There are currently two major issues with crypto payments – currency volatility and network transmission time. The recipient wants to receive the exact amount owed them. But, because cryptocurrencies are volatile and experience rapid price changes multiple times every day, that’s a difficult task to handle for crypto payment providers. Price swings can be more than 20% a day, so many merchants don’t accept crypto assets payments. Also, the merchant wants the payment instantaneously and is not willing to wait for it under any circumstance.
To solve these issues, Ben Way, CEO of Digits, conceptualized a new instrument he calls a hedge lending network. This is a service that provides instant loans thereby enabling its users to pay with fiat currency using their cryptocurrency. Its framework runs on a machine learning algorithm and is the first time the concept of hedging and lending has been combined together in a financial instrument.
How Hedge Lending Works
In the process, the user swipes his Digits registered card for making a transaction. Let’s say $100 is turned into a smart contract-backed loan, which is paid for by the hedge lending network. The merchant receives the money instantaneously. The $100 becomes a loan for the customer for a period of 366 days. If the consumer does not pay back the loan, the crypto is taken out of her wallet after the 12 months, gets liquidated, and the lender is paid back.
The customer is able to save almost 33 percent in capital gains if she is able to wait out the one-year period for holding a crypto asset. She can pay the loan back within 12 months and get her currency back. If she had spent $100 while her crypto asset doubled in price, she can pay the original $100 and take her cryptocurrency back. It’s similar to an escrow account in that it can either be liquidated or paid back. At the end of 366 days, the transaction is liquidated and the lender gets the money or the borrower pays it off, taking the difference.
The Hedge Lending Network uses the lender’s invested fiat currency in exchange for the Digits user’s cryptocurrency-backed smart contract. In doing this, Digits can overcome the payment issues faced when customers pay in cryptocurrency. The main objective is to find the lowest interest rates and reduce the cost of the network to the minimum possible level. Apart from this, the lending network accounts for volatility, as well.
If a cryptocurrency price goes up during the transmission time, Digits takes the gain and puts it in the buffer to account for the decreases in crypto prices during transmission. Being currency agnostic, the firm supports every cryptocurrency the interacting exchange supports. Currently, Digits works with Coinbase with relationship expected soon for other crypto exchanges. The company has its own wallet system and does not need to prepay for transactions. This is important in its journey to scale up and support the payments ecosystem.
The Benefits of Paying Through Digits
Way estimates that, by 2025, five percent of the population will be using a crypto wallet. Digits turns any credit or debit card in the world into a means to pay with cryptocurrency assets. The solution is extremely elegant as it settles on the MasterCard and Visa Network and allows any existing card to be converted into a crypto card. The user just needs to type in his credit card details and connect it to Coinbase for making the crypto payments. The Digits technology interrupts the payment, executes the necessary conversions and then settles the transaction on the existing network only. This allows the merchant and MasterCard/Visa to not deal with cryptocurrencies, a major hurdle in the growth of crypto payments thus far.
Way and Co-Founder Laura Wagner founded Digits in September 2017 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Way had been a tech prodigy from a very young age. When he was six, he received a laptop that helped him enter the world of technology. At 15, he was earning good money online consulting with people to solve their computer issues. He later founded Pulsar, an e-commerce search engine that went on to raise $33 million.
That company eventually failed during the dotcom bust of 2000-2001. He lost everything he had, but he was able to start over and launched multiple companies and projects over the years since.
During the Clinton years, Way was a senior consultant to the White House on matters of technology. He is currently the CEO of Rainmakers, one of the first incubators in Europe and has helped launch around 200 companies.
Priot to starting Digits, Way was associated with a traditional payments company where he learned a lot about the payments industry and its inherent complexity. Being there, he realized how difficult it was to use cryptocurrency in the real world and came up with an idea to build a crypto payments company to make paying with cryptocurrency as easy as paying with a credit or debit card. This led to the launch of Digits.
For the last six months, he and his team have been building the platform and the technology. Currently, they are in the Pre-ICO stage on their way to raising $50 million.
Digits is currently in the alpha phase and Way expects a product release in the next six months. He believes there is little competition in this space right now. There are a few crypto lenders and hedgers, but no one has been able to combine the two in a way Digits has accomplished. He wants his competitors to use his technology stack to build new products for their clients and believes this will allow for the entire space to grow.
Cryptocurrencies were expected to change the way our payment systems work. But almost nine years after the creation of Bitcoin, the ability to pay via crypto assets is restricted in the real world. Ben Way has come up with an innovative solution that will end the difference between a debit/credit card payment and a crypto card payment without interfering in the present debit/credit card system.
Digits is looking to capture a segment that has some major competition. But the company’s ability to transmit payments instantaneously without having the merchant or payment processors touch cryptocurrences and simultaneously create a potential 33 percent capital gain tax savings for the user is a win-win for all involved.
Written by Heena Dhir with Allen Taylor.