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BitPesa Secures More Funding But Is Forced To Reduce Kenyan Service

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BitPesa Secures Funding

Nairobi-based bitcoin startup Bitpesa has secured follow up funding to its Series A round earlier this year. This new round of funding is led by venture capital firm Greycroft Partners, which has experience investing in tech startups such as Braintree and Venmo, provides BitPesa with a further cash injection.

Investors Attracted By Positive Growth

The new round of financing comes at a time the firm is experiencing steady growth in African markets. Bitpesa is currently handling monthly trade volumes of $10 million, up from $1 million in 2016, with a 25% increase every month for the last two years. The company’s model which uses the bitcoin blockchain to provide low-cost B2B payment processing for local and international markets led to its being named the best fintech solution in Africa at the AppsAfrica Awards 2016.

Bitpesa CEO, Elizabeth Rossiello commented in AppsAfrica: “We keep raising because we have grown above and beyond projections […] We have expanded across Africa and Europe, added a stellar roster of Fortune 100 companies as clients and are receiving growing support from regulators.”

BitPesa received an additional new investor Plug and Play, with existing shareholders also fronting extra capital. Investors from previous funding rounds include Draper Associates, Pantera Capital, Blockchain Capital and Digital Currency Group.

According to Greycroft founder Alan Patricof in a Disrupt Africa interview, the investment firm believes bitcoin has potential when it comes to remittances and payments in emerging markets, an area where BitPesa is well positioned.

Plug and Play vice president, Scott Robinson also added: “BitPesa promises to revolutionise the exchange and payment markets in Africa, disrupting monopoly incumbents and opening the fastest growing economies in the world to foreign companies. We’re very excited for the team’s vision and current execution which bolsters payment avenues throughout the region.”

BitPesa has now doubled its team to around 40 employees since last year and is exploring cross-border payments as a significant growth area for the future, particularly for its African clients.

Strategic Partnerships

BitPesa aims to transform the financial landscape in Africa through its peer-to-peer payment network and bitcoin exchange. One way is through identifying cutting edge partners who can assist the company in rolling out other B2B products such as trade financing and lending. Already, BitPesa is actively seeking banks and MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) in each region to partner with.

While many have been reluctant to work with bitcoin startups in the past, with the company becoming FCA approved in the UK and Japan allowing the use of bitcoin as a transactional currency, hopefully, local banks and MNOs will be more open to integrating bitcoin technology in their operations. The company is also proactively engaging with regulators in African markets that have banned

The company is also proactively engaging with regulators in African markets that have banned bitcoin like Kenya and Nigeria, to find a way to service SME’s and individual clients.

Effect of the Price Rally

The price of bitcoin has surged to all-time highs since the start of the year, coming amidst the August 1 Segwit infrastructure upgrade that resulted in a currency split, and formation of bitcoin cash. With another potential technical upgrade coming for bitcoin in November, Rossiello insists bitcoin will still be used on the platform due to it being more liquid than other digital currencies.

“The speed of bitcoin payments has increased and this move ensures that technology can continue to have an “industrial use,” underscoring how strongly people believe in it. We’re experiencing an exciting moment for the firm and for the industry.”

The company is also expanding its presence in Francophone Africa with an office in Senegal, and in Europe, due to the increased money transfer volumes between this markets. The additional capital together with the wealth of experience the investors bring to the company will be instrumental in making it a market leader in Africa’s payments space.

Retracing in Kenya Due to a Difficult Regulatory Environment

Despite the good news of high growth figures and increasing funding for what is widely considered Africa’s leading bitcoin startup, the company announced on September 1 that it is making changes to the services it offers to its Kenyan customers.

Citing the difficult regulatory environment in Kenya that prohibits bitcoin-related startups from opening or maintaining business bank accounts with local banks, which is hindering the firm from process payments in Kenyan Shillings, BitPesa has decided that the verification of new customers in Kenya will be paused and that the new minimum limit for transactions in Kenya will be $25,000.

This means that buying bitcoin in Kenya using BitPesa will unfortunately only be available for businesses and high net worth individuals who are already existing BitPesa customers.

Regardless of the difficulties in the startup’s “home country”, BitPesa is a great example of a resilient African bitcoin startup that is able to navigate the complexities of dealing in digital currency in different jurisdictions around the globe.

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Bitcoin Wallet Luno Adds SegWit Support to Lower Transaction Fees

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Luno Adds SegWit Support

Luno, one of the most popular bitcoin wallets in Africa, has announced full SegWit integration for bitcoin send and receive transactions. Previously, Luno customers could only receive BTC through a legacy wallet address, which was not integrated with the recent Bitcoin blockchain upgrade SegWit. Only send transactions were SegWit compatible.

With the full integration of SegWit, Luno users can now enjoy cheaper and faster bitcoin transactions.

“By implementing SegWit internally, Luno has managed to reduce the send fees paid by customers by over 25% already. As customers start switching over to new SegWit addresses, this will translate into a further reduction in sending fees in the coming weeks and months,” Werner van Rooyen, head of marketing and communications at Luno stated.

Luno currently operates in South Africa, Nigeria, Malaysia, UK, and in 35 other European countries.

What is SegWit?

