After years of delays, it looks like the Tel Aviv Light Rail is finally opening one of its lines. So, let’s say like many young tech employees in the Gush Dan region, you’re ready to check out the metro for yourself, and you even want to pay for a ticket using some of the cryptocurrency tokens you hold.
In the first decade or so of crypto’s inception, it has consistently been at odds with the traditional financial system with which we interact today. In fact, Bitcoin was initially created in response to the 2008 financial crisis – intended as a decentralized monetary alternative that doesn’t rely on central banks. And like any potential threat to the status quo of traditional financial institutions, most of these players had no issue dismissing crypto as a scam-riddled fad.
But as crypto grew in prominence and went through transformative changes, some institutions did mellow in their perception. A few even started exploring entryways into crypto services. After a particularly tumultuous 2022, however, many legacy institutions paused or completely halted their blockchain projects – deeming the ecosystem as too volatile.
Going forward, the general consensus among both crypto and traditional finance leaders is that crypto cannot sustainably reach widespread adoption as a standalone system. And while the blockchain ecosystem still experiences growing pains, now is the time to work on practical and collaborative uses for crypto and fiat currency.
That renewed cooperative ambition doesn’t really help with refilling a Rav Kav (Israeli bus pass) using bitcoin, but there are innovators working to make it happen.
Kima: Making crypto adoption easier
Tel Aviv-based start-up Kima aims to make seamless crypto-fiat interaction a reality through its asset-agnostic payment and settlement protocol. By using a novel financial framework and software development kit (SDK) that crypto-based and traditional developers can utilize, Kima addresses two major challenges stopping crypto adoption: fragmentation and security.
Because crypto has mostly been built in parallel to traditional finance, it requires a lot more tools to navigate its complex technical frameworks. Opening a crypto wallet to hold your tokens is easy enough, but swapping coins across networks, buying digital assets, or accessing DeFi protocols can get tedious quickly. This fragmentation not only creates a frustrating user experience, it severely limits what you can actually use crypto for when constantly encountering incompatible apps or services. And that’s before trying to bring crypto into your fiat bank account.
Right now, tools such as smart contracts – blockchain-based self-executing contracts that function once agreement terms written in the code between each party are met – carry the weight of bridging crypto and fiat together. Once the operation is completed, the transactions are trackable and irreversible. While they can be convenient for certain things, they do come with their own drawbacks.
For one, Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency network, is incompatible with smart contracts. And smart contracts are also notorious for their security risks due to cyberattacks that exploit code-based vulnerabilities, with billions of funds being irrecoverably stolen.
Kima’s financial primitive creates a way to connect crypto and fiat without having to rely on smart contracts and constant coin-swapping. By stamping out insecure custody practices, Kima uses a proprietary blockchain that serves as a secure and transparent distributed ledger. By taking crypto back to its roots of peer-to-peer, efficient, and secure financial settlement, the start-up also opens the gate for a more diplomatic approach to unifying the ecosystem with fiat.
In a way, Kima is connecting crypto and fiat much like a metro line does – through direct lines, reduced friction, and freedom of movement with a level of implicit trust. By making crypto – namely, Bitcoin – access as easy as PayPal or Bit, the ecosystem will attain new levels of functionality and usage without needing a million intermediaries in between.
The start-up’s proposition to simplify cross-network financial interaction has already perked up the ears of power players in Israel’s fintech industry. Kima recently joined the FinSec Innovation Lab, a joint venture powered by Mastercard and EnelX that serves as an accelerator for projects advancing research and development in financial technology and security.
Additionally, the project has joined Syndika, a leading consortium of blockchain and AI advisers, builders, and business leaders dedicated to creating a sustainable and powerful tech ecosystem.
While a fully functional metro line in Tel Aviv still seems eons away, projects such as Kima exemplify the maturation of the blockchain industry in terms of product offering and concretely valuable development. You don’t have to jump through hoops to access your bank account or pay for a ticket using your traditional bank account, and Kima is helping build a reality where crypto can function in the same way.