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Czech Firm Reveals $100 Mln Venture Fund for Israeli Startups With ‘Emphasis’ on Blockchain

Investment banking firm Benson Oak revealed it would pump “around $100 mln” into Israel-based startups with an “emphasis” on blockchain, local Israeli news outlet the Jerusalem Post reported today, July 9.

The Czech-headquartered giant’s subsidiary Benson Oak Ventures will focus specifically on the Israeli market.

Having already raised $25 mln, a further $75 mln is expected, with the company expressing its belief in the potential of both Israel as a jurisdiction and local business projects.

“I believe that there are great entrepreneurs in Israel who are leading the platforms of the future, with creating [sic] and disruptive use of blockchain technologies,” Benson Oak managing partner Robert Cohen told the Jerusalem Post, adding:

“I moved to Israel six years ago, and with a passion to build companies, I have established Benson Oak Ventures as a new platform to provide financial and operational capital to the best entrepreneurs in Israel and around the world.”

While just the latest step in the firm’s Israeli activity, blockchain forms a new direction, with details of potential participants in the fund still to be released.

Benson has raised over $5 bln since 2003, with its first fund including support for internet security company AVG.

Blockchain technology meanwhile continues to become ever more popular in the country this year. As Cointelegraph reported in March, Israel’s government has adopted a hands-on stance towards blockchain-based innovation in government services and beyond.

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Czech Energy Company to Crowdfund Projects, Sell Gas With Crypto

A Czech gas and energy company Pražská plynárenská is planning to crowdfund energy projects in and around Prague with cryptocurrency, local news outlet Hospodářské noviny reported May 25.

The gas company is looking to establish a new investment platform in the field of green and gas projects in the country, allowing interested parties to contribute both in Czech koruna and digital currency. In addition to making crowdfunding in crypto available, the company will also accept digital currencies as a form of payment for their services.  

Pavel Janeček, chairman of the board at Pražská plynárenská, said the company’s initiative is a means to attract a younger generation of customers, saying:

“We are trying to go to the young customers across the street, we do not want to be perceived as old dysfunctional moths.”

According to Janeček, the company will have an operational payment gateway as soon as June. Digital currencies which are used for payment will be automatically converted into fiat currency. Janeček said, “…we will not speculate on the development of crypto. But if someone wants to pay [with] an alternative, we want to make it possible.”

With over 42,000 consumers, Pražská plynárenská is reportedly the only Czech company in the industry to accept cryptocurrency for the services it provides.

The announcement comes shortly after the company reported record profits. Helped in part by the hard winter, net profit rose by 30 mln koruna to 1.19 bln koruna ($53.9 mln), while sales totalled nearly 12 bln koruna ($544 mln). The company forecasts higher turnovers and more customers this year, but expects overall profitability to be lower.

In August last year, the Czech National Bank claimed that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin do not pose a threat to the conventional banking system. A statement posted by the bank entitled “Don’t be afraid of Bitcoin,” argues that fiat currencies are still more suitable for commerce.

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Czech Utility Company To Start Accepting Bitcoin (BTC) Payments

The Czech Republic is leading the way in terms of Crypto adoption. One of its largest energy suppliers, Pražská Plynárenská, has announced that it will start accepting payments from customers in the form of cryptocurrencies. The first to be rolled out, will be Bitcoin (BTC) payments that will be available as soon as early June. This move brings the energy sector closer to the cryptocurrencies that use the valuable resource for mining.

Pražská Plynárenská is one of the largest Natural Gas suppliers in the Czech Republic with a customer base of over 420,000. The company is also actively engaged in solar P.V installations, electricity and home heating systems. The company further provides automated data processing, software delivery and IT training and consultancy services. The Czech company also has a hand in the telecommunications industry, real estate maintenance, motor vehicle maintenance and road passenger transport.

It is with this background of Pražská Plynárenská diversifying its business that it is no surprise that the company intends on embracing cryptocurrency payments. The CEO of the company, Pavel Janeček, was very emphatic about the new service and had this to say:

In June, we are opening a payment gateway, which will automatically transfer our bitcoin payments into regular currency, so that we don’t have to speculate with cryptocurrency. But if anyone wants to pay in an alternative way, we want to allow them to do that.

This new service will make the company more appealing to the younger generation in the country who are used to mobile devices, fintech apps and now cryptocurrencies.

The Czech Republic has seen an increase of Cryptocurrency adoption with many Czechs willing to use Bitcoin (BTC) rather than the Euro. Most of the Czechs actually prefer to store their hard earned earnings in BTC rather than the local Koruna.

With regards to the market performance of the King of Crypto, BTC is holding steady at $7,508 and down less than a percentage point in 24 hours. Ethereum (ETH) on the other hand has risen 1.85% in 24 hours and is currently trading at $598.

Hopefully as the weekend comes to a close, and also the end of the month, we shall see more funds moving into the crypto-market to build the much needed volumes.

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