Segregated Witness (SegWit) was an upgrade to the Bitcoin blockchain that is intended to address Bitcoin’s scalability challenges as well as fix the issue of transaction malleability. With SegWit, signature data is separated from transaction data in order to enable more transactions to fit into each block. The signature data is kept in an extended block called the witness. As a result, bitcoin transactions become faster and transaction fees become lower.

In theory, the Bitcoin network can handle seven transactions per second. However, in reality, it is around four transactions per second. With the number of bitcoin transactions increasing as bitcoin’s popularity grows, transactions take longer as the unconfirmed transactions pool increases. Therefore, bitcoin users who can afford it have been paying higher transaction fees to incentivise miners to prioritise their transactions and, thereby, increase the speed of their transactions. At the end of 2017, this has led to the average bitcoin transaction fee spiking to over 35 dollars.

However, when SegWit addresses are used, bitcoin transactions become faster and the required resources decrease as well. Consequently, the transaction fees reduce.

How Can You Add a SegWit Wallet Address on Luno?

To add a SegWit address on the Luno wallet you have to follow these steps:

  • Open your Luno account either on the mobile app or the web app
  • Choose “wallets” from the menu
  • Click on your “BTC wallet”
  • Choose “receive bitcoin”
  • Click “add address” and follow the prompt

To receive bitcoin, use your SegWit bitcoin receive address. Legacy bitcoin addresses begin with 1 while SegWit bitcoin addresses begin with 3. Even after adding a SegWit wallet address, bitcoins sent to your previous legacy bitcoin address will still work. In addition, you can still send bitcoin from a SegWit wallet to a legacy wallet and vice versa since the transactions are still taking place on the same blockchain. But if you are sending bitcoins to and from a SegWit wallet, you can benefit from reduced fees.

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Bitmart Opens Cryptocurrency Mining Hardware Store in South Africa

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Bitmart Opens Cryptocurrency Mining Hardware Store

Bitmart, South Africa’s leading supplier of mining hardware, has opened a cryptocurrency mining hardware store in South Africa. This makes Bitmart’s retail outlet the first cryptocurrency mining store in Africa.

Products and Services Offered by Bitmart

Bitmart was founded by CEO Jacques Serfontein in 2015 to offer cryptocurrency mining hardware to South Africans. Currently, Bitmart offers GPU rigs, ASIC miners, GPU rig mining software, graphics cards, international mining rig monitor app, cryptomatic watches, hardware wallets, and motherboards. Customers can find GPU mining rigs that mine cryptocurrencies such as zcash, monero, decred, bitcoin, and litecoin.

Additionally, Bitmart provides services such as bitcoin mining farm design and deployment, mining training, antminer repair tickets, mining farm management using Genesis Hive, and shepherd services.

Through its shepherd services, Bitmart helps owners of second-hand miners to find buyers. Therefore, both sellers and buyers are assured of safe and secure transactions through Bitmart’s SSL-secured online shop.

According to MyBroadband, Bitmart is an authorised distributor of Avalon Miners, Genesis Hive, Trezor, Ledger wallets, KeepKey, and UniSat (satellite mining solutions) in Africa.

The company also supplies mining hardware to countries such as Japan, Dubai, North America, Australia, and England.

What Does Bitmart Plan for the Future?

Bitmart will be holding seminars in Johannesburg and Mbombela. The seminars will focus on bitcoin basics and advanced cryptocurrency trading. In addition, Bitmart will be introducing a satellite mining connection in partnership with Uniwisp that will allow mining rigs to mine from any place in the world. Uniwisp is an Internet service provider based in Nelspruit, South Africa.

 

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Kenya’s BitPesa Acquires Spanish Money Transfer Platform TransferZero

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BitPesa Acquires TransferZero

On February 8, 2018, BitPesa announced that it has acquired TransferZero, a Madrid-based online money transfer platform, which operates in over 200 countries using more than 50 currencies.

Why Did BitPesa Acquire TransferZero?

BitPesa, which is already operating in Africa and Europe, will be able to “set deep roots to UK and European licensing, bank accounts, and integrations” through this acquisition, according to the company’s statement on its blog.

“Europe is a hub for global remittance and payments companies. Digital currencies and decentralized technology have hit critical mass in the financial services and payments space. It is no longer a question of whether this technology will have staying power [but] which specific technology and what product iteration will launch and scale first […],” Elizabeth Rosiello, founder and CEO BitPesa said.

“BitPesa has the support of top-tier, institutional investors and a network that will help to bring TransferZero’s technology to the next level. With this support, we will be able to provide even more efficient transfers and user experience,” Luis Cambronero, former TransferZero CEO and present Managing Director, BitPesa stated.

Setting Up Infrastructure Across Europe and Africa is a Priority

“Setting up infrastructure across Europe and Africa has always been a focus of ours. […] We’ve just doubled our bank accounts, our infrastructure, and it’s licensed by the Bank of Spain as a payment institution. So we are fully compliant with PSD2 regulations […],” Rosiello said.

“This is truly a partnership where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, allowing BitPesa to solidify our leadership in this space. By bringing our regional and technological expertise together, we will further accelerate our month-to-month growth,” Rossiello asserted.

TransferZero will neither change its name nor its headquarters. In addition, its employees will remain with Bitpesa.

This acquisition from an Africa-based bitcoin startup of a European fintech startup shows that leading African startups can make waves beyond the borders of the continent and create a positive impact on a global scale.

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