Blockchain startup cLabs today announces new funding of $20 million from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), Greenfield One, and Electric Capital. This is in addition to the initial $65 million from backers including Polychain Capital, Dragonfly Capital, Jack Dorsey, Coinbase Ventures, and Valor Capital.
This round of funding is on the back of a successful pilot program of the cLabs remittance app in the Philippines in 2020. The new funding round from such luminaries as A16Z marks the formal transition of the Philippine pilot program to the global launch of the Valora App which offers cross-border remittance leveraging cUSD or Celo Dollars, the stablecoin operated on the Celo network for as little as 48 centavos ($0.01).
“The fact that Valora has gained this much real-world traction already is really impressive,” said Sebastian Blum, Managing Partner at Greenfield One. “This is the reason we all got interested in this space in the first place – to see crypto come to life and be used like any other currency. The future of crypto is here and it’s happening now,” he said.
Valora recently reached a new milestone of 25,000 users while the Celo network has facilitated more than 2 million transactions.
Available for anyone with even the most basic smartphone, the Valora app allows for money transfers for as little as $0.01 and could run even on a minimum internet bandwidth, attributed to the app being lighter than most remittance-focused apps.
According to Katie Haun, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, it saw the opportunity in Celo two years ago for a “full stack” global payments platform that anyone could use to send, receive, and store money. “Celo can dramatically reduce fees and fraud while also making payments instantaneous and global,” Katie said in a statement.
Personal remittances accounted for 9.3% of the country’s GDP in 2019, but even without the current numbers, it’s likely that remittances fell in 2020 vs the previous years as an aftereffect of the pandemic and OFWs losing their jobs abroad. Despite the possible reduction of remittances, transfer fees have remained expensive and could still take days in traditional channels.
cLabs pilot tested its remittance app — which is now called Valora — in the Philippines, where it found out that to fully realize its goal of financial inclusion, the financial tools must be accessible to anyone with a basic smartphone. That means it must be light enough while retaining excellent data connectivity especially in far flung areas. Simply put, even users with low bandwidth must be able to use it.
Valora is built to address these pain points and more. cLabs decided to also use phone numbers as identifiers because concepts like public and private addresses are still confusing to users. The app’s key features and simplicity were tested when cLabs partnered with the Grameen Foundation used Valora to distribute aid to more than 3,500 women entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19 across the Philippines The initiative demonstrated that if onboarding becomes seamless and not complicated, blockchain can solve problems even without its users knowing what blockchain is.
Jackie Bona, partner at cLabs said Valora’s safe and contactless way to send and receive funds from the safety and convenience of one’s mobile phone is very helpful these days, especially as the Philippine government has put the entire country under General Community Quarantine (GMQ) for an extended period. “Today more than ever, Filipinos are counting on remittances from families overseas to help them through these incredibly difficult times,” Jackie said. “Transferring money internationally at near zero fees just became so much more cost effective and accessible since Valora is powered by blockchain.”
Valora has a partnership with Beam & Go, where users can buy vouchers that can be used on partner merchants such as select Super 8 supermarkets and Generika drugstores.
Recently, cLabs announced that CELO and Celo Dollars (cUSD) tokens will be available for trading through BloomX and on local exchange CoexStar, both of which are licensed virtual asset service providers in the Philippines. cLabs also confirmed with BitPinas the listing of its tokens CELO and cUSD on another local exchange in the first half of 2021.
This article is first published on BitPinas: Startup cLabs Receives Fresh $20 Million Funding Following App’s Successful Philippine Trial