Bitcoin Startup Align Raises $24 Million, Rebrands as Veem

Michael del Castillo
Mar 8, 2017 at 14:00 UTC
Updated Mar 9, 2017 at 11:31 UTC
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Veem, Align Commerce

The company formally known as Align Commerce has raised $24m as part of its plan to simplify global fiat currency payments using the bitcoin blockchain.

Now rebranded as Veem, the company that aims to make bank wire transfers extinct, will first use the new funds to usher in two-way transactions in all of the countries it already does business with.

Then, later this year, the company plans to spend additional resources leveraging an upcoming hiring spree to accelerate the rate it expands into additional markets.

But perhaps the most dramatic change going forward could be the addition of a new blockchain as an additional payments rail on which Veem’s customers can transact.

In conversation with CoinDesk, Veem’s co-founder and CEO Marwan Forzley said that, while his company’s main payments rail continues to be the bitcoin blockchain, they are also able to send payments using Swift’s interbank messaging platform, and given sufficient liquidity, are actively exploring additional blockchains.

According to Forzley:

“The concept here is to optimize the experience for our users based on what payments rail works best.”

The Series B investment was led by the recently launched National Australia Bank Ventures, with GV (formerly Google Ventures) and SBI Investment Co, also participating. All three investors already back payments platform Ripple.

Existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers and Silicon Valley Bank also participated in the latest round, which follows a $12.5m Series A in 2015.

Global growth

Founded in 2014, the San Franisco-based Veem has grown to serve 60 countries worldwide. It’s service works by holding pools of currencies in accounts around the world and converting payments in fiat currency to bitcoin – which can be sent around the world almost instantly – then converting them to another currency in the receiving country.

But, of the countries it serves, only 35 are what Forzley calls “bi-directional,” meaning a transaction can be made in both directions between various national currencies.

As a result, over the coming months the founder expects that the remaining 25 or so nations will be converted to a two-way exchange, with additional nations being added by the end of the year.

The company is one of the most heavily funded startups using bitcoin to simplify global payments – an industry that is also being disrupted by Swift itself, with the interbank payments messaging service upgrading its own payment services just last month.

Though Veem isn’t currently disclosing the countries it will add next, Forzley hinted that the national headquarters of the investing companies could be seen as an indication of future plans.

Veem screen shot

In addition to the new countries and possible new blockchains, Forzley says Veem is currently hiring engineers and others to create a series of features aimed at “substantially” changing the experience customers are used to at a bank.

“Bank wire is just not designed for the modern era and modern users,” he said. “So there’s an opportunity to team up here and build that for our user base.”

Brand as verb

Accompanying the cash infusion, Align Commerce decided to rebrand as Veem for multiple reasons.

At the time the company was launched three years ago, the original name was chosen to reflect the mission of “aligning” the payment rails provided by the bitcoin blockchain with existing payments options such as Swift and traditional fiat currency.

But as user growth has accelerated “exponentially” year over year, according to the CEO, the firm began the process of looking for a brand that not only reflected how customers use a product, but can be used as a verb.

“Just veem it,” is a phrase Forzley said he’d like to see become commonplace among his users, the exact number of which he didn’t want to share.

What does “veem” mean? Forzley defined the word in conversation with CoinDesk:

“Veem is the fluidity and simplicity of moving money from one place to another.”

Disclosure: CoinDesk is a subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which has an ownership stake in Veem.

Funding image via Shutterstock. Inline images via Veem