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LITTIO

COLOMBIA - Finance

Christian Knudsen

Co-Founder & President, Littio, Colombia

Bio

Christian Knudsen is the co-founder and president of Littio. He has over seven years of experience in leading growth in technology companies. In recent years, Christian has focused on learning how to build tech startups, working across various industries such as delivery, retail, web 3.0, and fintech. At Littio, he leads the growth team.
He has founded four companies, serves as a mentor and board member in various startups, is an angel investor, and has participated in early-stage investment rounds for several companies in Latin America.

"In the rapidly-evolving industry, our experience led us to connect the dots with micro-founders, realizing the potential of blockchain to address real-time problems."
TBY talks to Christian Knudsen, Co-Founder & President of Littio Colombia, about founding the company, challenges facing Colombian consumers, and the future of the market.
Could you explain the evolution of Littio and the motivation behind its creation?

Most companies find inspiration in the challenges faced by their founders. To comprehend the economic and political landscape in Colombia over the past few decades, consider the impact on Latin Americans, particularly in terms of financial isolation from stronger economies like the US and Europe. Opening a US bank account poses challenges for non-US citizens, requiring visas and travel, and often resulting in rejection. Historical issues, including political unrest and narco-trafficking since the 1980s, contributed to these difficulties. While Colombia’s economy is now more stable, the devaluation of the Colombian peso against the US dollar and euro remains a significant concern. Over the past 20 years, the peso has depreciated substantially, with USD1 equivalent to COP1,800 in 2014 and COP5,100 at the start of 2022. This dynamic presents both opportunities and challenges. Holding dollars for the past nine years could yield a 250-300% return, but on the flip side, net worth is devalued by 66%-70%, a passive process difficult to control without access to specific financial products. In Colombia, accessing dollar accounts involves several approaches. Opening a US account directly or attempting it through local banks like Helm or Bancolombia is one option; however, the bureaucratic process of opening a US account can take three months. Another avenue is opening an account in Panama, a dollarized economy. Still, the required minimum deposit of USD10,000 to USD20,000 is impractical for the average Colombian.

How do the technology and services you provide cater to the specific financial needs of the Colombian population?

In the evolution of our tech startup, we initially addressed the challenge of devaluation, providing users with a solution for hedging risk and storing value. However, with 220,000 users today, we recognize that our platform serves a broader range of needs. Beyond devaluation, many users in Colombia, including freelancers, remote workers and digital nomads, face difficulties receiving their US salaries due to high transaction fees from services like PayPal or Payoneer. To address this, we are launching routing numbers and checking accounts in the US, making our platform a hybrid of fiat and crypto. Our goal is to empower users not only to access stable coins, but also to save, invest, and manage their financial lives in the US and Europe. We are introducing a Littio card that allows spending in dollars and euros without additional fees, providing a significant advantage over traditional banking methods that impose forex fees. This not only facilitates seamless financial transactions, but also enables users to spend in different countries without incurring unnecessary charges.

Littio won the award for the Most Innovative FinTech in May of 2023. What distinguishes Littio from other fintechs, and what factors contributed to winning this award?

In the rapidly-evolving industry, our experience led us to connect the dots with micro-founders, realizing the potential of blockchain to address real-time problems. Three years ago, crypto and blockchain were primarily speculative, with individuals either gaining substantial wealth or facing significant losses. Witnessing the shift from speculation to utility, coupled with the economic challenges in Colombia, allowed us to innovate and execute effectively, leveraging our technology and product expertise. This convergence of factors enabled us to be a “pain killer” company, addressing a significant problem rather than just providing a “nice-to-have” solution. Solving a real problem quickly led to rapid scaling, allowing us to understand user needs and continuously adapt to meet them.

What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered being based in Colombia, and what are your goals for 2024?

Colombia is a promising entrepreneurial hub due to the abundance of opportunities, especially in sectors yet to be developed. Despite regulatory challenges, the government’s openness to negotiation and collaboration with entities like Colombia fintech is fostering rapid evolution. The digital adoption rate, which has grown from 60% to over 85%, presents a naturally expanding market. However, the challenge lies in simplifying financial solutions for a diverse user base, addressing UX/UI concerns. The competitive landscape has intensified, emphasizing the need for constant value delivery to users. While it is now common to have a dollar account, maintaining relevance and transcending to the next phase remains a daily challenge. Since our inception, competitors like Zulu and others have also emerged and gained prominence. Continuously delivering value to users is imperative for staying ahead and progressing to that next phase. Despite these obstacles, the excitement lies in continuous learning, solving problems and making people’s lives easier—a stark contrast to the corporate world, emphasizing the fulfilling aspects of social entrepreneurship over profit-driven pursuits. Our primary focus is on securing a Series A investment to fuel growth. This is essential for hiring top talent, advancing technology, and expanding partnerships. Second, we aim to extend our operations beyond Colombia to include Argentina and potentially Mexico, marking a strategic regional expansion. Lastly, we aspire to significantly grow our user base from 220,000 to a minimum of 1 million users.

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