Stellar to Acquire Chain.com

Cryptographic ledger company Chain.com is in the process of being acquired by blockchain technology platform Stellar.

Stellar, which is also the creator of the cryptocurrency Lumens, plans to purchase Chain for $500 million paid in Lumens (XLM) according to Fortune. Created by Ripple co-founder Jed McCaleb, Stellar Lumens is the seventh most valuable cryptocurrency.

Fortune broke the news last week, reporting that the move is an “acqui-hire”– in other words, Stellar is more interested in acquiring Chain’s team of talented developers rather than its technology. As Fortune explained, “it is likely in response to the heated battle for top developers between crypto companies.” There is no word on Stellar’s plans to maintain or incorporate Chain’s platform or the timeline of the acquisition.

Since it was founded in 2014, Chain has raised more than $43 million from notable investors including Khosla Ventures, RRE Ventures, Nasdaq, Visa, Citi Ventures, and Thrive Capital. Chain’s flagship offering is Sequence, a ledger-as-a-service that allows organizations to track and transfer tokenized money. Use cases include storing and moving users’ balances in a mobile wallet; issuing, servicing, and selling loans on a lending platform; and managing end client and driver balances on a ridesharing app.

Chain CEO and Co-founder Adam Ludwin showcased at FinDEVr San Francisco 2015, where he gave a presentation titled, The Blockchain Is Eating Financial Services. Earlier this year, Forbes listed Chain on its Fintech 50 roster that highlights the top private fintechs that have operations, customers, or impact in the U.S.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • TransferWise Helps Monzo Clients Send Money Abroad.
  • Hydrogen Takes Top Honors at Fintech Awards Luxembourg 2018.
  • Gusto Launches Flexible Pay, Turning Payday into Any Day.

Around the web

  • The Paypers interviews Comarch product development manager Bartłomiej Wójtowicz.
  • ACI Worldwide VP of Merchant Payments for Europe Andy McDonald discusses the future of real-time payments.
  • PYMNTS.com takes a look at PayPal’s acquisition of Hyperwallet.
  • Quadient announces availability of Quadient Inspire R12.
  • Passport powers mobile parking app for University of Illinois.
  • Finastra to sell its Collateral Management Corporation (CMS) business to Teranet.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Forbes Names 17 Finovate Alums on the Forbes Fintech 50

Forbes has released the third* Fintech 50 list, which this year features 17 Finovate alums, many of which have made the list for the third time. The Fintech 50 list highlights the top private fintechs that have operations, customers or impact in the U.S. The list excludes public companies and divisions of public companies.

Here are the alums honored in this year’s compilation:

Ayasdi

Among 22 newcomers to this year’s list.

Betterment

The company’s third time making the list.

Blend

Among 22 newcomers to this year’s list.

Blockchain

Among 22 newcomers to this year’s list.

Chain

The company’s third time making the list.

Coinbase

The company’s second time making the list.

Credit Karma

The company’s third time making the list.

Feedzai

Among 22 newcomers to this year’s list.

Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll)

The company’s second time making the list.

Kabbage

The company’s second time making the list.

Kensho

The company’s third time making the list.

Plaid

The company’s third time making the list.

Qapital

The company’s second time making the list.

Ripple

The company’s third time making the list.

Symbiont

Among 22 newcomers to this year’s list.

Symphony

The company’s second time making the list.

TransferWise

The company’s third time making the list.

In 2016, the list contained 20 Finovate alums, including Betterment, Chain, Coinbase, Credit Karma, Gusto, Kabbage, Kensho, Klarna, Motif, Personal Capital, Plaid, Qapital, Quantopian, Ripple, Signifyd, SoFi, Symphony, TransferWise, TrueAccord, and Xignite.

The list from three years back also contained 20 Finovate alums. Algomi, Betterment, Braintree, Chain, Credit Karma, HelloWallet, Kensho, LearnVest, Motif, Personal Capital, Plaid, Prosper, Quantopian, Ripple, Simple, TransferWise, TrueAccord, Vouch, Wealthfront, and Xignite made the list.


