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Uphold: Ascendant Startup Lifts Prospects for the “Unbankable”

Reading Time: 3 minutes by on March 8, 2016 Business, News
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Uphold, a firm that offers a free currency transfer and exchange service powered by blockchain technology, has started the year 2016 with some bullish updates, announcing a series of partnerships and a recent designation as one of the “Red Hot” fintech companies by IDG.

Uphold, formerly Bitreserve, changed its brand in October 2015 to dissociate itself from the perception of being a bitcoin-focused company. Instead, it opted for a more generalized brand to reach a broader audience and fulfill a wider purpose so as to provide everyone with access to affordable financial services, and most particularly those deemed “unbankable.”

Anthony Watson, CEO and President of Uphold, said to BTCMANAGER:

“Today, more than 50 percent of the world’s adult population is denied access to affordable banking or basic financial services. The legacy and fractured global financial system is set up so the very people in our society who can least afford it are forced to pay the most for basic banking services. That’s just wrong. But Uphold is changing that.” 

Founded in just 2013, Uphold is still a young startup, yet it records some impressive metrics. Throughout 2015, its first full year of operations, Uphold had seen a 2,070 percent increase in transaction volume. During that year, Uphold transacted some US$700.4 million, making it the fastest growing fintech money platform in the world. Today, the company serves over 33,000 users from 174 countries.

Its success could well be attributed to its experienced leadership team made up of some of the brightest minds and tech visionaries. Uphold’s founder and chairman Halsey Minor is a tech entrepreneur and founder of the notorious media website CNET. Minor, a key player in the digital publishing revolution,  led CNET to become a NASDAQ 100 company, as well as one of the Internet’s first companies to achieve profitability; he sold the firm to CBS Corporation in 2008 for US$1.8 billion.

Watson, Uphold’s CEO and president, held several senior executive positions at Citi, Wells Fargo, Barclays and Nike prior to joining Uphold in April 2015.

Alongside an experienced leadership, Uphold also relies on a strong partnership strategy. Uphold has two distinct groups of partners: development partners who are building apps and services on top of Uphold’s APIs; and growth partners, who are relying on Uphold to manage their operational funds.

Essentially, Uphold provides users with the ability to move, convert, hold and transact in any form of money or commodity instantly, securely and for free. Users’ funds are held in legally segregated accounts and anyone can verify balances, transaction volumes and flows, solvency, assets and obligations and Uphold’s overall financial health in real-time.

Uphold doesn’t want to replace the payment networks. Instead, it intends to be a replacement for banks. Minor has said he envisions a future five years from now where traditional banks are entirely taken out of the equation, where “you hold your money in the cloud and you use your phone to transact.”

One of the next steps for Uphold will be to issue debit cards and allow users to spend their Uphold funds.

“In addition to consumer applications, Uphold’s platform can be used by businesses and charities across any industry and is a particularly useful solution for complex supply chain payments and currency hedging and handling,” said Watson. “Uphold is also working directly with some of the largest players in India and Latin America to create solutions to reduce remittance costs and support more accessible and cost-efficient mobile-based financial services.”

Other initiatives it has in its pipeline include a pilot project to offer a loan marketplace on Uphold, as well as the addition of several “alternative assets” to its catalog such as in-game currencies, airlines miles and loyalty points.

For the full year of 2016, the company projects US$15.3 million in revenue.

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