With only three weeks left to submit a project to the Stellar Community Fund (SCF) this round, we thought it’d be good timing to keep the valuable insights from previous SCF winners rolling in.
We’re highlighting Leaf Global Fintech, a digital wallet provider that helps people store and transport money across borders. The main user base consists of migrants, refugees, and cross-borders in East Africa, mainly Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya. Users can save money, send and receive it between families and friends, exchange in different currencies, and cash out in local payment systems that they already know. Leaf’s wallet has gained momentum beyond the Stellar ecosystem, most recently winning Fast Company’s 2021 World Changing Ideas Award as well as earning funding from the UNICEF Innovation Fund and Cisco’s Global Problem Solver Challenge 2021.
Tori Samples, CTO of Leaf Global Fintech, shares her experience on what it was like applying to SCF for the first time while juggling different audiences and building out Leaf’s offerings.
Leaf first heard of the Stellar Community Fund in the fund’s earliest iteration. However, it was during a time when Leaf had no working prototype so Leaf made plans to apply in the future. The time finally came to apply when Leaf had found traction, users, revenue, and excitement surrounding its product. It was also early enough for the community to provide valuable input if Leaf needed to make a significant pivot.
When applying, Leaf knew it had to make its value proposition clear from the get-go. The SCF application is unlike most grant applications. Due to its emphasis on audience engagement, SCF requires applicants to not just “wow” the selection panel but the community at large, which generally consists of Stellar enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and developers.
“Write like you’re writing for a fellow developer. Write plainly and communicate clearly what you are trying to achieve in the world.” – Tori Samples, Co-founder and CTO at Leaf Global Fintech
Aside from being able to clearly communicate the product value, it helps to have a differentiator. In Leaf’s case, there aren’t many Stellar-backed wallets that operate in East Africa, making it easier for them to gain traction in that particular region. But even if others want to build projects in a more saturated market, Tori still encourages them to reach out to fellow peers.
“I haven’t met anyone in the Stellar ecosystem who isn’t willing to share tips and tricks from what they’ve learned while building their product,” Tori says. “Learn about what has already been done and discover that niche for what is to come.”
“User experience cannot be compromised,” Tori says, “because we are dealing with vulnerable people who do not have the bandwidth to go learn a new technology.”
A remarkable feature of Leaf is its accessibility, being the first on blockchain to design and deploy their wallet with USSD technology. Regardless of whether they own smartphones or basic phones, users are able to access all of Leaf’s wallet services at their fingertips.
Leaf maintains lines of communication with their users through Whatsapp groups, text messages, and Instagram, which have yielded valuable product feedback. Leaf is able to use its wallet as the barometer for its upcoming product suite, with plans to build products that serve a user’s entire financial lifecycle. These could either be feature-light (such as a lite wallet) or feature-heavy (such as business loans), depending on user needs.
Leaf has also been focusing on improving product security based on user feedback. “People globally are becoming more aware of scams and fraud, even in emerging markets. As they’ve seen more products implementing bolstered fraud prevention, users have requested Leaf do so as well – all efforts going towards building a better product.”
Having conducted hundreds of user interviews, Leaf is aware of the appetite for their product – and not just in East Africa. Leaf is actively working on new partnerships that enable access to fiat on/off ramps in Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, and Burundi. Latin America is also in the cards, as well as some countries in Europe where Leaf will be able to provide remittance services.
By working on new integrations and partnerships, Leaf will be able to access new geographies through additional stablecoin offerings. Sending money from Chile to Uganda will be just as quick and easy as sending money from Rwanda to Kenya.
“Stellar makes payments affordable, accessible, and executable in the real world. Users don’t have to understand a very complex system of how their money is being moved in order to manage and move their money,” explains Tori.
If you have an idea , we highly encourage you to apply to SCF’s current round. SCF is currently accepting project submissions until August 22, 2021. We also have some tips and tricks to prepare you for success when applying this time around!