Help Financially Underserved People with DeFi | Ugochukwu Aronu, CEO of Xend Finance (FTC ep 19)
FinTech Chat (FTC) is a series of educational & informative interviews with world professionals in the FinTech / Crypto / Blockchain communities. We aim to provide content that is digestible in multiple mediums such as video, audio (podcast), and written (blog) form!
FTC Episode 19
In this episode, Blockchain Wayne interviews Ugochukwu Aronu, CEO of Xend Finance. He shared the story when he started to get into the Blockchain space, educated more people in Africa about Blockchain, then built the team of Xend Finance and helped financially underserved people by Xend Finance’s solutions.
Note: This transcript was automatically generated by artificial intelligence (AI) and therefore typos and grammatical errors may be present.
Intro: Interviews on crypto, blockchain with your host, Blockchain Wayne on FTC.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Hey, everyone, welcome and thanks for watching, so exciting day today we’re joined today by the CEO of Xend Finance, Ugo. Ugo, thanks for joining us today, man. We definitely appreciate you… having you on… can’t wait to learn more about you and your company. So start out, man, tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get into this space?
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah, thanks very much, Wayne. It’s super super awesome to be here. Yeah, so I basically got into crypto in 2016. I’m… so I’m a software engineer, right. I’ve been building out software for over seven years now, so I got into crypto in 2016, late 2016. One of my friends doing his master’s in… in Finland told me about being able to program the blockchain… you know, so I found it really interesting. You know, so I got into it, started learning about Ethereum. That was when I bought my first bitcoin… you know, and everything, because I wanted to learn how wallets worked. I also stumbled upon blockchain.info which is on blockchain.com. I found the user experience very… very nice, the user interface was super like interesting and nice, so I decided to replicate the system right to build it. Because as an engineer, I feel I learned more when I build stuff, so I started building my own bitcoin wallet from ground up, learning the whole cryptographic stuff, and all that was really interesting so after that I organized my first meet up in the southeastern part of Nigeria. I was the first person to have a blockchain meet up in southeastern part of Nigeria. It was great, we had I think over 30 people in attendance. You know, I was demonstrating my wallet. It was a little bit well strange for a couple of people because they didn’t even know what crypto was and all that… yeah, but eventually… you know, I after explaining we had subsequent meetups, we even had a hackathon that I sponsored at the time… you know, and it was really great that the… the winners of the hackathon now people work with me… you know, they’re part of the developers of Xend Finance over and five years, about five years ago. So it’s really… really interesting. Yeah, so I got into people as a developer, and I’ve been developing since and yeah, it’s been an awesome experience, really seeing the evolution of the blockchain over the years.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Awesome, awesome, yeah those hackathons I hear are great places to find developers and identify people to work on the team, so it’s a cool story that they’re… they’re still with you today. Yeah so 30 people… what.. what year was that when you had that first meet up?
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: So the hackathon, the… the meetup was in 2017. I think it was late 2017, yeah because I started I think I got into Bitcoin 2016 so two times we learned it to build on it so it was I think late 2017. Yeah we had a hackathon on early 2018, I have to check but I know it’s within that time frame.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah nice, that’s good because I mean having… even having 30 people people don’t realize how hard that is especially since… you’re right, some people it’s hard to grasp what cryptocurrency is in the beginning, yeah, so you’ve got to teach that before, you can teach them how to use your wallet (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Exactly, yeah yeah) Cool, cool, so Xend Finance… you know, excited to hear more about what Xend Finance is. Can you tell us more about… you know, how that how Xend Finance came to be and what… you know, what our listeners may want to learn about the company?
