Akira founder moves from healthtech to launch Newton cryptocurrency trading platform

Newton

Just under a year after exiting telehealth startup Akira, founder Dustin Walper has launched Newton with the goal of tackling another challenging industry: crypto.

“There’s a lot that crypto has to offer, and in my mind the technology behind it can change the way our financial system works.”

Newton is a mobile cryptocurrency trading platform for iOS, promising no commissions and instant approval. The app links directly to a user’s bank account where they can trade Ethereum, Bitcoin, and Litecoin, with no trading fees. Users can move cryptocurrency to their own wallet or let it live on Newton; if they want to convert their cryptocurrency to Canadian dollars, Newton will buy it back.

Building the platform as a mobile offering rather than a web exchange is part of the company’s push to make cryptocurrency more accessible to more people – and, as Walper indicates, this new offering will hopefully help them be part of shaping regulation in an emerging industry, and build crypto into a legitimate asset class.

“In my mind there’s a lot that crypto has to offer, and in my mind the technology behind it can change the way our financial system works. But in order for it to get there, it needs to stop being seen as this weird niche thing… it’s gotta be something more mainstream,” said Walper.

“That means there needs to be proper oversight, companies that are complying with requirements for anti-money laundering, [and] they’re helping their customers pay their taxes.”

Bringing cryptocurrency trading to the mainstream has been a challenge for other startups working in this area; Toronto-based Coinsquare, a major crypto exchange based in Canada, is currently embarking on a marketing campaign to get the trust of the masses, while it wrestles with regulations. And just recently, TD and RBC have stopped allowing the use of credit cards for cryptocurrency transactions.

Walper acknowledges that the crypto space, with its current lack of regulations, “is kind of a sketchy area.”

“When we look at tech like bitcoin or blockchain based currency…there’s so much potential for that to democratize finance both in Canada and globally.”

To tackle this, the company’s identity is based upon building transparency up front. The website says that Newton is PIPEDA-compliant, FINTRAC ready, and offers an exportable T5 statement. Ninety-five percent of its digital currency is stored offline and the company performs daily off-site backups. Walper likens building the platform to his experience working in the healthcare sector, which also required intense consideration of patient privacy and security.

“From a security and privacy perspective, that’s something that we already have. And personally, I like to get involved in industries where what we do can make a really big impact on people’s lives. Healthcare is an interesting way to do that… When we look at tech like bitcoin or blockchain-based currency and smart contracts, there’s so much potential for that to democratize finance both in Canada and globally.”

Newton also works to differentiate itself from exchanges by promises lower rates; the company makes money by buying and selling to users directly rather than taking commissions.

Newton is currently launching in beta, and plans to send invitations to select users starting today.

“We want to make sure the experience works the way it’s supposed to,” said Walper. “Our biggest concern, because of how compelling we think this will be, is almost that we think it’s successful too quickly and causing so much strain that we won’t have financial float available, and infrastructure and our ability to provide customer support and onboarding. All of that needs to be done in a sustainable way.”

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is BetaKit's News Editor. Follow her on Twitter @jessicagalangg or send her pitches to jessica.galang@betakit.com.