Block co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey-also co-founder and former CEO of Twitter-led a $6 million seed funding round for Bitcoin payment firm Azteco, the startup announced today.
Azteco offers a unique way to buy Bitcoin worldwide with a focus on making it easier for the unbanked population to use the digital currency. Users buy Azteco vouchers online or at a local, brick-and-mortar store, which they can then redeem for Bitcoin. The model works similar to buying a gift card or a mobile phone top-up.
Since users do not need to go through an exchange to buy Bitcoin with their native currency, this method gives users more flexibility and is known in Bitcoin circles as a project that has the potential to help bank the unbanked.
In a statement, noted Bitcoin investor and enthusiast Dorsey said he is “honored to support” Azteco as it tries to help unbanked individuals get into the financial system.
“There is a large unbanked population. We have the technology and the resources to close this gap, but until now, no one has taken that important next step,” said Dorsey. “Azteco provides more than just access to a safe financial system; it builds an ecosystem of financial self-determination that is safe and supported by local communities.”
Along with Dorsey, investors include Lightning Ventures, Hivemind Ventures, Ride Wave Ventures, Aleka Capital, Visary Capital, Gaingels, and serial entrepreneur Sunil Rajaraman.
“More than two billion people around the world do not have access to any financial services, facing significant challenges in managing, saving, and transferring money and accessing credit,” said the Azteco representative Matt Jaffe Decrypt. “These individuals, many living in countries with unreliable and volatile economies, need alternative, independent solutions that provide financial inclusion and long-term stability.”
Users can buy vouchers in 195 countries. Azteco plans to use the new funding to replenish its product line and expand its offerings in Latin America and Europe.
Some users also described the potential of “no KYC” Bitcoin, where users don’t have to provide identifying information to “know your customer” in order to buy Bitcoin. Because only small amounts of Bitcoin can be purchased at Azteco, government KYC laws do not apply in the jurisdictions where the company operates.
“Azteco brings vouchers for small amounts of Bitcoin to the masses who need it most,” Jaffe said. “As an alternative to traditional currencies and bank accounts, Bitcoin enables financial self-determination, putting people in control of their finances with privacy and security.“