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah so Xend Finance actually is a DeFi platform as a decentralized financial platform for cooperatives and for credit unions that provides multiple levels of interest by optimizing or aggregating multiple DeFi lending protocols now with the aim of providing very high yields in stable currencies, right. So the main idea behind Xend Finance is to enable people who live in fluctuating or unstable economies or people who are financially underserved to enable them protect their assets and also earn very high yields and stable currencies that are paid to a… to the US dollar now. Then the idea for Xend Finance actually came to me early 2020 when… you know, well it was during the pandemic. And then we realized that we had to tuck into our cities because at the time, there was a lot that was locked down everywhere in Nigeria and all in all all over the world… you know, so we realized that okay we had to tap into our savings. And it was… it was too bad that at the time I was trying to even tap into savings right, the value I had, even my mom at that time was way less than what we were expecting to have, right… the value we had could not really purchase some things. We could not afford to get some things at the time based on the current amount we had in savings. So what that meant was okay you have to look for other sources of revenue at the time and you couldn’t just depend on your savings and why that happened was because based out here in Nigeria and other parts of the world and other places like Africa and Asia, you realize that some economies are very unstable and because they are unstable, they are very… they are high levels of inflation, right? And because the high levels of inflation, it means that the value of your local currency continues to diminish or depreciate over time, right? So what we now did was we checked how do we protect the assets of people, how do we protect their savings, how do we enable them right to protect and make sure that anytime they save money that money continues to appreciate in value regardless of the economic situation in their current location or their country, so that’s how Xend Finance came into being to be able to design a system that will allow the lowest of the lowest people, people who don’t have access who are not financially who are nowhere financially served, people who I know unstable economies to be able to deposit their currency or their assets on our platform. We now give them and convert the currency to stable currencies like BUSD, DAI stable cryptocurrency and now lend you two different lending protocols for… for them to end up, so that’s how Xend finance came to be, yeah and it’s been really great yeah.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice nice, I mean you touched on some great points there. I mean people don’t realize that you know… just just holding money in your… in a lot of nations currencies, it suffers a lot of inflation… yeah you know, your purchasing power continues to go down, yeah and you know, it can even… even happens with the US dollar but it’s… it’s a lot slower than some countries. You know, I’ve talked to people especially… you know, where you are and then also in a lot of Latin American countries, they… they experience extreme volatility yeah, or people need it and I love the part you mentioned about underserved… you know, people that are underserved in the financial world, because so many people don’t have enough access to traditional financial systems or tools… and, and now there’s a better option because like when you hold money in the bank, the bank is actually the one they’re taking your money and they’re making money off of it, yeah so DeFi, that’s what people need to understand DeFi gives you the ability, you earn the yield not the bank, it decentralizes that ability to earn a yield by… you know, by lending and… and participating in some of those protocols. That’s awesome cool, so the… the premise of Xend Finance where… I guess what is it built on a certain chain? Is it multi-chain, what’s… what’s the current?
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah yeah, so Xend Finance is actually multi-chain, so the first we actually built first on the Binance Smart Chain, right, and we also built on Ethereum. Actually we developed or we started developing on Ethereum in 2020, right, before Binance smart chain went live because we’re still running a lot of tests and doing a lot of integrations, so when Binance Smart Chain went live, we realized that we had to build on Binance Smart Chain, one because of the cross chain ability and it’s EVM automatically, it supports… you know, Ethereum virtual machine and code… code like solidity basic code. It also… it’s very fast and fees are extremely low, and also looking at the audience, we are really trying to serve right, these are people that can’t afford to pay very high fees, these are people that need these transactions to be executed very quickly so that decided… why we decided to move with Binance Smart Chain first. So we deployed on Binance Smart Chain and we have our mainnet live already on Binance Smart Chain, and it’s really… it’s really going very… very well. We’re going to also deploy… we’ve deployed on Ethereum blockchain, but we’re going to make it public, I mean a couple of weeks. So we also support… and, we’re also going to be supporting all that and chains very soon. And we’ve been able to deploy a bridge that allows our tokens flow from the Ethereum blockchain to the Binance Smart Chain, so that allows people who are in the Binance Smart Chain who are solely on the Binance Smart Chain to be able to still enjoy all the benefits of our tokens and people who are on Ethereum blockchain to enjoy all the benefits. Yeah, so we support multiple chains.