Five Questions with Trevor Filter of Flexa
Innovation in the blockchain space will accelerate during the next few years and redefine the ways we engage with, and transact on, the internet for the better. Trusted third parties have long acted as the gatekeeper to a more inclusive economy and now blockchain technology exists to offer us an alternative. While we continue to identify projects that can achieve or activate near-term adoption of blockchain technology, we have begun to connect with other organizations to learn more about how they understand and interact with this emerging technology.
While at SOCAP this past fall we spoke to Trevor Filter, co-founder of Flexa, about the potential of blockchain technology and the ways Flexa is helping to transform the payments industry. Here is what he had to say.
What is Flexa?
At Flexa we’re working on ways for merchants, large and small, to accept cryptocurrencies without having to worry about the risk or volatility of those purchases and what we’re ultimately hoping to do is make payments as affordable as possible on both sides of the equation. We have a dream of making it possible one day for payments to be completely free and we’re looking to make any coin spendable using any app in any store.
How is Flexa transforming payments?
What a lot of people don’t realize is that when you swipe a credit card, there are actually a lot of different parties that are involved in that purchase, sometimes six to even twelve different intermediaries that are taking a slice of the pie, but also opening up a new opportunity for fraud. What we do at Flexa is we disintermediate all of those middlemen and make it possible for buyers to reach their sellers more directly. We know that blockchain’s promise is decentralization and making it possible for all these systems to be open and, ultimately, for no middlemen to be involved. We do believe that there’s some degree of centralization that’s helpful, that being said, ultimately we want to make these payments as affordable and open as possible. A lot of that comes from cleaning out a lot of the garbage that exists today.
What excites you the most about the technology?
I think what I’m most excited about at Flexa is the opportunity for us to create payments that are actually attainable by all kinds of people all across the world. So you think about how hard it is for someone, even in the United States, to get a credit card because they have to pass a credit check and one of the great things about participating in blockchain cryptocurrencies is you don’t have to pass a credit card check to hold crypto. And in fact, you don’t even have to work with any third parties if you want to hold crypto in your own wallet. So there’s a lot of opportunities here for us to make finance and commerce a lot more accessible to lots more people. I just think there are a big onus and responsibility that a lot of us have when it comes to that. So it really comes down to making sure that we’re all in and among the people that are trying to serve in that regard and ensure that we’re actually solving their problems and not creating new ones.
How is Flexa increasing inclusivity?
When it comes to creating a more inclusive economy at Flexa, we really do look at the types of people who can use our products and with the proliferation of smartphones and data plans becoming more and more accessible all around the world, especially in the United States, we just look at a way of making it possible for people to participate in those ecosystems where they never would have been able to before. With Venmo, you have to have a bank account, if you think about PayPal, you have to have a bank account or credit cards that back that wallet and finally we have a wallet that doesn’t require those sorts of prerequisites, you just have to come with cryptocurrencies. So while there’s this burden of trying to make cryptocurrency accessible itself. I feel like those problems will shake themselves out eventually because it’s such a natural fit for inclusive initiatives and people who are underbanked or unbanked entirely. There’s just a lot of excitement and opportunity about bringing people into the fold and allowing them to participate in mobile payments that they’ve never been able to before.
How is blockchain technology itself an impact investment?
A lot of the times we talk about social impact as though it’s something that happens far away and it’s something that we can invest and contribute to but can’t actually experience ourselves. I think that’s a little bit misguided because a lot of social impact opportunities can be found right at home. I think as far as the blockchain being a tool for social impact, it really does come down to access. We’ve talked about, in the [SOCAP] conference, a lot about how “blockchain as a force for good” is only possible as long as there’s made access to the blockchain. When it comes to people being able to tokenize community activities in ways that they’ve never done before, we have to build those vehicles. At the end of the day, I don’t think blockchain is necessarily a social impact activity today, but the real question is where can we take it? There’s just so much opportunity in the long term for blockchain to completely disrupt the existing governance, identity infrastructure, financial infrastructure, and I think that’s been the highlight of the [SOCAP] conference so far.
Anything else you want to add?
One of the questions that has also come up a lot is can we build this from the ground up? Or, do we have to partner with existing institutions? Do we have to comply with existing regulation? It’s a delicate balance for sure, but we’ve taken the stance that we really do have to partner and work with the existing infrastructure to make baby steps in the right direction. We have this dream of eventually connecting any app to any store using any coin, but we’re not going to be able to do that right off the bat. We’re not going to make a world in which merchants can accept bitcoin or ether natively from day one. We have to start with fiat, we have to start with banking licenses, we have to start with all the existing onus in order to build a better world and I think that’s something that often gets overlooked but it’s something that we’re very focused on.
Learn more about our blockchain initiative and some of the companies we have invested in here.