Startups & Ideas

Fonbnk raises $3.5 million Seed to serve the underbanked across Africa, Latin America & Asia

Fonbnk, the company making it easy for users across emerging markets to participate in the web3 economy, announces today the closing of a $3.5 million seed round. With Fonbnk, anyone in Africa and other emerging markets that uses prepaid mobile SIM cards can easily 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), crypto-native cross-border investment firm Formless Capital, Republic Capital (investors in Fintech unicorns Klarna, Carta, and Robinhood), Erikan Obotetukudo’s diversity-lens crypto-focused VC firm Audacity Fund, and Principle Ventures.

Also participating was American record producer, rapper, singer, songwriter, and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams (via Black Ambition), 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.

Part of the appeal of Fonbnk to such a diverse group of leading global investors is the shared vision and real potential of Fonbnk’s innovative solution to drive global financial inclusion and help unbanked and underbanked users across Africa, Latin America, and Asia participate in the current and emerging digital economy.

Simply put, Fonbnk is the crypto onramp with the least friction across Africa and other emerging markets. Thanks to its mobile app marketplace, users across the world can easily obtain digital currencies by swapping their prepaid airtime credit at the press of a button. For the billions of users across emerging markets with prepaid airtime mobile SIM cards, Fonbnk is already one of the easiest ways to hedge against inflation, to make transfers across borders to other Fonbnk users, and to unlock various other benefits that digital assets offer.

“Pre-paid airtime minutes are currency (for transfers, exchange of goods and services) across most of the under and unbanked populations globally. Fonbnk’s solution is a perfect use case – and directly in line with Kraken Ventures’ focus – to bridge Decentralized Finance with mass FinTech. The team’s mission-driven and thoughtful approach to launching this effort is particularly commendable and Kraken Ventures is looking forward to working with Fonbnk,” said Akshi Federici, Operating Partner, Kraken Ventures.

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. 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. And we’re building the rails to make that happen. We democratize participation in the web3 economy, making it accessible, frictionessly, to billions of users across emerging markets,” said Christian Duffus, Fonbnk Founder & CEO.

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 Philippines, Ukraine, and Jamaica.


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