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice, yeah I mean it definitely makes a lot of sense, and that’s what I’ve heard the biggest thing, I mean… Ethereum has so much great development on it, but the gas fees are pretty high right now. (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah) The last thing you want to do is to have people where you know… you know, they… they can’t even afford the gas fees right now and that’s something Ethereum solving for… so, you know… they get that worked out, it’ll be great. But Binance Smart Chain is a good option. I’ve seen a lot of projects dual do and kind of what you said like it’s… it’s very easy to build for like Ethereum and switch over to Binance Smart Chain or vice versa, because of that the compatibility. So that’s great. I mean I’ve done some different things, dabbling around with some DeFi on both Ethereum and… and I had… I actually had one that was a chain swap and the Ethereum side of the swap, the ethereum side I had to do before the swap cost me well over 90 us dollars worth of gas… (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Wow) And then the binance smart chain was less than a dollar and… (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Exactly) And so you know, it just really shows and people don’t understand that’s network congestion… you know, it’s… it’s the ability of the network to scale and that’s kind of where you carry this all before because it’s not like the fees are just going up because they want… you know, it’s not that’s not an inflation thing, that’s kind of like traffic. The more traffic there is, you got to pay more to get your transaction through. Yeah, cool so… you know, tell us a little bit more about what… what does Xend Finance see as kind of like a road map or… or what what’s to come. I know there’s certain things every project’s working on stuff they can’t announce yet, but what can you tell… you know, our… our listeners and viewers as far as what they can expect to see on a road map for Xend Finance in… in the future? Yeah, so one of the things I think I’ll start from so far what we’ve got achieved. So one thing that makes me really excited about Xend Finance is our ability to… you know, exist between to accommodate both the crypto world and the non-critical world, now remember that our target audience are people who are you know stable economies, people who are financially underserved and now most of these people are not even crypto savvy, right? They don’t really… they are not, they don’t really understand all the terms… you know, all the big words the guys in the crypto space use, right, so we realized that to be able to get across to these people right, we need to build a system that they can easily understand, we need to build services that they are already used to right, so that is why at Xend Finance fest, we created our… we created our mainnet that people can access now… what we… we just… what we’re working on and it should be completed before the end of the month is our SDK. Now so what that sdk does is the software development kit, so what it does is it abstracts all the complexities of the blockchain away and allows developers or even existing and web 2.0 apps or even web 3.0 apps to integrate Xend Finance and give their users access to define without understanding the complexities of the blockchain, because even from the developer standpoint, there is also like… you know, there’s also a steep learning curve really where you want to move from an existing web 2.0 developer to a blockchain developer, there’s a lot of stuff to understand… you know, there’s a lot of information to comprehend so, but we want to solve people’s problems rather than have them start worrying about the complexity. I always use this example of people who fly in… in aeroplanes, right, you don’t know how the… the plane works, you… you don’t care about it, or you’re going to a car, you don’t care about how the car works, you’re just interested in moving from point A to point B. And that’s… that’s all you need to know. And that’s exactly what we’re doing at Xend Finance, removing all that complexity just take your users to DeFi, offer these good solutions to them and then give them very good value, and you’re happy, your users are happy, right? So that’s what I’ve been able to achieve. We’ve also been able to of course build a lot of partnerships to support even like people that don’t have access to… who don’t have direct access to crypto to have partnerships with crypto gateways that once we come on… on our site, we’re going to be deploying those latest by next month, you should be able to just use your fiat directly convert it to crypto and start using Xend Finance right? Yeah and one other major thing we’ve done which for me it’s very exciting is having partnership with real world credit unions, with real world companies and cooperatives. So we’ve announced a couple of partnerships, and we still have a lot of more… a lot more partnerships… you know, coming… coming and we’re going to be announcing a lot more, because the idea is to be able to bring people from the… you know, traditional financial space into the crypto specify space, which is where they need to actually be, right? So these are some of the things we’ve achieved and these are some of the things we are also working on building more partnerships, of course getting listed on more exchanges, to be able to give access to more people, so they can… they have access to of course getting the tokens. Because one great thing about our tokens is… is that in future we’re deploying our governance system, so people can use it to… you know, stir the direction of the protocol and determine how things run and of course, with the tokens, people can also do things like an insurance, because we’re also working on insurance. We’re going to be announcing that very soon, one of the things we’re announcing soon, insurance, so people can purchase insurance and also protect their assets while the assets are on our protocol, right. So these are some of the great things we’re working on and one of the things like I almost missed is having the support of both mainstream media, like where we got the announcement from TechCrunch which is like I really didn’t… you know, almost believe that because… you know, TechCrunch usually… you don’t see crypto projects directly… you know, on TechCrunch, but we were able to get featured on TechCrunch and other top and crypto media like Coindesk and Decrypt, so I mean we’ve received a lot of support, even from the Binance community. And it’s been super awesome, really it’s been super awesome today, so these are things we’ve achieved and then we are looking into the future to be able to get more people on board, get listed on more exchanges, and then get more and integrate more DeFi protocols to be able to give our users very high yields… you know, in their stable currencies, and of course acquire more and credit unions and cooperatives. The market size for credit unions and competitive is over and the assets they have on that management is over 2.2 trillion dollars globally. Our aim is we want to be able to achieve up and acquire or bring up to 10 of that number into our protocol. And we’re the first protocol to target credit unions and cooperatives, so we really had a lot of work to do. And yeah there’s a… there’s a lot ahead of us.