The Social Innovation Podcast was recently introduced to Tiffany Tong and after a quick chat, we knew we had to have her on the show. Tiffany is a co-Founder and the CEO of Aloi, a tokenized, digital-loan platform that powers affordable finance for micro-entrepreneurs.
Some of the topics that Tiffany covered:
  • Studying Development and Agriculture at University
  • How small-holder farmers manage a large part of natural resources globally
  • Aloi’s mission and reason for being
  • Farmer success stories and what it actually feels like to the farmers that benefit
  • Proving the platform with Standard Chartered and getting other banks onboard
  • How tokenization minimizes fraud and enables trust
Some other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. Data Is My Forte
  2. I Just Kept Learning and Learning and Didn’t Want to Leave 
  3. Tokenization Is the Future
  4. We’re Making Impact, and That Is So Important to Me
  5. It’s Growing the Trust
This episode was produced by Isabelle Goh.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:32
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Social Innovation Podcast. Today we are joined by Tiffany Tong, a co-Founder and CEO at Aloi. Tiffany, thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you doing?

Tiffany Tong 0:45
Wonderful. How are you, Michael?

Michael Waitze 0:47
I am super. Where are you right now? By the way?

Tiffany Tong 0:51
I am in Kathmandu.

Michael Waitze 0:52
Are you really?

Tiffany Tong 0:55
I love it here. It’s such a beautiful city.

Michael Waitze 0:58
But are you are you, Nepalese by birth?

Tiffany Tong 1:00
No, I’m not. I bow on the streets. Nobody knows. Because I always get asked for directions on the street. Can you proud of that?

Michael Waitze 1:09
What’s the local language there?

Tiffany Tong 1:12
Nepali is the main language, but there’s so many other languages.

Michael Waitze 1:16
And are you fluent in the local language are conversant in the local language?

Tiffany Tong 1:21
I would say I can get around my my co founder always laughs at my Nepali. So still a long way to go.

Michael Waitze 1:28
Do you? Do you find the laughing at you like inspirational? Or demotivating? And I’ll tell you why. When I first moved to Japan, right in 1990, I made this decision that I was going to speak Japanese regardless. And if I heard a word, I was going to try to use it in the context that I kind of expected it to be used in and if somebody laughed, I knew I was wrong. You

Tiffany Tong 1:51
love it. I also speak Japanese by the way. Yeah, no, I love it actually. Because you know, when they laugh, they just teach me the right way to say it. And then next time I know better. So

Michael Waitze 2:02
yeah, I mean, I kind of looked at it. Like I was a three year old. Right? And if they thought it was cute, it was cute. And I just took that as like, Okay, I’m a three year old kid in Japanese. Where did you learn how to speak Japanese, by the way? And why?

Tiffany Tong 2:13
Just at night school and primary school. But I was just, you know, I loved it. And I well, back then Japanese pop culture was very, very popular. So I started learning Japanese.

Michael Waitze 2:29
Wait a second. But you said that night school and in primary school? I’m guessing those are two separate things because you’re going to night school. That’s a story in and of itself. But wait, where are you from?

Tiffany Tong 2:40
I was born in Hong Kong and move back and forth between Canada and Hong Kong. So identify both it’s from Hong Kong and get tiny Canadian.

Michael Waitze 2:48
Makes sense. I bet if I guess your age, it was close enough to 1997 that that actually probably made a difference? No.

Tiffany Tong 2:55
Well, actually, my family moved back to Hong Kong in 1996. So it was a bit against the flow, I would say.

Michael Waitze 3:04
Fair enough. Well, I lived in Japan for 22 years, but I bet your Japanese is probably still better than mine. Anyway. Um, can you give us a little bit more of your background? So I don’t I feel like I’m interrogating you. The lights are bright enough actually, to make this interesting.

