By Alastair Johnson, Founder & CEO of Nuggets
The role of fintech in our day-to-day lives is becoming more and more pronounced as time goes on. The combination of the financial realm with that of emerging technology is an exciting and ever-changing concept that has greatly benefited consumers around the globe. With legislative acts like the PSD2 in Europe or the UPI in India, banks that have traditionally dominated the payments arena (often in a somewhat technophobic manner) no longer monopolise the space. The law now requires incumbent institutions to open up their backends through APIs, allowing for a myriad of interesting applications to be built on established systems, by more adventurous startups in tech. Below are a list of some of the most promising payment services that have arisen in recent history.
Y Combinator-backed Kudi has to be one of my favourites, purely down to the ease with which it functions – think of it as a Facebook/Skype/Telegram chatbot for making and receiving payments, whether to friends or utilities companies. It is, for the moment, exclusively operational in Nigeria, which suffers from lack of wide access to the internet. However, it is covered by Facebook’s Free Basics, so costs no data to use. Kudi serves as a stark reminder that the exodus towards a cashless society does not require huge amounts of pre-existing technological infrastructure. Its team aim to roll it out to other African nations in the near future.
I should put in a disclaimer – I’m the Founder and CEO of Nuggets.
Nuggets differs slightly from the previous entry, in that it relies on blockchain technology to build a more secure platform for payments and identity verification. The blockchain offering, combined with both biometric security and zero-knowledge storage, ensures that users’ information is kept safe from prying eyes – even when interacting with merchants and services. Nuggets aims to combat the systemic issues associated with entrusting third party custodians with personal data, by having users remain self-sovereign over their own information.
The increasing trend in data breaches, and the loss of trust on the part of customers, menaces the long-term viability of the e-commerce domain (which has been growing exponentially). There’s a pressing need for systems that can function trustlessly, and we finally have the technology available to make it happen.
Steemit has carved out a fascinating niche for itself, combining blockchain micropayments with blogging. Billing itself as ‘a new kind of attention economy’, the platform allows users to post content. Other users can upvote these, and trending posts receive a portion of the ‘reward pool’ that is released with every block. It’s a very interesting example of how a points system (as one might see on a site like Reddit) can be tokenised and subsequently monetised by users, fostering participation both on the platform (by creating, commenting on and curating content) and beyond (the STEEM token can be used in payments to merchants or to friends and family). Unlike many other blockchains, a payment in STEEM can be executed in a matter of seconds.
The Brave browser was recently released by the same team responsible for creating BAT – the basic attention token. In the same vein as Steemit, it is rooted in the attention economy, although with more of a focus on digital advertising. The team, which includes the co-founder of Mozilla/Firefox, have a vision a token economy whereby individuals are rewarded for their interactions with ads. It’s another example of how blockchain technology enables the eradication of middlemen, and allows key stakeholders to participate directly with one another. The Brave browser operates on BAT to allow advertisers to purchase services, and for individuals to monetise their attention.
Lala’s progress is impressive. It goes above and beyond a payment service, and actually allows users to not only pay bills and connect their debit/credit cards to the app (already usable with millions of point-of-sale devices), but to issue and receive loans at both a domestic and international level, with support for both fiat and cryptocurrencies. Much like Nuggets, Lala aims to usher in a new era of decentralised finance, aiming particularly at banking the unbanked and ensuring the inclusion of the undocumented.
There are innumerable other platforms in the booming fintech field that haven’t been listed, and many more that are actively being developed and tested. It’s certainly an exciting area to keep an eye on, and is one that will undoubtedly continue to evolve at a rapid pace towards the ultimate goal of fast, streamlined and cashless payments.
Nuggets is an e-commerce payments and ID platform. It stores your personal and payment data securely in the blockchain, so you never have to share it with anyone – not even Nuggets.