Kenyan bitcoin startup Bitsoko receives $100k grant from Gates Foundation

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Kenyan digital currency wallet and development provider Bitsoko has received a US$100,000 grant through the Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which it will use to expand to Ghana, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone next year.

GCE is an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports individuals worldwide in exploring ideas that can solve persistent global health and development challenges. Aside from its US$100,000 funding, Bitsoko also has the opportunity to receive an add-on grant of US$1 million if the project is successful.

Bitsoko is a mobile wallet that implements blockchain technology in a bid to both remove the cost of transferring money between two individuals and increase access to payment services. The startup’s approach integrates blockchain with mobile money, allowing funds to be sent from the developed world through bitcoin and received as mobile money. It is currently in beta testing in Nairobi, Kenya.

The startup will use the GCE funds to expand its services to Ghana, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone next year, as well as research and development of relevant projects. Bitsoko co-founder Daniel Bloch is heading up a global health and development research project titled “Enable Universal Acceptance of Mobile Money Payments”.

“The financial structure in Kenya and throughout Africa has changed rapidly since the birth of mobile money by M-Pesa. We believe that this will only continue to grow, and tools such as Bitsoko that leverage blockchain technology to lower transaction costs will be at the forefront of this boom,” said Allan Juma, co-founder and lead developer at Bitsoko.

Disrupt Africa reported last month Ugandan startup MMINDZS was a recipient of funding from the same programme, with the grant to be used to further develop the company’s MYAccounts mobile money-enabled accounting system for African small merchants.

MYAccounts enables merchants to seamlessly view, track and account for all their customer and supplier payments made to their mobile phone. The platform then aggregates this database of transactions to produce complete financial and stock records, customer invoices and receipts, printable financial statements and tax returns.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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