This startup allows you to earn interest, borrow, and spend money based on your crypto holdings
In 2016, Darshan Bathija spent a weekend studying Bitcoin. He purchased a few books and sat down to try and understand why the people he looked up to were vouching for the cryptocurrency.
"I have a background in engineering, but I got into private equity and then started working to build partnerships at TapChief. But all the time, I was monitoring where disruption in finance was happening. I dismissed Bitcoin initially when I heard about it, but it kept coming back to me from some of the smartest minds in the financial industry," he says.
Little did Darshan know he was about to go down a rabbit hole, as the weekend studying Bitcoin turned into months. The more he read, the more he felt cryptocurrency could challenge everything that was wrong with traditional financial systems.
This sparked the birth of Vauld, a Singapore-registered startup Darshan founded alongside Sanju Kurian in 2018. The startup treats crypto as a separate asset class and brings core elements of banking to crypto users.
Vauld's servicesBesides storing their crypto, Vauld users can earn interest or borrow money based on their crypto holdings without having to liquidate it. They can also spend money through a credit card backed by their crypto assets, and also exchange their crypto for other tokens and fiat currencies.
"Money has traditionally not been separate from current political climates. Financial crises see tremendous stimulus from governments, so I felt a truly neutral system would probably be better," Darshan adds.
In crypto, storage and payments are solved on the protocol level, as all cryptocurrency transactions are recorded on public, secure blockchains. But when Darshan started Vauld, there was an opportunity to offer credit and yield services on crypto holdings - something that was not native to blockchain technology.
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Surviving the crypto winter
"We became the first in India to offer these services. But when we started, it was extremely tough due to the crypto winter [the bearish crypto market from 2018-19]. It took us nine months to raise $288,000, which is a long time for a cheque of this size. For a crypto company now, raising $1 million or $2 million even before launch is the norm," Darshan says.
He adds that Vauld survived not because of any secret sauce, but simply because the cofounders continued to motivate each other to not give up.
Their perseverance bore fruit when the crypto markets opened up from 2020 onwards, allowing Vauld to onboard over 1.5 lakh customers and grow rapidly in the last two years."We are now a global firm and our users are not just from one country in particular. We see traction from multiple developing and developed nations. We make a percentage on transactions made by these users, and we also charge borrowers a slightly higher amount and keep the difference," he explains.
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Future plans amidst a growing market
Now, Vauld is working on licensing its various service verticals in Singapore, the UK, the US, Lithuania, Germany, and other countries. Although Indian users don't form a significant portion of Vauld's customers, the Indian market remains close to Darshan's heart.
Vauld has raised a total of $27 million so far, and is looking to acquire one million users. With other crypto banking services offered by the likes of BlockFi, Crypto.com Lending, Nexo, Holdnaut, etc, innovation in the segment is heating up and crypto becomes more mainstream in India and globally.
In fact, a recent report by blockchain data platform Chainalysis ranked India second in terms of global crypto adoption in 2021, amidst global crypto adoption rising over 880 percent in the last year.
In the report titled 'The 2021 Global Crypto Adoption Index', Chainalysis ranked India just behind Vietnam, which took first place out of 154 countries surveyed. For entrepreneurs like Darshan and other budding ones, this spells opportunity.
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Edited by Megha ReddyRishabh Mansur