Beluga Spotlight: Sam Thapaliya, Founder of Zebec
By Will McKinnon January 4, 2024
Sam is the Founder of Zebec - a fintech startup building web3 payments and financial transactions ecosystem for payroll, investments and more. Zebec has originally pioneered introduced real-time and continuous streams of payments and financial transactions and has since expanded its suite of financial tools and services.
Founded in 2021, Zebec has raised over $28 million with investments from notable entities such as Circle, Coinbase, Solana Ventures, Breyer Capital, Republic, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. The platform services hundreds of companies, bringing blockchain technology to everyday lives. Zebec has continually advanced, introducing innovations like Nautilus Chain, the first streaming payment L3 EVM chain, and Wagelink, a payroll app which in partnership with USDC issuer Circle enables some web3 features for employees of the traditional companies. Zebec currently serves over 200 corporate clients in the US.
Sam has a remarkable story, having grown up in Nepal and eventually making his way to San Francisco, California where he initially arrived with just $100 to his name. Following his success with Zebec, Sam has also become a founding member and investor in notable projects such as Eclipse, Cedro Finance, and others.
1. What was life like growing up in Nepal and did you ever imagine you would end up becoming a tech founder in Silicon Valley?
Growing up in Nepal was challenging, as I was born and raised during the Civil War on the outskirts of Chitwan, Nepal. My mother was part of a small peer-to-peer (p2p) Microfinance group for 50 families and used to support our family financially.
I've had a knack for tech and programming since I was 13. I started developing ERP software systems for local businesses, and I would say that's where my journey began.That child at that time didn't know he would end up in Silicon Valley leading this massive company, but he had a dream to do something in the tech industry and build a great company.
2. What is the tech scene like in Nepal and what is crypto adoption like in Nepal?
I would say the tech scene in Nepal has been evolving massively; there are thousands of talented minds building cool things. We have some engineers and developers from Nepal working on our project as well. However, the number of new talent has far exceeded the local demand, and folks are forced to look towards foreign countries for opportunities.
As for crypto adoption, there hasn't been anything significant due to the stricter policies of the National Bank and the imposed ban on crypto trading. Hopefully, the government recognizes the benefits and opportunities that crypto brings and hopefully, will soon move towards easing the restrictions.
3. How did you get into crypto and why did you start Zebec?
The problem I observed and wanted to solve was the weekly/monthly payroll issue, allowing workers to receive funds in real-time for their work. In general terms, the goal was to enable individuals to get paid by the second, rather than having to wait for a weekly or monthly paycheck. This problem is even more prevalent in third-world countries where employees are sometimes uncertain if they will get paid at the end of their contract, so with this solution, they would be continually paid as they work.
This type of technology was not feasible with fiat currencies since banks and traditional payment rails that move fiat money are slow, expensive to operate, and not programmable to scale the technology. Hence, Zebec was born as a cryptocurrency and blockchain solution, making the movement of digital currency fast, economical and effective.
4. Why did you decide to build on Solana? Then, why did you decide to build your own chain?
The reason for choosing Solana can be traced back to the previous question, as we wanted a solution that is very fast, can handle multiple transactions per second, and is also very cost-effective. That's why we went with Solana.
However, as we grew, we realized that scaling the solution within Solana would be challenging. So, we went ahead and built our own payment streaming-focused chain to further scale our technology. What it enables is the opportunity for other projects to be built on our tech stack and benefit from it to create their own utility with Zebec's technology.
Since its inception, the Nautilus chain has experienced tremendous growth, with approximately 2 million transactions and 340,000 wallets registered on the chain - in just short four months since its mainnet launch.
5. You have attracted some of the most influential crypto investors to invest in Zebec. How did that fundraising process go?
It was amazing, seeing those-industry gurus agree with your plan and vision and believe in things you want to build is always an extraordinary feeling… Seeing those original ideas from our early pitch decks come to life - even more so.
6. Zebec is focused on crypto being used as money. The financial industry has been slow to adopt any form of crypto payments yet. Why do you think that is and what do you think needs to happen?
I think it more or less has to do with the types of utilities being built on blockchain and whether it's easy for normal people to use the tech in their daily lives. I would say the broader crypto adoption is growing steadily. Recently, even traditional financial giants like Visa revealed plans to introduce USDC settlement on the Solana network to improve cross-border settlement speed.
We are also working with USDC to assist more traditional institutions with their payroll and treasury, so adoption is happening. For it to pick up, more projects with real-life utility and applications need to be built, rather than just having the same products with different brands. I believe with the recent interest in blockchain uses for RWA and narrative picking up, we will see more of that happening to advance the adoption as well.
7. Wouldn't it be easier to just launch a memecoin like Bonk rather than try and build a crypto payments company?
Yes, it would be easier, but that wouldn't drive adoption of crypto and solve the real life problems we are trying to address. I love fun meme coins, but crypto sometimes gets negative limelight in the media because of stories of people losing money over some memecoins and shitcoins speculation.
I think there needs to be a balance between both: an environment for fun, creativity and community along with the serious utilities being built to solve real problems in the world. Currently, people mostly care about the price of various coins going up rather than the unique technology being developed and or services being provided. So, we would mostly need to change that mindset, encourage builders to create great projects with utilities to drive more adoption as well.
8. What new things are you excited about at Zebec?
Recently we launched Zebec Instant card users can fund with crypto and spend it online and in retail on regular purchases on goods and services. It's a one more step towards broader adoption by providing additional use cases for cryptocurrencies.
Also, generally we are excited to scale the services and tools Zebec provides and continually increase the list of clients, industry partners and employees taking advantage of Zebec's technology. For 2024 we want to become a crypto payments hub powering everything from real time payroll, financial management, investing, cross border payments and everything in between. A new age payments superapp or a crypto version of Venmo.
9. What's in your crypto wallet?
Apart from $ZBC of course, I hold a bit of everything with higher conviction on SOL, BTC and ETH. I hold some Solana memecoins as well lol.
10. Do you have a Bitcoin price prediction for 2024?
I would say $100K is inevitable in 2024.