Tiffany Tong 3:19
I have lots of nice yellow light. So soften the blow. Yeah, my background. So yes, I grew up between Hong Kong and Canada, and very much a third culture, child, right. And I always had a lot of curiosity about the world. I studied development in school and agriculture. But I didn’t really believe most of what my professors said in school and class. So the moment I graduated, I wanted to go and see it for myself. So I went during school, I went on academic exchange to Uganda and Tanzania. And then after graduating, I went back to Tanzania. And I wanted to stay for six months, and then ended up staying for almost 10 years on the African continent. And yeah, it’s been I just felt like I kept learning and learning I never wanted to leave. And I was working mostly in development and also in statistics. So data is my forte. Data

Michael Waitze 4:17
is my forte, can I ask you this, though? What do you mean, when you say like, my professors are saying all this stuff, but I didn’t really believe it. Do you know what I mean? And again, I’ll tell you why. Like, my daughter is going through university now. And there’s this push and pull right between like, Am I really learning anything? Or is this just building a base for me? And you know, you try to explain to because when you’re 1920 21, right, like you see the world in a different way than you do when you’re 31 or 41 or 51? For sure. Right. But what was the impetus for you to just go I don’t really buy this, but I want to go learn this kind of thing.

Tiffany Tong 4:51
I think university is great for learning frameworks on how to learn and how to think right, but I don’t necessarily think the conclusions are always correct. So I took a lot of economics courses and the conclusions were always like, really? Is that how farms work? Not really how smallholder farmers think. So yeah.

Michael Waitze 5:11
Okay. But that’s a really good point that right and this is the thing I’m trying to explain is that I’m not teaching you outcomes. I don’t even expect you believe the outcomes at all. Because frankly, I don’t know if those outcomes are true or not. Right. Like, I can tell you that six plus five is 11, with almost definitive proof, but kind of anything else around math and accepted science? I don’t know. Right? I mean, social sciences, social science. I think it’s all a maybe at some level. But anyway, what was the interest in farming? Like smallholder farming is such a it’s a very specific thing, particularly for somebody young to try to get interested in? Yeah.

Tiffany Tong 5:47
Yeah, that’s a really good question. I was always interested in development type work. And there was a program that was very suited for that at my university. But honestly, I entered it before knowing the faculty was actually about agriculture, because the faculty was called food and land and food systems. And I was just like, okay, and then I entered this program. And then I started, like, the first class, like, you know, Xi 101. It was about farming, I was like, Yeah, but I completely fell in love food, links, everything in our world, it like just human connections that links us to our land and links us to each other, and sustainability. So it’s just such a brilliant angle to be looking at the world.

Michael Waitze 6:31
It is, and particularly with the world’s population just continuously growing, but also the whole idea of like, look, there’s food that exists now that literally could not have been transported from Tanzania to Chicago, even just 10 years ago, right? Because the logistic systems didn’t exist to make that possible, right? There’s fruit that comes from Brazil that ends up in Thailand or in Japan, that who even knew it existed kind of thing, right? But it’s not new, that fruit has been there forever. It just couldn’t get around the world. So you write these interconnected ecosystems are there? And would you say that like so in Tanzania and in Africa, is it small or smallholder farmers the biggest farmers there and the reason why I asked her the accumulation of them, right, the aggregation of them, because in the US, it feels to me like even when I was a kid, we started this Archer Daniels Midland thing of just like, these massive mechanized corporate farms, but that’s not the way the rest of the world works, does it?

Tiffany Tong 7:27
Yeah, absolutely not. The vast majority of farmers are smallholder farmers. And I always like to say the largest group of land managers in the world are smallholder farmers. So collectively, they manage most of our natural resources actually

Michael Waitze 7:43
be how they do but are they super fragmented. In other words, my vision of what a smallholder farmer is even from my experience in Japan, right, where you literally saw, you know, some of these gigantic rice fields, but in some other places, you’d see that this tiny little patch of land, and somebody’s grandmother was just like, bending over and planting rice in. And although we didn’t talk about it a lot when I was there, that’s smallholder farming. And in Japan, the farmers have a lot of power. But I feel like in other countries, they may not have because they’re so fragmented that maybe they haven’t accumulated enough influence to be able to have power for what they’re doing and how they’re treated. Is that fair?

