Nigerian blockchain-based Wi-Fi sharing startup Wicrypt plans to be active in five African countries over the course of this year after securing funding late last year.
Founded in 2018, Wicrypt is a decentralised mobile internet sharing and monetisation network that allows anyone to get paid for sharing their Wi-Fi. Users download the Wicrypt app and provide Wi-Fi through their mobile device or by purchasing a unique, custom-built Wicrypt Hotspot Creator device.
Wi-Fi providers can customise their customer experience through their Wicrypt dashboard by offering surveys, ads, and collecting customer data. Wicrypt-connected devices are all represented by unique NFTs that are linked to the blockchain. While Wicrypt hosts are paid by those accessing WiFi, Wicrypt also incentivises hosts through its native token, $WNT, for having high device up-time.
In November, the startup closed a strategic US$1.5 million funding round to help it expand into new countries, and chief executive officer (CEO) Ugochukwu Aronu, who also runs Nigerian DeFi startup Xend Finance, told us the startup has grand plans after seeing extremely strong uptake.
“Wicrypt currently has over 14,800 registered users and up to 1,000 hotspots currently being deployed in Nigeria. We will be in over five countries by Q2 2022,” he said.
With the cost of mobile internet data high in different regions of the world, and access to fast and efficient internet connection also a major problem, Wicrypt addresses this by giving individuals and businesses the power to create and share their own mobile internet data the way they want to. The company decentralises control of mobile internet data, making it more accessible and cheaper.
“Wicrypt has been able to drive down the cost of mobile internet connection in Nigeria by over 60 per cent in Wicrypt-enabled hotspot zones,” Aronu claims.
As a software engineer in Nigeria before he started Wicrypt, Aronu was working with his colleagues at the office when his internet service provider lost signal. He reached out to his colleagues to ask to share their hotspot with him, but they refused, responding that he would consume a large amount of their internet data, which they could not quantify, so they would not know how to bill him.
That was a “eureka moment” for Aronu, who conceived of the idea to create a system that would enable people to share their Wi-Fi and get paid in real-time.
“We realised that decentralising internet service provisions by allowing anyone become a mico-ISP will solve these problems,” he said.
The platform has certainly been impactful. Aside from the strong uptake and the equity funding, Wicrypt was also selected by Kin Foundation to receive a US$15,000 grant, and was among the winners of the Emerging Technology competition organised by the Nigeria Communication Commission (NCC). Its technology is used by Enugu WiFi with the aim of creating thousands of hotspots to provide highly available and cheap internet services in Nigeria’s Enugu State.
“We make money from our device sales, by charging a commission when mobile internet data is sold for money, and by also charging a subscription for using other features such as data collection and advertisement. Wicrypt is profitable,” Aronu said.