Coinbase has announced its first expansion beyond the US market, launching Bitcoin buy and sell services in 13 countries across Europe.
With the beta start, Coinbase now enables consumers in Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain to buy Bitcoin worth up to € 500 per day and sell.
Speaking to CoinDesk, CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong described Coinbase’s entry into the European market as the next natural step for his company, which now has more than 1.6 million wallet users in the US and a multitude of US companies worth billions of US dollars – Dollars includes take advantage of reseller services including Dell, Expedia and Overstock.
Armstrong told CoinDesk:
“We were thinking about which markets to move into next, and Europe seemed like the next largest economy. It’s developed, there are people out there who want to get bitcoin, there is a huge demand for it, but they really don’t have an easy way to do it. “
Although Armstrong was a big step for the Andreessen Horowitz-backed company, he also tried to shape Coinbase’s expansion as a boon to the broader Bitcoin industry, citing its expanded reach as a trailblazer for cross-border payments and new remittance products.
“These are the things that will open up once we build this type of infrastructure in every country,” added Armstrong.
The news is the second big announcement this week for the California-based bitcoin service provider. On September 8, Coinbase announced a new partnership with eBay’s PayPal subsidiary Braintree that will expand Bitcoin adoption to other merchants, including possibly big brands like LivingSocial, TaskRabbit and Uber, as well as Armstrong’s former employer Airbnb.
The next step in the transfer
Throughout the interview, Armstrong endeavored to position Coinbase’s advanced service as one that will help facilitate transfers.
Armstrong suggested that Coinbase has no direct competitors in the European Bitcoin market, in part because of the larger vision that the entire community is working towards and the collective effort required to make it happen.
Armstrong cited the historical challenges tech startups face when attacking large financial companies like American Express, MasterCard, and Western Union:
“Until now, it has been impossible for any individual company to tackle the large incumbents because it takes a lot of capital to compete with them globally. Even Facebook tried to do this with Facebook credits, but I think Bitcoin will win because it’s this open network. “
With the expansion, Armstrong also hopes to encourage other companies to build on his work, even though he’s committed to expanding Coinbase to more European countries.
“I want there to be 100 entrepreneurs in each of these countries, someone with local connections who can get a banking deal and launch a version of it that will fuel the growth of the entire ecosystem,” added Armstrong.
Dealer services follow
Coinbase’s wallet service has long been available to Bitcoin holders in Europe. However, the announcement marks the company’s formal entry into the region by expanding its core offering – bitcoin brokerage services.
Although Armstrong did not say that Coinbase would start looking for trading partners in Europe, citing this as a service that could already be used for that purpose, he said:
“Of course, traders need to be able to cash out if they don’t want to hold Bitcoin. So these are the services that have now been activated as a result of this launch. “
BitPay, Coinbase’s biggest rival in the US market, is currently offering merchant services for the European market and has recently expanded into a new office covering 2,500 square feet.
The company wants to register up to 40,000 European traders by the end of the year and is competing against smaller competitors such as Bitmarket.lt and SpectroCoin.
Ignite the European market
Although BitPay has tried to expose the European market to different needs and forces than the US, Armstrong took a different approach and was optimistic that Coinbase could repeat its success in the US overseas.
Armstrong cited his company’s buying and selling services as the foundation for Coinbase’s services to flourish in the region and reiterated his belief that it was the first spark that led to greater Bitcoin awareness in the United States.
Armstrong told CoinDesk:
“We haven’t seen this kind of acceptance from merchants in Europe, and I think the reason is because there are still not that many consumers who have an easy way to get a bit of bitcoin.”
Unsurprisingly, Armstrong cited awareness as his company’s biggest obstacle, despite suggesting that by entering the market and creating more excitement around Bitcoin, the European market could take a similar path.
“It reached a saturation point in the US where you’d heard about bitcoin three times a month and then tried to educate yourself and buy a little. I suppose in Europe they are exposed to a lot of the same press, but they did not have that ability. “
Planning the expansion
For the expansion, Armstrong said Coinbase reached out to a number of countries in the region, wrote letters and engaged local regulators in a dialogue about its ability to extend its services to their jurisdictions.
Countries were then given the green light based on how positively they responded to this outreach and how specific their regulatory requirements were for Bitcoin companies.
“We have approached every country in this region on a case-by-case basis. There were a lot of banking partnerships, a lot of legal and compliance work and also some technical integrations. “
Armstrong did not disclose Coinbase’s banking partner, but did suggest that multiple partnerships could aid the expansion.
“You don’t need one in every country because we use the SEPA network. But you need at least one, and ideally more than one. That’s why we spent a lot of time on it, ”he said.
Long way ahead
While the beta launch is an exciting step for the company, Armstrong has described the launch of the service as just the first step in a much longer journey to ensuring that its brand takes hold in the region.
Armstrong noted that Coinbase has started “internationalizing” its website, but that feature is not yet available. He said:
“With things like this, it can take years to get a website localized right. There are lots of little details that a person comes to a website in another country and there is one subtle thing they reveal as a translated American website. “
The CEO went on to suggest that Coinbase will continue its beta launch until it is ready to take in higher volumes. During that time, Armstrong said Coinbase will work to ensure that it can handle the demand and that its risk management services are working properly.
Because of this, Armstrong’s comments suggested that he hopes first-time users can be patient with the company until the service can grow, saying:
“I would hate to put something on the market with such low limits and let people say it isn’t even useful. But you have to start somewhere and hopefully we can increase it from there. “
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