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice, that’s some awesome stuff yeah one of the things I definitely want to touch back on what you said is because I was funny… I kind of smiled I use the same analogy when I talk about driving a car, you don’t have to know how the engine works, but you have to just… have to know how to operate it, right? You just have to know basically how to use it and it’s the same thing with… with a lot of crypto. It can be intimidating, so the easier you make that user experience the better. It’s kind of… you know… email, you think about when email first came out in the 90s, it was hard for people to use, you had to understand a little bit of coding and stuff to be able to send emails. And it was very slow and clunky. And now today you can have… you know, elderly grandmothers and grandfathers that can send an email with the swipe of a finger on an ipad or on a smartphone. And it’s the interface and the user experience has been improved and more people use. It’s the same thing with crypto and as you lead into DeFi, that’s some great… great ideas. And when you make it something that people are used to like even email, when you think about email like you’re sending an email and it has like an icon of like a letter, like an envelope (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah) People are used to that, so you kind of use all like the… the things they’re used to… to kind of bridge them into… into the new technology. (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Exactly that’s what we’re doing yeah)
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Nice, nice all right, so tell everybody where can they find out more about Xend Finance? I’m sure they want to connect with the… you know, with the community sounds like you’re building a global brand, it’s not just based out of… out of Nigeria right? You’re working on credit unions globally (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah) which is it’s very a good market to tap into, so where can people find out more about Xend Finance in your communities?
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah, so yeah… just like you said, our… our service is global, right, and we are based out of Nigeria, which is in Africa, but of course we’re targeting a lot of regions in different parts of the world. And then we have the great thing about us even our team is also… you know, internationally diverse and we have people from different countries who are part of the team. And it’s super awesome to work with them. So we have a huge community and you can find more about Xend Finance from our website, just website is xend.finance, and then on the website, you can see the links to our Telegram, our Medium and I really encourage you to go through the medium post if you can, or because it has a lot of information about what we’re doing. Our newsletter is also there, kindly subscribe because we always send out information even before those things are announced to the general public, that newsletter so always subscribe to our monthly newsletters. And then we have like… of course, we have a huge Telegram Community and the handle is @XendFinance, same thing with Twitter @XendFinance… you know, so we also… we also have our Linkedin. You can get all those things from… from the website. And then always feel free once you’re in the Telegram group to… you know, reach out to us. We are always there. We have our admins. People are always going to respond to you anytime at all.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah nice nice, very nice, so definitely, everyone listen to make sure you check out Xend Finance, visit their website and you kind of see it. You can see it there on Ugo’s shirt. It’s Xend. And I’m sure we’ll have this by the time this video posts, we’ll have it down at the bottom (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah yeah) So man, a lot of great stuff. I’m excited to see your project, how it develops over time. It sounds like… it’s… that’s what I love to hear man. I like to focus on projects that are really solving real world problems and really reaching the people that need it the most versus some projects that just will launch a coin or token just to have a coin or token out (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah) Real use is what’s going to drive adoption, and there’s a huge need for it in the world, and you may be thinking okay, I live in a country where maybe our currency is more stable but even in the US, you experience inflation, you need to start learning how to participate in decentralized finance protocols, so no matter where you live, US, Europe, Africa, Asia… you need to learn about this. There’s a need everywhere and also, even if there’s not an immediate need like say you live like myself in the US, the more I utilize and help to spread the awareness of it, the quicker it’s going to get adopted and spread to more people. That’s going to hit areas that are needed right, so because this globe is connected, we’re connected now more than ever with social media and the internet, right (UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah exactly) Cool, well, we go, man I definitely appreciate you joining us today. It’s been great talking to you, learning more about you, learning more about the project, but I’m sure we all want more. We could probably sit on here for another 30, 40 minutes and talk about it. I’m definitely going to visit your medium site and check out some of the medium articles to learn more about… you know, what your project’s done and… and learn more about it, so I’m excited. Thanks for joining. Any final thoughts for everyone or any anything you’d like to share before we… before we sign off?
