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Japanese banking giants are looking to invest in financial technology startups, as the government is promoting innovation in the competitive fintech market.
Japan’s leading bitcoin exchange, BitFlyer, has completed a new funding round from Mizuho Capital, SMBC Venture Capital and Dai-ichi Life Insurance Company. According to Japanese website Nikkei, the sum of the investment totaled ¥200 million ($1.75 million).
Mizuho Capital and SMBC Venture Capital, which are the investment divisions of Mizuho Banking Corporation and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, joined the peer Mitsubishi UFJ, which took part in Bitflyer’s ¥510 million ($4.5 million) fundraising round in 2015.
Prior to the fundraising, Bitflyer worked with the three banks to test money transactions via the blockchain technology provided by the exchange. The trial, which ran within nine months, clocked 1,500 transactions per second on the blockchain, beating the peak speeds of the current wire system.
Currently, the partnerships between financial companies and fintech startups are actively encouraged by the Japanese government. The country could soon become a new source of financing for fintech developers working on emerging technologies like blockchain.
In an effort to drive the financial technology, the government developed new regulations that will allow banks to pour money into new companies thus ignoring the 5% limit on shares in non-financial firms. These amendments will come into effect this June.
Last year, the government officially recognized digital currencies to have the same properties as real money. Besides, the authorities proposed to reduce a 8% consumption tax bitcoin users have to pay each time they acquire the digital currency. With the new regulations, bitcoin industry will likely to continue its growth in Japan.
A few months ago, the Tokyo-based cryptocurrency startup, ResuPress Inc., started accepting bitcoin as payment for electricity charges. The company became the first service in Japan offering paying off bills with virtual currency.
Bitflyer is currently the biggest cryptocurrency exchange in the world in terms of bitcoin trading volumes. The company has recently unveiled that it processed over $2.81 billion in transactions during the first month of 2017.
The exchange itself is actively supporting blockchain businesses in the country. In 2016, it established the ‘Blockchain Angel Fund’ that focused on helping domestic and international blockchain startups. Bitflyer is aimed at leading the regional charge in advancing Japanese companies to the global market.
In June 2016, Mizuho Financial Group unveiled plans to grow its fintech business by acquiring new startups, mainly those operating in the fields of big data processing and artificial intelligence. The group reportedly allocated as much as $100 million for new acquisitions and was planning to increase the sum.