Georgy Sokolov, Co-Founder and VP Partnerships: Wirex Is a Worldwide Digital Payment Platform And Regulated Institution That Has Forged New Rules In The Digital Payments Space

August 26, 2022

Wirex is a worldwide digital payment platform and regulated institution that has forged new rules in the digital payments space. In 2015, the firm developed the world’s first crypto-enabled payment card that gives users the ability to seamlessly spend crypto and traditional currencies in real life.

Founded in 2014 by CEOs and co-founders Pavel Matveev and Dmitry Lazarichev, Wirex was created to make the digital economy accessible to everyone.

With over 5 million customers and rapid expansion into new territories, including the US, Wirex is uniquely placed to support and promote the mass adoption of a cashless society through creative solutions.

To reflect the growth of the metaverse, throughout 2021, the company has continued to expand their offering into the CeFi and DeFi sectors.

Tell us about yourself?

I have worked in a number of industries and roles, but the main part of my career prior to Wirex was in heavy freight aviation where I grew from a sales assistant to commercial director.

I was involved with sales, business development and quite a bit of project management, too, given that a whole number of my projects/contracts were quite complex in execution, not just in making the deal.

My last project, for example, before leaving the airline business and starting full time with Wirex was launching a flight programme into Antarctica – carrying both freight and station personnel, landing on ice, having to involve test pilots, etc.

So, unlike in the blockchain and cryptocurrency industry, ‘airdrop’ actually meant dropping freight off the ramp of an aircraft in remote areas of Antarctica for me, rather than dropping tokens to a number of crypto wallets 😊

Wirex and the crypto industry turned out to be a bit of a coincidence. In 2014, about a year after graduating from an Executive MBA programme together with Dmitry, we were having a chat and he mentioned bitcoin and the idea to make it spendable in real life.

It was all very new to me, he shared some links, and I got so fascinated by the philosophy and potential of the new technology, that I literally couldn’t sleep for two weeks – spending nights after work reading about it.

A couple of weeks later I was sold and joined him and Pavel. They are now co-CEO’s of Wirex, and I am responsible for partnerships and the commercial side of business.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Pay more attention to the non-custodial side of the crypto industry, rather than just focus on the niche Wirex was operating in. Try new stuff, get hands dirty, play with new DeFi protocols – learn by doing.

What problem does your business solve?

We founded Wirex in 2014, after identifying the need for a simple answer to the often-confusing world of cryptocurrencies.

To make digital money more accessible to everyone, we developed a mobile payments platform that allows customers to buy, store, exchange and spend digital and traditional currencies.

Methods of payment within traditional institutions today are renowned for having high fees, slow payment times and being difficult to access.

Particularly in these unprecedented times where money is becoming an increased worry, consumers are seeking alternative forms of payment that are faster, cost-effective, and deliver a seamless user experience.

As we move towards a cashless society, our aim is to support and promote the adoption of digital currencies and to provide a low-cost, efficient and secure transactional environment for individuals.

We are proud to say that in 2015, Wirex was the first company in the world to issue a crypto-enabled debit card.

This has given our users the ability to seamlessly convert and spend cryptocurrencies in day-to-day life, at more than 80 million outlets wherever Visa/Mastercard is accepted, to purchase everything from a loaf of bread, to a bill at their favourite restaurant.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

Wirex believes that cryptocurrency is the alternate solution that can fulfil consumers’ growing needs for a remarkable financial experience in a faster and economical way.

Previously, Bitcoin was not easily accessible to the mass market because of its complexity, and was often considered unsafe and negatively associated with crypto-gambling.

Wirex’s Co-Founders understood how Wirex can utilise cryptocurrency to provide a single mobile-based product addressing the multiple issues and concerns surrounding finances for customers.

What is your magic sauce?

Wirex was built with a dual business model, which aimed to allow us to be versatile in a increasingly competitive industry.

Our business model was built to withstand unpredictable circumstances, particular in the crypto industry which can be volatile.

Although our standard business model offers traditional banking in terms of card payments and traditional currency transactions, we also offer the cryptocurrency side through our custodial wallet including exchanges and DeFi services.

This allows us to continue being successful when one side of the business may see a decline in activity and revenue.

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

Our vision is to continue enabling more people to have access to the benefits of crypto. Since launch, Wirex has gone from strength to strength, and both the company and its product have changed to accommodate industry trends, regulatory requirements and market demand, which we hope to continue in the next 5 years.

We’re trying to expand the countries that we can operate in and therefore users we can provide our services too, with our focus being on doing so compliantly.

We’re also aiming to continue bridging the gap between the CeFi and DeFi spaces, launching more accessible features that allow users to utilise the world of DeFi.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

It’s hard to name one really, as there are so many.

Historically, the main challenge for us was to convince the traditional financial industry players (regulators, banks, card issuers, etc.) that we are a legit business, actively seeking to be compliant with all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction we operate in.

Even now most banks are not willing to work with companies dealing with crypto, although it has improved a lot since 2014 when we were starting in this industry.

The challenge back then was that we often had to work with the companies that were a little more willing to work with us, rather than with those we really wanted to work with, but who were too risk averse to consider us.

For that reason, more than once we had a situation when our key providers, such as card issuer or bank account provider would go belly-up (yes, not Wirex being a crypto-friendly business, but companies from the traditional space – licensed and regulated), leaving us with no alternative.

Each situation like that, although extremely difficult in the moment and almost putting us on the edge of survival as a business, caused us to become better and stronger in the longer run.

After one such nearly catastrophic event back in 2017, when our card issuing partner was banned by Visa, we ended up getting our own e-money license with the UK FCA – something almost unheard of at the time for a company working with crypto.

It allowed us to approach a much wider range of card issuing partners and successfully re-launch the card programme in Europe, and a much better one.

Then in 2020 we obtained principal membership with Mastercard, becoming the first crypto company in the world to get there and thus reducing the reliance on external BIN-sponsors.

It’s an overused phrase, but for a reason – what didn’t kill us made us stronger – more than once!

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We believe that everyone, whether a casual user of financial services, or a hardcore crypto fan, can find a use for our products and benefit from them. To sign-up today, visit wirexapp.com, or find out more information on our social media channels @wirexapp

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