Startups #nofilter sat down with uChange CEO Avi Kugel as well as CMO Sam Schubert to talk about their revolutionary new app. After witnessing a man throwing money off of a balcony onto a marketplace full of people, followed by extensive PR coverage, we set out to find out what this app is all about, and whether it can truly disrupt the currency exchange system that we currently have. Click to read more interviews with startup founders.
1. Where did the idea for the app come from?
I’ve been exchanging and traveling for a long time and was very aware how much money I was losing to the exchange points (on average 10-12% of my exchange) that’s $100-$120 on an exchange of $1,000, and that’s on a good day! So, one day while waiting to exchange in the airport I overheard someone who needed dollars and I had shekels, she ended up wanting to exchange the same amount. We just did it right there and then using the actual exchange rate that I pulled up on my phone. We both saved 14% of our exchange. I’ve been off to the races ever since.
2. Okay, let’s get right to what everyone is wondering. Isn’t there an inherent safety issue with meeting a stranger on a street corner, while handling thousands of dollars? Are you able to ensure the safeness of each transaction?
Great question! Creating a safe and easy platform for people to exchange freely is our number one priority. We have a back office that verifies the users with uploads of a government issued ID, along with phone and email verifications – we’ve implemented vetting systems that are used by AirBnb and CouchSurfing. As well as a community review and ratings system. Most importantly we have social media accounts linked to users so someone can get a feel for a potential exchanger. As users increase and we move through a few investment rounds we have big plans on acquiring security software made here in Israel as well as placing social algorithms similar to Tinder in order for the matches to be the most comfortable for a user.
3. What about exact change? If I’m looking to change a specific amount of money, my counterpart needs to have the exact number.
No, both parties don’t have to have the exact amount – for example if you want to exchange $1,000 and the real rate is 3.9 (1$ = 3.9 shekels) you’ll see everyone near you that wants to exchange shekels to dollars in the range of 3,900 shekels and more. There is also a feature that we’re putting out where you’ll see the open market of offers near you. That way you’ll be able to see the whole picture of possible exchanges.
4. Any plans to become a digital service, sort of like an international Venmo?
Right now our number one goal is to connect people who are needing to exchange money and make it 100% free using the real market rate – as our community grows we will no doubt have our eyes set on a digital service, but for now we are focused on physical exchanges in local communities.
5. What are you most excited about right now with uChange?
Wow, I would say the coolest and most exciting thing happening right now is running into people on the street, friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers that have used uChange for their exchange and hearing their feedback. We still haven’t even launched the App officially, we put it up in the App Stores hoping to gain a few hundred users of close family and friends in order to fix bugs and BOOM, it just took off! There is so much more coming and we can’t wait to show it to everyone.
6. You recently released a video of a guy throwing money off a balcony onto a marketplace. Who was that person, and why did he throw away all that money? Will you be filming similar videos in other cities as well?
The identity of this man will forever be a secret, and he threw out the money in order to prove a point and get people to exchange that cash with uChange. Yes, we will be filming similar things in each city we launch in….stay tuned!
7. Apologies in advance for my SEO-driven nerd question. But the URL – Uchange.cash – this is the first .cash website I’ve ever gone to. Are you nervous that users might be put off that it isn’t a dot com? .cash sounds inherently shady.
Not at all, we’re an App not a website. The .cash simply was a cute gimmick that fit with what we’re all about.
8. Do you have any user data you can share with us? Number of downloads?
Right now all of our user base is coming from word of mouth and organic downloads, as soon as we officially launch – we’ll be happy to share the data. We can say the number of downloads is high, we were discovered and published by Nasdaq.com, Benzinga, Yahoo Finance, Jerusalem Post, and a few more which really got the word out and people just started downloading.
9. How is your funding going – any big rounds raised yet?
Funding is going very well, however the Angel round still isn’t complete so we’ll be able share more info with you once we officially close this round.
10. For fun: What website do you go to when your internet isn’t working?
Interesting question. When the internet goes down I go outside, not to a website.
11. For fun: Any advice for Startup #nofilter?
Sorry for being unoriginal but – just do it.
Download the app here!