Tiffany Tong 8:21
Yeah, that’s very much fair. They’re a price taker on the market. And they have to follow all the national policies or, you know, disruptions in global trade for their inputs, everything. They they don’t have power to negotiate basically,

Michael Waitze 8:36
what changes for them, here’s the thing. I feel like the mobile phone and the ubiquity of technology everywhere, plus you said, you know, I’m a data person, right. And they’re potential access to data if it’s presented to them in a way that they can understand and use. Right, and it’s useful to them, puts them in a position, I think, if it’s done right to make them not price takers, but price givers, but also allows them to organize in a way that makes sense, right, and they meet can change the way the future of smallholder farming looks. No,

Tiffany Tong 9:09
absolutely. I personally believe technology is so powerful in this sector, because it can connect right it can organize, as you said, and it can give them more information. And it’s, it’s, you know, it’s like the internet reaching out to a whole new and population. And I think there needs to be a lot of proper design and the products, you need to make sure that happens instead of the other way around.

Michael Waitze 9:33
So what is alloyed do?

Tiffany Tong 9:36
alloy is a loan tokenizing software, so we help tokenized loans to make sure we can track them and help provide more affordable finance or micro entrepreneurs.

Michael Waitze 9:47
So what does that mean? No, actually, for people that don’t understand.

Tiffany Tong 9:51
Yeah, so it’s very simple, really. Basically, micro entrepreneurs usually get their loans and cash right like even if it’s additional loan, it’s off. then changed into cash and then spent. So it’s really a cash based on economy, which means there’s no data at all. And banks are very scared of investing in this new group of customers, because they don’t know what they’re going to use these loans for. So what alloyed does is track where the loan is being spent. So essentially a very small informal sector audit on how these businesses are spending their money. I want

Michael Waitze 10:23
to back up for a second though, right? We’re talking about smallholder farmers and other small entrepreneurs, I’m guessing right. But where did they get the cash from? And here’s the other thing. Let’s start with that. Where do they get the cash from?

Tiffany Tong 10:35
Yeah, so often, right now, it’s either informal lenders like loan sharks or small savings cooperatives or microfinance type of organizations, they usually don’t have access to larger banks, commercial banks that give the better rates.

Michael Waitze 10:49
But this is interesting, right? Because most smallholder farmers don’t just wake up one day and say, I’m gonna leave my job at Citi Group and be a smallholder farmer, right? It’s more likely that they’ve been a smallholder farmer for a generation or two generations or three generations. Right. So that farms been there for a while. The idea that there’s no history there is anathema. The fact that there’s no data there makes sense to me. Right? But how long does it take? And kind of what kind of data are you tracking to say, Okay, you have this cash loan, you’re paid back, that loan would probably ridiculous rates, right? If you’re getting it from a loan shark, so that’s terrible to begin with. But I just curious how that whole tokenization process works, and then what the output is at the end, then go to lenders where they say, okay, I get it, I will actually lend you money as part of the regular economy, and better rates, so you can actually make more money and have a better life kind of thing. Yeah.

Tiffany Tong 11:41
Yeah, absolutely.

Michael Waitze 11:42
So how does that work?

Tiffany Tong 11:44
Yeah, most smallholder farmers or small scale entrepreneurs, they approach one of these financing organizations, and they ask for a loan. And if it’s a small enough loan, they might put them in a group so that it’s a group guarantee. If it’s a larger loan, then they’ll definitely ask for collateral, right? Like usually land or buildings, which most of them don’t have, right. So you know, they can’t, they basically can’t trust them as an individual. So what we do is help the lender digitize the loan, and give it to the borrower. And then the borrower buys from an accredited ecosystem of vendors. So for example, they get a livestock loan, then it’s a livestock related vendor ecosystem that we create for them. And then they can buy from all these vendors, and then those spending exactly as track. So it’s ensured that the loan, this business loan is used on the business. And then it’s tracked, how much is used at which vendor, what did they buy? When did they buy it? And then the making sure the investment is in the business, then increasing the repayment, and increasing the ROI on the business.

