Expresscoin Launches to Become Coinbase for the Unbanked
Published on June 11, 2014 at 15:15 BST
Santa Monica-based bitcoin and dogecoin exchange expresscoin has officially launched after months of under-the-radar testing.
The formal launch marks the final rebranding of Cash Into Coins as expresscoin, a move that co-founder and CEO Will Wheeler indicates signals a change in how the company will approach its services and the broader bitcoin market.
Wheeler told CoinDesk that while Cash Into Coins was able to become a successful, niche complement to popular cash-to-bitcoin service BitInstant, expresscoin seeks to leverage additional payment options favored by the under- and unbanked including money orders, personal checks and wire transfers.
Comparing his company to fellow California-based bitcoin startup Coinbase, co-founder and chief marketing officer Joseph Hsieh told CoinDesk that users can expect expresscoin to take a different path toward furthering bitcoin adoption, stating:
"Our position is different. Bitcoin is intrinsically a global currency, so our aspirations are to expand abroad, and the segment of users were targeting are really underbanked or unbanked."
Hsieh explained that though Coinbase offers a powerful service to those who can link their bank accounts to the company, the expresscoin approach may better serve those who may benefit from bitcoin the most — those locked out of traditional financial products.
At present, expresscoin indicates that they now have a team of nine working out of their LA offices, with additional US remote support aimed at bolstering customer service.
The founders consider this emphasis on customer service a crucial investment needed to tap into an undereducated market segment, saying:
"We want to be the friend to tell you about bitcoin if you don't have one."
Wheeler stated that the rebranding will allow the company to formally introduce itself to new consumers, while leveraging its past experience with Cash Into Coins.
"The move to expresscoin was we wanted to increase our payment options, we wanted to demonstrate that it wasn't just going to be for the cash to bitcoin ecosystem."
The company estimates that it facilitated $15m in transactions during the first year of operation as Cash Into Coins, and that it had 20,000 customers during this time.
Wheeler said that the rebranding was put in motion in December. This included the decision to bring on Hsieh, who formerly sold his in-game payments provider Sometrics to America Express for $30m in 2011.
Exploring the market
Still, expresscoin sees its introduction to the market as just the start of what will become a more diverse array of offered services.
The co-founders indicated that they have been working closely with major bitcoin ATM manufacturers, as these companies have been among the more active at positioning their offering to underbanked consumers. Further, they view this market more as collaborators to whom they can provide liquidity rather than competitors.
Hsieh added: "Our mission statement if we were to have it on the wall would be to be wherever fiat and digital currency touch."
Wallet not included
Speaking to CoinDesk, Hsieh indicated that another differentiator between expresscoin and the competition is that it will not provide its own wallet to its users, though he says the company has not ruled out the possibility of striking a partnership with a large provider.
For now, expresscoin users can bring any wallet to the site, an advantage that they say will enable consumers to test the more advanced mutli-sig and HD offerings now on the market.
"It's like when you buy from Amazon, you can choose to ship to different destinations. We encourage people to try as many [wallets] as possible."
The co-founders also say that they will refrain from any merchant offerings, choosing to focus solely on bitcoin's growing consumer market.
Basic expresscoin users need only verify their email and mobile number before completing a purchase.
With this basic authorization complete, customers can purchase up to $1,000 in bitcoin or dogecoin per order, with a monthly limit of $1,500.
The co-founders hinted that additional currencies would soon be added to the exchange, but did not indicate a timeline for this service extension or which digital currencies may be included.
Verified users who then submit orders can select their payment method before receiving detailed instructions on how to complete the sale.
To remove the restrictions, customers can opt to upload a photo ID to the exchange. Should any problems persist, the company says users will be directed to its customer service team.
Image via expresscoin