Tricia Martinez – Wala, Founder & Chief Executive Officer

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Founder and CEO of cryptocurrency and blockchain company Wala.

We recently connected with Tricia after learning about her ICO through our own research and invited her to share more about herself and her company, Wala. If you’re an ICO investor, be sure to check out Wala as their token sale registration will be ending shortly.

Tricia Martinez is a serial entrepreneur and behavioral economist who has devoted her life to solving problems for underserved consumers around the world. Her experience includes cash transfer solutions small business microfinance, to the development of an investment fund for underserved markets. Prior to Wala, Tricia built a cash transfer technology that provided universal income to subsistence farmers in Uganda and tracked the investment and financial well-being of its recipients.

While spending her career in the financial inclusion space working directly with consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa, Tricia has been exposed to the deeply rooted complexities and barriers in the financial systems. Thanks to her background in behavioral economics, Tricia decided to take a different approach and began testing incentives models as a means to influence financial behavior. From there, Wala was born. Tricia completed her Masters of Public Policy with a concentration in Behavioral Economics from the University of Chicago.

What do you love most about digital currency?

I love that digital currency has the potential to bring financial services to the masses! The simple, distributed technology can enable access to consumers excluded from the existing financial system. As we scale down the digital currency costs, we will be able to pair this technology with great user experience and service providers to scale rapidly throughout emerging markets and revolutionize the way traditionally underserved consumers engage with the financial system.

I am obviously biased since this is what the Wala Financial Platform is doing with the Dala Utility Token, but this is a massive problem. Over 3.5 billion consumers are underserved when it comes to financial services. That is half the global population! Mobile phone adoption is no longer a significant barrier which means digital currency will see massive uptake and adoption in emerging markets in the next few years.

What alt coins are you most interest in?

I am a problem entrepreneur meaning anything that can solve a global problem excites me! Crypto-tokens that I am interested in right now range from financial use cases to social platforms.

For example, I am actively following OmiseGo, Humaniq, and Everex as these coins are targeting emerging markets aiming to better service the 3.5 billion consumers similar to Wala and Dala.

While these use cases are different from the Dala utility token, we recognize this is a huge market opportunity and there is a need for many solutions in the space.

I am also keenly interested in Civic as we will be integrating their digital identity service in the Wala application. Additionally, I recently backed the Kin token sale as I am a strong believer that rewards influence consumer behavior and thereby have the potential to drive mass adoption and uptake of the token. Others that I’m backing and watching are 0x, Tezos, and Ripple.

How do you see blockchain technology improving life in the future?

Blockchain will put power in the hands of the people. In the immediate term we will see massive movement in financial services, especially with the ability for consumers to remit money cross-border at low cost.

I think we’ll see more asset tracking on the blockchain, more efficient and just voting systems, and the list could go on. But the big picture to me is about decentralization and giving power to people. Countries around the world are governed by corruption and greed. Blockchain technology can enable privacy, protection, and free and open systems. And the ones that will see the greatest impact from blockchain technology are the underserved. Those who don’t have bank accounts, who have trouble proving identity, and who don’t have a voice in their countries.

The world will forever change as we know it as more and more people start using blockchain technology for impact.

What’s your biggest accomplishment to date?

Creating an incentives driven financial platform for consumers to access financial services is my greatest accomplishment. Wala started when I was in Northern Uganda — Kitgum — running a pilot for one of my first startup endeavors where we directed unconditional cash transfers (UCTs), also known as annual basic income, to subsistence farmers in Uganda using mobile money. While on the ground, I observed that the UCTs were extremely impactful, but, the farmers were not securely storing their money. Most individuals were withdrawing all funds and storing their cash in a local village cash box. The limited access to affordable financial services proved to be a massive problem that stifled the growth for these farmers. No banks can reach these regions and mobile money is too expensive and unreliable to justify sustained use.

I started conducting interviews in person and through WhatsApp and Facebook to better understand the banking and financial services issues plaguing consumers. Soon men and women from all over began to seek me out for guidance on proper savings, investment, and loan advice with the hopes of bettering their financial standing. Overwhelmed with the response, I aggregated the influx of consumers into a Facebook group which grew in the first few months to 100,000 consumers organically, mainly in Kampala, Uganda! This is when the red light went on for me.

Given my background in behavioral economics, I was determined to understand if we could help community members on their path towards financial prosperity by influencing behavior. More specifically, could incentives influence financial behavior?

We began running lotteries, financial quizzes, referral programs, and more all with the underlying principle to push consumers to save more. Through the testing and development of a rewards model, we grew the Wala communities to over 1 million consumers from over 100 emerging markets.

These communities have enabled us to build a solution with and for consumers. The Wala Financial Platform was created thanks to testing multiple prototypes with community members and getting direct input from people globally.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about digital currency?

By far my biggest pet peeve when it comes to digital currency is user experience. No matter what wallet you use or what exchange you are on the user experience is horrendous! This is a massive opportunity for someone to provide a better interface and experience to all the digital wallets out there.

To give an example of this terrible user experience think about first time users or people participating in token sales. Backing a token sale for an American involves buying Ether on Coinbase (which is not quick), sending that Ether to MyEtherWallet, and then making sure everything is secure with your address and your wallets.

First time users are terrified they will input the wrong private keys since they are are 20+ characters long and if you mess that up, your crypto is gone forever! A very scary thought for anyone new to the experience. Sure, early adopters may not care, but digital currency will never reach the masses unless the user experience is improved.