Michael Waitze 12:52
Got it in a way, right. This is a two way market. I mean, the smallholder farmers have only as much information as they’ve been able to gather themselves about the financial system to right. So how do you go to them? And convince them? That this is a better way for them? Do you know what I mean? That rates are gonna get lower that at the end of the day, their daughter who’s probably working on the farm is going to actually have a better life than they have? Because you’re now digitalising and tokenizing? Their debt? God? I mean, it just, it must sound like magic or voodoo to somebody who doesn’t understand this, right?

Tiffany Tong 13:26
Yeah, definitely. The way we explained it to them is that it’s growing to trust, right, like you have these institutions that don’t trust you. And using this technology, it will grow the trust with them showed prove them that you’re a good entrepreneur, prove them that you’re using really spending on your business, right. So you know, we can we, we can start with your local financial institutions. So you trust them to and then that you’ll get this loan. And then growing forward as you grow, we’re going to bring your data and bring your history basically to larger financial institutions that will give you better rates. So this works really well in terms of entrepreneurs in another sector also that we work in. It’s an electric vehicle sector, in Kathmandu and these entrepreneurs, they really can’t get enough financing to buy a vehicle battery. So it’s about $10,000, that they need to buy this new vehicle battery. And it’s way beyond the level of the financial institutions that they usually work with. So usually they can get maybe around $5,000. So what we’ve been doing actually is bringing them to our bank partner, which is Standard Chartered Bank in Nepal, and being able to get them these $10,000 loans that are digitized and tracked. And what we’re actually starting to do also is track the repayments through that so generating even more data to make sure that they can go forward and have more loans in the future.

Michael Waitze 14:52
So what kind of technology infrastructure do you need to do this? It sounds very, not complicated, but complex to build this kind And the back end? Yeah.

Tiffany Tong 15:02
Yeah. So the back end, we are using the best technology we can. It’s blockchain. It’s online dashboards and everything. But we’re very careful with the design in terms of the interface between the borrower and the vendors with our system. So that actually is through SMS. So the lowest technology basically possible, and making sure that it’s as widely available and accessible to our users as possible. And is

Michael Waitze 15:27
this just in Nepal now or you in Nepal, for like other reasons, you know what I mean?

Tiffany Tong 15:34
We started in Nepal, my co founders Nepali, and the market here is actually really good for starting this and experimenting, we are looking to expand to Indonesia next year. So we’re looking for clients who are interested partners who are interested.

Michael Waitze 15:48
But it doesn’t make sense and few to partner with other sort of ecosystem players that are playing that are helping smallholder farmers do other things. You know, they mean like data providers that are saying, Okay, you’re a smallholder farmer, you don’t understand, like, the data that’s associated with whether or you know how to make your crops grow better, or how to rotate your crops, you know what I mean? Because there are tons of people that are out there doing this as well. Partnering with them gives you direct access to people already doing the job, but not getting the proper financing. Yeah, I mean, I’m sure you’ve thought about this. But that makes sense. No,

Tiffany Tong 16:20
absolutely. Yeah. And we are doing that. So we partner both with traditional NGOs that are working with farmers or farmers groups that are working with farmers, and also new apps that are providing farming, extension knowledge, right farming knowledge, basically. So being able to source some of our clients through that, and then also having the history of like, Oh, they’ve gone through this training, they’ve done this, you know, that kind of data and being able to integrate that into our platform?

Michael Waitze 16:45
Yeah, cuz, you know, at some point, right, the sales problem is half just convincing people to listen to you. But if they’ve already been working with another startup or another app provider and other solutions provider for them, and you go to them and say, how about this, instead of just going? I don’t understand, they’re just like, fine. Add that in?

Tiffany Tong 17:02
Yeah, absolutely. And they’re running trainings already. So we’re just like, we need 15 minutes to explain what we do. And this is going to be helpful for you. So yeah, that’s what we are building partnerships. And

Michael Waitze 17:12
and how long have you been doing this now?

Tiffany Tong 17:15
Since 2019, so about over three years now?

