The company behind El Salvador’s Bitcoin rollout secures $4m in seed funding

IBEX Mercado, the company that connects banks, businesses, and the world’s most financially excluded people to Bitcoin via Lightning Network, recently announced they have raised $4m (£3m) in seed funding as it targets international growth.

Founded in 2018, IBEX Mercado began as a Bitcoin brokerage before developing a unique range of enterprise-grade services that make it easy for any businesses and consumers to connect to the Bitcoin and Lightning Network ecosystems. As well as unlocking low-cost, instantaneous cross-border payments for all, IBEX’s mission is to facilitate the most radical financial empowerment in history by bringing four billion unbanked and underbanked people into the world economy.

The seed round is led by Stillmark, with other investors including LUM Ventures, a leading firm based in Central America, as well as Fulgur Ventures, Hivemind Ventures and Ten31. The seed investment values IBEX Mercado at $20m as it targets expansion and customer acquisition across the Americas and Europe.

The funding enables IBEX to invest in development and marketing resources to roll out its services to more banks and large enterprises.

“Many people still have the wrong idea about Bitcoin. It isn’t just a store of value, or even a faster and cheaper way of transacting: it’s the platform for the most audacious, transformative shift of financial power in history,” said IBEX Mercador’s CEO and Founder Jose Luis Lemus.

“It’s obscene that in the 21st century, a third of the planet remains unbanked and an even greater number are underbanked – including in the world’s richest societies. The Lightning Network will bring these people into the global economy, enabling them to transact competitively and equitably, and giving them charge of their own financial destiny for the first time in their lives.

“This in turn unleashes a huge new opportunity for businesses and financial service providers. By unlocking this immensely long tail of previously neglected people, they gain instant access to a huge range of customers and new revenue streams. This investment is testament to the unprecedented economic opportunities that Lightning is about to bring to the world.”

Alyse Killeen, Managing Partner at Stillmark, the world’s first Bitcoin-focused venture capital firm, said: “The IBEX Team stands out for both the quality and magnitude of their vision and for an established track record of execution. This is a world-class team, based in an emerging market – exactly where such a technology should be expected to take off.

“As a Guatemalan-based business, IBEX has compelling insight into the challenges faced by the populations who have most to gain from the Lightning Network: open, nearly free, and instant, global transactions. For many, this is the first opportunity to connect to a global marketplace, and IBEX is empathetically and thoughtfully leading the way.”