We interviewed David El Achkar, the founder of Yellow, one of the first Bitcoin payment solution provider in the Middle East. Middle East is a unique and lucrative market where online payments are expensive and not widely adopted yet. By offering a bitcoin-based payment service, yellow is bridging the gap created by lack of attractive online payment services along with the goodness of Bitcoin.
NewsBTC: What made you start Yellow?
David: I was earlier working as a consultant in financial technology sector in San Francisco. By mid-2013, I quit my job and started working on multiple Bitcoin projects along with James. Yellow is the result of one such project. Online payments in the Middle East is expensive and not as proliferative as in most parts of the world. With Yellow, we provide Bitcoin based payment solution in the region.
NewsBTC: Can you tell us a bit more about Yellow?
David: Primarily, Yellow is a Bitcoin payment gateway, somewhat similar to BitPay. Unlike BitPay, we are focused on the Middle Eastern market. We provide Bitcoin payment infrastructure for businesses in this region. We are among the first companies in this sector to enter Middle Eastern market. Now we have various other players like BitOasis, Igot etc. who have entered the Bitcoin space here.
At Yellow, we are constantly working on developing new products. We have multiple products in the pipeline. Yellow Bitcoin Voucher is one such product for which we are conducting a pilot run in Lebanon and it has received a very good response so far.
NewsBTC: Please tell us a bit more about your team.
David: I founded Yellow along with James. I have experience as a consultant in fintech sector. James has over 10 years of experience as a software developer and he has worked in different industries. Initially we had another team member who helped us with business development. Apart from that, we have employed two software developers and one for business development. Our company is registered in Dubai and we have customers from Jordan, Lebanon and UAE.
NewsBTC: How is Yellow different from other payment processors in the region and who are your customers?
David: Unlike other payment processors, our focus is on the Arab speaking world. We customize our solution to the needs of the population and banks in this region. We enable businesses to accept payments in Bitcoin and we settle it in fiat currency. We are also coming up with localized Bitcoin vouchers, aiming to create an end-to-end Bitcoin solution.
There are new companies like BitOasis, Igot and Umbrella in Bitcoin segment, but no on so far when it comes to Bitcoin payment solutions.
NewsBTC: Apart from Yellow, you are also involved with Shu-Bitcoin; can you please tell us more about it?
David: Shu-Bitcoin is an educational research site. We cater to three different language speaking population. On Shu-Bitcoin, you can access information in Arabic, English and French. We also conduct meetups in all the countries where Yellow has its presence.
Shu-Bitcoin has received a lot of good feedback without any marketing.
NewsBTC: How is the Bitcoin scenario in the Middle East?
David: The Bitcoin market in the Middle East is still in very early stages. Bitcoin is gradually gaining more traction. We have a handful of companies in the region who are promoting and doing business in the Bitcoin sector, BitOasis, Bitfils and Igot to name a few. Eventually, the rise of Bitcoin based companies and services will lead to increased awareness and adoption of Bitcoin.
NewsBTC: How do you find the regulations on Bitcoin and digital currencies in the region?
David: As of now, there are no concrete regulations in place regarding Bitcoin and digital currencies. In 2013, the Central Banks of Lebanon and Jordan issued warnings against the use of bitcoins and risks associated with it. Apart from that, we haven’t seen much change yet. Most of the Central banks and regulatory bodies are watching the Bitcoin sphere closely, and in due time they might follow the regulations set by governing bodies in Western Countries to create a similar framework.
NewsBTC: How do you promote Bitcoin among the public? What is their general reaction?
David: We raise awareness about Bitcoin and Yellow by ensuring our presence in conferences. We take part in both technology and traditional conferences. We have been present at big conferences like Arabnet, STEP Conference, GITEX and other Card and Payment conferences in the region. WE also try to sign up big merchants in the region. These merchants have huge customer base and once they start providing Bitcoin as a payment options, customers start asking questions about Bitcoin and try to understand it.
The population can be safely divided into two categories with respect to Bitcoin. The first category is made up of tech savvy people who are excited about Bitcoin and they welcome Bitcoin payments as it is easy and inexpensive compared to traditional services. The other category has traditional people who are tech laggards. They are a lost cause. They take more time, and they won’t adopt Bitcoin until a majority of people starts using Bitcoin.
NewsBTC: What do you think about the future of Bitcoin, especially with National Banks of different countries mulling over the possibility of having their own version of digital currencies?
David: I don’t know. It is easy to speculate. However, on a higher level, Digital and Crypto- currencies are here to stay. Whether it will be Bitcoin or some other another coin, it is irrelevant as they are all built on a similar tech, which is interchangeable. Bitcoin already has a big network and it will be hard for any other coin to replace it.
NewsBTC: Has Yellow raised any investments so far?
David: We recently raised investments through a small seed round. The details are no public yet and I would like to share more information about it once it is done.
NewsBTC: How is the reception for Yellow in the region? Any significant partnerships?
David: the reception so far has been good. The traction varies from product to product. The Yellow Bitcoin Voucher, we have been piloting from the past few weeks has received a great response with thousands of dollars in sales.
Our payment product in Dubai has been set up are we are in talks with ecommerce players in the region. At Lebanon, we are working with few well-known businesses like Kashida Designs and Liwwa, a crowdfunding platform.
NewsBTC: What are the plans for Yellow? How do you intend to expand?
David: At Yellow, we have two primary goals.
1. Our payment solution is completely built and tested. Now we are in the process of getting more merchants onboard. We are ramping up the marketing and sales effort.
2. We are rapidly building and testing prototype products that work for Middle East. These products are designed by keeping the crowd, consumer needs and the region’s culture in mind. Our primary focus is to grow in the Middle East before we can expand to other regions.
Yellow is leveraging upon the power of Bitcoin to change the way online payments work in the Middle East. Yellow’s payment solution will be a boon for the ecommerce players in the region.