CapWay, A Fintech Firm For The Unbanked, Is Moving From Silicon Valley To Atlanta
CapWay, a financial technology company that focuses on the unbanked, underbanked, and millennials, is moving from Sunnyvale, California — one of the major cities comprising Silicon Valley — to Atlanta.
Atlanta is closer to where CapWay founder Sheena Allen grew up in Terry, Mississippi — one of the poorest states in the U.S. It’s also closer to her customers, Allen said in a Hypepotamus interview.
Allen knows what it’s like to be on the outside of the traditional banking system. She grew up in rural Mississippi, 17 miles south of Jackson, where large banks would not set up branches, and high-fee check-cashing stores were about the only way to turn a check into cash.
“There was only one bank where I grew up so the whole town uses one bank. It’s called a bank desert,” Allen said during an interactive panel with Jamarlin Martin at HBCU@SXSW 2018 in Austin, Texas.
Since 2008, 10,000 bank branches have closed. When they leave, predatory services often move in, according to the CapWay website.
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CapWay lets customers turn paper checks into digital currency via an Android or Apple app on mobile devices. Users can load money onto a prepaid card and access financial products and tips to help them move towards
homeownership or building financial literacy. CapWay is doing this for thousands of people living in the U.S.
“Success for me is getting one guy who didn’t trust banks, but he relates to and trusts CapWay. He now is becoming financially literate.” — Sheena Allen, founder and CEO of CapWay, in a Mogul Watch interview
Venture capital firm Backstage Capital invested in CapWay’s pre-seed round, along with Liberty Bank, the second largest African-American owned bank. CapWay is now working on closing its seed round.
Part of the attraction with Atlanta is the talent coming out of local universities like Georgia Tech and Morehouse, Allen told Hypepotamus:
“I’m from the South, I love the South. But also, when you look at the numbers, this region has the highest population of unbanked or underbanked residents,” she said.
After the move in January, CapWay plans to launch a new gamified micro-lending offering. “While this is not a big focus for us, we want to make we’re covering every part of the ecosystem,” Allen told Hypepotamus.
Allen described how CapWay is leveraging the blockchain during an interactive panel with Jamarlin Matin at HBCU@SXSW 2018 in Austin, Texas:
“When I was in Silicon Valley, there was a bank on every corner, but that’s not the case in a lot of (rural) areas. So inner cities, red lining. Rural areas, not a bank on every corner. There’s probably a payday lender on every corner. So for me, it (was about) how can I use technology to disrupt an industry that the larger financial institutions have always tried to get into, but they want to get into for the wrong reasons. Financial inclusion or the financially-underserved market is a half-a-trillion-dollar industry. I understood the people with the problem — not just the problem itself. What blockchain allowed us to do is to (start an) untraditional financial ecosystem. The reason I say untraditional is we’ve been told to use traditional banking — or bank black — for the last 400 years, but the truth is it hasn’t worked. Clearly, the traditional way of banking has not worked whereas for us the blockchain … is different from anything that’s ever been done before.”