BENGALURU: Bengaluru-based Unocoin, a cryptocurrency trading platform, has given pink slips to half of its remaining employees, in a bid to conserve cash after talks to raise another round of funding failed to take off and as it fights for survival in an uncertain regulatory environment.

The startup, founded in 2013 by Sathvik Viswanath, Harish BV, Abhinand Kaseti and Sunny Ray, scaled down its team to just 14 employees last week from a peak of a little more than 100 people in February last year.

The development comes at a time when several other cryptocurrency exchanges have moved out of the country or wound up operations, after the Reserve Bank of India prohibited Indian banks from crypto-related trading last year. The case is pending in the Supreme Court, and is set for hearing in July. “We did ask people to leave last week, but our operations will continue for the foreseeable future. We have some amount of reserves to push through for the next couple of months and will wait for the Supreme Court’s verdict,” Sathvik Vishwanath, CEO of Unocoin, told ET.

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Earlier this month, domestic cryptocurrency exchange Coindelta shut, eighteen months after inception, while Zebpay, one of India’s largest crypto exchanges, closed shop in September last year.

Unocoin, which has raised $1.5 million from investors including Blume Ventures and Bitcoin Capital, made news last October when founders Harish BV and Vishwanath were arrested by local police for failing to procure permission to install a bitcoin ATM at a mall in Bengaluru.

Unocoin intended to use the ATM-like machine to accept cash in exchange for bitcoins, after the RBI banned regulated entities from dealing with cryptocurrency exchanges. Bitcoin ATMs are quite popular around the world.

Investments through venture capital or ICOs in India’s blockchain startups have been extremely low due to the lack of regulatory clarity, according to a Nasscom report.

About $8.5 million has been infused into the ecosystem so far, with investments in the Indian blockchain ecosystem at less than 0.2% of the global total.





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