ZapGo aims to revolutionize how young South Africans spend their cash online. The new mobile money start-up by South Africans Michail Brynard and Helghardt Avenant (currently halfway through the Boost VC accelerator program in Silicon Valley), uses the Bitcoin network as the underlying mechanism to transfer value.

However, this is not an entirely new business. The duo ran it as Xoin prior and offered a slightly different service of selling bitcoin redeemable vouchers as an easy way to make the crypto coin accessible to many.

From Xoin, they learned that bitcoin in its raw form is too complicated for mainstream users. And they pivoted to ZapGo, where all the tricky stuff about cryptocurrency is hidden from the user experience.

How it works

The beta version of the new Android app launched in early March 2015, and the first place it has taken off is Stellenbosch University, near Cape Town, South Africa. Here students use it to buy such things as Wi-Fi credit, study notes, and birthday gifts. Other things they can buy include airtime from Bitrefill and games from Humble Bundle. According to Avenant, ZapGo works anywhere bitcoin is accepted.

ZapGo plans to expand eventually to other university campuses around the country to reach early adopters. They are targeting young South Africans who have never bought anything online but are interested in spending spare change online.


"We grew up as teenagers in South Africa in a time where it was almost impossible to buy online. Today, ten years later nothing has changed. There are millions of teenagers with smartphones and no easy way for them to spend their spare change on the internet. ZapGo is changing this.”

In order to use ZapGo, users have to a visit a local agent, hand over their cash and mobile number or email address, and then the agent will load their account just like airtime. The balance always appears in local currency. And agents are allowed to charge a commission of between 0 and 20 %.

Easy online shopping

There is also the option of topping up using bitcoin wallets. This option is the most appropriate for those out of South Africa. Agents use either Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) or bitcoins to top up their accounts. They have to submit verification documents for KYC and AML compliance for the former.

The app could not have come at a better time. The number of Africans getting online is growing, and, therefore, the need to shop online is catching up on the continent. While this happens, acquiring and using credit cards has not become easier. It is fair to say that with ZapGo, Michail Brynard and Helghardt Avenant are helping Africa lead cryptocurrency into a future where ordinary users do not need to know what it is and how it works to benefit from the technology.

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