Today’s profile is with Steve Polsky, founder of Juvo, whose vision is to establish financial identities for the billions of people worldwide who are creditworthy, yet financially excluded, via their everyday use of smartphones.
Over to Steve for his responses to our questions – in bold.
Who are you and what’s your background?
Hi. I’m Steve Polsky, CEO and Founder of Juvo. My career to date has focused on building early stage technology ventures – Juvo is my fifth start up. I’ve helped successfully launch and grow four companies (VoicePlex Corp, Amber Networks, Edusoft, Flixster) across the telecoms, data communications, education and consumer internet industries. Overall, I’m passionate about the use of technology to solve real-world problems and love turning concepts into reality that touch the lives of millions of consumers.
Juvo is a culmination of 20 years of effort across the telecoms and consumer internet industries. After Flixster, where I was president and COO, was acquired by Warner Bros, I knew that I had one more challenge in me. More than anything, I wanted to confidently be able to say that I had made a real impact. This motivation is a big part of how Juvo came to be.
Before developing the idea for Juvo, I digested over 60 technical books and taught myself everything, from how to build iOS and Android apps to server code to Amazon Cloud Services. It was all in preparation while searching for the right concept and hoping that I would have the skills and expertise at my fingertips to make it happen.
Away from work, I’m proud to be a visiting lecturer for the Wharton School of Business’s undergraduate course in entrepreneurship.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
I’m the CEO and Founder of Juvo with overall responsibility for the company. Currently, my main areas of focus are the growth of the organisation, expansion of our reach around the world and investing in the development of forward looking financial services offerings.
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Juvo was founded with an overarching vision: to establish financial identities for the billions of people worldwide who are creditworthy, yet financially excluded, via their everyday use of smartphones. In partnership with mobile network operators, Juvo’s proprietary Identity Scoring technology uses data science, machine learning and game mechanics to enable millions of consumers to build their own personal financial identities and thereby gain access to otherwise unattainable mobile financial services.
Juvo is currently live in 23 countries and is expanding rapidly. Our overarching target is to enable as many of the 5 billion prepaid mobile phone users worldwide to build financial identities as a stepping stone towards greater mobile financial services.
Tell us how you are funded.
Juvo is Venture Capitalist funded, backed by global business leaders and luminaries in the world of tech, mobile and finance. Its executive team comprises accomplished industry leaders across the data science, consumer internet, financial services and mobile telecoms fields.
Current investors in the company include Freestyle Capital, Seed Resolute and Wing Venture Capital. As well as numerous private investors including the former CEOs of AT&T Wireless, NYSE, Sprint, Telefonica International and Vodafone Group. (Stay tuned as we will soon have an update on this! )
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
Our mission, and reason, for setting up Juvo was to help enable hundreds of millions of consumers around the world to build financial identities, starting with their everyday use of their prepaid mobile phone. Nearly 80 percent of the world’s mobile phone users are on prepaid mobile devices and over 2 billion of those users are currently excluded from financial services. Through the reach of mobile devices, consumer facing experiences and data science, it is possible to change this and enable financial access for millions of consumers.
Using data science and machine learning, Juvo’s Identity Scoring technology builds real-time personas for prepaid mobile subscribers. We start with simple transactions around mobile phone usage and through transparency, education and incentives walk users up a pathway to an increasing set of financial services.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Our target customers are global mobile operators. Currently Juvo partners with a number of mobile operators around the world, including Millicom and Cable & Wireless. We help our partners build deeper relationships with their prepaid consumers – reducing churn on average by over 40% and increasing their monthly revenues from 10% to 15% among prepaid mobile subscribers.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
It is exciting to see all of the innovation in the financial services space currently happening across the globe. Given a magic wand, I would like to see a closer collaboration between governments and regulators and the technology community to unlock the enormous potential that exists today to impact populations around the world.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
It is very simple: team up with innovative technology providers to unlock today’s potential. The financial services industry has moved at a relatively slow pace in consumer innovation. Today, what is possible with mobile distribution and cloud-based data science unlocks incredible potential for having an impact and providing access to a whole new swath of consumers. The right combination of innovators with existing large players can truly unlock this potential.
