Here’s a list of companies I know of that are in the bitcoin remittances market. If you know any more, get in touch!
Coins.ph, Rebit.ph and Bitpesa.co
The first two of these serve the migrant Filipino market and the third does the same for emigrant Kenyans and Tanzanians. These are all nations with sizeable diasporas who send large amounts of money back to their countries.
Rebit.ph is the only pure-play remittances business. The other two are mainly bitcoin exchanges with various payments services that includes remittances.
They all work along similar lines when it comes to sending money. You sign up from any country and can load up bitcoin into your account. After you do that, you can send the Bitcoin to your recipient in Philippine pesos / Kenyan shillings. So basically the recipient does not even have to know about bitcoin, but the sender most definitely does.
This has obvious shortcomings. As i pointed out before, your average migrant worker is not interested in crypto-currencies. So registering with this service, buying bitcoin and sending it is probably not something that is going to attract large numbers of users.
In fairness to these services, this is probably not the way they want to grow their business, one migrant worker at a time. What they seem to be trying to do is create a good “off-ramp” network of cash-out points in the destination country (like other, more traditional remittance services have) and get others in the source countries to do the “on-ramping”, i.e. get to the migrant workers and “sell” them their services. Rebit.ph has a whole area of its API for such “vendor” partners.
If going via bitcoin is more cost-effective than going via, say, Moneygram or Western Union, then everyone (migrant workers, resellers and the remittance start-up) wins.
Hong Kong-based Bitspark started as a bitcoin exchange but in May they announced they were halting all bitcoin exchange operations and instead, would be focusing all of their attention on the remittance market.
Last July it was announced that they had joined Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab Asia-Pacific 2015, a three-month programme that provides mentoring, coaching, networking and investment opportunities to seven startups. BItspark was the only bitcoin and blockchain startup in the lineup.
Their website is currently remarkably content-free but they are due to present their decentralised blockchain remittance platform to potential investors at the end of the 12-week accelerator. I await with bated breath!
Next up: The peer-to-peer model