*Forbes skipped this compilation for 2017.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Tink Receives $16.5 Million in Funding, Announces Expansion, New Clients.
  • BLUERUSH Raises $1.3 Million in New Funding.

Around the web:

  • Blackhawk Network appoints Charles O. Garner as Chief Financial Officer.
  • Tavant enabling digital mortgage experience for goodmortgage.com.
  • TechCrunch: TransferWise changes fees for GBP transfers, introduces complicated flat transaction fees.
  • Chain.com announces a new service called Sequence, a cloud-based ledger service for managing balances in financial and commerce apps.
  • Fidor partners with Eight to jointly design the customer experience for Fidor’s  financial services marketplace.
  • Temenos and Abu Dhabi Global Market announce fintech collaboration.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Eight Finovate Alums Join Plug and Play Accelerator’s 2017 Class
  • True Potential Exceeds $7.8 Billion Assets Under Management.

Around the web

  • Zighra Appoints Hari Koduvely As Chief Data Scientist
  • Small businesses name Xero the most-loved accounting software for the third year in a row.
  • Pindrop research scientist Dr. Elie Khoury quoted in Speech Text on the rise of voice biometrics.
  • M1 Finance founder and CEO Brian Barnes talks with U.S. News about getting started as a beginning investor.
  • Chain partners with SIX Swiss Exchange and Nasdaq to build blockchain solutions for OTC structured products.
  • ThreatMetrix adds data discovery and visualization features to its fraud prevention solution, Dynamic Decision Platform.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

44 Alums Populate CB Insights’ Fintech 250 List

This week, CB Insights unveiled its Fintech 250 list. The research outfit selected 250 emerging, private companies in 17 sub-sectors of fintech that are changing the face of financial services. The roster includes 44 Finovate and FinDEVr alums that were selected using CB Insights’ data-driven process that analyzes company momentum, market participation, funds raised, and investor quality.

The list is in alphabetical order.

Algomi

AutoGravity

Avalara

Behalf

Betterment

Blend

Chain

Coinbase

Credit Karma

Currencycloud

CurrencyFair

Fenergo

Financeit

Gusto (formerly ZenPayroll)

Juvo

Kabbage

Kensho

Kreditech

Klarna

LendUp

Moneytree

PayNearMe

Payoneer

Personal Capital

Plaid

Quantopian

Quovo

Revolut

Ripple Labs

Roostify

Signifyd

SocietyOne

Socure

Tink

Token

Tradeshift

Transferwise

TrueAccord

Trulioo

VATBox

Wealthfront

Xignite

Zooz

Zopa

Fintech Trending: Blockchain Building Blocks for 2017

Photo via Good Free Photos
Photo via Good Free Photos

What blockchain trends from 2016 are worth watching for follow-through in 2017? Here are five blockchain players to keep an eye on as the new year begins.

IBM: Something Old, Something New, Something Blue

It is remarkable that a company that is more than 100 years old (“International Business Machines”) is one of the leading innovators when it comes to the blockchain. But IBM (FD16) began 2016 by introducing its strategy to offer cloud-based products and services for business via blockchain technology. IBM’s “blockchain-as-a-service” strategy incorporates many of the company’s core technology projects including its Watson Internet of Things platform and its development lab, Bluemix Garage – as well as its core IT system for global banks, IBM z System. IBM’s blockchain strategy also includes its participation in the open source, Linux-driven Hyperledger Project (demonstrated at FinDEVr). Just this week, a commodity trading and agribusiness software provider, The Seam, that has “cleared or processed” $7 billion, announced it would be joining IBM’s blockchain consortium.

