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Meet Africa’s Blockchain Startups: BitFinance

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BitFinance

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.

Inspiring Background

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.

Initial Funding

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.

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Top 6 Biggest Crypto M&A Deals By Purchase Value

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crypto mergers and acquisitions

The blockchain and crypto space has undergone considerable changes in the ten years since its inception. From being a novel idea in the financial sector to making waves in scores of industries on a global platform, crypto and its underlying blockchain technology grew at an unprecedented pace for many. 

Despite these radical developments, the blockchain and crypto space is still in its nascent stages and as with any nascent industry that shows promise, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the space, may herald the market is maturing and consolidating. 

Top Six M&A Deals by Purchase Value

InWaraDespite the blockchain and crypto market being in the doldrums, last year witnessed an impressive 111 M&A deals valued at $900 million in total, according to data compiled by InWara. These are the top six deals in the marketplace in terms of funds raised.

Shandong Luyitong Intelligent Electric and Canaan Creative

In June 2016, Shandong Luyitong Intelligent Electric’s acquisition of Caanan creative for a hefty $466 million, takes the cake for the largest M&A deal in the crypto space. Canaan Creative is a cryptocurrency hardware company that focuses on mining rigs and blockchain servers, while Shandong focuses on electronic equipment manufacturing. Ironically, the largest M&A deal in the crypto space concluded between two Chinese companies, where regulatory authorities have outlawed cryptocurrencies.

Circle and Poloniex Exchange

In February 2018, Internet finance company Circle had acquired cryptocurrency exchange Poloniex, for a whopping $400 million. Circle is essentially a payments platform that leverages blockchain technology. The company later expanded into crypto investments and trading with Circle invest and CIrcle trade respectfully.

Tron and BitTorrent

In June 2018, Blockchain enterprise Tron had acquired P2P file sharing platform BitTorrent for a cool $140 million. Tron is a blockchain company that aims to create a conducive environment for a truly decentralized internet. The strategic rationale behind Tron’s acquisition becomes clear when crunching numbers. BitTorrent has over 150 million monthly active users, and the company claims it moves as much as 40% of the world’s internet traffic. BitTorrent recently conducted an ICO, which concluded in under 15 mins and raised over $7 million.

Coinbase and Earn.com

In April 2018, digital currency exchange Coinbase has acquired networking platform Earn.com for $100 million. In retrospect, Coinbase has been aggressively acquiring blockchain and crypto enterprises, making eleven acquisitions till date. The latest is that of data handling startup Blockspring for an undisclosed amount.

Nexon and Korbit

In September 2017, gaming behemoth Nexon had acquired South Korean cryptocurrency exchange Korbit for $80 million. This deal was noteworthy as it marked an established Korean enterprise stepping into the crypto space. Korbit claims to be the world’s first Korean Won cryptocurrency exchange, and it managed to raise as much as $6.5 million in capital from veteran blockchain and crypto investors including Digital Currency Group, Pantera Capital and Softbank Ventures Korea among others.

Huobi and Pantronics Holdings

In August 2018, blockchain financial services company Huobi had acquired investment holding company Pantronics Holdings for $70 million. This deal allows Huobi, a privately held company to go public without conducting an IPO, through what is known as a reverse IPO.

# of M&A deals, year wise

InWara

Source: InWara

Unsurprisingly in the crypto market, as with any nascent industry, the number of M&A deals has consistently surged higher than the previous year. This increased rate of consolidation could indicate that the market is maturing and stabilizing as the market recuperates from the lingering ‘crypto winter’.

# of M&A deals, sector wise till date

InWara

Source: InWara

The top industry sectors has 183 M&A deals between them, which is akin to over 66% of the total M&A activity in the entire space.  Financial services sector leads the pack with 37 M&A deals, akin to ~13.5%. This trend is not surprising as financial services is the leading sector in the ICO space, in terms of sheer number as much as 579 ICOs and in terms of funds raised, over $3.6 billion till date.

A brief view of 2019

So far in 2019, there were some interesting developments heralding further consolidation in the crypto space. The following are the major M&A deals.

  • Social media giant Facebook acqui-hired Chainspace, a Blockchain startup founded by researchers at University College of London. Earlier Facebook also revealed plans of introducing a stablecoin on Whatsapp messenger platform to target Indian remittances market.
  • Cryptocurrency exchange Kraken has acquired, UK based Crypto Facilities for an amount north of a $100 million, as Kraken revealed in a blog post.
  • Mastercard and Visa in the midst of bidding war for cross-border payments platform Earthport according to Reuters.
  • Coinbase had acquired, blockchain API platform Blockspring for an undisclosed amount.
  • Bakkt acquired certain assets owned by Rosenthal Collins Group.
  • EZAdvance acquires Indian digital payments Startup Alconomy, to expand into digital banking.

The number of M&A deals in 2019 is likely to follow the same trend as previous years, expecting further consolidation in the space. This year might also witness tech giants such as Google and Amazon among others to enter the blockchain and crypto space, as the enterprises aim to leverage blockchain technology to increase trust, transparency, and security.

This guest contribution was provided by Sushrut Gaikwad, Director, Operations and Research at InWara. 

