Navigating Strategic Partnerships, Fintech, and Greek Tech with Spiro Antonopoulos
In a world that is increasingly digitized - and soon to be tokenized - strategic partnerships are as critical as ever. We sat down with Spiro Antonopoulos – VP of Strategic Partnerships at Kuvacash – to gain insights about strategic partnerships and business development in the world of blockchain and fintech. With a background in operations, technology, finance, and compliance, Spiro has had much exposure to organizational problem solving. Spiro is currently at Kuvacash, whose mission is to accelerate the economic potential of the underbanked in Africa through a blockchain-based digital wallet.
Exploring the Important Role of Partnerships for Global Growth
Partnerships are especially critical to succeed in new digital economies. A digital economy encompasses any ecosystem in which a group of actors interacting virtually form some consensus on means of exchange and store of value. These ecosystems are not limited to geographic borders or closed banking systems but extend to any actors with the access and know-how to participate. At Kuvacash, we are trying to make it easy to participate in these new digital economies by creating a series of services that will be useful to customers, especially in markets where traditional banking is inefficient or not trusted.
This requires a top-down approach to partnerships. We see several crypto projects very focused on merchant acquisition – "such and such a cryptocurrency is now accepted at 1,000 merchants!" While these efforts are laudable, they have really high acquisition costs and for that reason don't scale. We tend to focus on partnerships where Kuvacash can provide immediate value to thousands or tens of thousands of existing customers. This is why we have partnered with microinsurance companies in Africa, with fintech platforms in Europe and the UK, and even with manufacturers focused on sustainable, urban transport solutions.
Starting Early & Hitting the Ground Running in the Search for Partnerships
Focus on strategic partnerships early. The good news is, not all partnerships require capital investment right away. You can stage the partnerships over the course of several months by executing a non-binding agreement that establishes rough parameters for collaboration without commercial terms. With this type of partnership, there is a relationship established and a set of use cases defined that can then be set in motion once your proposition is ready.
“Focus on strategic partnerships early. The good news is, not all partnerships require capital investment right away.”
In crafting partnerships, it is important to establish what exactly each party is looking for. Sometimes a partnership is a pure marketing or public relations play, other times it's intended to be a signal to regulators, and other times it's a purely commercial arrangement. We've been fortunate to have the ear of a number of larger partners based on our compelling story - bringing a number of financial services innovations to a market with massive potential based on demographics alone.
Building Your Brand & Partnerships as an Early-Stage Startup
Early stage startups may not have the customers or transaction flow to show a guaranteed revenue stream to potential partners, but that doesn’t mean you don’t bring anything to the table. Aside from your innovations, you can demonstrate a tightness of vision for your proposition, a crisp execution path, and even a bit of an edge. Sometimes, the big fish would rather try to figure out how they can play with you now rather than leaving you alone to eat their lunch sometime in the future.
“Sometimes, the big fish would rather try to figure out how they can play with you now rather than leaving you alone to eat their lunch sometime in the future.”
And for both those big and small fish, here are the 3 preliminary steps to take before establish partnerships.
Identify target market. Get an idea of the different services that your target customers use, and bucket those services into "competitive", "complementary", or "unrelated." Hone in on the companies or organizations in that complementary bucket and get out and talk to them.
Attend trade shows and industry conferences. Many mid to large sized organizations have some mandate to search for new technology (for partnerships or as acquisition targets) and therefore will be happy to talk to you.
Craft your story. Make sure you have a tight and compelling story about who you are and what specific problem in the market you are trying to address. But think big - articulate how your proposition has the potential to scale globally.
Embracing the Power of Teamwork and Risk-Taking
I'm inspired by elliptical individuals coming together to form powerful teams that do amazing things. I've experienced this as a musician working with larger ensembles, as an academic working on archaeological acoustics projects with Stanford and UCLA, and most recently with Kuvacash, where a diverse team of doers have built an innovative and beautiful product in less than eighteen months. The best piece of advice I can hand out would be to take risks and work with good people - life is too short!
“The best piece of advice I can hand out would be to take risks and work with good people - life is too short!”
Uncovering the Exploding Opportunity in Greece
The Greek tech ecosystem has enormous potential but is still relatively untapped. The workforce is highly educated and multilingual, and for this reason I believe we will see an increase in multinationals establishing operations, customer experience centers, and software development shops in Greece over the next several years. Beyond this, the government should be doing everything it can to attract entrepreneurs from within Greece and from abroad to establish startups on its own soil. Doing so will in turn attract foreign investment in Greece and increase fair tax revenue for the government.
“The government should be doing everything it can to attract entrepreneurs from within Greece and from abroad to establish startups on its own soil.”
Increasing Access to Financial Services
At Kuvacash we have built a blockchain-based digital wallet and international money system that is launching in Zimbabwe and being rolled out to other African markets soon. Kuvacash is a secure “bank in the sky” that allows customers to send and receive money instantly, make payments to over 100 countries around the world for extremely low fees, and cash out locally, always. After an intense eighteen months of product development, we’re now live in select markets! Download the app and experience a revolution in how money moves.
You can also see a short documentary about why we started in Zimbabwe here.
Partnering with The Port
Now that you’ve acquired specific tips and advice on partnerships, you are ready to cultivate some of your own. Regardless if you are in cryptocurrency or other specific industries, The Port can assist you along every step of the way. Get in touch with our team to learn how the Port can help you with your marketing efforts and business growth.
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