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"!! Announcements -  BitBeat: Stellar Takes a Step Into The Microfinance World
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A woman in Nigeria is buying a SIM card and top-up credits from an agent; increasingly, such agents are also collecting money on behalf of microfinance institutions.

Stellar, the cryptocurrency-based payments system launched last year by Jed McCaleb, announced a partnership with banking-software company Oradian to use Stellar platform in its core banking software for microfinance institutions (MFI), with an eye toward using digital-currency based payments networks to improve the ability of financiers to work with each other.

Since launching Stellar in July 2014, the team behind it – led by Mr. McCaleb, who previously founded both Mt. Gox and Ripple – has been busy managing its growth and looking for different uses of its protocol. In looking at the world of the unbanked and the microfinance industry, they think they found a good use.
Microfinance is a field pioneered by Dr. Mohammad Yunus in Bangladesh in the 1970s. The idea behind it is to extend banking services on a very small level to people in emerging markets who don’t have the resources to tap the traditional banking services. The industry has grown to the point where about 190 million families are currently served by microfinance, according to the World Bank. But it’s not exactly a modernized industry. Physical security is an issue, and the growth of the industry itself has stretched its ability to operate efficiently.
“There’s no way for microfinance companies to communicate with each other,” said Joyce Kim, executive director at the Stellar Development Foundation. The combined Oradian/Stellar product would allow microfinance companies to quickly send money to each other. “There’s something like 100,000 microfinance institutions, how do we connect them? How do they get the kinds of efficiencies that will change their lives?”
The partnership is going to move slowly, beginning with a pilot program in Nigeria, where moving money often physically carrying cash on a 12-hour bus ride. Stellar could, obviously, change that dynamic. (Paul Vigna)
- Nathan Lands thinks that he’s come up with bitcoin’s proverbial killer app. Mr. Lands, just 30, and his business partner William Cotton have come up with what they hope will be a user-friendly product that will give people an easy way to access and utilize the blockchain.
It’s called Blockai (“The idea is it’s an ‘eye’ into the blockchain,” he said) and the duo hopes it does for bitcoin among the general public what Netscape did for the Internet, which is to be the first product that was broadly accessible to the general public.
Becoming the Netscape of the blockchain is a lofty goal, and plenty of competitors are aiming at the same target, but it’s one upon which Mr. Lands’ has been fixated. This is his second stab at the killer app. He launched QuickCoin in 2014, which was a program that nestled inside Facebook’s platform, and allowed users to send small amounts of bitcoin to their friends.
The app got a flurry of attention at the outset, but it never really took off. Mr. Lands gleaned something from that failure, though. “Cash works fine,” he said. “There’s got to be other, unique reasons to use bitcoin.”
In capitalizing on the promise of the blockchain, he thinks that he’s found that unique reason. “Really, the blockchain at its core is the world’s first reliable public database.” That gives users an opportunity to upload anything from a simple message to a friend to a work of art or a legal document, and use bitcoin’s currency to monetize that asset. What Blockai seeks to do is become the easy-to-use platform that facilitates that.
The team is working on the beta version now – perfecting the desktop version, building a mobile app – and doing the rounds on the fund-raising circuit. Mr. Lands expects to launch the product broadly in the next two or three months.
“Netscape took regular people into the Internet,” he said. “We want to do the same thing for the blockchain.”

By PAUL VIGNA & MICHAEL J. CASEY
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