London’s Canary Wharf is rapidly growing an impressive reputation as the go-to location for fintech startups. For many, the big coup for the area this year will have been the move of Alibaba’s UK headquarters to One Canada Square.
The startup has relocated to the UK to get in on its booming fintech ecosystem, with significant parts of their team leaving their Melbourne office behind.
I caught up with cofounder Asher Tan to get the story behind the relocation.
Can you explain in layman’s terms what CoinJar does?
CoinJar is a digital finance platform that works with new and traditional payment networks. We create products that make digital currency and finance accessible, from owning bitcoin to using and accepting it from any country or location.
These include a bitcoin debit card, CoinJar Swipe, which allows people to spend bitcoin anywhere they like and withdraw local currency from any ATM. We’ll also offer this to our UK customers in British pounds in 2015.
Why have you chosen to relocate to the UK?
We’ve had our sights set on the UK since we established CoinJar in 2013.
The main draw was the UK’s progressive and sensible approach to the development and regulation of technologies such as bitcoin. The fact that positive discourse exists in these spheres is a huge draw for international startups.
Another key reason is simply the size of the market. London’s daily global currency turnover is $1.85 trillion, compared to Australia’s GDP of $1.56 trillion. We knew from early on we had products with global appeal.
Quite simply, it was crucial for our expansion and our survival.
The UK has quite a progressive fintech ecosystem. Do you think other countries will catch up?
For the sake of innovation and development, I’d like to think so. But it’s not that easy. Because of its economic history, the UK was in a unique position to take the lead on this, and they are reaping the benefits of moving quickly.
From our own experiences, Australia is starting to talk about it. We recently submitted a response to a Senate inquiry currently taking place. We also submitted a response to the HM Treasury inquiry.
All you need to do is compare and contrast those two hearings and the results to prove just how far ahead the UK is, and why need to be there to be globally competitive.
What is next for bitcoin?
Bitcoin needs useful products for its users for people to understand and take advantage of the technology behind it. There are several tech startups who are working hard to make bitcoin accessible globally by creating innovative, revolutionary and in-demand products.
Until we can show the mainstream audience how useful, relevant and easy bitcoin can be, it won’t be adopted. Not just CoinJar, but every single bitcoin company is waiting for the rest of the world to catch up and realise what bitcoin can mean on a global scale, especially for the unbanked.