Israel Keys of BloomSolutions
Reinventing remittances and cross-border payments
By Jean De Ramon
“The Philippines is the third largest recipient of remittances in the world and that is why it is advantageous as the focal point of money transfer,” shares Israel Keys, CEO of BloomSolutions, with TechShake.
Many families in the Philippines rely on money sent by their relatives working overseas. These modern-day heroes – Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) - however spend more than 6% in order to send money home. “It’s about time that money transfer caught up with technology,” Israel says.
Responding to Super Typhoon Haiyan brought Israel to the Philippines and it was something that changed the course of his life.
Money is essentially information
For Israel, money should be something that can be easily accessed as fast as we can with internet connection and SMS. “If we can send information quickly and communicate in remote areas, why can’t we move money easily?” Israel would say. During the rehabilitation period for the people affected by typhoon Haiyan, he noticed that the internet connection was fast and readily available, but money—which was critically needed at that time—was something that was hard to move. This blossomed the idea of giving people better remittance service by lowering the cost and reducing the time it takes up to wait for the money to be received. BloomSolutions works hand in hand with existing remittance businesses to reduce the cost for the end-costumers.
At BloomSolutions, they are able to reduce cost by up to half and they instantly disperse the funds to major banks and cash-pick up locations so that it will be picked up anytime (e.g. instead of waiting for 3 days, all they need is 10 minutes to get it instantly) and anywhere. They also make us of blockchain to make everything secure. Israel clarifies however that they are not a bitcoin company and only uses bitcoin as a technology to make transfer faster and cheaper.
The remittance industry is welcome to all competitors
In 10 years time, Israel believes that remittance businesses will continue to grow and that “money will be as easy to transfer as sending a text message.” As many people find the need to transfer money more frequently, it is important that existing remittance centers step up their game against the potential competitors that will come into being. Even though competitors will be a threat, Israel believes that it will be better that way. “I think over time you’ll see more remittance companies—remittance business has been dominated by big companies—and I think that competition is great because it will drive down cost even further; that is a good thing for the industry and it’s about time. We need more competition in order to make money transfer cheaper,” he shares.
To provide the competitive advantage, he thinks that it is best to innovate with other products related to remittance as well. More than making money, Israel wants BloomSolutions to bring value to the remittance industry and to the end-user—particularly OFWs—for them to move money more cheaply.
While business is tough in the Philippines, Israel remains positive saying “I feel like we were able to do a lot with relatively little - with seed funding of friends and family.” Bloom has its sights set internationally and looking at remittance corridors outside of Philippines.
It’s not about being a risk-taker but purpose
Being an entrepreneur for Israel was mainly because of his interest for solving problems and doing something different. Meeting people, creating a team with the best talent and solving problems are his kind of game; but for him, progress is very important as an entrepreneur. “…it is important for me to see that we are moving forward in a meaningful way” he emphasizes.
When asked what would make an entrepreneur successful, Israel honestly tells us that if any of us knew, we would all be successful. He also doesn’t agree that passion is be the only thing that drives success as an entrepreneur, “…if you really want to be good at something, you need time to develop the craft…your capacity…I think what’s more important is purpose: purposely living what you are trying to solve. Passion might fade then come back but for what purpose are you living for?” Israel tells us. He also reminded us that to become an entrepreneur is to assume full responsibility; one can give up so much but not to the point of acting foolish.
“For some an entrepreneur is someone who must be a big risk-taker – so they leave their job prematurely to look like they are entrepreneur. I think that is a misconception - I think [an entrepreneur] is someone who is able to see risk differently than everyone else and acts responsibly to solve a problem that many have.”