Seeking to examine the current pace of blockchain mass adoption, we interviewed Ivan Ilin, the COO at NearPay, a crypto finance protocol that successfully combines both on-ramp and off-ramp solutions, including custodial NearPay Wallet, NearPay Visa Card and NearPay Swap, to bridge cryptocurrencies and fiat.
Having more than twelve years experience in building and executing B2B and B2C businesses, Ivan is now responsible for implementing NearPay’s core strategy, managing key partnerships, as well as organizing the product development and legal processes. So, the interview was a great opportunity to get insights into how exactly NEAR-based projects curve the path for average web2 users to an open-source, trustless and permissionless web3.
Integration Into Everyday Use Cases
Thanks to its one-of-a-kind scalability and user-friendly approach, NEAR Protocol, which is a relatively young DPoS sharded blockchain, attracts more and more attention from everybody who is into crypto – from developers to end-users. NearPay is actively progressing to contribute to an overall development of NEAR but, according to Ivan, the main goal itself goes far beyond the ecosystem.
“Although the crypto world is getting bigger, it still remains small compared to the fiat world. Apart from helping NEAR to evolve, we see our mission in providing users with a convenient and familiar experience by making the transition from fiat to crypto and vice versa as smooth as possible. For instance, with NearPay’s Prepaid Visa card, you can easily integrate crypto with your daily payments for shopping, online subscriptions, or restaurant bills.
The card issuance is as simple as that: you pass a quick verification process by providing a proof of identity (national ID, passport) and proof of address (utility bill, bank statement) and voilà – enjoy making purchases anywhere Visa cards are accepted,” he says.
Continuing to talk about the impact of NearPay, Ivan added that the team focuses on creating innovative services that will be equally easy-to-use as crypto newbies and professionals. “Thus, we expect an increase in the turnover and the number of users in the NEAR ecosystem that is looking to attract one billion people in the next five years.”
Moreover, NearPay is bringing more users into NEAR by offering fiat-to-crypto payment gateway for businesses with no transaction or setup fees. By integrating the NearPay widget, business owners can allow users to purchase crypto (along with other assets or services) with fiat.
“We already have cryptocurrency wallets NEAR Wallet, MyNearWallet and HERE Wallet among the widget supporters and believe that other blockchain-related projects like DeFi products or NFT marketplaces should consider integrating it. But we are calling traditional businesses that are willing to work with crypto to join in as well. It’s a double bonus for the merchant: The entire process remains the same, while its customer base expands and diversifies” – notes Ivan.
Enhanced Digital Banking Experience
One of the major sticking points that prevent both individuals and businesses from joining crypto adoption en masse are regulatory compliance issues. It is ironic, however, that companies willing to support crypto payments must undergo many legal processes in order to connect blockchain – which is ideologically decentralized and privacy-oriented – to the world that is ruled by centralization. This means establishing strong relationships with banks, payment providers, merchants, and other institutions.
Besides, as noted by Ivan, patterns of financial services use may vary from country to country: somewhere in the world people resort to crypto in order to bypass sanctions or a byzantine maze of national currencies, while other people are used to instant mobile payments. “We face the challenge of understanding and satisfying the usual and prevailing human scenarios,” he added.
NearPay takes over all the necessary negotiations with financial regulators, while also enhancing security, facilitating KYC procedures, handling risks, and detecting fraud. NearPay Card already has a password-protected authentication system through Verified by Visa. There are still some critical restrictions for both on-ramps and off-ramps that must be lifted in order to make crypto-to-fiat and fiat-to-crypto transfers fast and cheap for as many people as possible. NearPay Cards are currently available only to residents of the United Kingdom and the European Economic Area. Therefore, Ivan and NearPay’s core team are exploring geographic expansion opportunities and planning to begin with the US and Asia.
Ivan noted that many exciting new features will be introduced in NearPay Swap in 2023 as we discussed the near-term updates. Along with expanding our reach to more geographies, we are working on reducing fees, extending order limits, and launching new tokens—such as NEAR-based USDC and USDT.”
Ivan announced that the company is in the final stages of introducing physical NearPay cards and plans to implement a new functionality to NearPay Wallet and its two mobile apps for iOS and Android that would allow crypto lending as well as earning rewards with a compound interest rate as high as 15.81% APY. Another important milestone is the addition of NEAR-native stablecoin USN.
Unlocking a True Power of NFTs
With NearPay Swap, users can purchase NFTs with their bank cards directly from NFT marketplaces that have implemented the widget. Everything is done in just a few clicks, eliminating the need to go through a vigorous process that consists of several steps – from buying crypto to registering your NFT wallet and transferring funds to it.
Ivan also mentioned that they are considering purchasing NFTs through NearPay Wallet in the foreseeable future. Then he discussed how he perceives NFTs generally and NFTs created on NEAR specifically.
“NFTs are a brilliant example of how digital scarcity can be achieved. In other words, people who create and share any piece of art, content or data on the internet can prove that they are the only owners of particular files. With NFTs, you can program them to do pretty much anything, and you will always know where they are, unlike the physical world, where creators may not know their works are being used for financial gain.
But actually, that’s not even the best part as with NFT projects built on NEAR, users are able to trade these tokens, which mostly represent virtual art pieces, everywhere and are always paid a commission once their files are bought or sold. I mean, any time, in any location,” he explained.
“Despite the concept of NFTs is still confusing for many, these digital images of smoking apes become the next big thing in web3 – we don’t even know yet their full potential but we are already appalled by a huge number of stunning use cases for expressing ideas, rallying communities, or creating value on the internet.
The power of the NEAR blockchain is not fully exposed for NFTs as well. However, we see that by simplifying the minting process, streamlining NFT curation and making NFT trades common, the projects within the NEAR ecosystem ensure more transactions, more adoption, and more freedom,” Ivan concluded.
In the end, he reflected briefly on what he felt was the main value of the NEAR community: “The most inspiring thing about the NEAR community is that everyone here is very supportive and open to learning new things. NEAR Foundation accumulates both established and actively developing projects, providing them with necessary financial backing, while also connecting crypto enthusiasts for sharing expertise and views on our common future of decentralized internet.
And of course, NEAR Protocol itself is a promising innovation that can create a very solid foundation for this future to arrive due to its stability, fast and low-fee transactions, and developer-friendly instruments. We at NearPay believe that Web3 shouldn’t be closed in on itself, so we chose the NEAR ecosystem to fulfill our mission of breaking down crypto-fiat barriers.”