Blockchain_IBM

IBM is not the only major technology company to pursue the blockchain-as-a-service model. Microsoft, which launched a blockchain sandbox in October 2015, partnered with Ethereum collective, ConsenSys to give its enterprise clients access to an Ethereum blockchain-as-a-service network. This will enable business users of Microsoft’s Azure to easily build and deploy “private and semi-private or consortium blockchain networks.” Note also that Microsoft partnered with AMIS to launch Asia’s first blockchain consortium in December.

That said, IBM distinguishes itself from Microsoft’s efforts by being fairly IBM-centric in its offering. Jerry Cuomo, IBM VP of blockchain technology, told CoinDesk: “What we’re doing is we’re picking a specific fabric and a specific point of view. We’re not interested in any fabric,” Cuomo explained, “we’re interested in one that can support business applications. We’re a bit more opinionated on what fabric is needed.”

International Business Machines, indeed.

And when it comes to ascertaining the appetite for blockchain, IBM has done its homework. In a survey of 200 banks, IBM learned that 65% of respondents “plan to have projects in production” in the next three years. Areas of focus include clearing and settlement, wholesale payments, equity and debt issuance, and reference data. Respondents to a different survey of 200 global FIs revealed that 14% planned to deploy commercial blockchain products in 2017.

Ripple Rolls On with Big Investment, New CEO

Among blockchain startups, Ripple (FS13) has been a key player in helping FIs leverage its technology to build blockchain networks. The company announced a partnership with leading corporate Nordic bank SEB late in 2016 to build an “internal, closed blockchain” that will enable the bank to transfer money in real time between accounts in New York and Stockholm. Ripple is also involved in India’s Axis Bank and it plans to use Ripple’s network for real-time settlement of cross-border transactions.

Blockchain_Ripple

2016 was a major year for Ripple. The company announced a number of new additions – including Santander, UBS, CIBC, and Standard Chartered – to its global network. Ripple’s network now includes 15 of the top 50 global banks as well as “10 banks in commercial deal phases, and over 30 bank pilots completed.” Ripple’s digital currency, XRP, was part of blockchain consortium, R3’s 12-bank cross-border payments trial in October. The company picked up $55 million in Series B funding in September, taking Ripple’s total capital to more than $93 million. Ripple also appointed a new CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, who has previously served as the company’s president and COO.

“The continued growth of the Ripple network represents a major endorsement of our open approach to connecting the world’s bank and their customers,” Ripple co-founder and former CEO Chris Larsen said. Larsen, who will transition to the role of Ripple chairman of the board at the beginning of 2017, added: “Together we are building a modern payments system to enable new economic opportunities and the seamless flow of value around the world.”

R3: Are Blockchain-Curious Banks Stronger Together?

One way to measure the progress of blockchain technology is by keeping track of the comings (and goings) of members of R3, the world’s largest blockchain-based cooperative. Founded in 2014 and with more than 70 of the world’s largest FIs onboard, R3 is designed to conduct research on and promote the use of blockchain technology in financial services. R3’s biggest contribution to date is Corda, an open-source distributed ledger platform that, while maintaining many of the characteristics of blockchain technology, is not – technically speaking – a blockchain.

Blockchain_R3

Unfortunately, many of the headlines R3 made in 2016 involved a handful of founding members – including Morgan Stanley, Santander, and Goldman Sachs – leaving the cooperative. Specific reasons for leaving the group were typically not provided, though each bank made it clear that the decision was not a reflection on their interest in blockchain technology. Many observers have speculated that the timing of the departures was related to issues surrounding R3’s fundraising efforts, as well as concerns about the growth of the cooperative itself (currently at more than 70 members). Speaking to the departures at Disrupt London in December, R3 founder and CEO David Rutter pointed to the difficulty of “meet(ing) everyone’s criteria” in an organization the size of R3. To the fundraising concerns, Rutter affirmed R3’s “very good progress” toward completing a $150 million funding round.

