Though its merely a global system of interconnected computers, the internet truly exists within its own spatial realm, in many ways a world each of us are citizens of in addition to our own countries. It lacks, however, its own unique and universal superstructures established in the physical world like governments, law enforcement and economic systems. That may be changing.
Last weekend, amongst the artists, musicians and entrepreneurs at Northside Festival, an innovative start-up launched a project that may literally alter the internet as we know it: Kurrenci, a digital money platform touted as the “internet’s own money.”
We spoke with Mosheh Poltorak, the V.P. of Marketing & Business Development at Kurrenci, about the inception of the project, its uniqueness against competitors and how Kurrenci will benefit artists.
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Alexander Cavaluzzo: What inspired the creation of Kurrenci?
Mosheh Poltorak: This project has been in development for almost a year and continues to evolve as we grow. We started out as four guys in a garage (as cliché as that sounds) trying to change the world. We took a holistic view as to the state of money on the internet, looking at the problems that existed from multiple viewpoints. From the merchant’s perspective, (putting aside the fees and hassle associated with payment processing) it has become increasingly difficult and expensive for them to acquire (and retain) consumers. To the point that they are off-loading product through affiliates and marketplaces without actually gaining a customer. From the shopper’s perceptive, coupons and discounts have become a mess, with flooded inboxes and endless searches for coupons and promo codes. By creating a new currency for the internet, we were able to tackle these and other problems at once.
AC: What are the benefits to consumers of using Kurrenci?
MP: This is new money! No more coupons. No more spam. Just simple, universal money that people can spend however they want and always get better value. What we have done is moved the discount from the item to the instrument of payment. We are trying to shift the paradigm of online shopping from constantly looking for discount codes, promos and coupons to “use Kurrenci online and automatically get a better value.” It’s like a European coming to the US — they are automatically getting more for their money because their instrument of payment is more valuable.
Aside from the additional value, there are myriad other benefits to using Kurrenci. For example, in the arts community there are lots of payments being made through the likes of Paypal that charges 3%, whereas one can accept Kurrenci without requiring setting up a merchant account or paying any fees. We are also developing a platform specifically for micro-payments, because it’s not economical to accept traditional payment forms with very small purchases. For example, a musician charging 99 cents for a song — most of that would go to the credit card companies. We are constantly trying to improve the product by listening to the feedback that our customers provide.
AC: What sets Kurrenci apart from its main competitors?
MP: We are a virtual currency with real value. The merchants can set the value of Kurrenci at their site in real time so it’s always worth more. There have been examples in the early days of the internet (mid 1990s, early 2000s) of digital currencies that failed. Most recently, Bitcoin started gaining some traction but hasn’t reached mass-appeal. We are very different from these as we are focused on value as opposed to the cryptology of the currency (because we are a centralized stored-value system we don’t need that). In everything that we do, we think about how this will benefit all stake-holders in the internet economy. Example: why would a customer use it, why would an ecommerce merchant accept it, gamers, gaming platforms etc. That is what we believe differentiates us from those who came prior, and that appeal will allow us to reach mass adoption.
AC: It really is as if you’ve created a new currency for a new world, which only seems fitting as the internet is a reality in and of itself. Why do you think it’s taken so long for an idea like this to materialize?
MP: Exactly! That’s our goal — a new Kurrenci for a new world! It took a while for consumers to get accustomed to transacting online, along with online banking. More importantly, before there hasn’t been a compelling reason for consumers to use these currencies — we hope to solve that by instilling value in it.
AC: How was your launch at Northside Festival? What did it mean to be among all the different entrepreneurial efforts this past weekend?
MP: As a Brooklyn-based start-up it meant a lot for us to launch at an event celebrating the talent, creativity and diversity of this great borough. There was a good turn-out of early-adopters and we had a lot of fun and got great feedback. There were also some interesting start-ups at the event that we hope to partner with.
AC: Charity seems to be an important part your mission. What philanthropic efforts does Kurrenci currently take part in?
MP: We have developed a donate feature so people can donate Kurrenci to their favorite charities and can even set up “pledges” to invite friends to raise money for a cause. As a socially-conscious company we commit to giving a percentage of earnings to charity and will be featuring select charities where we will be adding to users’ donations.
AC: How do you see this project progressing?
MP: We are currently developing a “split” feature for groups to be able to split a bill or chip-in for a gift. We are also partnering with independent online gaming companies to accept Kurrenci for in-game virtual goods. This is huge for Kurrenci, as gaming is one of the major areas that people spend money online and gamers are frustrated with having their money tied up in multiple platforms and not being able to move them between platforms. Kurrenci will allow someone to only have one instrument that can be used in multiple games (in addition to shopping, gifting etc).
We are also developing additional ways for Kurrenci to be acquired, such as exchanging airline miles and credit-card reward points into Kurrenci. In the not-too-distant future we will be expanding internationally that would allow an American to buy something from a foreign website and a foreigner to buy from American sites without having to deal with exchange rates and fees. The internet isn’t bound by national boundaries neither should its Kurrenci. That being said, we are going to keep improving and adding to this product (and will pivot as necessary) based on the feedback that we get.