By Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S.-based start-up Ripple, a provider of blockchain-based cross-border payments technology for banks, said on Thursday it has raised $55 million in a second round of funding.
Blockchain is the underlying technology in digital currencies such as bitcoin and has become one of the hottest innovations in the financial services world.
The company has raised a total of $93 million over the last two years, said Chris Larsen, Ripple chief executive officer and co-founder, securing funding from new investors including Standard Chartered, Accenture, SCB Digital Ventures, the venture arm of Siam Commercial Bank, and SBI Holdings.
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"We have a ton of resources now that will allow us to continue to grow," said Larsen in an interview with Reuters. "The team is now about 135 people. And we're aggressively growing, especially in our integration and engineering groups."
Existing Ripple investors include Google Ventures, venture capitalist Andreessen Horowitz, IDG Capital Partners, and AME Cloud Ventures.
Ripple aims to ultimately enable the exchange of value as seamlessly and quickly as exchanging information. It reduces the cost of settlement by enabling banks to transact directly, optionally using the digital asset Ripple.
Larsen said with Ripple's technology, it takes three to five seconds to transfer a cross-border payment, compared with three to five days under the current international payment system.
The company also announced it has added several banks to its payments network. Standard Chartered, Westpac, National Australia Bank, Mizuho Financial Group, BMO Financial Group, Siam Commercial Bank, and Shanghai Huarui Bank are now among the global banks that have adopted Ripple to improve their cross-border payments.
"Siam Commercial Bank is excited to take a pioneering role in investing and piloting money transfers through Ripple's network," said Thana Thienachariya, executive committee chairman of Digital Ventures, a unit of Siam Commercial Bank.
"Our participation makes SCB the first Thai commercial bank to move forward with remittance and other use cases with blockchain."
Ripple's global network includes 15 of the top 50 global banks, 10 banks in commercial deal phases and more than 30 bank pilots completed.
"The real problem in the world is that we have a series of siloed networks: the U.S. system does not interact with the European system, or China's system, and that's what we're trying to solve," said Ripple's Larsen.
(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)