Yesterday Berlin-based startup Bitwala announced it has raised €13 million ($14.4 million). It claims the investment is the largest ever for a German blockchain firm. Among the investors is Sony Financial Ventures, the tech giant’s investment arm, and UK based blockchain investment bank NKB Group.
Bitwala offers a platform combining a cryptocurrency wallet and trading system with a conventional bank account, which comes with a debit card for day to day use. The firm aims to bridge the gap between blockchain currency and regular banking, allowing customers to trade money in their bank account for bitcoin directly.
This vision has caught the attention of Sony, which launched its investment arm with venture capital firm Global Brain, which is also investing. Bitwala is the first blockchain firm Sony has funded.
“We share Bitwala’s vision of the future digital economy,” stated Yasuhiko Yurimoto, the founder and CEO of Global Brain. “Their smart positioning as the bridge between the conventional financial system and the blockchain promises great potential for mass adoption,”
Other investors include previous contributors Earlybird and coparion, who funded half of the €13 million total. With the growth in Bitwala’s customer base, the firm hopes to expand.
Bitwala’s CTO and co-founder, Ben Jones, said: “Today, we are offering a bridge for both mainstream users and blockchain buffs, who want to interact with the emerging blockchain ecosystem – the growing digital economy spreading across the globe.”
Jones started the firm in 2015 with Jan Goslicki and Jörg von Minckwitz, when the workforce comprised of “three founders and a dog”. Now Bitwala boasts customers in all of the 31 eligible countries of the EEA (European Economic Area) and over €10 million of bitcoin traded on the platform since February.
“We started Bitwala to build something which many thought was not possible: Connecting Bitcoin to the conventional financial system and remain in line with supervisory requirements in one of the world’s strictest regulatory jurisdictions: Germany,” explained Goslicki.
“We did it for the growing community of blockchain evangelists in Europe and are offering them an easy, swift, and safe place to build the world’s future economy,” he continued.
Bitwala has done well to raise such a big round given the relatively small scale. It’s €10 million Bitcoin traded since February with thousands of customers contrasts with the biggest player in the Bitcoin-Euro space, the Kraken exchange. Yesterday in Bitcoin to Euro Kraken traded $55 million (according to Coin Market Cap) and has four million customers.
Apart from the bank account angle, Bitwala positions itself differently to exchanges like Kraken which appeal primarily to crypto enthusiasts. Bitwala specifically mentioned it is also targeting “mainstream users” which perhaps is the appeal to Sony. Another example of a similar targeting towards consumers is yesterday’s announcement that the CryptoKitties game founders have partnered with the NBA to offer basketball collectibles and games.