SA crypto exchange ChainEX banks on customer service, global linkages for edge in busy space

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South Africa has rapidly established itself as a leader in the crypto asset exchange space, but how do you give yourselves an edge in what is an increasingly busy market.

The likes of DCX, OVEX, Coindirect, Revix and VALR are all active in this sector, and all funded, with the latter most notably having recently secured US$3.4 million in Series A funding

The high levels of investment speak to the vitality of a local space that also includes more global player Luno, and the increasing competition explains the recent closure of another market player, Ubu.

ChainEX, founded in 2018, is another exchange hoping to make an impact. Founded in 2018, the platform provides South Africans with a secure, user-friendly platform to buy, sell and trade various cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin and Ethereum, with the South African Rand as the default fiat currency.

But how does it differentiate?

“The gap we identified was a lack of fast support, efficiency, uniqueness, and cost. Most importantly, listening to and hearing our users. ChainEX provides fast, real-time and efficient support. Our Telegram channel has team members ready, willing and able to respond to questions in minutes,” Ryno Mathee, chief technology officer (CTO) at ChainEX.

The startup also recently announced what it considers to be a key partnership, with world-leading cryptocurrency exchange OKEx. With just over 20 million users in over 100 countries, OKEx has nearly US$1.5 billion daily trading volume, and the arrangement gives ChainEX a national and international footprint in the industry, and means more liquidity for its traders.

Mathee said ChainEX also offers unique order types that no other exchange in the country offers.

“Specifically our accumulation and distribution order types. It’s like having your own little trading bot trying to distribute and accumulate certain coins. We’re currently the only exchange in South Africa that does that,” he said.

ChainEX has also launched a quick buy and sell feature, is the only local exchange to offer Bitcoin Vault, and will soon be launching its mobile app. Mathee said uptake over the first couple of years was slow, but that the platform was gaining traction. ChainEX currently has over 1,500 users.

“We operate locally and internationally, and are open to users from all over the world with a few exceptions, due to laws in certain countries or administrative requirements. The majority of our users are South African,” Matthee said.

Not to be outdone by its competitors, the startup has also taken on funding. Its pre-seed and seed funding rounds, the latter raised in March 2018, totalled US$1.3 million, with backers including individuals and private companies locally and abroad. Matthee said the startup is looking forward to further growth.

“We launched after the 2017 bubble popped, and a heavy bear market when people weren’t looking at cryptocurrency at all. Our timing hasn’t been the greatest, but we have really enjoyed the learning curve and are excited about the future,” he said.

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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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