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Yeah well, one of the things I’d just like to share is that for me, I feel… you know, at the… at this stage, right, the blockchain space… you know, the crypto space is still at the infancy level, right? We’re still very early on and my job really… you know, as the CEO of Xend Finance is to be able to… you know, educate people to be able to push the project to be able to ensure that the project is successful by enabling adoption that is making more people come on board. But you see Xend Finance is just one very small… you know… you know, cog you know… in the entire… in the entire machine, the… you know, the blockchain is it’s very huge. And my… what I’m trying to say is I love every other person right to support the blockchain by learning about projects, learning about what they do and trying to improve them, right, giving objective feedback, of course supporting the project in any way you can, one project but a couple of projects, right? But one other thing is… hello, can you hear me?
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah yeah what I’ll do I’ll edit this out, all right… yeah, it kind of slowed down a little bit connection got bad. I’ll edit this piece out. You can start it was good up until the point where you said one of the things…
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Okay so yeah, so one of the things I’ll basically like to tell everyone is always do your research, do your own research about any project, check out the team, check out what they are trying to do, even if you’re not technical, get someone who’s technical to probably check out the technical parts. But in all… in everything we try to do right, we always need to know that the blockchain space is still at the very tender and very early stages, and to be honest, this for me is one of the best things, if not the best thing, right, that has happened to this generation, because it’s giving us freedom, it’s giving us transparency, it’s giving us access like I would never imagine that someone in the remote part of Africa right will be able to access the international money market without having to go through a third party, or a middleman or a traditional or a central bank that was never, I would have never imagined that but now the blockchain has given us access so for me, and for… I always say this to my friends and my colleagues that I think blockchain is meant for people in Africa, right because we don’t have so many restrictions… restrictions in the past, so I’d like to let everyone know that the blockchain is something that’s really huge, sometimes really interesting, it’s fun and… you know, just as much as possible, support it, and let’s just see how… how big this thing can be.
BLOCKCHAIN WAYNE: Yeah, yeah absolutely. All right, Ugo, it’s been… it’s been a pleasure having you on today. Thanks for joining us. Excited to watch your project grow and develop. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on it, and I think everybody watching should as well, so all right everyone, thanks for watching and we will see you all on the next episode.
UGOCHUKWU ARONU: Thanks Wayne, thanks Wayne… yeah!
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About Ugochukwu Aronu
A serial entrepreneur, Ugo, short for Ugochukwu, has founded several companies that helped African businesses and banks scale and monetize online. Previously, Ugo worked for KPMG Nigeria performing vulnerability assessment and penetration tests on systems of financial institutions. The experience performing these tests gave Ugo critical background and infrastructure insight to start Xend Finance.
About Blockchain Wayne (Host)
Wayne has been managing, teaching, and coaching high performing teams for over 20 years. He has a passion for helping and teaching people and a passion for cryptocurrency and blockchain projects. He has created various coaching programs and partnerships with select education platforms and cryptocurrency program tools.
You can learn more on his website: https://www.blockchainwayne.com/