Block co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey—also co-founder and former CEO of Twitter—led a $6 million seed funding round for Bitcoin payments firm Azteco, the startup announced today.
Azteco offers a unique way to buy Bitcoin worldwide with a focus on making it easier for unbanked populations to use the digital money. Users either buy an Azteco voucher 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 don’t have to go through an exchange to purchase Bitcoin in their native currency, this method provides users more flexibility and has come to be known in Bitcoin circles as a project with the potential to help bank the unbanked.
In a statement, noted Bitcoin investor and enthusiast Dorsey said that he was “honored to support” Azteco as it attempts to help unbanked individuals enter the financial system.
“The unbanked population is immense. We have the technology and resources to close this gap, but until now, no one has taken that important next step,” Dorsey said. “Azteco is providing so much more than just access to a secure financial system; it is building an ecosystem of financial self-determination that is secure 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 worldwide lack access to any financial services, facing significant challenges managing, storing, and transferring money and accessing credit,” Azteco representative Matt Jaffe told Decrypt. “These individuals, many living in countries with untrustworthy and volatile economies, need alternative, independent solutions that provide financial inclusion and long-term stability.”
Users can purchase vouchers in 195 countries. Azteco plans to use the fresh funding to flesh out its product and expand its offerings in Latin America and Europe.
Some users have also described the potential of “no KYC” Bitcoin, where users don’t have to provide identifying “know your customer” information in order to buy Bitcoin. Since only small amounts of Bitcoin can be purchased with Azteco, governmental KYC laws do not apply in those jurisdictions that the company operates in.
“Azteco is bringing 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.”
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