San Francisco-based cryptocurrency exchange Kraken is no stranger to the international bitcoin market. Although the company is based in the U.S., the exchange doesn’t do much business in dollars, preferring instead to avoid the finicky, risk-averse, account-closure prone American banking system as much as possible. While most of its business is in euros, Kraken’s founder and CEO Jesse Powell told Bloomberg Businessweek today that the company has plans to open a new exchange in a rapidly growing bitcoin market: Japan.
Powell isn’t exactly as a stranger to running a bitcoin business in the Land of the Rising Sun. He’s widely credited with rescuing Mt.Gox from its first near-failure in 2011, flying into Tokyo and running the business while owner Mark Karpeles desperately tried to repair damage from a hacking attack. The experience was eye-opening for Powell, who founded Kraken just a few weeks after his experience at Mt.Gox. As he told Bloomberg:
It was clear after that hack at Mt. Gox, when they were down for like a week, that the exchange is really the most critical piece of the ecosystem. I wanted there to be another one to take its place, if Mt. Gox failed.
Mt.Gox failed dramatically earlier this year, and with no clear heir apparent to take its place. This is particularly true in the Japanese market, where bitcoin has rapidly gone from a fringe tech topic to mainstream news in a matter of months. Kraken is hardly the only company planning on opening an exchange in the country, with BitOcean, OKCoin and Sunlot Holdings all proposing various plans for either new exchanges or a revival of Mt.Gox itself.
Kraken’s plans are somewhat more advanced than some of those would-be competitors, having launched an initial exploration of the idea back in May. Powell told Bloomberg that the company’s biggest current hurdle is finding a banking partner in Japan willing to take on the risk of a new digital currency exchange, but hinted that such an arrangement was already in the works. Once their banking partnership is finalized, however, there will still be plenty of work to do before Kraken’s Japanese arm can begin operations. “It’s a big expense opening a new region. Whoever goes in first will do all the hard work.”