Aussie Uni Students Invent Huge Change to Crypto
An idea casually thrown around by two Sydney friends while in a university tutorial several years ago will now see the Australian cryptocurrency landscape changed forever.
Andrew Grech and Richard Voice, both 24, met at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in 2018, while studying a double degree of Business and IT.
“We were in the same tute (tutorial) together. The topic in the tute was ‘does anyone have any business ideas’,” Mr Voice told news.com.au.
Mr Grech told his classmates he wanted to make it possible to buy things directly with cryptocurrency because: “I trade crypto and there’s no real easy way to spend it.”
Mr Voice “loved the idea” and chased down Mr Grech after class, who handed him a business card.
The two soon became fast friends and in October last year launched their company CryptoSpend together, which allows Australians to use cryptocurrency to pay their bills.
The uni students have also convinced financial services giant Visa to partner with them.
Working with Visa, they can issue physical debit cards to cryptocurrency traders, who can then spend money in real time as the price rises and falls.
The card will be rolled out from next month.
On Wednesday, Mr Voice and Mr Grech revealed to news.com.au what this card might look like.
It’s the first card of its kind in Australia.
The card can be used for over the counter purchases, as well as online shopping opportunities.
“We’re incredibly excited. We’ve built this to bring a solution into a market where we’ve seen a space,” Mr Voice added.
“Another exciting thing is digital cards as well as physical. You’ll be able to get it (a crypto debit card) in your Apple Wallet straight away.”
Axel Boye-Moller, head of product and solutions for Visa’s Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific region said the card was ideal for “everyday” purchases.
“Crypto-linked Visa cards are making it easier to spend your cryptocurrency on everyday items, anywhere Visa is accepted,” Mr Boye-Moller said.
“That could be paying for your weekly groceries, a pair of shoes, or a home delivered meal.
“For Australian consumers, this solution connects the simplicity of the ‘tap to pay’ checkout experience with the world of digital currency, and the small business on the other end doesn’t need to change a thing about how it accepts payments.”
How would it work?
ASX-listed Novatti will issue the card to consumers.
It will hit the market in September.
Customers will be able to link their crypto portfolio to the CryptoSpend app.
They can spend their crypto directly out of the CryptoSpend wallet – conversions to fiat money is no longer required.
CryptoSpend launched 10 months ago, and has 1400 customers.
The company already has an agreement with the RBA-backed “new payments platform”, which allows customers to use their crypto gains to pay everyday bills through the app.
Mr Grech and Mr Voice expect the number of customers to rise dramatically in September, when the physical debit card becomes available.
Already, they’ve spotted some trends with customers.
“Some people think it (the crypto price) is going to go down, so they may as well cash out now,” Mr Voice said. “Others hold onto it.
“Some use it regularly because they need money now.”
Their app is being used by both crypto novices and experts in equal measure, they say.
The young men have been working with Visa for over a year to make this happen.
“A year in the making to get this through, a lot of that is around compliance,” Mr Grech told news.com.au.
“We’ve had to have really robust processes.
“As anti-money laundering practices, (we’ve learned there are) certain flags we have to watch out for.
“We’re also making it (the app) as secure as we can.”
Although it’s the first crypto debit card in Australia, other countries have already embraced the innovation.
Over in the US, PayPal already allows customers to convert bitcoin into real-world currencies at digital check-outs.
Visa and its rival MasterCard have also been trialling debit cards in other parts of the world.
Mr Grech and Mr Voice built up the business after their original idea in 2018.
They went through the UTS start-ups hub, which provided mentoring opportunities and face-to-face meetings with industry professionals.
“Andrew and I would work round the clock,” Mr Voice recalled.
“There’d be times where we’d leave the start-up space incredibly late, not much point going home.”
Mr Grech has since graduated from university with his double degree and works full-time at CryptoSpend, while Mr Voice dropped down to part-time uni to run the business and is now in his final year.