Archive for the ‘international money transfers’ tag
Mobile payments platform Beamit, which focuses on international money transfers between the U.S. and developing markets, has just closed a $2.4 million seed round led by Founder’s Co-op, with participation from Bezos Expeditions (the personal investment company of Jeff Bezos), TomorrowVentures (the investment vehicle for Eric Schmidt) and a small group of angel investors.
The funds will be used to further product development as the company moves towards public availability, currently slated for Q3 2012. The company says the first market being targeted is the Philippines.
Beamit CEO Matt Oppenheimer formerly ran Barclays Bank’s mobile banking unit in Kenya, which has given him first-hand experience in both mobile banking and the challenges that come from working in developing markets.
“Before starting Beamit, I was living in Nairobi, Kenya where I was running Mobile and Internet Banking Initiatives for Barclay’s Bank Kenya,” explains Oppenheimer. “Many Kenyans received money in an old and antiquated way using a cash-based system on both ends but it was an expensive and a painful customer experience. I knew that there was the opportunity to leverage digital channels, including mobile phones, to improve the lives of our customers, so I returned to the USA in May 2011 to start Beamit.”
Oppenheimer partnered with Josh Hug, Chief Product Officer, during the TechStars Seattle 2011 program. Hug, whose past experience was CEO and co-founder of Shelfari, a social reading startup acquired by Amazon in 2008, gives Beamit its Bezos connection.
Says Oppenheimer of his partner, “he is committed to reducing inefficiencies across borders and bringing transparency to this market. His decision to partner with me was a game changer as his product and startup experience perfectly compliment my financial services and emerging markets background.”
He also notes that Hug’s passion for the space arises from his partner’s own global travels (Oppenheimer says he himself has visited 30 countries and worked in three), as well as his family connections.
The startup is all about meeting the demand for international remittances – that is, the sending and receiving of funds internationally, which today is still often done through physical branches for both the deposits and withdrawal of the cash. According to the World Bank, $374 billion in remittances are transferred home every year, with the average cost of a $300 transfer over $27 (9.3%).
As Beamit rolls into beta, the startup is now inviting a select number of customers to transfer money from the U.S. to the Philippines, a country that receives roughly $7 billion in annual transfers from the U.S.
Sign up to get on the waiting list here.
Seattle-based Beamit had previously raised $750,000 in angel financing. The new $2.4M round of equity financing includes the conversion of the $750K convertible note.
Seedcamp, the European seed funding network and startup accelerator, came through San Francisco this week as part of its annual multi-city trip to the United States. On Tuesday afternoon in downtown SF, 18 Seedcamp startups pitched a roomful of industry investors, advisors, executives, and general startup enthusiasts.
Each company was solid — you can find the full list here — but I pulled aside five of the most compelling startups for one-on-one interviews to get a bit more insight on what they do. These startups hail from all over the EU and they each have very different target markets, from amateur sports teams to money-transferring jetsetter types. But the common thread is that in their demos, they each presented unique and well-designed solutions to specific and very real problems. Check them out below:
Pult, based in Tallinn, Estonia, lets you stream content from cloud services on the web such as YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and others to any connected device with a screen — without requiring any cables or special hardware whatsoever. Basically, Pult’s co-founders Andrus Raudsalu and Veiko Jaeaeger told me, it is like Boxee — but without the box. Next, the company is looking to work with specialized and premium content providers so that its technology can integrate with those services. The service is available in beta mode at Pult.io.
The London-based Transferwise allows you to convert money between currencies and send international money transfers at super low costs online. The company, co-founded by Kristo Kaarmann and Taavet Kinrikus, launched in January 2011 and currently deals in Euros and British pounds — as of today, $10 million in payments have already been brokered by the service. Transferwise is looking to expand to the United States in the coming months.
Holvi, based in Helsinki, Finland, is making a software program that functions as a checking account, bookkeeping service, and fundraising app — all in one. It’s built to be used by organizations such as charitable associations, social clubs, event planners, and sport teams: Groups that need to manage money by necessity, but are not companies with dedicated finance and accounting arms. The service is not open to the public yet, and at launch will only be accessible to users in the EU, but founder Kristoffer Lawson demoed a slick, clean, and fully featured service. Holvi is definitely one to watch.
Paris, France-based Teleportd is a search engine and licensing platform for mobile photo services such as Instagram, Twitter, yFrog, Picplz, and others. The service lets people search through all the public photos added to these services, and reach out to the photographers to make licensing arrangements — essentially, “a ShutterStock/Getty for the Instagram generation.” Gabriel Hubert, who co-founded Teleportd, says the company is currently in the process of raising seed funding.
Based in London, Bluefields is a web program and mobile app aimed at amateur sports teams. Bluefields lets teams manage the scheduling of practices and games, collect money, and communicate with each other online. According to co-founder Andrew Crump, 6000 players have joined the site since Bluefields first launched in August.
Money transfer company Xoom received a $25 million round of funding today, according to a Form D filed with the SEC. The round comes from existing investors, including Sequoia Capital and Keith Rabois, chief operating officer of payments service Square.
The company allows people from 30 different countries to transfer money to one another without needing a bank account. In lieu of a bank account, you can use a debit card or credit card, though bank account transfers are also accepted. Associated fees are dependent on your country and the amount of money changing hands. Xoom assures privacy and is “accredited by third party privacy organizations.”
This round of funding follows a $33 million round, which closed in March 2010, another “inside round” from this round’s same investors, including DAG ventures, Fidelity Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates. The company stayed with these investors because it’s an easier route to raise money when you have supportive existing investors.
“It was easier to do it as an inside round,” said Xoom chief executive officer John Kunze said in an interview with VentureBeat, “And our business is just on fire. We needed to expedite the raise.”
The company needed to raise the round for working capital to cover expenses in the money transfer business. Kunze cited the speed of Xoom’s transactions as “moving money in seconds,” which becomes taxing on a company’s P&L sheet. The funding will also be used for regular operating costs, as the company expands into new areas of the industry. Xoom recently launched its mobile website m.xoom.com for international money transfers on the go, which Kunze says counts for a third of the company’s Mexican sign-ups. Xoom also recently announced a partnership with Walmart.com to allow online money transfers to Latin America, Europe and Asia through the website.
“[The Walmart partnership] foreshadows a strategy where we are willing to co-brand with offline customers,” said Kunze, “Basically it makes Xoom more ubiquitous.”
In terms of competitors, Western Union takes the number one spot. Xoom sees Western Union as more inconvenient, however, as a physical presence is necessary to complete transactions, as well as a bank account. The company does not, however, look at online transaction companies such as PayPal as competitors.
“We don’t compete at all with [PayPal] because they’re very focused on commercial payment and serving merchants,” said Kunze, “Thought they’re thinking peer-to-peer.”
PayPal’s board of directors includes Keith Rabois, who once worked for PayPal, and early investor Peter Thiel who co-founded the e-commerce payments company.
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