Beyond the Banks: Card Companies, Payments and Blockchain

One interesting place to keep an eye on for blockchain-related developments in 2017 is among non-bank financial players like the card companies. Visa (FD14), for example, unveiled a blockchain based payments platform, Visa B2B Connect, in partnership with Chain (FD15) in 2016. The technology, designed to provide “near real-time transactions” for high value international payments, will undergo testing this year.

Meanwhile, Mastercard (F14; FD14) has responded to its rival’s challenge by adding blockchain-based APIs to its app developer’s platform, MasterCard Developers. The APIs include a Blockchain Core API, a Smart Contracts API, and a Fast Pay Network API. Mastercard says its APIs, among other things, will help developers build tools to take counterparty risk and costs from transaction flow, as well as improve processing audibility and client privacy.

Is a Bull Market in Bitcoin a Boon for the Blockchain?

With bitcoin closing 2016 with a return to its highest level in years, it is little surprise the cryptocurrency is finding its way into the hearts and minds of investors seeking uncorrelated assets to diversify their portfolios. In “Bitcoin Investing: Where Wall Street and Silicon Valley Meet,” Chris Burniske and Adam White make the case for bitcoin as an asset class for long-term investors based on the currency’s declining volatility, reward-vs-risk, and lack of correlation with most other markets including gold, U.S. real estate, and U.S. equities since 2011. Whether growing interest in bitcoin ends up contributing to (or at least correlating with) increased interest in the technology that makes the digital currency possible will be one of the big questions of 2017, as well.

Fintech Trending: RegTech Reality Check, Blockchain Bandwagon, and IBM’s New Wallet

makecompliancegreatagain_redhat

Hat, courtesy of Alloy, a customer-onboarding specialist that debuted at FinDEVr in October.

The dream of RegTech is alive at Finovate

Deloitte recently asked what we should make of regtech in a new report titled, “RegTech is the new FinTech: How agile regulatory technology is helping firms better understand and manage their risks.” To the extent that regtech represents technologies, strategies, and solutions designed to help firms better meet regulatory obligations, remain compliant, and/or secure their processes, there may be less new here than meets the eye. Compared to insurtech, regtech firms have been prominent players in the fintech firmament for years.

To its credit, Deloitte is aware of the “old-is-new-again” aspect of regtech. The report notes that “while the name is new, the marriage of technology and regulation to address regulatory challenges has existed for some time with varying degrees of success.”

Indeed. Consider companies like Gremln (F14), which demonstrated a social media platform specifically for regulated industries, and Finect (F13), which unveiled a compliant communication platform for financial professionals. Qumram (F16) provides software that helps ensure complaint communication by recording digital interactions from web, social, and mobile channels.

My Virtual Strongbox (F14) introduced the kind of secure document-storage technology that can help FIs better manage customer documentation. Global Debt Registry, another F14 presenter, provides compliance and risk-management solutions to the account-management industry. OutsideIQ (F16) enables FIs to uncover regulatory risk using a combination of machine learning and human analysis. FundAmerica (F15), arguably one of the most explicitly regtech companies to demo at Finovate, provides crowdfunding platforms with APIs for a wide variety of “mission-critical, back-end regulatory requirements.”

Additionally, there are a sizeable number of credit risk analysis innovators such as QCR (F15), CreditHQ (F16), and FICO (FD16); companies like Avalara (FD15) that help merchants recognize and satisfy sales-tax requirements (or by that token, even a VATBox (F15) that helps recover VAT fees for international travelers); and cloud-based auditing technologies like those available from Auvenir (F16), whose identity as a fintech company was a topic of our deliberations.

And all of this is to say nothing of the even larger number of security and authentication specialists whose technologies—at least by Deloitte’s definition—can be considered regtech. Note that Deloitte’s Ireland-based rundown of regtech companies includes Finovate alum Trustev (F14), whose online ID-verification technology is very much in the same category as dozens of other security, authentication, verification, anti-fraud innovators.

