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Coffee and a Bitcoin: Start-up’s plan to turn change into cryptocurrency

Perth-based entrepreneur Phil George is on a crusade to “democratise finance”.

The chief executive and co-founder of cryptocurrency micro-investment app Bamboo wants to improve access to investment opportunities and understanding of the new technologies underpinning huge changes in finance.

“Our platform aims to provide access to different investment opportunities like cryptocurrencies,” he said.

Simplifying cryptocurrency
Bamboo, which will be launched in Australia and the US later this year, works similarly to the hugely successful Raiz Invest app (formerly Acorns) that allows users to automatically invest the spare change from their electronic transactions into share portfolios.

Bamboo will invest spare change into cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

But Mr George doesn’t plan to stop there.

He wants to extend micro investment to things like commodities and real estate.

This passion is shared by his founding team, which wants to share the benefits of blockchain with the rest of the world.

Blockchain is a decentralised ledger technology that enables cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, however, it is extremely complex and not well understood by people outside financial technology circles.

Bamboo chief executive Phil George.
Bamboo chief executive Phil George.

Photo: Bamboo
“We believed that blockchain represented new technologies and opportunities but were far too difficult to have any level of exposure to,” Mr George said.

“We wanted to build product and tools that made it easy for anyone to get involved. We call it democratising finance.

“There are lots of these apps. Raiz democratises what hedge funds and wealth management companies used to only make accessible to high net worth clients.

“Robin Hood is an application that makes it easier to trade shares in a way that’s as powerful as platforms that you needed $100,000 just to trade on. Now you can do it with just $5.

“The micro-investment app is really the first and most obvious thing we do to make these opportunities accessible to everyone.”

Bamboo chief technology officer and co-founder Peter Hume said the Bamboo platform was
designed to simplify the process of investing in cryptocurrency.

“Cryptocurrency investment is niche, cliquey and highly technical. We see the potential and
promise of blockchain and wanted to extend this opportunity to everyone,” he said.

Beyond Australia, the US and Europe, Mr George said the team was receiving lots of interest in the app from developing nations.

“A lot of the third-world nations are as eager, if not more eager, because the barrier to entry is so low with the app that everyone feels like they have an opportunity to be a part of it, and they do,” he said.

“I guess what’s next is how aggressively can we launch into new markets that maybe others have overlooked because they don’t have a huge disposable income and they don’t have a huge amount of individual wealth.

The app will allow people to invest their spare change into crypto currencies.
The app will allow people to invest their spare change into crypto currencies.

Photo: Bamboo
“That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be afforded the same opportunity.”

Bringing in the big guns
Mr George and Bamboo’s crusade recently gained firepower after announcing two members of the founding Acorns team in the US, Colton Dillion and Taylor Culbertson, had joined his team.

Mr Dillion and Mr Culbertson managed the Acorns US development team and drove the company’s acquisition strategy for the first 2 million downloads. In the US, Acorns has reached 3 million users and now has $US800 million assets under management.

Mr George said it was a huge coup to get Acorns’ founders on Bamboo’s team as it planned its launch in Australia and the US later this year.

“Acorns introduced the concept of micro-investing into listed assets on the sharemarket. We are pleased that two of the early members from the project have recently joined the Bamboo team,” he said.

“Colton, who was the chief marketing and innovation officer, was almost singularly responsible for bringing the first 2 million users onto the Acorns application.

“Obviously it was a very similar app with a very similar target market. We’re excited and have a lot of confidence around our ability to go after those same numbers and hopefully even more when we launch them in the same market.”

More than 4100 people have already registered their interest in the app. While bare, the cryptocurrency micro-investment market isn’t without competition.

In August, US-based start-up Cred launched with a similar promise.

Cred founder and chief executive Brendon McQueen said it was a non-intimidating space for consumers to get involved in cryptocurrency.

“There’s an obvious gap in the market: people aren’t investing in cryptocurrency because they think it’s too complicated and complex,” he said.

“Cred creates a tangible space for people to take advantage of cryptocurrency at any level of experience without having to be an expert.

“Our platform is clear, quick and educational – helping us reach our mission of democratising cryptocurrency and bringing it to the masses.”

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