Digital currency retailer expresscoin has launched a Canadian branch of its business, in the first phase of its expansion beyond the US market.
Expresscoin, which is based in Santa Monica, California, offers customers the opportunity to buy bitcoin, litecoin, dogecoin and blackcoin with debit cards, while importing wallet addresses from other services into their accounts.
Its Android app lets users manage their accounts and wallets, and track both orders and balances from their mobile devices.
The firm's CMO and co-founder Joseph Hsieh told CoinDesk:
“This is our first step into another market other than the United States. We thought that if we can get our process and make headway in the US market, then other countries should be a lot easier. [The move into Canada] is part of our overall mission to make bitcoin (and other digital currencies) accessible to the mass consumer audience.”
There had been a lot of demand from potential customers in Canada, as well as other markets, but the minimal language barrier proved a key deciding factor, he explained.
"Moving beyond that, it's interesting, because bitcoin may seem big to those of us in the industry, [but] it's still very small and early."
Fast, easy payments
Notably, the Canadian arm of the company will allow customers to purchase digital currencies using standard debit cards via DebitWay – a service which accepts all cards issued from the most popular banking networks.
DebitWay allows merchants access to INTERAC online payment services. This, in turn, lets consumers securely pay for goods and services online, in real-time and directly from their bank account.
Fast transaction times have meant expresscoin has had to up its game in terms of customer service, said Hsieh.
"Because it's near real-time," he explained, "we have to up our customer response times and be right there when customers need us or have any problems. [...] If you were to make a wire transfer, the customer can tolerate a longer response time since the wire transfer still needs to clear, but with INTERAC, we expect and want to be there when problems happen."
As recently as 19th June, Canada amended existing laws to allow the regulation of "virtual currencies", which likely includes bitcoin.
Although further legal moves are necessary before the bill is enforceable, some businesses in the digital currency space are likely to face new reporting and licensing issues. However, being regulated may bring advantages, such as easier access to the traditional banking system.
CoinDesk asked Hsieh if the new legislation affected his company's decision to move into the Canadian arena.
"The process [of setting up the Canadian side of the business] took several months," he said. "So it wasn't a direct [cause] of us going into Canada, just a convenient coincidence that they are making it easier for bitcoin startups and companies. We've been registered with FINTRAC (Canadian's version of FinCen) for a while, as it was a requirement from our banking relationship and DebitWay."
Noted wallet service Blockchain provides an overview of bitcoin and bitcoin-related services for new consumers on its sister site Bitcoin.com. Significantly, expresscoin features on the site as a go-to company for the purchase of bitcoin.
"Our inclusion in Bitcoin.com is based on our strong relationship with Blockchain," said Hsieh. "We know Dan Held [the company's director of product] very well, [and] worked with him in the past on some advertising initiatives in ZeroBlock."
"Blockchain is a preferred wallet for our consumers. We don't have an in-house wallet system (yet), because we don't want to be custodians of users' private keys."
Expresscoin's expansion into Canada follows its formal launch in early June. For more on the company and its aims in the bitcoin industry, read our most recent report.
Canadian flag image via Shutterstock