Unbanked countries are an excellent breeding ground for Bitcoin adoption, and BitPesa is tapping into that market by taking on global remittance service in Kenya, Africa. In a second round of funding, led by Pantera Capital, the Nairobi-based startup raised a whopping US$1.1m, and also welcomed Pantera Capital’s CEO and founder Dan Morehead to the board of directors.
Not all of the funds is coming from Pantera Capital, as the likes of Crypto Currency Partners, Bitcoin Opportunity Corp. Future/Perfect Ventures and Stephens Investment Management have all invested in BitPesa during this second round of funding. This brings the total to US$1.7m raised by BitPesa in just one year of its existence.
BitPesa is best known for launching their remittance market in May of 2014, which started out as a beta service to provide an easy gateway for sending money from the United Kingdom to kenya. Ever since that date, BitPesa has expanded their business of operations as the company now also lets users send money to Ghana. Both Tanzania and Uganda are expected to be added to the list of supported countries during Q1 2015.
“We’ve learned a lot, and we’re growing, Our company now has a staff of nine full-time employees, and has expanded its services beyond the remittance business. We’re surprised ourselves about how many people are excited about it. This whole year of being in operation has been a really big learning curve,” Elizabeth Rossiello, BitPesa CEO and co-founder, told the media.
One of the services offered by BitPesa comes in the form of a brokerage service – buying and selling of Bitcoins on behalf of their customers. The company learned that the remittance market heavily depends on how easy and cheap it is for expats to buy bitcoins in their countries of origin. In fact, Canada is one of Bitpesa’s biggest markets for this brokerage service, simply because it is very easy to buy Bitcoin there. One of the more challenging markets to penetrate is the UK market.
Remittance services in emerging markets provide both a legitimate business case and a chance to do social good. Considering the fact that recent statistics indicated there are over two billion people who don’t have (easy) access to a bank account, there is still a lot of room for BitPesa to grow. And they have all the tools at their disposal to do, when you take into account that anyone with access to a cellphone can make use of the services offered by BitPesa.
The road ahead will prove to be long and hard, as BitPesa has set a goal of capturing 1% of the local market with their services. However, the company is growing in popularity and brand awareness, and projects like these simply take time to earn people’s trust. Receiving funding from several investors does indicate that major players in the Bitcoin world are giving their vote of confidence to BitPesa.