Coins, a bitcoin startup that aims to bring financial inclusion in Southeast Asia has raised $5 million in a Series A round of funding to accelerate its effort to bring basic financial services for the unbanked in the region.
Led by the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund, the funding round also involved notable investors that includes prolific bitcoin- and blockchain-centric Digtial Currency Group former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors. Other investors include the investment arms of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, the biggest telecom companies in the Philippines, making their interest a significant cog in bringing financial inclusion via smartphones, which has already seen rapid adoption across Asia.
Ganesh Rengasway, a partner at Quona Capital that manages the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund underlined the importance of Coins’ partnerships with the big telecom giants. He stated:
Coins is collaborating with key ecosystem players to architect a financial and payment infrastructure in Southeast Asia.
Founded in 2014, Coins operates in the Philippines and Thailand as a solution for users, with or without bank accounts, to access financial services from their mobile phones. Features include a wallet and real-time remittance services, while users will also be able to buy phone credit, make bill payments and make purchases at storefronts (7-Eleven is a notable example) with digital currency. The startup uses a blockchain-based platform and has partnered with several banks and financial institutions in the Philippines.
“[The] use of blockchain allows Coins to enable digital access, cut costs, and improve the quality of financial services for the unbanked and underserved across Southeast Asia,” added Rengaswamy.
As things stand, the startup sees over 500,000 user sign-ups. Remittance is of particular focus for the Philippines-based startup which estimates cutting fees by up to 80% with blockchain-based remittance when compared to traditional operators like Western Union. As the third largest recipient of remittances in the world, Philippines saw nearly $30 billion as inward remittance in 2015, nearly 10% of the country’s GDP.
Bitcoin is already making a splash in the country, with transactions between $2 and $3 million USD every month through registered bitcoin companies. The rise in bitcoin adoption by Philippine users had the deputy governor of the country’s central bank reveal its intent to “impose hard regulations” for digital currency exchanges, despite seeing them as remittance operators.
Images from Shutterstock and Coins.