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Guava Exchange to Ease Fundraising And Lower Investment Barrier in Africa

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Guava Exchange

Guava, a Nigerian-based blockchain fintech startup, has launched a new digital asset platform that provides a safe and secure environment for retail investors and businesses to participate in the digital economy.

Meet Guava

Guava ExchangeGuava Digital Asset Exchange is an easy-to-use digital marketplace where investors can buy and sell cryptoassets (including cryptocurrencies, crypto resources, and crypto tokens) and businesses can raise funds to accelerate their growth. Guava believes the opportunities in the digital asset ecosystem extends way beyond just bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Its mission includes helping businesses reach a broader investor base and providing an array of investment options to its users.

“There is a broad array of financial instruments that most of us don’t have access to; the cost of entry can be prohibitively high, and ease of entry and exit otherwise referred to as liquidity can discourage potential investors. Our blockchain-based digital asset platform will fractionalise the potential investments and furthermore provide liquidity thereby allowing investors to easily enter and exit these instruments,” the founder and CEO of Guava, Enitan Williams, told BitcoinAfrica.io.

The Problem

There is limited visibility for potential investment opportunities in Africa, the threshold for entry is high, and there is low access to liquidity for investors.

At the same time, many companies looking to raise funds do not have access to platforms where they can easily reach potential investors while traditional avenues can be time-consuming and arduous involving many intermediaries.

Guava’s Solution

Guava believes that the blockchain has a role to play in strengthening the financial systems in African economies. The technology helps digitise assets that will help people living on the continent participate in the global financial market as well as assist local businesses to raise finance for projects.

Guava’s state-of-the-art digital asset trading platform connects businesses searching for funds and investors seeking new opportunities. The platform digitises the ownership and value of any asset class – agricultural funds, real estate, equity – and offers it as tokens to potential investors. Our approach lowers the cost of entry for investments and reduces the burden of companies in crowdfunding.

Security and Due Process

The Guava Exchange has world-class security procedures including a multi-wallet storage strategy. Guava is also committed to complying with all current regulations that help prevent, detect and remediate unlawful behaviour by customers when using the platform or any of the company’s other services.

At launch, Guava will allow users in Nigeria to buy and sell three cryptoassets: Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Ripple (XRP) but in the coming weeks, investors will have access to a stablecoin backed by the U.S. dollar and tokens of major local and international companies.

Guava is Nigeria’s premier digital assets exchange that can help you learn about, invest in and manage digital assets in a safe and secure environment.

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The Benefits of Cryptocurrencies On Africa’s Economy

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BitOasis

Societies today are seeing a progressive shift in the direction of a cashless system. This progress puts digital currencies as the imminent future of both commerce and banking. 

For African countries, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, there is starting to be a feel for digital currencies – mainly bitcoin – in society. Additionally, the blockchain is perceived as the eventual solution to Africa’s present issues and economic growth. Industries in Africa are gradually understanding the basics of blockchain and how it works.

Bitcoin ETF ProposalsIn advanced environments, the rate of approval of cryptocurrency is relatively slow. This is because the financial sector is standing as an obstruction to its utilisation. However, in Africa, these digital currencies are gradually being tested and accepted.

A significant reason for this is because it allows the African community to rise above the typical monetary institutions and establishments. The banks located in cities are also difficult to access from secluded, provincial villages with ease. The increased cost of transaction also adds to the reasons why financial services are limited amongst the African community.

Right here is where cryptocurrency comes in.

Cryptocurrencies provide added opportunities to the African economy. This is major because it is not being scrutinised or controlled by either the Government or financial institutions. 

Digital currencies have the ability of rendering assistance to people in under-developed areas. There is an authentic need for a much more protective method of making digital payments and even loans for little transactions.

What Do Cryptocurrencies Offer Africa’s Economy?

As a non-scrutinised digital currency, cryptocurrency provides flexibility in the economy and a chance to carry out transactions involving diverse monetary markets all over the world.

Cryptocurrency is greatly protected and provides alternatives to the typical banking and transactions. The benefits and opportunities for this technology in Africa include;

  • Alternative Banking for the Unbanked

Cryptocurrency is perfect for unbanked African citizens because it is easily accessible and secured compared to the typical currencies. Also, making use of cryptocurrency accounts allows easy payment for services rendered and utilities.

Approval of this computerised banking allows the building of a virtual financial history which is necessary for the receipt of loans. It can be used for investment in diverse business opportunities.

  • Privacy

Digital currencies are modelled to be decentralised with no central point of failure. They are not subject to management by the Government meaning that nobody can freeze your account at will maybe due to legal problems. Cryptocurrencies are immune to the ineffectiveness and disturbances of the Government.

  • Cross-Border Payments

Top international establishments believe that crypto trade between countries in Africa can act as a spur for an increase in the economy. Even more, digital currency can now back both international cross-border trade.

Local businesses know the importance of cryptocurrencies and how fast and effective it is for cross-border payments. This includes some products and services rendered in the increasing market in Africa.

Additionally, the easy access to a tremendous customer base through cryptocurrency approval provides a possibility for rapid growth in sales. 

Wrapping It Up

It is worthy to note that cryptocurrency is gradually gaining traction in Africa. This is turning the continent into a leader in the current monetary revolution and has the potential to boost Africa forward in its economic development. 

This guest post was contributed by Ibe Emmanuel, CEO and co-founder of BitBata.

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