Korea’s Top Bitcoin Startup Raises $3 Million to Expand Bitcoin Adoption in Korea & Beyond

Korbit, Korea’s leading bitcoin exchange, wallet and merchant processor, has just closed a $3 million Series A funding round led by SoftBank Ventures Korea. Pantera Capital led the round from the US, with participation from BAM Ventures and previous investors Bitcoin Opportunity Corp., Tim Draper, Pietro Dova and initial investor Strong Ventures.

Korbit launched their bitcoin exchange last year and have now added two new bitcoin services and aim to continue building the bitcoin ecosystem in Korea. Their Series A round will secure the company’s finances for at least two years, allowing deep concentration on stabalizing the company’s cores services, maintaining a keen attention to quality to woe enterprise clients and leverage new opportunities.

New Services

The Korbit Merchant processor is a paymets module that merchants can add to their online or offline store that automatically converts bitcoin to Korean won, allowing for easy beitcoin payment integration. Currently they have 400 live accounts accounts open in Korea, with many payments coming from international customers. CEO of Korbit, Tony Lyu, mentioned that there was a “good mix of high value and small transactions.” He expected that for the emerging machine to machine communication and devices that utilize internet of things connectivity, bitcoin payment systems like Korbit’s wallet make a lot of sense. “Machines can’t open a bank account,” he explained, “but they can pay other machines.”

Korbit’s other new service, their Bitcoin Wallet, is used by consumers to send, receive, and save bitcoin.

Tony explained that “no one else in Korea was creating the wallet or merchant processor, so in order to fulfill the potential of Bitcoin we had to do it.” And while thier reach is currently Korea, he explained: “We are beginning to look at global services as well. We are beginning to consider the global potential of our financial products. Our strategy is to be opportunistic in terms of global opportunities.”

Tony created Korbit because he believes that bitcoin has a huge potential to add value to the finance industry. He explained that there was no one product or service that was planned as the focal point. Instead he felt a need to kick start the whole industry in Korea, and decided that the first service required for this was an exchange, that allowed users to actually get their hands on bitcoin. Having achieved that (the exchange) the next stage was to open up the market so consumers could start making bit coin payments (the Merchant Processor and Wallet). Tony mentioned that Korea is now one of the leaders globally for Bitcoin usage, as Korean have a history of using virtual currencies. This was demonstrated by the fact that in Korea new Bitcoin users can acquire bitcoin in 3 minutes. Tony explained that in teh US and Europe the same process could take days.

Earlier investment: Korbit raised seed funding after attending beGLOBAL in Silicon Valley

I was keen to understand why US investors are still maintaining such a strong interest in Korbit. Tony explained that “Korea is a potentially big bitcoin economy, beyond bitcoin adoption and digital currencies. Our investors have made a double bet, both on the market potential in Korea, and on our team’s ability to deliver on the potential of Bitcoin in Korea and beyond,” Tony explained. “We have also demonstrated that we can deliver on our aims.”

Regarding the Korbit investment, SoftBank Ventures Korea Partner Kangjoon Ryan Lee remarked, “The costs and security issues arising from the reliance on financial intermediaries for credit guarantees has been mitigated through Bitcoin’s technological innovation. Bitcoin provides big advantages in terms of cost savings and ease of use compared to traditional currencies and credit cards. I expect Bitcoin to create meaningful markets in payments and international remittance. Going forward, Bitcoin can play a role in wider variety of industries, for example enabling machine-to-machine transactions or acting as a platform for smart contracts.”

Dan Morehead, CEO of Pantera Capital, remarked, “South Korea has a booming e-commerce market and was an early adopter of virtual goods. The government supports innovation and even the banking foundation is invested in Korbit. Pantera Capital is excited about the investment in Korbit and confident that Bitcoin will thrive in Korea because of its early adoption of innovative technologies and abundance of technical talent,” adding that “Pantera believes that Bitcoin has the potential to transform the way we use money. It will do for payments what the Internet has done for communications and commerce.”

Korbit introduced Bitcoin to Korea last year by opening the world’s first Bitcoin-Korean Won exchange. This year Korbit has started helping merchants accept Bitcoin through their processing service Korbit Pay (https://pay.korbit.co.kr). Said Korbit CEO Tony Lyu, “User excitement for Korbit Pay has vastly exceeded our expectations,” adding “We’ll be focusing on improving the security and ease of use of our services with this new round of funding and continue to bring in top talent from around the world.”

About Korbit: Korbit started the world’s first Bitcoin-Korean Won exchange in April 2013. Korbit has previously raised $600,000 mainly from angel investors in Silicon Valley such as Tim Draper, Naval Ravikant and David Lee. Korbit is comprised of professionals from leading firms such as IDEO, UBS, Samsung Electronics, Microsoft and the Korea Exchange. Visit www.korbit.co.kr.

About Korbit Pay: Korbit Pay is a merchant processing service for Bitcoin payments. Since launching in June 2014, Korbit Pay has signed up 400 merchant accounts. Offline merchants include Nescafe (coffee) in Gangnam and Natuur (ice cream) in Pangyo, while online merchants include Hanintel (lodging reservation) and News Peppermint (news translation). Said Korbit CEO Tony Lyu, “User excitement for Korbit Pay has vastly exceeded our expectations,” adding “customers who experience making a payment with Bitcoin are generally surprised with the speed and convenience of the transaction.” Korbit Pay merchants are attracted to the service because of the low fees and the potential to reach over 5 million Bitcoin users around the world. Visit pay.korbit.co.kr.

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