Michael Waitze 17:19
And what are like the success stories feel like to you? Do you know what I mean? In other words, you’re not opening up a pizza shop and trying to sell something to somebody that they’ve already had before. And just doing it better, you’re doing this kind of brand new thing, and particularly for people that have been underserved, if that makes sense. And maybe we can talk a little bit about why they’ve been underserved and what’s serving them changes in their lives. But what does that success feel like to you? And then what does it feel like to them as well, when they’re like, Okay, wait a second, you’ve changed three generations of me getting ripped off by loan sharks?

Tiffany Tong 17:49
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s so stories that really drive me every day, I wouldn’t be able to do it without knowing the actual impact, right? So yeah, it’s, it’s been amazing, like connecting, for example, in the electric vehicle sector that I mentioned before, it’s electric minibus, and we’ve helped connect so many of these entrepreneurs to bank financing that they’ve never had before. In the last six months in total, we’ve just helped disburse 300,000 US dollars in loans, which in the post market, and in the sector that we work in is really tremendous for us. So, yeah, we’re very, very proud of that. And, you know, hoping to more than double that by the end of the year. So it’s, it’s really amazing to see the growth and adoption of this of the technology,

Michael Waitze 18:38
like Standard Chartered, right, is your banking partner, you said in Nepal, but it’s not a Nepalese brand. And that’s a good thing. Right. Not a bad thing, to the extent that if you can prove to them that it works in Nepal with Standard Chartered right there a global bank, at least if definitely not like a very large Asian bank, for sure. Right? How do you then convince them to say like, you’ve supported us here, it’s worked, right. I don’t know what your default rates are. But they must be good. Otherwise, they wouldn’t keep doing it. To then go into Indonesia, with you go into Thailand with you go into Vietnam with you and stuff like that? Yeah. And will other banks then come in and actually make it more competitive as well, if you know what I mean?

Tiffany Tong 19:14
Absolutely. That’s what we’re aiming for. We, we actually have 13, other client bank clients. Some of them are small scale, some of them are mid scale. And then standard charter is, of course, the most famous and big one. So. But throughout our bank client network, we have access to over 150,000 micro entrepreneurs. So looking at that we’re really looking to expand and being able to reach a lot more customers and be able to serve them.

Michael Waitze 19:43
So what does expansion look like to you?

Tiffany Tong 19:47
Yeah, it means that, you know, even in very remote places, that people can have access to loans easily. They don’t have to walk five hours to go to the nearest branch, if at all that exists, to just stop apply for the loan and then wait a long time and then go back and have to get it in cash, right? So building, building that out and making sure additional lending. And cashless really lending is, is the future even at the lowest level. And also making sure that entrepreneurs have connections to good vendors, like building that vendor network is a huge part of our work. Also making sure that we are starting to have rating systems for vendors helping micro entrepreneurs access vendors that didn’t previously know about helping vendors get their message out regarding, you know, training or insurance or services that like entrepreneurs never thought about. So really building that to do who sided marketplace.

Michael Waitze 20:43
What is it? What is the vendor mean? Like, give me an example of a vendor that maybe someone has not had access to and that they now have access to and how it changes what they do? I’m just not clear on what you mean by the vendor?

Tiffany Tong 20:54
Yeah, definitely. In agriculture, this could mean you know, a vendor that sells beekeeping equipment if someone wants to start a beekeeping business, or it could be art or culture inputs, or agriculture insurance, and the electric vehicle sector. It’s like a charging station or a garage or a battery vendor.

Michael Waitze 21:15
And what’s the benefit of doing this on distributed ledger technology or on the blockchain? Right? And which protocol do you use, and

Tiffany Tong 21:25
why we use the hyper ledger fabric network protocol. It’s a private permissioned blockchain. So very much of the requirements of the finance sector, right, making sure that data is private and secure. The reason to use DLT is really to me, it’s the future, I look at our entrepreneurs, if they had data access, 20 years ago, they wouldn’t have the problems they’re having now in terms of accessing loans. So if we don’t get them on to the to the technology, that financing is going to use very soon in the future, then they will also be behind. That’s one thing. And the other thing is we just have so many users of the platform, right? Like imagine future impact investors wanting to come in and directly invest into my co entrepreneurs, we want to make sure that that ecosystem is transparent and secure so that everyone can trust it

Michael Waitze 22:18
is hyper ledger and just refresh my memory. Is that an IBM product?

