New SA crypto exchange starts rand-Bitcoin trading

The platform is backed by United States-based exchange Bittrex and former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan. Aside from Ehsani, there are another three …
Farzam Ehsani, VALR CEO.

Farzam Ehsani, VALR CEO.

South Africa’s newest crypto-currency exchange VALR today launched rand-Bitcoin trading on its platform. Customers can now buy and sell Bitcoin directly with rands, and also use Bitcoin and Ether to buy and sell over 50 other crypto-currencies.

A little over an hour after VALR started rand-Bitcoin trading, CEO Farzam Ehsani said it had already seen millions of rand worth of trades.

He attributed this to the platform having the lowest fees on the market, and that, for the first time, there was now international pricing of crypto-currencies for the South African market.

The plan is to also launch rand-Ether trading in future.

Ehsani told ITWeb that when VALR launched on December 6, 2018, it was very close to the bottom of the price of Bitcoin. Since then, the price has recovered somewhat, to just under $8 000.

The platform is backed by United States-based exchange Bittrex and former FNB CEO Michael Jordaan. Aside from Ehsani, there are another three partners, who also contributed to the startup costs.

Ehsani said he has a long-term view of crypto-currencies, and that it’s important to look past the day-to-day price movements.

“The price will go up and down based on the whims of people, but if you understand the technology and the impact this asset class can have on the world, you take a different perspective.”

Fastest onboarding

He said VALR was seeing a ‘ridiculous’ amount of sign-ups at the moment, and that someone new was joining the platform every few minutes. Its customers now number in the thousands, and while they are accepting customers from all over the world, the majority are South Africans.

It doesn’t accept customers from North Korea, or from the United States, due to the latter’s `particularly burdensome regulatory environment’.

He’s particularly proud of VALR’s onboarding system, which he says is the fastest in the world.

At the moment, exchanges in South Africa are not required to verify the identity of clients, a requirement known as KYC, or ‘know your customer’.

Ehsani says, however, they’ve spent a significant amount of their R20 million startup money to build a system that automates the sign-on process.

Prospective clients are asked for their name, surname, address and a password. They then upload an image of their ID, driver’s licence, or passport, which is then analysed to see if it’s a legitimate document.

VALR now needs to tie these pieces of information together with a ‘liveness’ test, and the app will ask you to film a short video of yourself, following instructions, such as looking to the right and left, and repeating a string of numerals.

It then compares frames of the video to the ID document, and if this matches, you’re cleared to trade. All this happens in about five minutes, and a staff member will only get involved if the system flags a discrepancy.

Exchange controls: Relic from the past

Bittrex is providing the liquidity for crypto-to-crypto trading.

In South Africa, there are exchange controls for on-shore and off-shore assets. An individual is allowed to move R1 million a year, subject to a valid SARS tax clearance certificate. No one is allowed, however, to buy crypto with rands, which, Ehsani says, is ‘very, very limiting, and why we need some liquidity to grease our operations’.

VALR thus facilitates trade between its customers and those from Bittrex.

Ehsani is a vocal opponent of exchange controls, and says it’s stifling the South African economy.

“It’s a relic from the past. It may have had a purpose during the apartheid regime, but we’ve grown beyond that now.”

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Venezuela’s Petro Cryptocurrency: What It Is and How to Invest

This was probably why Venezuela decided to join the bandwagon with its first sovereign digital currency, Petro. However, far from pouring oil on …

Petro logo on a silver coin.

It is nothing new that bitcoin and altcoins, for quite a number of years, have had to fight through constant crackdowns and criticisms from various nations. Regardless of this, the global financial scene has witnessed an influx of projects seeking to reinforce the usefulness of digital assets.

This was probably why Venezuela decided to join the bandwagon with its first sovereign digital currency, Petro. However, far from pouring oil on troubled waters, Petro’s emergence was initially viewed with more skepticism, thus bringing up questions about its expediency in the country’s financial scenes and beyond.

Petro appears to be slowly establishing itself as recent reports have shown that Venezuelans are trading the asset on social media and some exchanges. Furthermore, the asset has been reported to be exchanged for goods and services by the locals.

With this in view, the question on the mind of many remains whether it is now a good time to invest in Petro. Making this decision means understanding its basics.

What Is Petro?

With Venezuela admittedly on the brink of an economic depression, Petro was positioned as the answer to the prayers of the nation. Born in 2017 and launched in 2018, Petro (PTR) was put forward as a supplement to the Venezuelan sovereign currency, thus fostering a link between the country and other global nations.

Venezuela paper money.
Venezuela’s economic crisis is in full swing.

Subjected to the US government’s sanctions, Venezuela had to struggle to transact with international banks, thus restricting its control over moving funds. Petro would provide a means to exchange the country’s currency with others.

