American Express dips toe in Bitcoin waters

The bitcoin payments startup Abra has revealed that American Express’s venture branch, American Express Ventures, was one of the investors that recently participated in its $12m Series A funding round.


Digital payments

It means the company has now raised over $14m, with the investment coming at a crucial time in the company’s history. The Abra app allows people to send and receive digital cash via their smartphones, in any currency and requiring no bank.

It is set to become available to all registered users in the US and Philippines in the coming weeks, with more countries to follow soon.

Furthermore, the company is looking to release its own mobile payment service, pending Apple’s App Store approval. Any merchant who adds the Abra Merchant APIs to their web or mobile app can allow a consumer to pay for any product or service by simply typing in their mobile phone number at checkout. Authorization and settlement happens as soon as the consumer confirms the transaction via the Abra app.

Abra has already been signing up merchants for this new solution and will be demonstrating the service at the Money2020 Conference later this week. Abra expects to begin the global launch of the Merchant API service later this quarter.

“Billions of consumers can’t easily access debit and credit networks for payments and money transfer. Either they don’t have a bank account, they can’t use their bank or card details for online international transactions, they may be traveling to a place where they can’t use the local banking networks, or they are simply concerned about privacy and theft of their banking and payment credentials.

“Abra foresees the convergence of payments and money transfer for these consumers into a single, global digital cash network that addresses all of these problems,” said Bill Barhydt, CEO and Founder of Abra.


AmEx interested in Blockchain technology

The revelation of American Express’s participation in the funding round shows that the larger financial institutions are serious about trying to learn more about Blockchain technology.

In September, Chain, a San Francisco-based startup specialising in blockchain technology, received $30m from a funding round that includes some of the world’s largest financial corporations, including Visa, Citi Ventures and Nasdaq.

In June, Barclays entered a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) trial with bitcoin exchange Safello, in an attempt to see if blockchain technology can improve the financial services sector.

“As people and businesses transact more globally, there’s a need for more convenient and affordable ways to move money, and we think the blockchain could play an important role in the evolution of money transfer and commerce, especially in emerging markets. We’re pleased to invest in Abra and to learn more and imagine new possibilities for blockchain technology,” said Harshul Sanghi, Managing Partner, American Express Ventures.

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