Tiffany Tong 22:23
I don’t believe it’s an IBM product. Yeah, it’s an open source product. Yeah,

Michael Waitze 22:27
maybe maybe my relationship with this is because somebody that IBM was taking that open source product and doing something with it that that that’s okay. And what’s the benefit of tokenization? And here’s why I’m asking besides the fact that it’s the future. It’s just software, right? Like people think about tokens, like the thing you bought for the subway, right? So a little coin that you then use and either put it over some kind of electronic sensors, you can get into the MRT, or the subway or whatever. But in reality, what you’re talking about is something that’s not physical, it’s just software. And that allows you to make it programmable. So then does it restrict, in a way what that asset can be used to buy? I don’t want to call it money, per se. But you know what I mean? So you said before, they want to make sure that the money that’s getting lent to a small holder farmers getting spent on the things that are related to this mold or farm, but if it’s a token, you can just program it’ll only be useful for that, is that what you’re doing as well.

Tiffany Tong 23:22
That’s exactly what we’re doing. So essentially building specific closed ecosystems so that we can track the investments and make sure that the farmers are using using them correctly, and being able to see how that impact is going into the future. Right. So the tokenization is really essential, because without that, you just cannot understand where the loan is going. Right? You it has to be a unique token and to understand where that money has been. So yeah, but it’s

Michael Waitze 23:55
also super interesting, right? Because you, you can never eliminate fraud or scams, but you can surely minimize it by just going, you know, here’s $10,000, right? For the battery, or for the micro or for the microbuses the visa you’re talking about. But if something bad happens, maybe somebody takes a bit of the money just for now kind of thing and says, you know, my daughter got sick or my dog died or something, right. But in this case, if it’s tokenize, you simply can’t do that, right?

Tiffany Tong 24:22
Yes, that’s right. So we’re not saying that micro loans for personal reasons is a bad thing. We definitely encourage that sector. Yeah. But in terms of, you know, applying for a business loan, and then trying to gain the trust from financial institutions, it’s good to show where you’re spending that at. That’s exactly what happens in a lot of informal sectors is like you come home with a big loan and cash. And then your relatives start asking you they can borrow a bit of that money. It’s a bit tempting, you know, when you’re passing by the market to buy a few extra things. So we see that a lot actually from our field work. It’s we estimate that up to 50% of most loans are used for other purposes. And that’s what contributes to distrust right? So, yeah.

Michael Waitze 25:05
And again, it’s not meant to be nefarious, right? Like you said, it’s very tempting. If you’re on the way home and you’ve already bought the battery, you’ve got a few dollars leftover and your family is hungry, or your aunt is hungry kind of thing. It’s just really hard not to do.

Tiffany Tong 25:19
Absolutely. Yeah. Well, there’s a reason we have audits for both companies. Yeah. What’s it

Michael Waitze 25:26
like for somebody who literally starts from nothing, uses the alloy product, and then starts building this data history? Do you see behavioral changes, or at least just the understanding that wait a second, if I keep doing this, I can actually get better? Do you know what I mean?

Tiffany Tong 25:44
Yeah, we definitely see that, you know, we have in the electric vehicle sector, we started off with what we call training loans. So basically, helping new people new to the sector become drivers and so that they can earn a good livelihood. And these trainer and loans are about, you know, $500. And a lot of them have taken that and now become drivers. And they’re building their credit history. And now we’re helping them access the battery loan, like the $10,000 loan, right? So it’s a huge jump that, you know, in the past, they might have taken 20 years to make, and now we’re helping them access that just because we’re able to help track it and monitor it.

