AFRICA – Fonbnk, an American firm that leverages the widespread penetration of billions of prepaid mobile SIM cards to enable interoperability between the Web3 internet and traditional fiat-based monetary systems, has announced the closing of a US$3.5 million seed round.
The company allows anyone in Africa and other emerging markets that use prepaid mobile SIM cards to obtain cryptocurrency assets by exchanging their airtime credits.
The oversubscribed seed round was anchored by New York’s New Form Capital, with participation from leading global crypto investors including Kraken Ventures (the investment arm of the largest exchange by BTC euro volume in the world), North Island Ventures (affiliates of leading Asian exchange MEXC Global), and crypto-native cross-border investment firm Formless Capital.
American singer and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams (via Black Ambition) also participated, as well as a variety of leading early-stage investors including Hustle Fund, EchoVC, Lightspeed Ventures, Frontier Ventures, Techstars (Western Union), Industrious Ventures, Allied Venture Partners, Seed9, GP Ventures, and Pax Angeles.
In simple terms, Fonbnk is the crypto onramp with the least friction across Africa and other emerging markets. Users across the world can easily obtain digital currencies by swapping their prepaid airtime credit at the press of a button.
“Pre-paid airtime minutes are currency (for transfers, exchange of goods and services) across most of the under and unbanked populations globally,” said Akshi Federici, Operating Partner, Kraken Ventures.
“Fonbnk’s solution is a perfect use case – and directly in line with Kraken Ventures’ focus – to bridge Decentralized Finance with mass FinTech.”
In addition to acting as an onramp to the digital web3 economy, Fonbnk’s proprietary ecosystem also offers select individuals and enterprises the ability to earn additional income with their smartphones by acting as ‘market makers’ – individuals or companies that actively trade airtime in Fonbnk’s marketplace and ensure that Fonbnk users can easily transact.
“Fonbnk’s infrastructure makes it possible for everyday users to access, earn, transfer, pay, and save money easily, simply by using their existing smartphone,” said Christian Duffus, Fonbnk Founder & CEO.
“We’re on a mission to leverage the latest blockchain technologies to provide real value to billions of unbanked, underbanked, and underserved individuals across emerging markets.
“We believe that just as emerging economies leapfrogged fixed-line telecommunications straight into mobile phones, they’re likely to leapfrog traditional banking straight into decentralized financial services.”
Fonbnk works with hundreds of mobile carriers across the world and is currently available to users across eight African countries (Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana, Tanzania, and Mozambique), as well as those in India, the Philipines, Jamaica, and Ukraine.