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Ex-Luno developer launches SA-based Bitcoin exchange

By , ITWeb's news editor.
Africa , South Africa , 04 Nov 2020

Leon Kowalski, a former software developer at South African-founded crypto-currency exchange Luno, is launching his own Bitcoin trading platform called Cape Crypto.

According to the company, Cape Crypto will officially launch on 5 November “with the lowest trade fees in South Africa, plus the fastest sign-up as buyers do not need to verify their identity before they start buying Bitcoin”.

However, the users will be asked to verify their identities when they want to make withdrawals.

Cape Crypto enters a market that is dominated by Kowalski’s former employer, Luno, and the likes of AltCoinTrader, VALR, Paxful and iCE3X, among others.

Luno, the country’s largest crypto-currency exchange, was recently acquired by New York-based Digital Currency Group, a global enterprise that builds, buys and invests in blockchain companies.

The launch of Cape Crypto comes as the price of Bitcoin, the world’s first and most popular crypto-currency by market capitalisation, was closing in on the $14 000 mark today.

Leon Kowalski, founder and CEO of Cape Crypto.
Leon Kowalski, founder and CEO of Cape Crypto.

Founder and CEO Kowalski hopes the Cape Crypto platform will help put Bitcoin in the pockets of every South African and contribute to increasing the wealth of the country.

As a proudly South African exchange, purpose-built for the local market, Cape Crypto only accepts South African rands and Bitcoin deposits, he says.

Cape Crypto says it believes in making it easier and faster to get Bitcoin. “Being able to register and buy within a minute, Cape Crypto is the fastest way to buy Bitcoin in SA because customers don’t need to verify their identity before they can start buying; it’s a simple process of confirming their e-mail address, instantly depositing rands, and buying Bitcoin,” Kowalski notes.

“Allowing first time buyers to touch Bitcoin before they have verified their identity (instead of after) eases the journey as it is a faster and less intimidating entry, but still keeps anti-money-laundering controls in check – as we do ask for identity verification but only if you wish to withdraw,” he adds.

Kowalski has a developer, technology, management and start-up background going back many years. He founded his first company straight out of college 15 years ago − an IT services company servicing SMEs, which he ran for three years.

From there, he stepped into freelance software development which allowed him to explore different markets around the world, says Cape Crypto.

It adds that while working in Sydney, Australia, Kowalski dedicated his full time to the field of product management and development. He spent six years working at various start-ups across Sydney before returning to Cape Town.

In 2018, Luno brought Kowalski onto the product management team to focus on multiple aspects of the customer-facing product.

His first exposure to Bitcoin was in 2012, and he has been actively involved in the crypto-currency space for the past four years. Kowalski says his vision is to realise crypto-currency’s full potential for all South Africans.

At the time of writing, the digital currency was trading at R225 000 ($13 904).

George McDonaugh, co-founder and managing director of digital asset investment company KR1 comments: “The recent surge in the price of Bitcoin is actually part of a sustained rally since the ‘COVID capitulation’ event back in March.

“Since then, we’ve seen nothing but bullish signals appear one after another. Firstly, we’ve seen four straight ‘higher lows’ play out (if you split the time since March into consecutive 60-day cycles) which means there is a clear uptrend unfolding.

“Secondly, Bitcoin has spent more time above the $10 000 mark than ever before in its history. Clinging on above this price point over the months of July, August and September was a huge moment and effectively led on to my third major signal, the monthly close above $13 700 at the end of October, which is the second highest monthly close in Bitcoin’s history,” McDonaugh adds.

He notes this close sets a precedent and shows huge buying strength in the market. “The price also reached an intraday trading high of $14 077, which was the first time Bitcoin had reached above the $14 000 level since 15 January 2018.”

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