Singapore Government Sponsors Bitcoin Firm to Attend SXSW Event

Singapore-based bitcoin startup CoinPip is one of 10 technology companies selected by a government agency to represent the country at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) event in the US in March. Notably, this is the first time a national government has shown such support for bitcoin enterprise development.

Participating companies are being sponsored to attend by Infocomm Investments, the investment arm of Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), a government agency and regulator. CoinPip CEO Anson Zeall told CoinDesk he aims to use the appearance at SXSW to raise awareness of CoinPip and its services, and to show that bitcoin is not only a currency, but a technology capable of many different things. It is also an opportunity to show off Singapore itself, he indicated, saying: “Singapore is a great place for bitcoin startups. And having us showcased by Infocomm Investments is proof.”

The story so far

CoinPip began as a bitcoin merchant services provider and has begun expanding into new territory as a money payroll transfer business. The latest service sends money end-to-end to employees, freelancers and contractors around the world in under 48 hours, using bitcoin as an invisible medium. The company also recently became a Ripple Gateway. Although that protocol will “take time to develop”, Zeall said, users who want to participate in the Ripple network or buy its currency, XRP, with Singapore dollars, can sign up now.

This is not the first time CoinPip’s efforts in bitcoin have been recognized. The company joined ‘Batch 11′ of 500 Startups’ accelerator program in Mountain View, California, starting last November. Whether or not CoinPip’s involvement in 500 Startups influenced Infocomm Investments’ decision is uncertain, but Zeall said the experience definitely changed the company’s trajectory for the better. “500 allowed us to delve deep into our analytics, get the right insights and take action. It does look like a leap-of-faith pivot, however there were a lot of learnings involved to get to where we are now.”

The company’s merchant services will continue with the addition of a new and more user-friendly dashboard soon. While declining to provide figures on merchant numbers or volumes, Zeall said the company serves a number of “very loyal” businesses who are dedicated to accepting bitcoin. CoinPip has operated mainly in the Singapore/Hong Kong market, but also processes transactions to and from the UK, Indonesia, Kenya and Australia. The firm also expressed plans to expand into South America and the US in the near future.

Criteria for selection

Director of Infocomm Investments’ San Francisco office, Victor Tan, said that the companies chosen span a variety of verticals, including e-commerce, ad-tech, big data and even space, in one instance. Startups chosen for sponsorship needed to show they have a ready product or service to show the public, and also that they have plans to expand into or do business with the US. The selection team also looked for companies that would be most relevant and interesting to the SXSW audience.

Singapore government initiative

According to its website, Infocomm Investment operates its accelerator program to “stimulate the growth of home-grown, innovation driven tech startups” at the early stage, by working with corporations, universities and professional accelerators. It also seeks to identify and invest in Singaporean (or Singapore-based) companies with an international presence, investing alongside venture capitalists and engaging in outreach programs, such as participation in trade shows.

Together with the IDA, it forms part of Singapore’s Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) initiative – a 10-year plan to further develop Singapore’s information technology economy. SXSW is a series of annual festivals held in Austin, Texas, that incorporates music, film and interactive technology. The latter component has grown markedly in recent years to become one of the biggest tech startup events in the world.

SXSW will take place from 13th to 17th March.

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