India has its second crypto unicorn in less than two months after getting its first. Bengaluru-based CoinSwitch Kuber today announced a Series C funding round worth over $260 million led by American venture capital firm a16z (Andreesen Horowitz) and Coinbase Ventures, which was also part of CoinDCX’s recent funding round.
The investment makes CoinSwitch the 30th unicorn startup in India, with a valuation of $1.9 billion, higher than CoinDCX’s $1.1 billion valuation announced in August.
Existing investors Paradigm, Ribbit Capital, Sequoia Capital and Tiger Global have also taken part in CoinSwitch’s round. The crypto exchange was founded in 2017 as a global aggregator of cryptocurrency exchanges by Ashish Singhal, who has worked at Amazon and Microsoft in the past and is the chief executive of CoinSwitch. Govind Soni and Vimal Sagar are co-founders and hold the chief technology officer and chief operating officer positions, respectively.
The exchange began operations in India in June 2020, with a focus on simplifying crypto investing and making it as easy as ordering food. According to Singhal, the newly acquired funds will be used to build up new asset classes. “These would be standard asset classes that you see in the market, not related to crypto,” he said. “A lot of people who invest with us are under the age of 28 and are first time investors who haven’t invested in any other assets other than crypto. These young users will want to grow with us as a platform, de-risk themselves from the volatility of crypto, and eventually have a portfolio which is balanced on the volatility end,” he added.
The new asset classes will not allow investors to use crypto to buy traditional assets. Instead, it will function alongside the regular crypto exchange and will allow users to use fiat currencies. Singhal said plans to build this side of the business are underway right now. The company hopes that its new products and services will help grow its user base from 10 million users right now to 50 million eventually.
Further, it also wants to increase hiring. Singhal said that other than leadership hiring, the company wants to hire experts in engineering, product, data and even compliance, so as to deal with the current regulatory landscape. He said that the company might look overseas for talent too, but is exploring this right now.
On the regulatory front, Singhal said that he’s “really positive” about regulations right now. “The tonality of the finance minister and other folks who regulate crypto has really changed. They’re sending clear statements right now, saying they won’t shut down crypto. We have also seen policy makers ask experts about how to go about regulating the crypto space. This funding, because it involves investors like a16z, who have never really invested in India before will also build confidence amongst regulators,” he said.
Hiring and new asset classes aside, CoinSwitch Kuber will also launch a new ecosystem fund, meant to invest in other crypto and blockchain companies in the country. “The first agenda is to identify companies that are solving issues for India using blockchain,” he said. The fund will also be used to build crypto awareness in India and make strategic investments that might help the platform build its own business.
CoinSwitch and CoinDCX’s unicorn valuation come at a time when the crypto industry has been at loggerheads with the Indian government. In June, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) issued a show-cause notice to WazirX, which is India’s largest crypto exchange by trading volumes. The notice accused the platform of violating exchange regulations in India with crypto transactions worth Rs. 2790 crore.
In August, WazirX said it has over 7.3 million users in India, while CoinDCX said it had onboarded 3.5 million users along with its funding announcement last month. Unlike the other two, WazirX had been acquired by Binance, the world’s largest crypto exchange, in 2019. While the company hasn’t revealed its valuation, its WRX crypto token had touched $1 billion temporarily in April this year. Native tokens issued by crypto firms are often an integral part of their valuations.
Meanwhile, cryptocurrency adoption has also been growing in India, despite regulatory uncertainties. According to an October report from blockchain research firm Chainalysis, the country ranks amongst the top three in the world in terms of crypto adoption, behind Vietnam. However, Chainalysis noted that Indian investors were more mature than Pakistan and Vietnam — the other two in the top three — with more institutional investors joining the market.
CoinSwitch’s Singhal also said that the company plans to court institutional investors going forward, but will make changes to its platform in order to accommodate their needs. This includes giving investors ownership of their wallets, instead of holding their funds in the exchange’s own wallet(s).