Wirex Ltd., a London-headquartered startup providing bitcoin payment cards, has raised US$3 million in a Series A funding round from Japan’s SBI Investment Co., Ltd. Wirex plans to use the new capital injection to fuel development of new features, licensing and security as well as support expansion plans.
“Japan is a key market for bitcoin-compatible financial products and services, and one of our fastest-growing customer base,” said Pavel Matveev, co-founder of Wirex.
“We are delighted to have this strategic partnership with the SBI Group. Together we can push bitcoin adoption in the Asia-Pacific region to the next level.”
SBI Investment, a subsidiary of SBI Holdings, conducts investments and management of venture capital funds. The investment in Wirex was made through its JPY 30 billion Fintech Fund, which the firm launched in 2015 to invest in promising fintech-related companies and technologies in Japan and overseas.
“The SBI Group has a clear vision and in-depth understanding of blockchain and cryptocurrencies,” said Dmitry Lazarichev, co-founder of Wirex. “We have been selective in the process of looking for the right investor, and finding the best possible fit is important for us. Our customers will greatly benefit from this collaboration.”
The deal came shortly after the Japan Bank Consortium, which operation is run by SBI Holdings and its subsidiary SBI Ripple Asia, announced that it successfully completed a pilot implementation of RC Cloud, a platform for domestic and cross-border payments that utilizes blockchain technology.
RC Cloud is a Japan-originated, cloud-hosted platform and is the first of its kind in the world to allow banks to make both domestic and cross-border payments on a unified platform by utilizing Ripple’s solution.
The Japan Bank Consortium was launched in October 2016 to research, test and develop blockchain technology for the banking and finance sector. The consortium currently counts 47 members.
Wirex offers a hybrid banking platform as well as pre-paid virtual and plastic cards which can be topped up with conventional currencies and cryptocurrencies. The platform allows users to instantly exchange digital currency for fiat currencies including USD, EUR or UK pounds on an application. These funds can then be spent on a Visa or MasterCard network for cash withdrawals at ATMs or when purchasing goods at member merchants.
Wirex is currently working on new features including contactless bitcoin payments, contactless cards, additional currencies and new bitcoin-based financial products, and is also applying for an e-money license in the UK. By the end the first half of 2017, it will begin to allow users to exchange cryptocurrencies for Japanese yen.
Wirex serves over 500,000 customers in more than 130 countries. The company has offices in London, Tokyo and Kiev.