot of big company headquarters here, especially financial service companies. There are also plenty of fast-moving consumer goods companies that are key clients. Then there’s The Ohio State University. In fact, there are a lot of universities and a lot of talent locations around here.
Columbus is vibrant – there are things to do. I was worried that Ohio would be quiet and feel small, but that was not true at all. The whole ecosystem is there to be able to build a company, hire talent and retain talent. And then, it has connections. We are going to have clients in Chicago and New York, and Columbus is right in the middle of that. I also like the fact people seem friendly here. Every day when I’ve walked to work, I’ve had a conversation with someone randomly. Honestly, it is easier to get experience that here than in London.
Initially, trying to sell Fintech71 internally received some skepticism. We asked, “Is it too soon to go to the United States? Is Columbus the right place?” But I think the more people have seen of it — the city, the people, and the mentors — it is clear to me that this is going to be extremely valuable. I’m pretty sure and I’m very hopeful that we are going to end up staying here with at least some kind of permanent team.
And that’s something we’re extremely excited about. We are grateful to everyone who set this program up. It’s incredible that this is the first accelerator Fintech71 ever done. I know in a lot of accelerators that there’s a lot of wasted time and filler activities. But, Fintech71 is a good mixture of relevant workshops and fast-paced mentor sessions. It’s not about just filling the day with stuff, it’s making sure it is valuable information.
I think they’ve already done their research and learned the lesson of other programs, and it’s been a big success so far.
Interested in learning more about fintech, Fintech71 and financial services in Ohio? We invite you to visit our financial services page.