Why Swedish Bank SEB Backed its First Bitcoin Startup

In a new interview, CoinDesk speaks with Sweden's SEB Group to learn more about the bank's first bitcoin investment.

Aug 4, 2016
CoinDesk Insights

The investment branch of Sweden's SEB Group has been investing in what it calls "deep technology" startups for over 20 years.

Since 1995, it has been investing in a wide range of startups through SEB Venture Capital, including management app Tink and post-trade securities startup Information Mosaic. In 2010, CA Technologies purchased SEB investment Arcot for $200m, and in 2014, Cisco purchased SEB investment Tail-f for $175m.

But when it came to backing its first bitcoin business, the team of nine investors with an allocation of about $250m (2bn SEK) from SEB Group didn’t want to rush the process.

Head of SEB Venture Capital, David Sonnek, acknowledged the investment is "purely financial", but stressed the addition of digital currency processor Coinify to its portfolio is about more than an exit strategy.

He told CoinDesk:

"This kind of platform really unleashes the innovation of us all, and that may be the most important aspect."

Growth strategy

That said, SEB will also be taking a bigger role at the startup as part of the $4m investment, also participated in by SEED Invest Denmark

SEB's investment manager Stefan Olofsson will serve on Coinify's board of directors, and Filip Petersson is now the startup's deputy director.

Sonnek said his team doesn't intend to get involved with the digital currency processor's day-to-day operations, but indicated larger strategy will be discussed. For example, there are now plans to expand Coinify's business to Asia.

But, Sonnek said he imagines the information exchange will be a two-way process.

"We want to help grow the company," said Sonnek, "and become a more tech savvy bank."

In this way, Sonnek said he hopes the time and money being invested in the developing startup will have ripple effects across the entire SEB Group.

Sonnek concluded:

"It will take time to see what they are going to inspire."

Image of SEB facade via SEB


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