Harare-based BitFinance is one of the leading bitcoin startups in Zimbabwe. In 2015, BitFinance received funding to start BitFundi, Zimbabwe’s first and only local bitcoin exchange.
The founders of BitFinance include Tawanda Kembo, Tawanda Maguze and Verengai Mabika. After lengthy studies and experiments, they launched BitFinance in 2014. The trio launched the company to provide better currency solutions to the fragile Zimbabwe economy. With bitcoin as a promising new alternative currency, they believed it could revolutionise how people do business in the country.
Kembo says he was inspired by his friend William, who was living in the United States. He wanted to send money to his wife in Zimbabwe but the charges at the traditional money remittance providers were exorbitant. William decided to send the $300 in bitcoins to Kembo, who would get about five percent, who then gave fiat currency to William’s wife. This would save William more than five to ten percent in transaction fees than if was using traditional money transfer services. After noticing that transferring money was hard for millions of Zimbabweans, software Kembo developer came up with the idea for BitFinance.
Initially, it was hard for the startup to find investors to scale up their venture. The business people would turn down any investment deal in Zimbabwe due to the ailing economy. So, the three co-founders applied to multiple startup organisations around the globe. One of the addresses for their letters was the Silicon Valley-based Boost VC’s accelerator program. The organisation later turned down their application.
A year after launching, they received venture funding from Nairobi-based Savannah Fund. They used the funding to build a team of ten people to help develop Zimbabwe’s first bitcoin exchange.
According to Kembo, in January 2016, they only had 62 new clients on BitcoinFundi. In that month, users only traded a volume of $759 on the platform. But in November that year, a total of $31,000 was exchanged. That was about 7,650 percent higher than the beginning of the year.
Also, in late 2016, BitFinance managed to raise additional capital from local angel investor Taurai Chinyamakobvu to improve the BitFundi platform and to expand its customer base.
How Does BitcoinFundi work?
BitFinance’s bitcoin exchange BitcoinFundi.com allows Zimbabweans to create an account and start selling or buying cryptocurrency. After a successful account registration, Zimbabweans can turn their fiat currency into bitcoin and vice versa. BitFinance only takes one percent as fees for the transactions, which is very low compared to other exchanges in Africa.
In light of Zimbabwe’s growing interest in bitcoin, BitFinance has the potential to become a big African startup success story despite coming from such a challenging environment for tech startups.