Marc O’Brien, who led Visa UK & Ireland from 2008 and 2014, has joined Crypterium as CEO. The startup, which was incorporated in Estonia last year, raised $52 million through an initial coin offering (ICO) at the end of last year.
The startup was founded by a group of entrepreneurs who want to make it easy to pay with cryptocurrency such as bitcoin and ether in everyday situations.
O’Brien told Business Insider: “The idea is that cryptocurrency is actually quite difficult today to use as an everyday method of payment. If you were to go to an exchange with your bitcoin or your ether it would probably take you 3 to 7 days to get that money paid out into a normal bank account.
“What Crypterium will do is make that whole process seamless and give an opportunity for a consumer to actually use their cryptocurrency to pay for everyday items.”
O’Brien was hired after a search by executive recruiter Sheffield Haworth. O’Brien said: “They’re looking for an experienced financial services team now.
“They’re very good at recognising that they were the right team for the concept and the initial coin offering but now that they’re moving into the operating model they need to bring in experienced professional staff that are used to dealing with large-scale, global operations.”
Crypterium now hopes to partner with either Visa or MasterCard to launch cryptocurrency cards or virtual cards.
O’Brien said: “That card will be attached to a wallet that we’ve created and every time the consumer makes a transaction we will receive a request for that transaction in our systems, we will check the bitcoin or ether account and provided that they’ve got sufficient balance we will execute a trade and mark their bitcoin balance for a trade and approve the transaction. You can be in a store and all of that’s done in a fraction of a second.”
The way Crypterium will do this without being exposed to the extreme volatility of cryptocurrencies in the process is the company’s “secret sauce,” O’Brien said, and the intellectual property around this is “carefully protected.”
Spending crypto doesn’t offer much appeal to those who are not die-hard crypto enthusiasts in many developed markets, but O’Brien highlighted the usefulness of Crypterium’s products in high inflation markets such as Argentina or Turkey.
“We have a unique opportunity to provide a safe haven to some extent for consumers in those countries,” he said. “The concern that many of them might have about getting access to that currency in a short space of time for immediate spending, we’re going to be in a position to bridge that gap and make it an instant gratification.
“We are now looking at how we organise to be a global operating business and that means we are taking top-level legal advice on how to structure ourselves so that we can actually launch in the US, launch in Latin America, launch in Singapore, with the right and appropriate licenses in each of those jurisdictions.”
Crypterium has a team of three people in London and 10 in Moscow. O’Brien said it is considering offices in New York, Singapore, and Miami.
O’Brien said Crypterium is in discussion with potential partners at the moment and hopes to launch its first products by the autumn.