werner van rooyen interview

Interview: Luno’s Head of Marketing Werner van Rooyen

How could we call ourselves a half decent crypto and blockchain publication without giving South Africa’s favourite Bitcoin wallet special mention? The Bitcoin wallet and exchange has been making serious inroads both locally and abroad this year and is available in 40 countries following their move into the UK market in September.

 

Luno, formally known as BitX, derives its name from the Bitcoin community’s favourite saying; “To Then Moon”. The platform is on a mission to make Bitcoin more accessible to global consumers, making it easier for people to buy sell and store their Bitcoin. With offices in London, Singapore and Cape Town, boasting a team of over 70 experienced technology and financial experts, Luno has grown into one of the globe’s biggest Bitcoin platforms.

 

We got in touch with Werner van Rooyen, Luno’s head of marketing and asked him some questions about Luno, and what comes next for the brand.

 

BitcoinHub: Firstly, I understand you’re experiencing a surge in sign-ups and trading volume locally, what kind of numbers are we talking? (Daily and monthly averages and growth percentages)

Werner: Unfortunately, we don’t disclose our exact number of customers. But I’m I’m happy to share some of the public figures with you 🙂

If you navigate to the Luno Exchange (https://www.luno.com/trade/XBTZAR) you will see our trading history. It’s not too tricky to navigate. Here’s some tips: Toggle the 1Y view up top and select the “candle” view.

If you hover over the grey bars, it will show you the Bitcoin volume for that time period (one the 1Y view, each grey bar represents one week)

If you hover your mouse over the green/red candles, you can see the starting price (of that week), the highest price, lowest price and closing price (again, of that week). That could help you calculate the ZAR amount that was traded.                       

Are there plans to add support for other cryptocurrencies in future? If so, which ones and how soon can we expect to have them listed?

We’re very much focused on the digital currency with the most understanding, acceptance, integrations in businesses, owned by most people, accepted on most wallets, and people and companies working on building products for that currency: Bitcoin.

That said, we know that other digital currencies are in demand and we’re looking at adding more currencies in the near future. In the meanwhile, customers can withdraw the Bitcoin they bought on Luno and transfer it to other platforms with lots of liquidity (and lots of other currencies) and use their Bitcoin to buy those currencies.

 

We’ve seen a lot of tech coming out of the blockchain industry recently, aimed at decentralising and automating the exchange process. Will Luno look into decentralising the exchange process?

We’re not currently looking at decentralising our platform. Customer security, avoiding fraud and maintaining the highest levels of compliance is currently our main drivers for keeping things on our platform. We’re closely monitoring the space.

 

Any chance of improving the mobile charting experience for traders? Allowing Volume and Moving Average tracking perhaps?

This are some improvements planned across all our products, but in the meanwhile, specifically for trading, I suggest you look at cryptowat.ch/luno/btczar/

It’s not hosted or managed by us, but many traders use it for charting and more advanced trading views.

 

What inspired the rebrand from BitX to Luno?

We wrote a detailed article about it on https://www.luno.com/blog/en/post/to-the-moon but basically, we wanted the company to express our enthusiasm for the potential decentralised digital currencies.

 

Apparently, Luno provided the infrastructure for the Bitcoin payment trial Pick ‘n Pay recently ran, with the help of Electrum. Could you give more detail about that?

Does this mean we’ll be able to pay the exact Rand value of an item, regardless of Bitcoin price fluctuations?

Any inside info on when the system might be rolled out nationally?

That’s right — Electrum and Pick n Pay built the integration (https://electrum.co.za/bitcoin-accepted-at-pick-n-pay/) and the Luno infrastructure was used to make it happen. It was a trial limited to a single Pick n Pay store.

It allows customers to pay in Bitcoin, where Luno facilitates the conversion between Bitcoin and South African rand and the retailer (Pick n Pay) receives the local currency in their local bank account.

Roughly, it goes like this (this is the same for online payments, with PayFast/Bidorbuy in South Africa, but also for PnP):

Customer checks out items at point of sale, Basket total shows ZAR amount (say R100).The customer can choose to pay with credit card, cash (etc.) or Bitcoin.If they choose Bitcoin, the system pings Luno to find out “How much is R100 in Bitcoin, right now?”

We show the Bitcoin price, right at that time, and we guarantee it for 10 minutes (not at the retailer’s risk). So, say 0.0018 BTC and we provide a QR code (similar to Snapscan’s checkout experience) where they can make the payment to using their Bitcoin wallet

Customer makes payment for 0.0018 BTC using their Bitcoin wallet. Luno receives the 0.0018 BTC and we immediately convert it to 100 ZAR. Retailer gets R100 in their bank account. This is done, since businesses don’t want to take a position on Bitcoin and it would become an accounting nightmare for most retailers to balance books in another currency.

These transactions were done on-chain, but didn’t require any blockchain confirmations (beyond announcing the transaction to the network). Another way to do it, would be to settle the transaction off-chain (whenever a customer checks out with a Luno wallet), since we can settle the balance in the background.

Transactions like these aren’t very popular due to the network fees charged to make relatively small Bitcoin payments.

It can be solved in two ways: first, improvements to the Bitcoin network. Bitcoin has grown so much in popularity and the network is being used by more people than what it can effectively handle. This means transactions became more expensive (to prevent them being very slow). There are technical upgrades happening to the Bitcoin code, all the time. These fees have already started to go down and I expect them to be lower in future still.

The other way to make transactions cheaper would be to do an off chain transaction, as mentioned above. We already have this functionality in the Luno wallet: you can send Bitcoin to any other Luno customer’s email address or phone number and the transaction is settled immediately and with no fees. We didn’t do an off-chain integration with Pick n Pay, but it is possible to do so.

 

Luno, on the 19th of September announced their expansion into 35 new markets across Europe, and a ZAR 120m (USD 9m) Series B funding round, Spearheaded by London-based Balderton Capital, one of Europe’s leading venture capital firms.  New investors AlphaCode and existing investors Digital Currency Group also participated in the round. This follows Luno’s USD 4m (~ZAR 50m) Series A round, which was led by emerging market tech giant Naspers.

 

Tim Bunting, a partner at Balderton Capital and Luno board member said “The Luno team is one of the strongest in the space, and their grand vision and ability to execute has enabled them to build a global business from day one. We’re excited to be part of their journey.”

         

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Ash Bonga

Ash is a cryptocurrency enthusiast, who dabbles in a bit of trading. By day he heads, technology distribution firm Existence Digital along with projects in footwear.

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