GÄSTKRÖNIKA: JAMES PEMBER FRÅN SWEDISH STARTUP SPACE GÄSTAR STHLM DIGITAL
Bitcoin took the world by storm in 2013 but it’s unclear whether the Bitcoin-craze will hold up or not.
In recent months, Bitcoin has received a lot of negative press from within the Swedish media. In a report published by DN on Wednesday, Jan Tibbling, chief attorney at the Ekobrottsmyndigheten, expressed worry that Bitcoin will grow amongst cyber-criminals, given it's private and untraceable nature. Sebastian Siemiatkowski, CEO of Klarna, a Swedish payments company, has also expressed his concerns regarding Bitcoin, and went as far as to call it a ”bubble”. Suffice to say, Klarna won't be accepting Bitcoin as a valid payment method anytime soon.
”I caught up with Safello CEO Frank Schuil to dig a little deeper into the negative press”
James Pember (photo).
Perhaps the biggest blow of all came from Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg, who commented:
– I do not claim to be an expert in this type of technology, but I do not believe in Bitcoins. I believe in solid, well-founded currencies that can be trusted. I do not believe in an alternative currency system, I think the dollar and the euro is more than good enough for now.
Not everyone is as sceptic, and loads of companies do try to make money from the Bitcoin-craze. One of those are Safello - a Stockholm-based Bitcoin platform aimed at ‘the average consumer’ instead of just tech-savvy/hacker-type folks.
The company are now announcing a 3.8 million SEK investment round including some of Bitcoin's most well-respected and prominent figures. Leading the round are Erik Voorhees and Roger Ver. Voorhees founded Bitcoin-powered online casino SatoshiDice, which incidentally, was one of the first companies to take commercial advantage of Bitcoin - selling for 12 million USD in mid 2013. Ver on the other hand, has invested in Ripple, Bitpay and Blockchain.info - three of the biggest web services within crypocurrencies.
– As the Bitcoin market is dynamic and quickly growing we knew we wanted to raise an investment round to grow as fast as we can, says Safello CEO Frank Schuil.
– Our main objective was to get a mix of top notch players from the Bitcoin market together with traditional money in line with where we position ourselves in the market. Through our first angel investor, Ludvig Öberg, we got in contact with Roger Ver and Erik Voorhees who gradually warmed up to the idea of investing. In parallel we had discussions with angels in the local community who agreed to join the round. To smoothen the process we had a set valuation and timeline to make the end results transparent to every participant.
You've included various banking figures in this round. Tell us about your experience with the banking sector and their reactions to Bitcoin.
– Unfortunately some Bitcoin actors in the Swedish market have not taken the necessary steps to prevent criminal activities, making this an uphill battle for us a fully AML/KYC (”know your customer”) compliant company. To counter that we are trying to be the leading example banks can point at as a benchmark for any Bitcoin company to bide by. The process with the Swedish banks is understandably a slow one, but we are confident that it is just a matter of time to establish cooperation with all of them. We are already seeing the dialogue switch to one of fear to one of opportunity where especially the smaller retails banks are keen to take advantage of what may well be the internet of money.
What does the next six months hold for Safello?
– Today we are introducing the next phase of Safello with a complete redesign of the website. Swedish customers will be able to verify themselves with mobile bank ID to easily purchase or sell Bitcoins. We have spent a great deal of time to make bitcoins easily accessible to the average consumer. The coming six months we are taking steps forward to slowly unveil what we believe is going to be the future of managing and spending your money.
James Pember är vd och grundare för SpartaSales.com och skriver om Svenska start-ups på SwedishStartupSpace.com. Denna krönika är ett gästspel i samarbete med Sthlm Digital, SvD:s nya digitala satsning.