BitFinance, a crypto-currency startup and Zimbabwean Bitcoin exchange just announced that it has secured additional capital from local angel investor Taurai Chinyamakobvu.
According to the BitFinance team, the funds will be used to expand the reach of their service and enhance the user experience on BitcoinFundi, their Bitcoin exchange which is an online platform used by third-party subscribers to hold and trade bitcoin with other subscribers.
Bitcoin is the world’s largest and most traded digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds.
Bitcoins are created and held electronically and unlike traditional government-backed currencies they are not printed but are generated by the bitcoin protocol using software and mathematical algorithms.
For anyone in Zimbabwe’s who’s been following blockchain technology and Bitcoin’s emergence as a currency alternative in the country, BitFinance is hardly a new name.
The startup, co-founded by Tawanda Kembo and Verengai Mabika in 2014 gained some visibility across Africa in 2015 when it was accepted into Savannah Fund’s 4th accelerator class in Kenya. This is where the team secured its first round of funding.
We caught up with Kembo who expressed his excitement about the new investment they’ve secured, especially in a Zimbabwean startup setting where structuring and securing investment is a bit challenging. In a quick Q & A here’s what he had to say.
Can you disclose how much funding you have secured or offer a rough indication of the amount?
Unfortunately although we decided that we want to announce the investment we decided not to disclose how much it was.
You mentioned the aspect of UX improvement and scaling. Can you shed a bit more light on the aspect of scaled operations? Will this also mean a drive to raise awareness on Bitcoin?
I can be more specific on this one. We want to enhance the user experience particularly focusing on the amount of time it takes a customer to move money into and out of BitcoinFundi. Regarding scaling, what we meant was awareness through education and growing our customer base in Zimbabwe. We also now accept (South African) Rand deposits/withdrawals and we’ve added the BTC/ZAR currency pair for traders. We want to spend more marketing dollars to get more people to do BTC/ZAR trades.
We have consistently been growing every month. In the month of January 2016, we only had 62 new customers but in November 2016 alone, we acquired 208 new customers. In January 2016 only $759 was traded on BitcoinFundi but in November 2016 alone, $31,000 was traded on BitcoinFundi. Our revenue last month was 7,652% higher than it was at beginning of the year. This investment will help us keep that momentum.
Are there any targets for growth in 2017?
In 2017 we’re going to focus on establishing more B2B partnerships – we think that’s where our biggest growth potential is. We’ve also learnt from our partnership with BeForward earlier this year that businesses, particularly those that move money across the border, are where the need for bitcoin is the greatest. A lot of companies whose businesses involve cross-border payments feel stranded and don’t know how they are going to survive 2017. Except those that are already using bitcoin of course.
What’s your take on how Bitcoin can emerge as an international payment solution for Zimbabwean businesses in 2017/18?
I think bitcoin is already the international payment solution. Governments all over the world are making it harder to use fiat currencies for international payments through capital controls and they are making fiat currencies less attractive for domestic payments too with the bank limits/restrictions and with the cash wars such as those that are happening in India right. Lots of people are looking towards bitcoin as the way out and you can measure this demand by how fast the price of bitcoin is going. The value of bitcoin has increased by about US$2 billion over the last few days alone.