GMO Payment Gateway (GMO-PG) has partnered with bitFlyer to provide its 48,000 online merchants the option to accept bitcoin starting later this year.
BitFlyer CEO Yuzo Kano framed the partnership as a "business-and-capital alliance" that will result in the creation a first-of-its-kind bitcoin settlement service in Japan, while creating a safer and more convenient domestic e-commerce environment.
GMO-PG currently has more than 48,000 merchant customers, all of which will have the ability to start accepting bitcoin this November when the payment method will be fully enabled.
In addition to its partnership with bitFlyer, GMO-PG has also made an undisclosed investment in the Japan-based bitcoin exchange. BitFlyer previously raised $1.6m in July with the goal of becoming the leading player in bitcoin's now-burgeoning market in Japan.
Early Internet giant supports bitcoin
GMO-PG's parent company GMO Internet has aimed to provide a one-stop solution for entrepreneurs seeking to start online businesses in Japan since 1991. As such, GMO is often positioned as an alternative to consumer e-commerce giant Rakuten, but for the Asian nation's business market.
GMO sells domain names, provides web hosting and security services and allows its online merchant customers accept a wide variety of payment methods – including credit cards, bank transfers and soon bitcoin – through GMO-PG.
The embrace of bitcoin also comes at a time when GMO is seeking to expand its influence beyond its home market to others in Southeast Asia. However, it faces competition from Alibaba's popular Alipay service, which notably struck a deal with Rakuten in April to enable its payment option on Rakuten's platforms.
Rakuten itself has been publicly positive about bitcoin, with CEO Hiroshi Mikitani voicing his support for the technology this July.
bitFlyer moves for market dominance
The move is also the latest from bitFlyer that finds it establishing itself as a leading force in Japan's still nascent bitcoin ecosystem.
Founded in January of this year, bitFlyer has worked to quickly set itself apart. Key to that has been CEO Kano's own narrative, as he left his former employer, Goldman Sachs, to start the company last year.
Though the market has seen a number of notable exchange launches in recent months, all companies are operating in the shadow of Mt. Gox, the now-defunct Japan-based exchange that colored early public perception in the country.
Still, this isn't stopping bitFlyer from moving aggressively to capture the market. For example, the startup recently launched Japan's first bitcoin crowdfunding platform, fundFlyer, a platform that takes aim at more established crowdfunding services such as Kickstarter and Japan's popular alternative Shooting Star.
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