What phone are you carrying and why?
I use both an Android and an iOS device. Given our focus, understanding usage across both platforms is key to our success.
Where do you get your industry news from?
At Juvo we track financial services news and innovations across a whole host of publications and have an internal channel that aggregates the latest information – that is my main source.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
Ron Suber (@RonSuber) is always my FinTech go-to source of news.
Can you suggest the name of an Angel Investor or VC that might be interested in being profiled?
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
I’m incredibly biased here and am 150% invested in Juvo’s offerings and its impact around the world.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
Based on the main trend Juvo is seeing the primary focus of our predictions is that in the next 5-10 years over a billion new consumers will come online. We believe this will be transformative for financial services offerings across the globe.
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Mike Novogratz: BTC Is Less Dangerous Than Stocks
Mike Novogratz Is Pushing BTC Again
As it stands, bitcoin has been going through something of a rough patch. The currency recently fell from about $12,400 to its present figure of $10,800, which is about $400 higher than where it stood just a few days ago. The good news is that bitcoin is quite close to hitting the $10,900 mark, and considering it gained more than $100 from just yesterday to today, it’s easy to assume that it will hit the $11,000 line again relatively soon.
Bitcoin is being viewed as a “safe haven” of sorts. Similar with gold, many see bitcoin as a tool to hedge one’s wealth and keep one’s money and finances protected during times of inflation and economic strife. The conditions of the country – and of the world – have been relatively unstable since the coronavirus hit in mid-March of this year, and with fiat currencies such as the US dollar falling regularly, many think of bitcoin in a more positive light.
As it turns out, the stock market has been on pins and needles over the past few weeks considering the NASDAQ recently fell as much as 800 points. Novogratz has taken note of this fall and believes that this is a dangerous time to be involved in the stock market for several reasons.
For one thing, he states that election years are always very shaky for stock shares, and with just over 30 days to go until the U.S. decides who it’s leader will be for the next four years, the ground that supports stocks is moving up and down rather quickly earthquake style. Many Wall Street players have already expressed concerns about the economy should Biden win considering they don’t label him as an money-friendly leader.
Novogratz concurred, explaining:
If Biden wins, he’s raising taxes and he’s raising capital gains tax, most specifically. The market is not going to digest that well.
Furthermore, Novogratz has said that many top-notch companies’ stock shares have already reached their highs for the year. Companies such as Apple and Tesla have reached their peaks for 2020 and are likely to fall in the coming weeks. In fact, he believes the NASDAQ could find itself trading for as much as 11 percent less than where it is today.
Some Danger for Future Stocks
He later stated:
To illustrate, if the NASDAQ fell five percent today, bitcoin would probably be lower, not higher, but I think you are going to see those correlations break down… We don’t know what’s going to happen. The level of uncertainty around the dollar and inflation has to be significantly higher than any in our lifetime sales.
Bitcoin Difficulty Ribbon Could Indicate Imminent Price Increase
One is called the difficulty ribbon, and it has just broken out of the green buy zone for the first time since March in terms of compression. The metric was reported by analytics provider Glassnode, which added that historically, these had been periods characterized by a positive momentum indicating significant price increases.
#Bitcoin Difficulty Ribbon Compression is trending up and broke out of the green buy zone for the first time since March.
Historically, these have been periods characterized by a positive momentum indicating significant $BTC price increases.
— glassnode (@glassnode) September 28, 2020
Historical Bitcoin Buy Signal
The Bitcoin difficulty ribbon was created by chartist Willy Woo. It consists of simple moving averages of network difficulty enabling the rate of change of difficulty to be easily seen. Periods of high ribbon compression, such as the current situation, have been historically good buying opportunities.
