Japanese Challenger Bank Kyash Raises $41m from Jack Dorsey’s Block and Others

Kyash, a Tokyo-based challenger bank, announced Thursday that it had raised $41.2 million in a Series D funding round from investors, including payments company Block (formerly Square), Greyhound Capital, and Japan Post Investment Corporation, SMBC Nikko Securities, Altos Ventures, Goodwater Capital, StepStone Group, JAFCO Group, Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Capital, and others.

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The participation marked Block’s first investment in an Asia-based firm. Kyash said that it plans to use the latest funding to double the number of staff and expand its product growth. Shinichi Takatori, the founder and CEO of Kyash, disclosed how the company intends to use the financing.

Meanwhile, Takuma Baba, the Managing Director of Japan Post Investment Corporation, also revealed why they backed Kyash: “Challenger Bank is a core theme in fintech and unbundling of traditional banking has become an irreversible trend globally. We believe Kyash’s user-first and mobile-first philosophy and product architecture will allow it to evolve into a key platform upon rebuilding the financial services with technology.”

Expanding Business Globally

In March 2020, Kyash raised $45 million in Series C funding, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. The fintech firm raised the capital in order to expand its digital banking offerings.

Founded in 2015, Kyash has developed a proprietary full-stack banking infrastructure to offer mobile-first consumer-facing digital wallets in Japan. The platform provides personal remittance apps and online payment under the Kyash service name and issues virtual and physical pre-paid debit cards that can be used at Visa merchants.

Founded by Takatori, who in the past worked in the banking and consulting industry, Kyash provides a mobile banking app that enables customers to make online and offline payments, remittances, and ATM withdrawal services.

Since October 2019, Japan has been shifting to a cashless society when the government began partially subsidizing digital payments. However, the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated this movement. Global social distancing mandates have made cashless payments more of the norm instead of the exception. As a result, the pandemic has impacted the growth rates of international challenger banks. From January to May 2020, Kyash witnessed a growth of about 22%. Like Robinhood and Starling Bank, other competitors also experienced increased growth rates during the pandemic.  

Kyash currently focuses on the Japanese retail market and may consider overseas expansion mid-to long term.

Image source: Shutterstock


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Intel To Present Low Voltage, Energy Efficient Bitcoin Mining Chip At Conference

This could be huge. Intel plans to enter the Bitcoin mining space with a cleverly marketed “ultra-low-voltage energy-efficient” ASIC chip. Considering that the chip shortage severely delayed the next generation of ASIC miners, this is tremendous. And, more importantly, it opens up the door for Bitcoin miners manufacturing in the USA. And in the rest of the Western world, even. 

Related Reading | Why Did China Ban Bitcoin Mining? Here Are The Seven Leading Theories

In December, Raja Koduri hinted at Intel’s intention to get into the Bitcoin mining space. Even though he’s the chief architect and senior vice president of Intel’s architecture, graphics and software division, no one expected Intel to deliver so soon. Details are scarce. There’s nothing on Intel’s official site. A quick search reveals that “Access to additional search results for “bonanza” is restricted.”

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However, we have the 411 on the project that goes by the code name “Bonanza Mine.”

What Do We Know About Intel ’s “Bonanza Mine”?

The product will be an “ultra-low-voltage energy-efficient Bitcoin mining ASIC.” According to Tom’s Hardware, the page that broke the news, Intel will reveal their new chip at:

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“The ISSCC conference is a yearly gathering of the best and brightest minds in the chip industry. This year, Intel has a presentation scheduled in the ‘Highlighted Chip Releases’ category to outline a new “Bonanza Mine” processor, a new chip described as an “ultra-low-voltage energy-efficient Bitcoin mining ASIC.”

Apparently, Intel has been developing the product since at least 2018, when they registered “a patent for a specialized processing system that uses an optimized SHA-256 datapath.”According to Tom’s Hardware, “Intel has a wealth of experience in hardware-assisted SHA-256 algorithms due to the use of these instructions in its CPU products.” 

A more recent indication of the company’s intentions came when the already mentioned Intel executive Raja Koduri “appeared on popular streamer Dr. Lupo’s show.” He told him point-blank”

“Being able to do much more efficient blockchain validation at a much lower cost, much lower power, is a pretty solvable problem. And you know, we are working on that, and at some point in time, hopefully not too far into the future, we will kinda share some interesting hardware for that.”

BTCUSD price chart for 01/18/2021 - TradingView

BTC price chart for 01/18/2022 on Bitstamp | Source: BTC/USD on TradingView.com

Why Is This Development Important?

Until now, ASIC Bitcoin miners manufacturing is controlled by Bitmain and Microbt, with Canaan, Strongu, and Ebang handling a minority of the market. All of those companies are Chinese. The chips are all made in Taiwan and South Corea. This poses a centralization problem for the Bitcoin network that seemed unsolvable until Intel’s soft announcement.

Now, the open-source Bitcoin miner that Jack Dorsey’s Block is working on makes a lot more sense. Theoretically, the silicon chip is the only part of an ASIC machine that can’t be bought in a hardware store. With that problem solved, by no less than an industry leader with immense manufacturing power, the sky’s the limit. If this whole thing materializes, expect a huge leap forward in the further decentralization of Bitcoin mining. 

Also, Intel’s announcement certainly legitimizes Bitcoin mining as a business to watch for the next 100 years. As podcaster Anthony Pompliano said, “Bitcoin is a computer network. Every technology company will eventually plug themselves into it.” With this announcement, Bitcoin not only gets Intel’s seal of approval. The giant company has now skin in the game. 

Related Reading | Intel, Microsoft Took 10+ Years to See Gains, Crypto Investors in Good Position

To close this off, let’s quote Tom’s Hardware one more time:

“For now, it isn’t clear if Intel will release the Bonanza Mine chip as a product for the public or if it remains confined to a research project. However, given that the chip is in the “highlighted Chip Releases: Digital/ML” track and Koduri’s comments, it’s logical to expect that these chips will be offered to customers in the near future.”

So, everything we said is not a done deal just yet. It smells good, though.

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