Shakepay, a fintech company with ambitions of replacing Canadians’ savings accounts with bitcoin, has raised $44-million to expand its team and build new financial products.
The Montreal-based startup, founded in 2015, allows users to buy the cryptocurrencies bitcoin and ethereum, send it to other users and sell it commission-free.
The company’s signature feature, to which its name is owed, prompts users to shake their smartphones every day to earn small amounts of bitcoin, also known as satoshis (named after Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym used by the person or persons who published the original bitcoin white paper in 2008). Users are incentivized to maintain a shaking streak as they earn a larger amount of satoshis – 100 million satoshis makes one bitcoin – for each consecutive day someone shakes their phone.
Shakepay also offers a prepaid Visa card that gives 1-per-cent bitcoin cash back on purchases. The company earns revenue on the spread between bid and ask prices of cryptocurrency transactions – the price of buying bitcoin using the app is higher than for selling it.
Jean Amiouny, Shakepay’s co-founder and chief executive, said his company is like a “bitcoin neobank.” Neobanks are digital challengers to legacy financial institutions that often tout lower fees and a smoother customer experience when compared to established banks.
QED Investors, a U.S.-based venture capital firm that specializes in fintech, led the latest financing round, giving Shakepay a $313-million valuation. Toronto-based Golden Ventures also participated in the round, along with “several product leaders” from Shopify Inc., according to Shakepay.
QED was founded by Nigel Morris, a co-founder of Capital One Financial Corp. Matt Burton, a partner at QED, will join Shakepay’s board.
Mr. Amiouny told The Globe and Mail the company’s mission is to “usher in the bitcoin golden age” and to get Canadians to adopt bitcoin as a “monetary standard” on par with the Canadian dollar. So far, more than 900,000 Canadians have created Shakepay accounts. The company, which now has 75 employees, operates in all provinces and territories, and is focused on expanding within the Canadian market.
It started out by allowing users to upload their bitcoin onto a Visa card, making it possible to easily spend cryptocurrency.
“Back in the day, the narrative around bitcoin was internet currency, you wanted to spend it,” Mr. Amiouny said. “Slowly that narrative evolved into store of value. Bitcoin became a store of value over time, and we were realizing, I didn’t want to spend my bitcoin any more.”
Shakepay pivoted to building an easy-to-use app on which everyday people could buy and sell bitcoin. The company is now focused on helping users accumulate crypto in their accounts, which Mr. Amiouny sees as a better vehicle for saving money than many other options.
“Generally, savings is broken in Canada,” he said. Low interest rates make it unattractive to place your cash in a savings account, especially during periods of high inflation, so out of necessity, he said, Canadians have turned to investing in equities and real estate. Mr. Amiouny sees bitcoin as a better alternative, and is bullish on its long-term appreciation potential.
“We really think that bitcoin is the better savings account, and so we’ll be building new products around that thesis.”
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