Bitcoin exchange and merchant payment processor Unocoin has closed a $250,000 funding deal with Barry Silbert's Bitcoin Opportunity Corp.
The Bangalore-based company has come a long way since launching in December 2013. After dealing with initial uncertainty surrounding local regulation of digital currency businesses, it has grown into one of India's most popular bitcoin gateways.
Silbert told CoinDesk:
"I believe that Unocoin has the potential to become the leading bitcoin company in India for buying, selling and storing bitcoin, as well as merchant processing. As an early investor in BitPay and Coinbase, I saw first hand how first-mover advantage, coupled with a great team, can lead to market dominance."
Unocoin's managing director Sathvik Vishwanath told CoinDesk that Silbert had approached the company in its first few months of operation.
"The investment and backing from the 'Bitcoin Hero' has brought both [...] cheer and responsibility to our team. A good part of the investment will be spent on scaling up Unocoin and its marketing efforts, while another part will be used towards regulatory compliance and security expenditures."
Unocoin's new services
"We believe our hard work is starting to pay off [...] I can say we are processing 10 times the user verifications per day than [...] just 2 months ago."
The company launched its new Unocoin Merchant Gateway service in June for businesses, traders, e-commerce shops and freelancers as a fast and easy way to accept bitcoin payments. It does not currently charge its users any fees.
Merchants using the service can also request for the bitcoin they receive to be instantly exchanged into Indian Rupees (INR) and transferred to their bank account within three days.
Role in growing bitcoin adoption
According to global business development manager Vikram Nikkam, Unocoin is currently in talks with a number of online vendors and international payment network ZipZap to explore potential collaborations.
Unocoin and ZipZap testing global possibilities with Bitcoin @unocoin @AlanSafahi @manishchawla65 #india #remittance
– Unocoin (@unocoin) 10 Aug 2014
Nikkam added that Unocoin was also looking at India's massive overseas remittance market, which transmitted $67.6bn back to the country between 2012 and 2013. An estimated 25 million people of Indian descent or nationality live in other countries around the world, mostly in the Middle East.
"Bitcoin adoption in India among merchants is still in its nascent stage but we are going all out to change that. The future looks promising."
Silbert's path to bitcoin venture capitalist
Barry Silbert, a bitcoin investment pioneer through SecondMarket, left his founding position as CEO at the company in July to focus all his energies on the business' digital currency side.
He has remained CEO of the Bitcoin Investment Trust (BIT) and is has invested in over 30 companies through his VC vehicle Bitcoin Opportunity Corp, across a variety of industries and countries.
Bitcoin's massive potential in India
India's authorities were hesitant at first to accept bitcoin businesses but, after liaising with representatives from the industry, they have adopted a far softer approach.
The country is often flagged as one of the key emerging economies with most potential for digital currency-related growth. With a population of 1.2 billion people, a large percentage of whom have little to no access to traditional banking, India has a growing number of bitcoin exchanges and services.
Nikkam added that bitcoin meetups in Bangalore are now routinely full-house events that attract members with advanced cryptocurrency knowledge alongside some novel ideas. The industry is determined to conduct itself openly and ethically, he said.
"With the community growing we also stress the importance of clean trade and self regulation."
Disclaimer: CoinDesk founder Shakil Khan is an investor in SecondMarket and BitPay.
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