Startup Corner: Billon
Written by Chris Lemmon
FStech catches up with Andrzej Horoszczak, Billon’s founder and CEO, to discover more about this payments-focused blockchain startup.
What drew you specifically to blockchain technology and to setting up Billon?
When I worked as a programmer on Wall Street and later, as a CEO of medical journals, I came across many limitations of the current financial infrastructure. For instance, no financial services company could give me the right solution to help me monetise content online. As the idea of blockchain came to life, I realised that cryptology can overcome those limitations by altering completely the underlying cost structure of banking. I wanted a solution that was designed to integrate with existing systems and regulations. So I created a team which levered initial blockchain concepts, but also took a step forward and looked at how the wider concept of distributed ledger could be applied. The result is Billon – a lightweight, mobile and high-speed architecture that specifically eliminates transaction and account costs, and solves the huge problem of financial inclusion.
What unique features does Billon bring to the financial services industry?
Billon’s distributed ledger integrates into existing banking architectures and sits on top to act as a new payment rail. We meet regulatory requirements needed to transact with everyday currencies. As a result we do not need cryptocurrencies, but use the money you know, like the British pound or Polish zloty. Banks can thus use our architecture to deliver innovative payment solutions for corporates, merchants and individuals, without ever having to reprogram their back office systems. The most exciting aspect of the technology is that we exchange money and data in real-time on the same technology rail. Together with money you can send invoice and delivery data, proofs of completed tasks, information about consumer behaviour, etc. We innovate user experiences and streamline business processes, providing a simple solution for unifying financial transactions and data capture.
Why would someone choose to transfer money with you, rather than a financial institution?
We are a financial institution! Our technology can be applied by a bank or other payment entity to deliver the familiar experience to clients. With that said, when you send money with Billon’s distributed ledger you do so without going through a system of intermediaries like banks or card issuers. Money changes ownership almost instantly, compressing clearing and settlement into one irreversible action. As such, payments of any size – even the smallest ones – are profitable. We bring benefits to all the parties involved by eliminating frauds and lower transactions costs for banks, improving cashflow for merchants and providing a digital-era user experience for consumers.
You have recently been picked to participate in Ohio’s Fintech71 Accelerator programme – what are you hoping to gain from the experience?
The US is a great market for us. Despite decades of investment, cheques and cash still dominate, and over 100 million people are underbanked. We hope to use this opportunity to raise the visibility of our solution in the eyes of American financial services and retail companies. We are also excited to gain access to C-level decision makers from a wide variety of established blue chip firms that will provide mentorship to the company.
As a London-based company, why did you choose an accelerator programme in the US, rather than in the UK or Europe?
To be honest, the credit goes to the Ohio team, as they pursued Billon heavily. The Fintech71 programme is designed for later stage startups, so it was a good fit compared with many other accelerators, for which Billon would be too mature. As our technology has global potential, we also seek various opportunities worldwide. Just before we entered Fintech71, we received a €2 million grant from the Horizon 2020 EU research programme. While our operations hub is indeed in London, Billon does not stop there!
You currently support euro, sterling and Polish zloty payments. What are your plans for expansion?
Billon’s distributed ledger can support any regulated currency in the world, so indeed we have global ambitions. Our target is the alternative payments market, which is everything that does not flow through debit and credit cards. Worldpay reports that in e-commerce, $2.3 trillion of payments will flow outside of cards in 2020 – this is where we can replace clumsy prepaid solutions like vouchers, prepaid cards and premium SMSs. We also see there are 2.5 billion underbanked people worldwide, so we believe 2018 will be the year when we form more international partnerships to address that issue.