Major telcos, utility providers and insurers may not have jumped on the cryptocurrency bandwagon, but thanks to two local fintech startups that no longer matters, with cryptocurrency owners now able to pay any bill in crypto.
Cryptocurrency exchange Cointree and automated billing platform Gobbill will let Australians pay bills with cryptocurrency, regardless of whether the business itself accepts the digital currency. Gobbill acts as a go-between, taking the funds from its users and paying the bills on their behalf.
Gobbill co-founder Shendon Ewans admits that he was late to the cryptocurrency party, only beginning to dabble in it early last year, but said that’s what made a partnership with Cointree attractive.
“I have traded, but not very successfully. That was the appeal of Cointree. I’m a novice and I’m surrounded by people at [fintech co-working space] Stone and Chalk, who are deep crypto specialists,” he said.
“Fast forward into the future and what we’re seeing is, like it or not, this will be part of our daily lives. Gobbill already let people pay bills from their cards or bank accounts, so now they can pay in cryptocurrency too.”
Gobbill has an Australian financial services licence under ASIC, while Cointree is licensed under AUSTRAC to meet anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing obligations.
Shendon said Gobbill was still pre-revenue, but the three-year-old start-up had recently started charging small businesses a fee to digitise their invoices.
“We’ve grown to a point where we’re now capital raising … for the first two years it was just my co-founder and I and it was a lot of research and development and testing,” he said.
“We only launched in the last year and we have a small number of users, but the partnership with Cointree and with our other with MyProsperity we’ll see more growth.”
Cointree launched in 2013 with the purpose of making it easier for people to buy and sell bitcoin, and it now has 60,000 active members and has facilitated 100 million transactions.
Paying with crypto
Cointree operations manager Jess Rendon said Cointree also had its own service that lets users pay bills, but hoped this partnership would make it an easier process and open it up to more people who had not experimented with cryptocurrencies before.
“Last year alone we had about $100 million of bills paid and saw ten times growth in this payment feature,” she said.
The business has recently rebranded and relaunched its exchange with the intention of going global. The first step in this facilitating token-to-token trading in international markets, which is not regulated in the same way as token-to-cash trades.
Eventually, it hopes to also get approvals from international regulators to offer its full service.
The price of bitcoin dropped significantly this year from record highs of more than $25,000 in December to under $9000 in early February.
Since then the price has continued to fluctuate but stayed relatively low compared to last year’s highs. Currently, one bitcoin is fetching around $8750.
Despite the significant price decline, Rendon said it was not deterring traders.
“The market goes up and down. All of us would like a magic ball that could tell us when it will go up and down next, but we have a lot of different customers with different investment strategies. It’s not always dependent on price dips and highs,” she said.
“It’s something we’re becoming used to every day and there hasn’t been a complete drop off in traders, so that’s how the exchanges are still chugging along.”