There have been several significant price increases over Bitcoin’s lifespan that followed this ribbon compression breaking out of the green zone. The most recent was around April 2019 when BTC prices surged from below $5k to top out over $13k just three months later.
It was also observed that there had been a massive divergence in difficulty ribbon compression and Bitcoin price over the past six years. However, the chart has used a logarithmic price chart, which may have caused that anomaly.
Bitcoin’s hash ribbon is a similar metric, and CryptoPotato reported that it was flashing buy signals back in July. In the five weeks that followed, BTC price surged 34% to make its 2020 high.
BTC Price Action Update
Looking at the shorter term, Bitcoin’s price chart has just printed another ‘Bart Simpson’ pattern with a sharp 2.3% decline in just over an hour, wiping Monday’s gains.
Prices had recovered to $10,725 at the time of writing, and sentiment appears to be bullish for BTC, according to a recent poll by analyst and trader Josh Rager.
What kind of prices do you think we see with Bitcoin and the stock market this week?
— Josh Rager 📈 (@Josh_Rager) September 28, 2020
Bitcoin is currently trading right on the 50-day moving average, which is acting as resistance at the moment. The next step above this is a break above $11k, while on the low side, there is strong support at the $10k level. Analyst ‘CryptoHamster’ added:
“After the breakout the resistance line became support. Now it is getting tested. If it holds, it would be a very nice sign. But it has to hold, otherwise the whole growth is just a short squeeze.”
Short term charts suggest price could go either way, but longer-term on-chain analytics, such as the difficulty ribbon, are more bullish.
Bulgarian National Convicted For His Role in a Bitcoin-Related Crypto Exchage Scam
The owner of a cryptocurrency exchange has been recently convicted in a transnational scheme of defrauding people through an online auction fraud. Court says the scam reached a multi-million dollar scale.
At Least 900 Americans Victimized
As per a recent report, people who suffered from the fraud were probably more than 900 American citizens. According to the official statement, 53-years-old Rossen Iossifov, formerly of Bulgaria and reported owner of a Bulgaria-based Bitcoin exchange R.G. Coins, was convicted of both conspiracy to commit racketeering and money laundering. After a two-week trial, the jury in Frankfort, Kentucky and U.S. District Judge Robert E. Wier scheduled the sentencing to Jan 12, 2021.
Reportedly, some of the Romania-based members of the group posted a false advertisement to promote an online auction and sales websites, among which Craigslist and eBay. The ad promised its victims high-cost goods (typically vehicles) that did not exist.
As per the release, members of the scam would use stolen identities to promote and convince their victims to send money for the advertised items via “persuasive narratives”. For example, some of the ads had impersonated a military member in need of selling the advertised item before deployment.
The scammers also provided invoices with trademarks of reputable companies to their victims, making the transactions seem legit. The legal document also reveals that members of the conspiracy set up call centers, offering customer support. This way they would provide advice to client questions and “alleviate concerns over the advertisements”.
Converting The Stolen Funds Into Crypto Assets
According to the official statement, once Iosiffov received the victims’ funds, he and his fellows would convert them into crypto assets and transfer them to off-shore money launderers.
As per the court documents, “since at least September 2015 to December 2018, the Bulgarian exchanged crypto assets into local fiat currency on behalf of his Romania-based partners in the scam, knowing that Bitcoin presented the proceeds of illegal activity.”
According to the court statement, in just two and a half years, Iossifov exchanged more than $4.9 million worth of Bitcoin for only four of the members of the criminal team.
A total of seventeen defendants have been convicted in the case. Three others are fugitives. Police departments in the U.S. and Romania have led the procedures on the case.
It’s worth noting that the US DOJ is becoming increasingly active in pursuing crypto-related fraud. As CryptoPotato reported earlier, it went after 280 cryptocurrency accounts related to hackers from North Korea.
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