Big Banks Invest $55 Million in Blockchain Startup Ripple’s Series B
Distributed ledger settlement startup Ripple has raised $55m in venture capital from a mix of financial industry heavyweights.
Participating in Ripple's Series B round are Standard Chartered, Accenture Ventures, SCB Digital Ventures, the venture arm of Siam Commercial Bank and SBI Holdings. Additional investors include Santander InnoVentures, CME Ventures, Seagate Technology and Venture 51.
With a growth trajectory that will soon force the settlement startup out of its San Francisco headquarters, much of those funds will be spent on expansion projects including sales and marketing. However, the investment is distinct for Ripple in that some of the funds could also fuel new acquisitions.
Ripple president and COO Brad Garlinghouse told CoinDesk:
"This gives us a strong balance sheet to also consider acquisitions. There are a lot of small players doing something interesting. Historically, we wouldn’t be interested, but going forward we may be."
In total, Ripple has raised $93m venture capital including earlier investments from Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, IDG Capital Partners and Jerry Yang's AME Cloud Ventures, a figure that makes it one of most-funded blockchain firms.
While Garlinghouse wouldn’t give any details about which startups the company might have in its sights, he did reveal new information about how it would seek to evolve its strategy in the months ahead.
When Ripple was founded in 2012, the company emerged virtually without competition in its efforts to explore blockchain technology. At the time, most startups were focused solely on the bitcoin protocol, and the use of cryptographic code as currency.
But, Ripple (then called OpenCoin) was already working to distinguish itself to its potential customers, bringing to the table a novel take on the technology as well as experienced financial executives in the form of CEO Chris Larsen, who joined in 2013.
Unlike bitcoin, Ripple's consensus ledger is permissioned, meaning banks don't have to worry anonymous entities are validating transactions. Further, Ripple's distributed ledger products and services can operate without its native currency, XRP.
But, success hasn't been overnight. It took a year for the distinctness of these dual offerings to net Ripple's first customer, German Internet bank, Fidor. Four months later, the company signed its first two US banks, and within six months, the firm had signed a dozen more, according to Garlinghouse.
But Garlinghouse credits last year's Sibos banking conference for a recent burst of new customers formally announced today.
"It was one of our largest expenses," he said. "But it was also our best ROI."
Bank partners grow
In addition to today's funding news, Ripple announced its largest batch of banks will formally join its network: Standard Chartered, Westpac, National Australia Bank (NAB), Mizuho Financial Group (MHFG), BMO Financial Group, Siam Commercial Bank and Shanghai Huarui Bank
Each financial institution has successfully transferred actual money on the Ripple network, according to the company, and all are currently building commercial products, though specific use cases vary.
As an example, Garlinghouse told CoinDesk that one of China's rare privately-owned banks, Shanghai Huarui Bank, is working with Ripple on a new commercial cross-border payment service so its retail customer base can send money internationally in real-time.
Initially, Shanghai Huarui Bank is targeting Chinese families that want to give money to students studying abroad in the US.
In total, Ripple's network now includes 15 global banks, with 10 banks in commercial deal phases. Further, it claims it has now completed 30 pilot projects.
Along with the new crop of paying clients, Ripple has been experiencing other forms of growth, according to Garlinghouse.
Currently, the firm employs about 150 people and it's hiring 25 more.
Over the past quarter, more than 50% of Ripple’s hires have been engineers, he said. And he estimates that his compliance department is larger than most of the startups Ripple competes against. "Banks need that support," said Garlinghouse.
Among the more notable hires this round of investment will facilitate is a lead to manage the joint venture launched earlier this year with Tokyo-based SBI Group to sell Ripple products in Japan.
Within the next six months, Garlinghouse said Ripple will outgrow its San Francisco offices and sign a deal at a new location twice the size.
"We are out of office space."