Emerging market bitcoin exchange startup BitX has just raised a nice fat US$4-million in Series A from PayU — a subsidiary of media and internet powerhouse Naspers. Existing investor Barry Silbert’s Digital Currency Group also participated in the round.
The fresh capital comes after the startup secured over US$800 000 from a group of international investors late last year.
Founded by Marcus Swanepoel, Francois Paul, Carel van Wyk, Pieter Heyns and Timothy Stranex, BitX launched in 2013 with a mission to spread the adoption of digital currency in emerging markets. It’s currently headquartered in Singapore with additional offices in Jakarta and Cape Town.
Today, the startup operates in high-growth markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa, Kenya and most recently Nigeria.
“We’ve been seeing very strong growth across the markets we operate in, and this investment will allow us to both accelerate this growth and extend our footprint to more markets,” BitX CEO Swanepoel explains. “In Naspers we have a truly global partner with unrivalled capabilities in high growth markets, and we’re very excited to work together in building out our global platform”.
Focused on media, internet services and entertainment Naspers has reach in over 130 countries, with the most prominent investments being in the likes of China’s Tencent and Russia’s Mail.ru. It’s most recent investments include US$40-million in Brazilian app developer Movile and US$50-million in Nigerian ecommerce site Konga.
BitX was very instrumental in integrating bitcoin payments with South African online payments service PayFast. This ground-breaking move enabled 30 000 merchants to accept the digital currency, including the country’s largest online shop Takealot, of which Naspers owns 46.5%.
James Caviness, the chief product officer at PayU, will now join the BitX board of directors. Caviness explains that he has a lot of confidence in the future of bitcoin:
“We see a bright future for cryptocurrency across a number of industry verticals, and with BitX’s strong management team and solid track record, look forward to leveraging Naspers’ global platform and local knowledge to help them capitalise on these opportunities.”
Swanepoel added that the significant capital injection will help expand the BitX business. Together with access to world-class engineering, a “deep knowledge” in the markets it operates in, and its mobile-first approach, Swanepoel believes that the startup has a strong competitive advantage as it continues to build out a global platform.
The investment reaffirms the recent finding that bitcoin is the fastest-growing industry for startup funding since 2012, closely followed by photo-sharing.