A London startup building a contactless bitcoin card has raised £2.5 million

LONDON — Bitcoin debit card provider Wirex has raised £2.45 ($US3 million) to launch a contactless card that lets you spend the cryptocurrency.

London-based Wirex has raised the money from Japanese financial services group SBI Holdings’s £215 million ($US265 million) fintech venture capital fund, one of the world’s largest.

Wirex, founded in 2014, offers cards that look and work like normal bank cards, but allows users to buy, load, and spend crypto-currencies like bitcoin, as well as traditional currencies.

Its physical cards are popular in Asia Pacific, and its “virtual bitcoin wallets” are popular in the UK, where the firm has a total of 60,000 customers.

Japan recently became the world’s biggest marketplace for bitcoin and Wirex cofounder Pavel Matveev said he would use the “strategic” partnership with SBI to push its expansion plans in Asia Pacific.

He said: “It’s not just money, it’s very smart money. We have a lot of synergy with SBI. Bitcoin will be regulated in Japan from April, so cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin will become a legitimate payment system in Japan. A lot of big players, including investment banks and Japanese megabanks, are moving into this space, and SBI is one of them.”

Wirex will use the money raised to fund the development of new features — including contactless bitcoin payments and multiple-currency cards — as well as investing in security, regulation, and marketing. It expects to launch a contactless bitcoin payment system by September this year.

Matveev said the firm is targeting two million customers and one million cards worldwide by the end of this year — not all users have cards, as some only use Wirex as a digital wallet.

Currently, the firm serves over 500,000 customers in more than 130 countries and is focusing on growth in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Wirex has offices in London, Tokyo, and Kiev.

Learn more:

NOW WATCH: A leading economist explains why bitcoin isn’t money

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.