Rozic is CEO of Minka, a company he co-founded in June 2016 that aims to enable faster money transfer throughout Latin America. In the interview, Rozic discusses the need to improve banking infrastructure, Minka’s plans for expansion, and the company’s likely interest in raising capital from US investors in the near future.
What is Minka?
Minka is an Open Banking Cloud that makes it possible to transfer money quickly, safely and at a low cost. With Minka, companies can build fast, modern and low-cost financial solutions in a few days that would have previously taken years.
The World Wide Web has changed the way people access and manage information. Our aim is to create a transactional Hub that does the same for money and which will ultimately modernize the way people in Latin America interact with money.
When did you start Minka and what motivated you to do so?
We started about three years ago. We realized that there are two key problems in Latin America within financial services--a lack of access and a lack of innovation. While many companies would like to build new solutions, the infrastructure to do so does not exist. When we started, we weren’t interested in creating a consumer product, but one that would provide the infrastructure to help other companies build financial applications. Today, we are working with a number of companies in financial services including Coops, banks, and Fintech startups.
Could you tell us a little about the work you are doing to enable payments through WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is an interesting channel that has high penetration in Latin America. But in order to enable payments for this channel, it is important to first solve a more fundamental problem. That key issue is that most financial institutions in Latin America cannot safely expose their services to mobile channels or third party applications.
What we do is help banks in Colombia expose their debit and credit services so that they can be used safely in other applications. We are working now with ACH Colombia to create an infrastructure for in-person, real-time transfers. Our ultimate goal is to make transferring money as easy as sending a WhatsApp message.
How do you use blockchain to help create faster payments and secure information exchange?
We believe the term “blockchain” is too broad. We think that only public blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are truly blockchain, that other offerings are more akin to database implementations. What we are building is not blockchain although it was inspired by blockchain--as we too focus more on securing the message rather than the channel.
How can Minka’s technology encourage greater financial inclusion in Colombia?
Many people who live abroad are not aware that only one of every ten payments in Colombia is electronic--the other nine are made with cash. This is the first problem. The second problem is that access to financial services is very limited although it has improved in recent years.
If you look at sending messages via WhatsApp, it occurs in real time, without cost, and usually with only a telephone number. However, sending money is not nearly as easy. To send money between two banks in Colombia takes three days, requires a lot of data, and the cost of the transaction is high, about three dollars for a single transaction. Our vision is to enable teal-time, low cost payments. Once they are enabled, the use of electronic payments will grow and this will change the entire financial system in Colombia. This is our focus.
What projects are you working on now?
We have several ongoing projects in the region, that enable money to be moved in real-time at a low cost. The largest one is with ACH Colombia. ACH Colombia is a company owned collectively by all of the banks in Colombia and it serves as a clearing house for electronic transfers. Our goal is to help ACH Colombia modernize transfers in Colombia and become a preferred means of payment for Colombians.
What are your goals for the remainder of 2019?
Our top goal is to go live with our project in Colombia. Last year, we kept a low profile. Today our aim is to demonstrate what are technology can do and to enable it to become a large part of the financial ecosystem in Colombia.
Do you have an interest in getting to know US investors?
Yes, we recently closed a seed round, and are still an early stage startup. The round included US investors, and we have support from some investment funds. It is very likely that within a short time we will start raising our series A or first public investment round. At that point, we would be interested in hearing from US investors.
Do you have plans to expand beyond Colombia?
We operate in Bolivia and Colombia today. We have big plans to expand next year into other countries and are looking at opportunities in Peru, the Caribbean, and Central America.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy spending time with my daughter. I also enjoy traveling and sports. This project is a large undertaking, which doesn’t leave much time for other things.
What advice would you have for other entrepreneurs who are starting out in Fintech?
I think that one of the problems young startups have today is that too many of them focus on creating technology, not on building a product.
My first piece of advice is to identify a market, and build an end-to end product that solves a key issue for that market. Secondly, it is critical for any startup entrepreneur to have focus, and not to lose focus on the product.
Do you think that a part of your life has been fulfilled through your work at Minka?
Our work is only beginning. I have wanted to be an entrepreneur since I first started college and have been part of a lot of startups since then. There are always ventures that tackle a specific problem but many don’t contribute to the ecosystem. What I like about Minka is that we attack a big problem. Our mission is not just about making a profit, it is also about improving the payment ecosystem in the region.