CEO of Abra Sees Cross-Border Payments and Remittance as Source of Struggle for Crypto Firms

Abra, a crypto wallet provider and payment startup, is run by CEO Bill Barhydt, and he recently sat down to be the subject of an interview with Breaker Mag. In his interview, he discussed the difficulties facing cross-border payment services for the crypto industry.

Presently, Abra services about half a million users, spread across 100+ countries. Their platform supports 30 crypto assets, along with fiat currencies, and was originally created with the goal of developing a global bank for cryptocurrency. In doing so, they would create a system that has no friction or difficulties between money transfers and credit services.

Even though Abra has managed to become a supportive investment platform, the concept of expanding within this part of the industry comes with challenges, especially involving remittance.

During the interview, Bill Barhydt spoke on an initiative that his company had taken to create a network of agents that offer cash for crypto transfers. When questioned by the interviewer if this ambitious project had been halted for unforeseen difficulties, he said,

“No, we actually did it. As a matter of fact, we have a running network in the Philippines. We simply stopped because we realized that the cost of deploying it—going beyond the tests that we were doing—was going to cost us $1 billion. And that didn’t make sense. Over time, we think we can build it out at much lower cost if we integrate it into other services. The cost of customer acquisition in the remittance space is incredibly high. The likes of Western Union, Xoom, [and] Remitly spend anywhere from $75 to $125 to acquire a customer in that space. Abra spends almost nothing on marketing today, because we’re adding value for people who want to use our app the way it is.”

The way that Abra has gone about providing support for the unbanked is a complex process within the platform but will help consumers by answering their immediate concerns. Barhydt said that these concerns include,

“Can I get credit in a pinch? Can I send or receive money at reasonably low cost? And can I invest? If I’m saving my family’s money, even if it’s only $50 a month, can I invest that money, or do I have to leave it under the mattress? And can I invest it in something other than my country’s failing currency?”

To develop this option, consumers may eventually have “crypto-collaterated” assets instead, which would entirely avoid any responsibility or interaction with a third party. He explained,

“[I]f you can collateralize real-world assets using crypto, [without] introducing new third-party custodians, you’re onto something really interesting. Because now you can represent fiat currencies, stocks, bonds, commodities in a way that doesn’t require you to become a bank. That’s interesting. You’ve got a combination of hard money and regulatory arbitrage to solve real consumer problems. That’s what I think it’s going to take to break into developing markets.”

Elaborating on “regulatory arbitrage,” Barhydt explained, “I mean that if you can actually have the keys to your funds on a smartphone, there is no third-party bank required to help you manage those funds. And if the app is developed correctly, I can do things with those crypto-collateralized assets—my cash, my stocks, my mutual funds—that I couldn’t do in Haiti today.”

To view the interview in “Abra CEO Bill Barhydt on How Bitcoin Can Still Democratize Finance” in its entirety, visit:

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