Coinbase, one of the world’s most well-funded bitcoin startups, has opened its online bitcoin services in the UK, following a green light by financial authorities, and has opened an exchange that allows British customers to convert sterling into bitcoins.
Coinbase operates a platform which allows users to create a “wallet” which is used to store, pay or receive payments in bitcoins. The regulated exchange allows users to safely change traditional cash into the digital currency, the company said.
“Having a trusted exchange in every country in the world is a prerequisite in our mind to having bitcoin grow. That’s why this is significant,” said Coinbase’s chief executive Brian Armstrong as quoted by The Financial Times. He added that Coinbase plans to roll out in a number of other countries this year.
Coinbase’s first regulated bitcoin exchanged opened in the US earlier this year, with backing from the New York Stock Exchange and several banks, and now its wallet is available in 24 countries. Elsewhere however, as in China, authorities are actively limiting access of companies to the virtual currency.
Bitcoin has been plagued by controversies since its inception. Amongst other negative coverage, it has been accused of serving as a medium for illegal drug and arms trading, while some believe it is also a means by which sympathisers fund terrorist groups. However, bitcoin has recently experienced a revolution, with major companies and established institutions publicly backing the cryptocurrency. It is also now accepted as a payment method by Microsoft and Dell.
Coinbase’s British customer base will be “a healthy combination of regular everyday people, [high-net-worth individuals] and then a few hedge fund guys, a few institutional guys,” Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam said as quoted by The Guardian. “Over time, that shifts more and more towards larger institutional players.”