Describe the company as an elevator pitch:
Luno is one of the world’s leading digital currency wallets and exchanges. Our products and services make it safe and easy for people and businesses to, buy, sell, store, use and learn about digital currencies, like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
How are you different?
We’re very localised by market (payment methods, on-boarding, language and support), mobile first and we’ve got one of the easiest and simplest user experiences, which is essential to targeting the mass market for this technology (vs more technical products for very technical users). Localising our product is a key focus for us in Ireland now we have entered the market. We also invest a lot in customer education, making it easy for ‘mom and pop’ to learn about digital currencies, which also differentiates our product and brand from the rest. We already have over 1.8 million users globally, which is a testament to the hard work we have put into building this company.
Why will you do well?
From a tech and product perspective, we do not only offer our customers a traditional trading platform or exchange, but also an instant buy/sell product where they can seamlessly convert between fiat and digital currency and vice versa, without having to navigate their way on the more complex trading platform. We see this ease of use as a key contributor to building a strong competitive advantage over time.
As mentioned already, we also localise very well, taking our customer feedback very seriously – so much so that it actively informs how we develop our product and business in each market. We truly love our customers and are excited to grow alongside them!
In addition to powerful technology, we also have an incredibly smart and competent team working behind the scenes to ensure that Luno really is the safest and easiest platform to buy/sell, store or transact with digital currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum. In addition, unlike traditional financial companies, Luno’s technology forms a core competency of the company. It has been built from the ground up using modern techniques, a strong focus on security, and leverages the cloud.
Where are you based?
Luno has a team of over 250, with millions of customers operating across 40 countries on 3 continents. Our hubs are in London, Cape Town and Singapore, with a view to establishing local teams across Europe, namely Ireland.
When was the company launched?
There were five original founders that got together in 2013 and recognised the disruptive potential of this intersection between finance and technology given their background and experience in working for some of the world’s largest financial services and technology companies. The initial hypothesis was that because it has to do with money and will make the financial system more efficient banks would be very interested, so the company actually started off as a B2B company that built the world’s first fully-integrated Bitcoin/ crypto pilot system for a major multinational bank (as a company called ‘Switchless’).
As part of this project we were also operating an independent consumer exchange called BitX, which was conceived and built by one of our co-founders and current CTO, Timothy Stranex. After announcing our bank project at Finovate in London in early 2014 we spent almost a year working with a number of large financial institutions around the world (Asia, Europe, US, Australia, Africa) on various ‘blockchain’ projects. Through this we quickly realised two things: 1. the banks were going to be moving very slow in this space and 2. there was a lot of misconceptions around what the technology could or could not do – everyone got obsessed with ‘blockchain’, trying to solve legitimate business problems with it when in fact the problem wasn’t a technology issue and blockchain was not the optimal technology solution. This is when it became quite clear to us early on that for better or worse the best use case of a blockchain is a decentralised digital currency.
Through this experience we decided to focus on the consumer market from 2014, and have seen tremendous growth across all the regions we operate in. We’ve refined our thinking around use cases and market development which is documented here but in short we’re using decentralised digital currencies, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, to upgrade the world to a better financial system. We’ve also consolidated all our work in Switchless and BitX into what is now called Luno.
What have been your biggest wins to date?
There have been quite a few exciting wins over the last few years – our successful re-brand from BitX to Luno to entry into the FCA’s (UK Financial Conduct Authority) first regulatory Sandbox and subsequent Series B funding round led by Balderton Capital (one of Europe’s top investors), which has allowed us to accelerate our launch into Europe and 35 new countries. Most recently, we came 2nd in a Europe wide competition for the fastest growing startup. Although we did not win, it was much-valued recognition for our efforts in the region after only a few months of launching in Europe.
Who are you trying to attract to your product?
We target people open to learn and try buying digital currencies for the first time, to people that use it for transactions or think of it as a long-term asset to hold.
It has become clear that more and more people are buying digital currencies, even though they are not professional traders. That is why we have built a friendly interface, made buying/selling simple enough for anyone to be able to buy Bitcoin and Ethereum in a matter of seconds with just a couple of clicks.
Traditionally, most of our customers were 25-35-year-old males, but this has changed quite a bit in recent months. We have certainly seen an increase of females and the older generation taking an interest in Bitcoin and other digital currencies and it is great to see that our focus on simplicity and learning is resonating well with groups that have previously been excluded from this new financial system.
What tips would you give to others looking to build their business?
Simply, believe in your idea and focus on building a compelling product with the market in mind. Being customer/client centric helps you build a product people love, are keen to use more and recommend to others. Also, it goes without saying, a dedicated and highly skilled team that believes in achieving the vision that is imperative to building a business. A business is only as good as the people who build it.
Tell us about your team?
We are a diverse group of people (over 15 nationalities and counting) who are a mix of tech and finance experts. This includes people from major tech companies like Google and Amazon as well as major banks like Morgan Stanley and Barclays. We’re all excited by our growth to date and fully believe in the vision we’re working to achieve, upgrading the world to a better financial system. We work in line with our ‘moontality’ values which helps us work cohesively and seamlessly across far reaching geographic locations, time zones and languages.
What are your plans for the future?
Hopefully the above explains a lot of it but right now it’s all about building an even better customer experience and service for all our loyal customers all over the world, and hopefully many new ones. Be on the lookout for more country launches and also some exciting new products and services for institutions that want to get into the digital currency game. Also, we’re hiring across offices all over the world, so if any of the readers are smart, ambitious and want to change the world of finance, apply online and join us on this exciting journey!
What are your favourite tech gadgets?
Gadgets that help improve people’s lives – from education to finance (to name a few) – we are focused on helping and empowering local people in every market and believe in products that do the same.
What tech gadgets do you wish you could use to help you?
A magic 8 ball – all businesses would like to see the future!
Anything else you’d like to add/we should have asked?
A little about our vision – Luno’s vision is to upgrade the world to a better financial system. The way people think and use money is changing fast. The existing financial system was built for a non-digital age, ignoring the needs of the modern individual. Decentralised digital currencies (i.e. controlled by no central authority) are enabling us to reimagine the financial system, leveraging efficient technology to upgrade the world to something better: money that is cheaper, faster and safer, private yet transparent, interoperable and programmable and with open and equal access for everyone.
How do people get in touch with you?
Feel free to contact us via our Twitter (@lunomoney) or Facebook page (@lunoeurope) or directly via email [email protected]. Soon to launch will be our live chat option via our website or via our app – you can download our app in iOS and Android.