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South Africa and Singapore-based bitcoin exchange and tech startup BitX just launched a virtual currency app which hopes to unlock the growing potential presented by emerging markets, as well as the rest of the globe.
One of the key differentials BitX Bitcoin Wallet has is that it’s mobile-first, built with your average consumer in mind. Essentially, this means the app is easy-to-use as well as smooth and practical.
“The current apps available are good enough for bitcoin early adopters, though they can easily become confusing for the average consumer,” BitX CEO Marcus Swanepoel tells Ventureburn. Swanepoel notes that the app was built with a focus on emerging markets while presenting a world-class experience.
Available on iOS and Android, the app is really introduced with design in mind. “We designed the BitX Wallet to provide the best possible bitcoin experience for both new and experienced users,” the team notes.
With bitcoin being a global currency, the app does introduce a sense of familiarity by additionally displaying your location’s local currency. It for instance detects your location from your smartphone and automatically displays balances in the currency of the country you’re in. You can quickly switch between popular currencies to view rates.
Moreover, the app is localised to meet the unique demands of the many markets it’s available. In Kenya for instance, the app will be integrated with M-Pesa, the country’s popular mobile money service.
Other nifty features include full Know Your Customer integration which allows you to verify your mobile number and upload identification documents where applicable. Based on the country of residence’s specific FICCA requirements, you can for instance upload required documents using their smartphone’s camera.
One really welcome feature the app brings is the ability to quickly purchase bitcoin. Traditionally, people either have to trade the virtual currency with fiat currency at an exchange, or rely on the kindness of friends and donations. This is cumbersome to the layman. With the app, you simply hit a button and BitX takes care of the rest.
With the app you can send bitcoin to QR codes, a standard wallet or any email address. In case of the latter, if the receiver doesn’t have a BitX account they will be presented with a friendly introduction message to the cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin on the app are stored by BitX, which has offline vaults spread across the globe to insure maximum security.
BitX currently operates in some key emerging markets including South Africa, Kenya, Indonesia and Singapore. It’s also the company responsible for bringing the cryptocurrency payment option to 30 000 online stores in South Africa through the popular local online payment service, PayFast.
In August this year, the startup secured a round of seed funding of over US$800 000 (nearly R9-million) from a group of international investors from London to Palto Alto.
This comes at a time when bitcoin technology and its adoption is becoming more and more of an important topic for emerging markets. As noted by Forbes, the market gaps and opportunities presented include crucial barriers for consumers and retailers like remittances, lack of banking services and the prominence of mobile phones.
“Bitcoin technology in emerging markets is hot on everyone’s tongues lately,” Swanepoel echoes. “We are finding ourselves in a very exciting space.”
While bitcoin adoption is not yet as commercial as it could be, BitX is securing its spot in the early stages and — with this crafty app — hopes to instill the value of trust and practicality to mainstream consumers and retailers. Explaining the company’s vision, the startup says that bitcoin is still the champion, it’s just making it work commercially:
At BitX we’re committed to making bitcoin as slick and efficient on the outside as it has always been from a technical perspective. We believe bitcoin is a better and safer way of doing money and we aim to provide the ultimate experience of using it.
“Bitcoin is like a Ferrari engine. Since now it’s been stuck in a bus. We’re the ones putting it in the Ferrari,” says Simon Dingle, BitX’s business advisor.