Raj Date-Led VC Firm Backs Align Commerce Seed Round
A diverse cast of investors has contributed to the most recent undisclosed seed funding round for blockchain-based, cross-border payments solution provider Align Commerce.
Participants included more familiar names such as entrepreneur Barry Silbert's Bitcoin Opportunity Corp, Adam Draper-led Boost VC and hedge fund Pantera Capital. The round also included traditionally payments-focused VC firms such as Bayhill Capital Management, NyCa Investment, Pivot Holding, Fenway Summer, R3 and the Whittemore Collection.
Unsurprisingly, not all participants are new to the ecosystem. Fenway Summer, for example, previously invested in bitcoin brokerage Circle's $17m Series B and boasts former deputy director of the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Raj Date as its managing partner.
Align Commerce CEO Marwan Forzley framed its diverse set of backers as evidence of the increasing interest in using both bitcoin and its underlying payments rail, the blockchain, as a tool to lower the costs of cross-border payments.
Forzley told CoinDesk:
"When you think of the seed funding, it's an illustration of a very interesting use case, which is payment processing on the blockchain.
Forzley indicated that the total raised was not disclosed due to "internal purposes", stating that future announcements regarding fundraising were "coming up".
"I think the key thing is a lot of the investors are into the use case and attracted because this is a really interesting way to build up the ecosystem," he said.
A graduate of Boost VC's Tribe 4, Align Commerce entered beta at the beginning of this April and is now available in 34 countries. Forzley previously founded eBillme, an alternative bill payment startup that was sold to Western Union in 2011.
Forzley indicated that the funding would be used to built out the company's sales and logistical processes as it looks to market its solutions to international customers.
"We've built all the plumbing that's necessary and now this is really money that's necessary to scale," Forzley said.
The CEO acknowledged the relative difficulty in marketing to a range of potential clients across the globe. For example, he noted one use case in which a wine shop in California might utilize Align Commerce to reduce the cost of ordering product from Europe.
In such an instance, the company's US and German clients would send fiat payments as accustomed. Align Commerce would subsequently transfer the funds to bitcoin, using the blockchain to transmit the payment abroad.
Getting the word out, he said, would be instrumental in the face of the many industries that could potentially benefit from its approach.
"It's a new product and an elegant way to solve a really interesting problem," he continued. "The challenge now is to find ways to explain to the business community that here's a way to pay and get paid in a better cost, time and experience than you do today."
Bitcoin vs blockchain
Perhaps most interesting is Forzley's description of Align Commerce as a "blockchain company" given that, to transmit payments over the network, it must transact in bitcoin.
Commenting on this general industry trend, Forzley suggested that the term "blockchain" was simply better suited to explaining the capabilities of the bitcoin network Align Commerce is seeking to use.
"The first is a concept of a global currency and that's very different than the concept of moving money from point A to point B, and that's why you're seeing two different words used," he said.
Still, Forzley said this use case would benefit the entire bitcoin ecosystem.
Should Align Commerce be successful, he suggested, the company would create liquidity and bring new business to existing exchanges.
However, he concluded by noting his belief that the means to promote the network in this way is already available.
"We don't need to build, we can solve this problem today with technology that exists."
Raj Date image via Wikipedia
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