Start up, go global, get paid – all with crypto


I have seen it time and time again: smart, young African entrepreneurs, who have the potential to turn their independent online businesses into the next big thing, being held back by fears of uncertainty and failure, writes Nic Haralambous, chief marketing officer (CMO) of South African Bitcoin exchange Coindirect.

Whenever I speak to young entrepreneurs about the challenges they face, the same questions always come up; how do we service a global market in such a fast moving world? 

Yet the technology to transform their business from local to global is at their fingertips: cryptocurrencies enable entrepreneurs to reach customers anywhere in the world, and accept same-day payments easily and painlessly. 

With the advent of digital currencies and global shipment networks, entrepreneurs can accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment and ship their products anywhere in the world, with very little (if any) technical know-how. The fees are lower, the process is simple and the method of payment is cross border and often instant. 

Within the next decade, cryptocurrency is going to be the key to starting or scaling an online business in emerging markets. Crypto gives entrepreneurs unfettered access to global markets and turns the red tape associated with cross-border transactions into a distant memory. It is not a passing trend. It is quite literally the future. 

From increasing market-share to enabling affordable cross-border payments for their customers, the time is now for digital businesses which want to embrace a new financial system. Startups can, today, eliminate the banking fees associated with cross-border sales, such as for currency conversion and remittance, and settle international purchases on a same-day basis.

Paying with cryptocurrency is quick, cheap, transparent, safe, and decentralised. Modern cryptocurrency payment systems include, as part of their standard offering, multi-currency operations (support of both digital and fiat currencies), custodial services, mobile conversions from crypto to fiat, and instant transactions. Cryptocurrency as a payment solution is the answer to nearly all of the crucial challenges businesses and users face in e-commerce. 

A critical question I keep coming back to is why, when major corporations have seen the value of cryptocurrencies (and are scrambling to ensure that they can capitalise on the innovation), are smaller businesses and startups not jumping at the chance to increase their margins by lowering the fees they pay to archaic banks?

I’d argue that the answer lies mostly in a lack of education about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. While all the reading required is freely available, I believe it’s more an attention issue being faced. It’s tough enough building a startup (85 per cent of businesses will fail in their first 18 months) when you know what you’re doing and understand what a credit card is. To build a business, learn about a new payment method, and then implement it becomes overwhelming. 

The uptake of cryptocurrencies as a method of payment has been slow from a user perspective too. People just seem to feel it’s easier to pay with a card than with Bitcoin. It’s going to be a slow road to ubiquitous adoption but one that we all need to participate in. The more young businesses that accept crypto, the more users will pay with it, the more fees will be saved and the more relevance this new form of money will have. Classic chicken and egg, but if the chicken was a robot and the egg could launch into space. That’s how innovative this technology is. 

Right now, cryptocurrency is still growing, and evolving. It is not anywhere near its final iteration. It can be volatile. And that’s not what entrepreneurs want to hear. But in 2011, when I first read the Bitcoin whitepaper, I knew that cryptocurrencies were going to be one of the singular most defining concepts of the century. 

Bitcoin and blockchain give people around the world the opportunity to re-imagine the financial landscape in their own image: digital, borderless, and global. 

If you wait for users or experts or anyone else to define your startup path, you will never innovate ahead of the pack. You will never catch that elusive spark that turns a small homegrown idea into a household name. 

It is what we have seen all the tech giants of this century do and it’s what we should be doing to close the gap between us and Silicon Valley. Thirty years ago, we were unprepared for the coming of the internet because we had bigger battles to win. Right now, the world is facing an economic crisis and plenty of people are looking to entrepreneurs to lead the way. Cryptocurrency is your opportunity to not only live in the future but be a part of the community who are defining it. Take the leap and join the global economy.


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Key players from Africa's startup and investment ecosystem post on issues close to their heart for Disrupt Africa.

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