American Express has taken its first steps into the cryptocurrency world, participating in a Series A funding round in bitcoin payments venture Abra. News of the investment, which brings total funding for the Californian-based startup to over $14 million, comes as the company prepares to roll out its mobile remittance app to all registered users in the US and Philippines in the coming weeks. At the same time, the company also announced its entry into online, digital cash-based merchant payments.
The Abra app enables anyone to store and send digital cash, valued in any currency, directly on their phone with no bank required. For merchants, Abra says it will release a set of APIs in the next quarter which will enable consumers to pay for products or services by typing in their mobile phone number at checkout.
Harshul Sanghi, American Express Ventures’ head of global investments, says the card scheme is keen to learn more and explore new possibilities for blockchain technology through its investment.
“As people and businesses transact more globally, there’s a need for more convenient and affordable ways to move money,” he says. „We think the blockchain could play an important role in the evolution of money transfer and commerce, especially in emerging markets.”
Bill Barhydt , the Abra founder, told CoinDesk that Abra has spent the better part of the last year and a half preparing for the pending launch of its remittance app, adding:
“Abra has gone very, very deep to make sure that all those integrated user experiences are working correctly. We’re really excited that it’s all come together after over a year and a half of hard work to put all the pieces together. And we’ll be turning on more countries as we go.”
On its relationship with American Express, Barhydt said Abra wasn’t ready to disclose the nature of its work in conjunction with the payments giant, stating that “right now, Abra is in charge of its own destiny”.
Sanghi said the company is working with Abra to explore the technology. He declined to detail how much money American Express had invested in the startup. While noting the company sees a future for blockchain technology, Sanghi stressed it’s too early to speculate on how the technology will be applied.
„As we watch the digital currency industry develop, we have seen that blockchain technology and the distributed ledger can have play an important role in shaping the future,” he told CoinDesk in an interview, adding:
“It still early days, but you can imagine a number of use cases for blockchain technology for B2B as well as B2C transactions.”
When asked whether the company sees a future for bitcoin specifically, Sanghi said American Express would base its decision on the preferences of its customers.
“Let’s see what currencies are important and we’ll transact in the currencies that our customers want to transact in,” he said.
„O singură provizie am făcut, de card, pentru că nu mai umblu cu banii în buzunar. Banii sunt cei mai periculoși când este vorba de răspândirea unei molimi. Am renunțat la cash. În rest, este o prostie să faci provizii. Dacă vine o molimă și nici nu știi când va ajunge, dacă ar fi să se întindă, pe cât timp să poți să faci provizii? Faci provizii pe trei săptămâni, pe patru săptămâni și mai departe?”, a spus consultantul.