Bitreserve has revamped its platform, adding credit and debit funding options and renaming to ‘Uphold’.
The startup, founded by CNET founder Halsey Minor, has traditionally provided bitcoin storage and payments to users, allowing them to hedge against bitcoin’s volatility by pegging their holdings to fiat currency or precious metals.
Former Nike CIO Anthony Watson, who joined as CEO in June, told Finance Magnates that the new name reflects the startup’s ambition to be a highly trusted cloud-based platform to store and move money (‘Up’ = cloud, ‘Hold’ = storage or reserve).
He further explained that the decision to connect to financial institutions with credit/debit funding options was driven by user demand, just as the original decision to start out with bitcoin was driven by such demand. The primary goal, explained Watson, is to provide a service where people can access, move and convert their money for little or no cost when compared to traditional banks.
The move continues a trend of Bitcoin platforms diversifying to support fiat deposits and payments. Coinbase, Circle and ChangeTip have added USD wallets or payment features, recognizing the value-add of ‘online money’ even if it isn’t bitcoin.
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“Not a Bank”
The first phase of Uphold’s transition, in which bank transfers will be enabled, goes live today in 33 European countries. A second phase for the US and China will go live in November. The company is targeting credit card (Visa, Mastercard, Discover) support for later this year, and the availability of Uphold services in India for early 2016.
Watson classified end-users of Uphold’s services into four segments: (1) consumers, who can transfer and convert currency at no charge, (2) businesses, which would pay a small percentage of the amount transacted- but far lower than the rate offered by banks (on the scale of ‘pips’), (3) developers, who can leverage features such as Uphold’s anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) framework, and (4) charities, which, like consumers, are not charged for the service. The startup said that 5% of its pre-tax profits are donated to charities.
Uphold says that by design, the startup is not a bank. As such, it claims to be “the world’s first and only completely transparent and fully verifiable reserve,” employing its Reserveledge and Reservechain tools to allow anyone to verify its holdings under its care.
Up to €10,500 can be withdrawn annually at no charge for users in Euro countries, and up to £8,000 annually for UK users. Beyond these limits, a 0.5% fee is charged.
Uphold has raised roughly $12 million in investment to date, mostly through crowdfunding.