Since it was founded in 2013 by South Africans Timothy Stranex and Marcus Swanepoel, Luno, a platform which allows customers to buy and sell cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, has grown to serve more than two million customers in 40 countries. Today, it has more than 250 employees at hubs across the world.
Marius Reitz, Luno’s country manager for South Africa, says the company is in the process of appointing a pan-Africa country manager dedicated to forging relationships with local regulators, central banks and financial institutions.
“We know Africa is on the cusp of the cryptocurrency revolution as more and more people acknowledge certain limitations of the traditional financial system,” he says, adding that the company’s operations in Nigeria – where it has an office – have been going “from strength to strength with a rapidly growing user base”.
Despite its phenomenal growth, Luno has had at least one major regulatory hurdle to overcome: Malaysian authorities briefly froze the company’s bank account in the country in December 2017. Reitz points out that as the cryptocurrency industry is new and mostly unregulated, local authorities often lack precedent or guidance.
“Many are struggling to define Bitcoin – it has the properties of an asset, a payment mechanism, a currency … therefore new or unique regulation for cryptocurrencies has been slow. In many jurisdictions, it will take years to be properly regulated, hence us self-regulating in the meantime.”
Reitz says the company expects to hire between 50 and 100 people in South Africa over the next few months. While Luno has an office in Cape Town, it is also considering opening a second one in Johannesburg, to be closer to financial institutions.