Started in Nairobi, Kenya a little more than year ago, Bitpesa’s mission was to bring cheaper and faster remittances powered by bitcoins to Africa. The company has continued to pursue their mission but has came to an important milestone, with the announcement that has raised $1.1m in a funding round led by Pantera Capital.
Other investors included Crypto Currency Partners, Stephens Investment Management, and previous investors; the Bitcoin Opportunity Corporation and Future/Perfect Ventures. Pantera Capital’s CEO, Dan Morehead, has joined the company as a board member and will be taking a more active role compared to his many other investments in bitcoin businesses.
Bitpesa took the announcement of the funding round as a time to talk about a new direction for the company. Originally set out for remittances, enabling Kenyan expats to send money to their family back home, but the company has discovered a new user base has taken to their service–businesses.
Businesses in Kenya and various developed countries have been using the service to send payments to their suppliers, employees or business partners in other countries. Compared to existing options, Bitpesa offers faster payments and cheaper fees. Bitpesa allows anyone to send bitcoin to a person in Kenya. When the money is received, they will convert it into the local currency, Kenyan Shilling, and send it to the person’s bank account or M-Pesa account (a form of mobile money).
According to Bitpesa CEO Elizabeth Rossiello, the company’s trading volume had grown so much that they needed to quickly make new hires to handle it. Rossiello contributes the large amount of new volume to their recent additon of allowing bitcoin customers to buy bitcoins as well. Business owners in Ghana and Kenya has found buying and then sending bitcoins, as easy way to pay people outside their country.
They have also learned a lot over their first year in operation. Other than the unexpected use-case for businesses, the company has also found that it is crucial for the developed country on the other side of the transaction to have high bitcoin liquidity.
“We’ve seen a huge uptick where it’s easy and cheap to get bitcoin, and we’ve seen slower uptake where people don’t have that access. That’s the biggest finding over the year,” Rossiello said in an interview.
The company plans to use the newly raised capital to expand their services to new markets. Bitpesa, which is already operational in Kenya and Ghana, says they will be bringing their bitcoin buying and selling services to the neighbouring countries of Uganda and Traniza. Accompanied with the expansion, Bitpesa’s sale team will holding events in Kisumu, Mombasa, Accra and Nibori to spread awareness of their business and get new customers.
What do you think Bitpesa’s future in Africa?
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