The question as to whether regtech as a “thing” (as the millennials say) can be separated from the broader fintech discussion is likely more of a marketing decision than anything else. Clearly regtech has the ranks; the issue is to what degree does distinguishing them as a type of innovator apart from the larger fintech world make it easier for these companies to attract top talent, develop necessary solutions, and raise the capital to drive and grow their businesses. From the perspective of fintech in general—and Finovate/FinDEVr in specific—we’re happier having regtech innovating from “inside the tent,” as opposed to being outside the tent trying to find a way in.

See also:

Blockchain bandwagon

Two more major players jumped on the blockchain bandwagon. IBM (FD16) showed its Hyperledger at FinDEVr last week and Visa (FD14) announced its cross-border payment system built on blockchain-like distributed ledgers, an apparent challenge to Swift. The technology is powered by Chain (FD15) which counts Visa, Capital One (FD15) and Citibank as investors. According to Javelin Strategy, banks will invest $1 billion this year in blockchain initiatives.

Mobile payments gets another huge player

Speaking of IBM, one of the more surprising announcements at Money2020 was the launch of IBM Pay, a private-label mobile payments and POS system. Details are sketchy, but in the IBM video below, it appears to be a Starbucks-like QR code system. It’s part of IBM’s Watson Commerce initiative.

FinDEVr APIntelligence

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On FinDEVr.com

The latest from FinDEVr Silicon Valley presenters

  • BBVA chooses Amazon Web Services as its preferred cloud infrastructure services provider.
  • Extended partnership makes Yodlee’s data aggregation available via Backbase’s Open Banking Marketplace.
  • Hyperwallet announces support for real-time, push-to-card payments-solution,Visa Direct.
  • Full Envestnet | Yodlee Integration Give Advisers Big Picture View of Client Finances.
  • Modo to give the Bank of America access to its COIN Operated Digital Payments Hub.
  • Expensify launches direct integration with Zenefits.

Alumni updates

  • InComm launches new brand of solutions for cash-based consumers, VanillaDirect.
  • Temenos launches Digital Engagement modules to offer real-time customer marketing and engagement.
  • Bluefin Payment Systems launches cloud-based hosting option for its DecryptxPCI-validated P2PE product through Amazon Web Services.
  • Intuit expands partnership with PayPal to provide QuickBooks Online customers with a new way of accepting payments via PayPal.
  • Chain launches open-source edition of its distributed ledger, Chain Core Developer Edition.
  • Avoka earns a pair of “XCelent Awards” for service and breadth of functionality from Celent.
  • Trulioo announced that its GlobalGateway platform now reaches 60 countries.
  • On Deck Capital and Kabbage agree to disclose SMB loan pricing.

Stay current on daily news from the fintech developer community! Follow FinDEVr on Twitter.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Lendio Closes $20 Million Funding Round
  • Lending Club Launches Car Loan Refinancing Product
  • Check out today’s sneak peeks of upcoming FinovateAsia demos:

Around the web

  • AdviceRobo reaches 900k credit scores
  • Bill.com partners with Intuit to power end-to-end accounts payable within QuickBooks Online
  • Actiance appoints Cynthia Crossland as CMO
  • Entrepreneur Magazine names Cardlytics One of the Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America
  • American Banker: Bizfi Hires Former Lending Club Exec as New CEO
  • Intuit expands partnership with PayPal to provide QuickBooks’ Online customers with a new way of accepting payments via PayPal
  • Farm Credit Services of America picks DNA from Fiserv to support agricultural lending
  • Extended partnership makes Yodlee’s data aggregation available via Backbase’s Open Banking Marketplace
  • Chain launches open source edition of its distributed ledger, Chain Core Developer Edition
  • Avoka earns a pair of “XCelent Awards” for service and breadth of functionality from Celent
  • Trulioo announced that its GlobalGateway platform now reaches 60 countries
  • Hyperwallet announces support for real-time, push-to-card payments solution, Visa Direct

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.