BY DANIEL HARRISON
Ron Hose strikes an unusual figure in the Philippines. Soft-spoken but emphatic, he doesnt so much out as seem like he would fit in well somewhere else. San Francisco is where youd naturally place Hose, or maybe in his home country Israelsomewhere thats typically home to a startup enterprise.
And yet, Hose spends most of his hours working away in a 200-square-foot room on the 12th floor of an unglamorous, fairly old-fashioned office block in the Philippines. He can be hard to read. He shuns the sort of reverence and adulation that most disruptors crave. Not even his closest colleagues or his assistant could tell me his age or why he abandoned the West Coast.
Do you know what we are all about here? Do you understand what it is we are trying to do? Hose says, sounding vaguely irritated, in the hallways of his office building, perched on the couch. The greatest mistake that people make is in thinking of unbanked people as not having a bank account because they are poor. Its the other way round. Only 30 percent of this country has a bank account; most people have nowhere to keep their money. We are actually going to change all of that.
Coins, Hoses latest startup, is a payment-processing company based in the Philippines that allows people to make overseas (or local) payments at a fraction of the cost Western Union charges using Bitcoin or other comparable virtual currencies. Founded in 2013, the company has a second office in Thailand cofounded and managed by Topp Srupsrisopa, an Oxford graduate and former central bank economist.
Hose has reasons to be optimistic, if his personal track record is anything to go by. He graduated at the top of his class from Cornell University before cofounding and serving as CTO for Tokbox for a bit, which rapidly blew up into a multimillion-user video-conferencing company. By the end of its first year of operations in 2010, the company had completed all but one of its funding rounds, raising $26 million.
“There are 100 million people in the Philippines alone, many of whom are making payment transfers at least once a month.”
In todays white-hot VC funding climate, that might sound somewhat average. But back then, in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis, it was all but unheard of. Then, soon after cashing out in a $30 million sale, Hose cofounded another venture that became an instant success, tooa VC fund dubbed Innovation Endeavors, made famous by the involvement of Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
By any reasonable measure, Hose seems like he should be brushing shoulders in Silicon Valley.
Its not all philanthropy, he makes clear. We plan towere going to, evenmake a lot of money doing this. The market is huge and ripe for disruption: There are 100 million people in the Philippines alone, many of whom are making payment transfers at least once a month.
Taking Hoses ambitions into account, that means there are 40 million potential customers in the Philippines alone. In Vietnam, which boasts a larger populationand which the company entered in early 2015that number is about a fifth larger still.
Hose isnt the only one with an eye toward the Philippines. A growing number of young entrepreneurs are turning the sovereign island country into a hotbed for disruptive technologies.