Bitspark wins Top Tech Startups Showdown


Bitspark emerged as the winner of FST Media’s Top Tech Startups Showdown at the 2015 Future of Banking & Financial Services conference in Hong Kong. 

Bitspark emerged as the winner of FST Media’s Top Tech Startups Showdown at FST Media’s 2015 Future of Banking & Financial Services conference in Hong Kong.

Four of Asia’s brightest startups took to the stage to compete at Hong Kong’s premier financial services technology conference in front of distinguished guests and senior industry executives across banking and insurance.

The participants highlighted their unique selling points via an interactive on-stage demonstration, with the winner determined by live polling.

Winner: Bitspark

Founder: George Harrap, Chief Executive Officer, Bitspark

The Pitch:

Bitspark is the world’s first “cash in, cash out” remittance platform for money transfer businesses leveraging blockchain technology to send money to emerging markets, “quicker and cheaper”.

Speaking at the conference, Harrap said one of the key challenges in financial services today revolved around the complexities of sending money overseas – especially to emerging markets like the Philippines and Indonesia – as well as the expensive costs attached to these transactions.

Harrap said that overseas money transfers are currently conducted by “small entities” that connect to larger networks – including the platforms of larger incumbent players like Western Union, MoneyGram, Express Pinoy – which then entails an 80 per cent commission directed to the incumbent institution.

“That’s a problem, that’s why remittances have stayed the same for a number of decades now and hadn’t really changed,” Harrap said.

Currently, the market size for remittances is approximately $583 billion USD globally and is growing at a rate of 6 per cent per annum, Harrap said.

According to Harrap, Bitspark is looking to capitalise on this opportunity, particularly in Asia. Its remittance platform challenges the conventional wisdom of overseas money transfers by conveying payments with intermediaries using bitcoin and blockchain technology.

What’s next:

Harrap said that traditional financial incumbents like Western Union were “cumbersome and slow”, with the fintech eagerly eyeing up the opportunity to simplify transactional experiences for money transfer agents.

With Bitspark officially incubated as part of the Accenture-run Fintech Innovation Lab Asia Pacific, Harrap said the fintech is looking to build on the momentum that it has received from the accelerator.

As a result, Bitspark aims to “monetise mobile customers” and provide an analytics platform for financial institutions to track business performance and see more data about their customers.

“Bitspark is an easy way to convey all sorts of smaller payments without the need for a SWIFT network and we can do it pretty much anywhere in the world because bitcoin is a [form of] payment rails that exists everywhere 24/7,” Harrap said.

“We have the experience, we’ve been speaking to a number of the banks and [now] we are trying to bridge the gap.”