Align Commerce , a San Francisco, Calif.-based cross-border payments service provider that exchanges a payer’s fiat currency into bitcoin, then exchanges it into the payee’s currency, has raised $12.5 million in Series A funding by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, according to today’s Wall Street Journal .
Align Commerce’s money transfer model avoids the “cumbersome” bank wire process for payments, according to CEO Marwan Forzley, who started the company after serving as general manager at Western Union. The company can also offer features like tracking fund movement in real time and completing transactions faster and at less cost compared to banks.
Align Commerce allows small businesses to conduct transactions without dealing directly with bitcoin.
The funding marks Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kleiner’s foray into bitcoin. Randy Komisar, a general partner at Kleiner, will join Align Commerce’s board. He said he is not a currency speculator and pointed out that Align Commerce is not engaged in speculation since it does not hold bitcoin.
Dow Jones Venturewire noted that Align Commerce keeps bitcoin invisible and “almost irrelevant” to its customers and plans to keep it that way.
Align requires an operating and liquid exchange in its customers’ locations. If such an exchange is not available, the company uses traditional methods for making payments like bank wire transfers.
Komisar said he is confident that bitcoin liquidity will continue to improve.
On its website, Align Commerce outlines several areas where its cross-border payment service saves customers money. Align charges nothing for wire initiation fee compared to $15 charged by
banks, a 1.9% exchange rate spread compared 3% to 6% from banks (which is hidden), nothing for beneficiary intermediary fee compared to $10 from banks (which is hidden), and nothing for bank receiving fee compared to $15 to $35 (occasionally hidden) from banks.
The website offers the following example of how its transfer service saves a customer money. Working with Align, a U.S. business receiving payment in Euros will convert the Euros and receive $1,000. The company will pay $19, based on the 1.9% exchange rate spread. Working with a bank, total fees for this payment would be a $15 wire initiation fee, a 3% exchange rate spread and a $15 receiving fee for a total of $60.
Align transactions complete from within one day to two days, depending on the countries.
Forzley said the company complies with banking regulations, including know-your-customer laws.
Forzley declined to say how many customers the company has or how much volume it has transferred. He said transactions normally are for thousands of dollars.
In addition to banks, the company will compete with other money transfer services like Western Union and numerous startups.
Align lists 60 countries it operates in on its website. The company provides both sending and receiving services in some countries and only receiving services in others. The company plans to continue to update the countries it services.
Align does not provide services to companies based in Florida and Washington State.
Images from Shutterstock and Align.