However, contrary to other altcoins’ boast of decentralization, the production and distribution of Petro are controlled by the Venezuelan government. It is backed and subject to the price of a barrel of oil in Venezuela.

How to Invest in Petro

Petro was created to be used as the advanced form of the traditional trade by barter system. The cryptocurrency was to be exchanged for goods and services in the country and perhaps beyond.

Hence, investing in Petro is done in various ways. The asset can be purchased through a government agency, Sunacrip. This agency has with it a crypto remittance platform which supports quite a number of digital assets such as bitcoin and Litecoin. As a result, Petro can be easily exchanged with other digital currencies.

The digital currency is also available on a number of state-sanctioned trading exchanges such as Amberes,,,,, and

However, trading on these platforms is not easy. It requires proper authorization and identification. Bancaraexchange, for instance, can be done with a social media account alongside state-issued identification papers.

Investing can also be done by over-the-counter (OTC) groups (also known as Petro Exchange group) with authorization to sell and exchange Petro for another virtual currency. Buyers, though, are required to send dealers proper identification documents along with a selfie with the documents.

How to Sharpen Your Investment Skills

Whether you are interested in investing in Petro or the wide variety of other altcoins available for investment, it makes sense to learn more about the digital asset space. Fortunately, that is easy to do. One great way to get started is to subscribe to the Bitcoin Market Journal newsletter and have the world of digital currencies delivered right to your inbox weekly.

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What’s moving markets today: May 8, 2019

US stock futures bounced back from their lows after President Donald Trump tweeted a suggestion that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He was coming to …

Brad Katsuyama, the trader turned famous overnight by the Michael Lewis novel Flash Boys, believes his investor-friendly exchange is gaining ground in its battle against the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq.

Katsuyama’s IEX Group only launched in 2016, but today it handles $8 billion to $10 billion of equity trading a day. While that trails IEX’s rivals, it’s more than foreign exchanges like the London Stock Exchange, Deutsche Boerse and the Toronto Stock Exchange.

“We use technology to protect pension funds from getting picked off by high-speed traders,” Katsuyama told CNN Business on the sidelines of the SALT Conference in Las Vegas.

Katsuyama, who played the leading character in the novel Flash Boys, criticized the establishment exchanges for making more money off high-speed data than in their traditional role of matching buyers and sellers.

“It’s like finding out the electricity company makes more money doing something other than selling electricity,” Katsuyama said.

IEX, which has been profitable since its launch, has drawn takeover interest from Silicon Valley.

“We’ve been approached by bigger tech companies,” said Katsuyama, who declined to say when the negotiations took place nor say which firms.

He added that while an IPO of IEX is not in the short-term plans, it’s definitely a long-term option.

IEX also announced on Tuesday the addition of former Democratic SEC commissioner Kara Stein to its board.

“The SEC’s mission is to protect investors and the public. That’s also IEX’s mission in many ways,” said Katsuyama.

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‘One-Stop Shop’ for Crypto Mining and Trading to Launch Spot Market May 23

The Chicago-based company has tentatively set May 23 as the go-live date for bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ether, and litecoin, co-founder and chief marketing …

UPDATE (May 7, 2019, 14:00 UTC): This article was updated to note that Bcause is operating under bankruptcy protection.


Cryptocurrency exchange and mining startup Bcause LLC says it’s a few weeks away from launching its spot market, despite operating under bankruptcy protection.

The Chicago-based company has tentatively set May 23 as the go-live date for bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ether, and litecoin, co-founder and chief marketing officer Thomas Flake told CoinDesk. In anticipation of the launch, it has obtained money transmitter licenses in eight states, with 20 more applications pending, Flake said.

Among the first states where Bcause will be available are Illinois, Virginia, Washington and Texas. Bcause has also applied for New York’s BitLicense, but the team doesn’t expect to launch in the state any time soon as the process can take up to two years, Flake said.

Bcause also registered as a money services business with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). And earlier this year, the firm announced that it would be using Nasdaq’s matching engine, clearing and market surveillance tech when it launches trading.

Ultimately, Bcause aims to be a one-stop shop for crypto mining and trading, including derivative contracts, and it’s applied to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to become a registered designated contracts market and a designated clearing organization. This is going to take some time, too, so the futures market will be launched later. The company is served by a “bank in Illinois,” Flake said, declining to name it.

It entered bankruptcy proceedings last month after a supplier of equipment to its mining facility tried to garnish its bank account, according to a letter to shareholders explaining the Chapter 11 filing. The resulting freeze of those funds caused the company to fall behind on payments to utility Dominion Energy, which is its largest creditor, owed $1.5 million.

