FinTech Daily: The United Nations Launched Its First Large-Scale Ethereum Test; Airwallex Won $17 mi
The United Nations Just Launched Its First Large-Scale Ethereum Test
Starting today, the United Nations (UN) will begin distributing funds to thousands of people in Jordan as part of a trial using the ethereum blockchain. For the next month, cryptographically unique coupons representing an undisclosed number of Jordanian dinars will be sent to dozens of shops in five refugee camps across the nation. Then, instead of using a smartphone or a paper wallet to access the funds, recipients will rely on yet another emerging technology. Eye-scanning hardware made by London-based IrisGuard, already in place to verify the identity of some of the 500,000 recipients currently receiving traditional aid, is being repurposed to grant access to coupons. Multiple cashiers at each of the shops will then use technology co-developed by the WFP Innovation Accelerator, ethereum development startup Parity Technologies and blockchain big data firm Datarella to redeem the entitlements at the point of checkout. From the ground up, the solution was designed to scale, not just within Jordan, but beyond its borders to some of the 80 other countries served by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP). Built with the ethereum client developed by Gavin Wood's Parity Technologies (previously called Ethcore), the Jordanian coupon project will see a total of more than 10,000 people receiving funds, according to WFP financial officer, Houman Haddad. From there, the WFP hopes to expand to 100,000 people in Jordan in August, with the entire Jordanian refugee population receiving aid by the end of next year.
Melbourne FinTech Airwallex Just Won $17 million Funding From Mastercard, Sequoia and Tencent
Australian cross-border payment startup Airwallex has secured US$13 million ($17.4 million) in a funding round to continue its expansion overseas. Some of the biggest names in global commerce invested in the round, including card issuer Mastercard, tech venture capital firm Sequoia Capital China and Chinese web giant Tencent Holdings. Airwallex is in the enviable position of having access to a licence in China to conduct international transactions, a privilege that many massive multinationals such as Western Union have not been able to secure. Airwallex founder and chief executive Jack Zhang said that the company, which already can make payments to 100 countries, will use the cash injection to expand its physical presence in locations such as London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan. “There’s still a lot of improvement we can do to make our product easier to adopt – that’s probably 30% of the money will be used for. The other 70% will be used for market expansion into other countries, especially Europe and Singapore.” FinTech Australia chief executive Danielle Szetho hailed the funding as yet another international endorsement of the local fintech scene. “This announcement is further evidence that Australian fintech companies are regarded as truly world class by top global investors, and of our industry’s increasingly strong links with Asia and China,” she said. The startup also scored $4 million in July last year, in what it calls a “pre-series A” round from Gobi Partners, the investment manager of Chinese ecommerce conglomerate Alibaba, and a group of angel investors. The product at the time was in beta testing, but went live later in the year and the online portal half of the business now has more than 1,000 customers. The other half is an application programming interface, which allows different software to exchange information, that’s used by large corporate clients to facilitate international transfers.
Infosys, an Indian Outsourcing Company, Says It Will Create 10,000 U.S. Jobs
Facing new corporate demands and political pressure from a Trump administration that wants to curb immigrant work visas, Infosys, one of India’s leading tech outsourcing companies, said on Tuesday that it will hire up to 10,000 Americans to serve its clients in the United States. The move makes Infosys the latest Asian technology company to portray itself as a jobs creator as President Trump threatens to take action against companies he sees as hurting American workers. Last month, Mr. Trump signed an executive order directing government agencies to review employment immigration laws to promote “Hire American” policies. That included offering suggestions for how to reform the H-1B visa program, which operates as a lottery to bring skilled foreign laborers to the United States each year — usually tech workers. But Infosys is also making its move to hire American driven by other forces. Its home base of India has become a less appealing place to do the grunt work of programming as wages rise there and skilled labor has become more difficult to find. A study of 36,000 engineering students at 500 Indian colleges released last month found that only 5 percent could write software code correctly. “Building talent pools that define the future of America is what we want to do,” said Ravi Kumar S., Infosys’s president, in a phone interview from Indiana. Indiana, the home state of Vice President Mike Pence, will be the first beneficiary of Infosys’s hire-American efforts. The company intends to open a new technology and innovation office in or near Indianapolis in August, recruiting 100 new workers this year and several hundred more next year, with a goal of adding a total of 2,000 employees by 2021. Infosys said it would seek out three other sites for American expansion, looking for places that are close to clients and universities and where state and local governments are willing to offer significant economic incentives. The company already has an innovation hub in Silicon Valley. The majority of Infosys’s business is in the United States, and it typically receives several thousand H-1B visas every year to bring in mostly entry-level Indian programmers who move from project to project at companies in industries like banking, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and energy. Infosys has hired more American college graduates in the last couple of years, said Mr. Kumar. And now clients in the United States want the company to have even more people on site locally. So it must expand its American work force significantly, he said. Whether Infosys follows through on its ambitious goal of hiring 10,000 Americans in the next two years remains to be seen. The company, which employs more than 200,000 people globally, has slowed its overall hiring to a trickle as revenue growth has stalled. Mr. Kumar said the American expansion plans depend on expected client demand, as well as whether it can find and train enough college graduates with skills in artificial intelligence and other technical fields that it needs.