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Bitcoin wallet raises $5 million to increase Southeast Asian financial inclusion

Philippines-based mobile Bitcoin wallet, Coins, recently announced US$5 million in a new funding, specifically aimed at expanding basic financial services to the unbanked population throughout Southeast Asia.

The Manila-based bitcoin wallet service was founded in 2014, by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Ron Hose and Runar Petursson. The company provides consumers with direct access to basic financial services such as sending and receiving money, bill payments, remittances, and mobile top-up from within a Coins account. Customers with or without a bank account have access to online shopping at over 63,000 merchants who accept the digital currency, according to the company.

Coin’s mission is to increase financial inclusion by delivering financial services directly to people through their mobile phones. To date, the company reports that it has signed up over 500,000 users and has already expanded from the Philippines into Thailand.

Using bitcoin keeps the costs low for sending money, although users might not be aware that they’re holding a bitcoin balance since their default wallet balance appears to be in Philippine pesos. To accomplish this, the service has introduced the concept of a Peso lock wallet, where bitcoins are tied to a specific peso value using the current sell rate.

Leveraging bitcoin in this way has enabled Coins to connect its services to partners with a presence in over 40 countries and offer instant, low-cost settlement of cross-border payments and remittances. For overseas workers who are currently paying 6-8% to send funds through services like Western Union, this means a savings of up to 80% in fees.

Getting cash into and out of a Coins mobile wallet should be simple. The company has partnerships with 23 banks, remittance centers, financial institutions, money couriers, and last-mile retail outlets. Coins’ network spans over 22,000 cash disbursement and collection locations in the country alone.

The Series A funding round was led by the Accion Frontier Inclusion Fund. The investment arms of Globe Telecom and Smart Communications, the Philippines’ biggest telecommunications companies, were among the investors. Also included were Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors, Pantera Capital, Digital Currency Group, Wavemaker Labs, Global Brain, BeeNext, and Rebright Partners.


Rachel Quintos

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