Small cash payments are becoming
more and more risky in Venezuela. Inflation continues to rise, the IMF
projected an inflation rate of 720% by 2017 and forecasts for the future are
even more dismal. Prices are highly volatile and cashiers often only have
enough cash available to handle small transactions. Everyday activities like
catching a cab or paying for parking require people to carry around huge wads
of cash, leading to increased vulnerability to crime, inefficiencies, and time
wasted in long lines. Banks are still unsure how to address these needs, and it
would seem that the benefits of acquiring handheld credit card terminals do not
outweigh the cost for small businesses.
To facilitate these small, cash payments, Ramón Ginez founded CityWallet, a fintech company that digitalizes micropayments by transforming small sums of cash into "stickers". 15 years working for several companies in the software industry in Venezuela, Argentina, Canada and the US and his growing concern regarding his native country´s economic problems gave Ginez the necessary experience and motivation to launch this initiative, earning him a spot amongst MIT Technology Review, Spanish edition´s Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2017.
CityWallet is a high-tech product which combines Near Field Communications (NFC) and blockchain technologies to create a small "sticker", which can then be utilized to effectuate payments when "swiped" over a bank payment terminal. Users can also use the mobile app to simplify the process of making small payments, thereby gaining convenience, security and flexibility.
Initially, the product has targeted a market niche in the car parking sector, where it is currently being implemented. CityWallet has also been installed on the Catholic University Andrés Bello´s campus in Venezuela where, in just 3 days, the system attracted 1,870 users and is expected to reach 4,000 in the next phase of deployment. "The university, as a very controlled setting, is the perfect laboratory," explains the young entrepreneur.
Ginez and his team are certain that CityWallet could be easily adapted to serve multiple uses, and are actively expanding in university settings through agreements with other universities, and nearby retail outlets like the Tolón Shopping Center. Internationally, the team is analyzing country-specific needs which CityWallet is ideally suited to address. In Chile, for example, the product is currently being adapted to support laundromat payments.
The CEO and founder of VU Security an jury member for the Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2017 competition, Sebastián Stranieri, praised Ginez and his team for "designing an innovative solution to meet daily needs."