However, the company’s general counsel told Crain’s Chicago Business it is continuing operations and seeking to restructure, not liquidate. Companies regularly emerge from Chapter 11, sometimes as quickly as a few months.

When asked about the situation, Flake said: “We continue to move forward with the process and at this point all creditors have shown a willingness to work together for a positive outcome.”

Bcause also took advantage of the Prairie State’s “substantial history in the derivatives market and a good pool of talent,” Flake said; in December it quietly hired George Sladoje, a former executive vice president of the Chicago Board of Trade and Chicago Stock Exchange, and later a COO of a Nasdaq subsidiary, OMX Commodities Clearing Company. Sladoje is now Bcause’s chief financial officer.

More certainty for miners

Currently, Bcause operates a data center in Virginia Beach, Virginia where it hosts miners for clients. It believes combining this service with spot and eventually derivatives trading will give customers more confidence: they will be able to sell the crypto they mined on Bcause’s facility easily on the spot market or secure futures contracts to sell them later at a comfortable price.

Flake explained:

“You get rid of some of the uncertainty, which makes investors much happier. If you go from saying, ‘I don’t know what the price of bitcoin will be in nine months,’ to saying, ‘I’ll be able to liquidate it because I have options at $6,500 in December next year,’ suddenly, a lot of uncertainty is off the table.”

This model will help make the mining business more attractive for financial institutions, Flake said.

Bcause is not mining crypto for itself at this initial stage; it’s only hosting customers’ miners. However, it’s investigating possible proprietary mining in the future, Flake said.

Right now, the data center in Virginia has miners with a joint capacity of 50 megawatts, mostly Antminer S9 machines manufactured by Bitmain. The demand for mining power is low now, Flake admitted, especially compared with a year ago:

“In the first quarter of 2018, we had to turn away $250,000 of contracts — we just didn’t have capacity. In the last quarter of 2018, that demand dried out completely. But in the last six weeks, we started seeing one or two inquiries a week.”

When the bitcoin price eventually rebounds to $7,000, demand for miners “will take off again,” Flake said.

In January 2018, Bcause struck a deal with the city of Virginia Beach, which granted $500,000 to the company for building the mining facility in town and creating new jobs there.

Bcause LLC mining farm image courtesy of the company

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Stellar (XLM): Wirex Announces Launch of 26 Fiat-Backed Cryptos On Stellar Network

Stellar (XLM) is slightly picking up the pace and looking to cross $2 billion market cap … It will be easily exchanged to the equivalent local fiat currency.
Stellar, XLM

Stellar (XLM) is slightly picking up the pace and looking to cross $2 billion market cap once again. This is a good sign for XLM as Stellar is also growing with a large number of additions made to its network.

Recently, the FCA regulated platform, Wirex announced that it has integrated 26 Fiat-based assets on the Stellar network. The co-founder of Stellar, Jed McCaleb said that stablecoins have a great amount of potential to transform the financial ecosystem i.e. the payments space. He further added that they are looking forward to working with Wirex to launch its first stablecoins that will help users to make easy payments and make the movement of money swifter and more open to everyone.

Wirex is well-known for payments, so it has added support for the local currencies. This will ultimately drive users towards the adoption of the digital currency. It will be easily exchanged to the equivalent local fiat currency.

These stablecoins will be fixed to real-world assets such as USD or gold. But the value will be backed by digital assets. These stablecoins reduce the intrinsic volatility in the crypto market. Stellar will provide these digital assets with a platform to store, transfer and exchange the assets without any expressive change in their value.

In the first stage, Wirex and Stellar will launch XLM which is the native asset of Stellar. Along with the rest of the digital and custom currencies, users will be able to use these assets with their Wirex Visa cards.

This collaboration of Wirex and Stellar is a perfect combo, as both, the firms share the same objective of enhancing the adoption of digital assets and enhance the payment system that is being used all over the world.

Wirex sees this digital asset as the best way for payments because, with stablecoins, the cost of the transaction is very low, high speed and the most effective and reliable way to move your money around. It doesn’t require a long process and consumes very less time.

Wirex plans to expand this project across the globe but at the moment, they will launch this in the USA and Canada and APAC region in this quarter. As per the report, there are already 700K+ customers that are on the waiting list of Wirex account. So, this is a good opportunity for Stellar to expose its payment system to the world through Wirex platform.

These developments play a key role in improving the market value and for Stellar’s XLM it will definitely get a lot of boost from this development. At the time of writing, Stellar (XLM) was trading with a price of $0.103 and it was rising at a rate of 4% in the last 24 hours. As Bitcoin has just touched $6K after some time, the market has looked good. So, XLM is on its way towards more adoption and the market stabilization will also help it to go further up in the coming time.

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