Michael Waitze 26:20
But this falls into one of the theories that I have, right is that if everything is cyclical, right? If economic cycles are cyclical, if data cycles are cyclical, what the access to technology and throughput and mobile phones has done this, it’s just really shortened to the cycle. Right? Because like you said, it would have taken 20 years before now it takes about three months, because you can get the capital to them. They can buy the bus or do the micro training or do the micro loan, you said, figure this stuff out and come back for more, because they’ve already proven that they can handle it. And it all happens super fast. It’s not a generational change. That’s like a monthly change. No,

Tiffany Tong 26:56
exactly. Yeah, it’s a monthly change. You’re basically collecting vastly more amounts of data right before microfinance, they collect the they have the data of how much is disbursed and then how much is repaid each month. Basically, that’s the data. Now we have a lot more data in between. and If once we are prototyping, a product for the repayment is launched, then you also have, you know, daily deposits or even weekly deposits. So it’s just vastly more amount of data that you can make a decision on what was the thing you said you

Michael Waitze 27:26
were going to launch.

Tiffany Tong 27:28
So it’s a micro deposit product, basically. So helping borrowers make daily or weekly deposits more much more frequently, and being able to track that. Because before in microfinance or any loans, really you repay it once a month, right. So that’s the only data you get. But example for these drivers, they actually collect quite a lot of money every day from their work. And they you know, if they’re able to deposit it and track it and have a trusted record, then that can be used for alternative credit scores.

Michael Waitze 27:58
And do you feel like this is going to have impact on banking at scale? Because I hadn’t even thought about this. And I don’t like to admit this recorded one, right. But this monthly repayment of any kind of borrowing, again, seems anachronistic, right? In a way. It’s like why I’m getting cash every single day in my business, why not just pay it off as early as I possibly can write the early repay principle, the lower your interest payments are going? Like all this stuff makes sense? Like, do you feel like you invented that too?

Tiffany Tong 28:27
I mean, we definitely didn’t invent it. But I think what we’re doing is making it more technology enabled a lot of those clients in this sector there, they don’t want to go into a big bank. They’re scared, right? It’s not welcoming to them. So why don’t we develop a way so they can deposit repayments at points that they’re comfortable with with vendors that are comfortable with? You know, or even their own organization that they’re comfortable with?

Michael Waitze 28:53
Did they see that on their phone? Like this is so interesting to me, I got mobile banking, for the first time about a year ago. Right, and I almost never go to the branch anymore. I check. I can check my balance for both of my accounts on my phone, I can make all of my payments there. Like if someone doesn’t have digital payment. I’m like, What are we in, like the 1930s? Right. And it must amaze them. Can they pay back their loans from the LOI app? Do you know what I mean? Through the same tokenization process through which they borrow? Is that how this works?

Tiffany Tong 29:25
Yeah, so it’s basically the reverse of the disbursement process completing loan cycle. What we do is we’re still prototyping this, but what we’re doing is basically collaborating with a trusted vendor or trusted deposit point in their in their daily lives. And every time they deposit the money because they still earn there. They’re living in cash right now. So they deposit the money and then it’s tracked through our system, and it’s put into their savings or repayment account.

Michael Waitze 29:51
So this reminds me a little bit about what Ayana does in the Philippines right. In other words, they have all these sorts of little businesses, whether they’re gas stations or newspapers. stance or whatever, right where all this cash is transacted all day. And then they use them as payment centers as well, right? So if I want to send money from Manila to somebody out in the provinces, I’ll do that by like making a payment to that gas station, which has some kind of electronic connectivity to something in Manila. And then they’ll take the cash to like my grandmother, who walk over and take that money, and they take a fee for it. And vice versa. If I suppose that my grandma wants to send me money to the city, which grandma stopped doing that. You know, she’ll take you back to the same place, is that the same thing you’re doing? You’re taking those little points where all these payments are getting made, and turn turning them into, like digital payment points.

Tiffany Tong 30:38
Basically, yeah, I entered does amazing work. We were talking to them earlier last month. Yeah, it’s it’s really, it’s really the cash in cash out points that we need to digitize and to expand vastly right like this. Cash in cash out points is the key to connecting the last mile. And we need to find a way to make sure we can build those networks and those points, and it’s possible technology enabled way.

Michael Waitze 31:03
Do you also feel like the more you do this, right, you said you’re working with a bunch of financial institutions, some of them smaller banks, obviously, center charters, the big named brand. But do you feel like other banks, big banks will look at this and think we haven’t been able to gather enough data over time to make the right decisions from a loan perspective, but it feels like alloy has figured this out. And it’s a massive untapped market, right? I mean, I don’t know what the population of Nepal is, but the population of Indonesia’s 270 million people, and the whole region is unbanked. And not just from a personal perspective from but but from an SME perspective. There’s something like 60 million SMEs or something I don’t know, in Indonesia alone, all of them need cash, right? They don’t just need a way to keep track of what they’re spending. They need a way to borrow so that they can grow. Are some of these big banks now looking and going, Wait a second, I think somebody’s figured this out, because that’s what the access all your data is, right?

Tiffany Tong 31:57
Absolutely. And we think so we have conversations with other banks ongoing, so we might be signing contracts and MOU sooner. We’re definitely seeing, I think the banks are seeing this as a new client pipeline that they weren’t able to work with before. So this is technology, enabling them to expand their client base. And of course, you know, banks are always looking to do that, you know,

Michael Waitze 32:19
look, entrepreneurship is so hard, right? The people that don’t do it don’t understand. Right? And you know, maybe your mom and dad are just thinking like, why didn’t you just go get a job kind of thing? Because I think a lot of the parents of entrepreneurs are probably thinking that at some level, like it would have been so much, why not just go work at Standard Chartered kind of thing. But putting that to the side with in the context of entrepreneurship, just being a daily slog, right, just trying to convince people of things that they’ve never been able to convince them before, you must wake up every day feeling like, I can’t believe like, I can have this much impact and change this many lives. Like it’s got to be happy and fun for you. No.

Tiffany Tong 32:58
Absolutely. As hard as it is, though. The point? Yeah,

Michael Waitze 33:04
but you know, yeah, it’s hard. It’s, it’s got to be super fun, and super rewarding. No,

Tiffany Tong 33:08
super rewarding, I would not trade this for the world. I honestly gave up a pretty good job to come and do this. So yeah, definitely getting those questions not just from my parents from from a lot of people around me, but but impact, I think, you know, I worked with data before, and it really felt very impersonal at times. And sometimes I would just be coding data 14 hours a day. But I, this, you know, what we’re doing every day, we’re making an impact. And I that is so important, to me,

Michael Waitze 33:40
it’s super important. And it also changes the course of so many individual people’s lives. And I love this idea like that I had a good job before, right, we can, we can dig deep into what that means, I would make the case that the job you have now is better than the job that you had before, regardless of what your income is, personally, because like you said, it’s no longer impersonal to you, when you’re working with this data. It’s actually very personal, because you can see the changes in the lives of the people that you’re serving, and still make a profit. I mean, this is classic social innovation and why it matters so much. No,

Tiffany Tong 34:15
absolutely. I mean, in terms of that definition of a good, this wins, by far. even close, not even close, like seeing what data can actually do and making that happen is a dream come true. Really like before used to collect data. And I’m like, Okay, what you know, and I know, far in the future, this will have impact but like, what does it actually do? Right, but now I see it every single day.

Michael Waitze 34:38
And can we talk about this? Are you are you funded? Have you bootstrapped up until now are you funded or have you are you funding like, what’s the story there?

Tiffany Tong 34:48
Yeah, we’re currently raising our first round. It’s our seed round. So definitely looking forward to connecting to investors who are aligned with our mission and for the seed round.

Michael Waitze 35:01
What’s the best way to contact you?

Tiffany Tong 35:05
My email

Michael Waitze 35:08
and aloi is loi we don’t want to talk about the olive oil part of this

Tiffany Tong 35:16
will remain our secret at

Michael Waitze 35:18
least I made you laugh. Tiffany Tong. Thank you so much for doing this. A co-founder and CEO at Aloi. This was awesome.

Tiffany Tong 35:26
Thanks so much