Crypto means risk. For the British company Elliptic it also means business. The startup just closed a $ 23M Series B to accelerate the growth of a crypto risk management move that involves selling technology and services to help others navigate the dark curves of cryptocurrencies.
The round was led by financial services and asset management firm SBI Group, a former SoftBank subsidiary based in Tokyo. . AlbionVC, based in London, also joins this round as a new investor. Existing investors, including SignalFire, Octopus Ventures and Santander Innoventures also participated. SBI Group’s Tomoyuki Nii and AlbionVC’s Ed Lascelles also join Elliptic’s board of directors.
Flush with a substantial injection of capital Series B, elliptical it is specifically targeting business growth in Asia, with a plan to open new offices in Japan and Singapore. It says that customer revenues in the region have increased 11 times in the last two years.
The last time we spoke to Elliptic was in 2016, when it had just raised a $ 5 million Series A.
The startup founded in 2013 began by testing the crypto waters with a storage product before focusing on financial compliance as a worthwhile pain point. He then developed machine learning technology that analyzes transactions to identify suspicious patterns and, through them, doubtful transactions.
It now offers an integrated suite of products and services for financial institutions and crypto companies to analyze volumes of crypto streams totaling billions of dollars in transactions per day, analyzing them for links to illicit activities such as money laundering. , terrorist financing, sanctions. tax evasion and other financial crimes.
It focuses on selling anti-money laundering, crypto forensics, and cryptocurrency investigation compliance services to the private sector, although it has also sold tools directly to law enforcement agencies in the past.
Billions of dollars in terms of financial services is, of course, just a tiny drop in a massive ocean of money movements. And the growth in the crypto risk management space has clearly required more than a little patience, from a startup perspective.
Three years ago, Elliptic’s first blockchain analytics product had 10-20 Bitcoin companies as clients. Now there are more than 100 crypto companies and financial institutions using their products to reduce their risk of financial crime when it comes to crypto assets. But the gap of more than three years between Elliptic series A and B is remarkable.
“To date, we have focused on product development and bringing the right team together as the market has matured. This new funding will help us expand in the right way, that is, by entering Asia without diluting our focus. in the US AND EMEA, “says co-founder and CEO James Smith when asked about the gap between funding rounds.
He declines to comment on how far Elliptic is from reaching equilibrium or profitability yet.
“We provide best-in-class transaction monitoring products for crypto assets, trusted by crypto exchanges and financial institutions around the world,” he adds about his suite of products. “Our products are used as key components of larger compliance processes that are designed to minimize money laundering risks.”
With the addition of SBI Group to its list of investors, Elliptic gains a strategic partner in Asia to help drive what it calls “bank-grade risk data” in a The new wave of established financial institutions is believed to be viewing crypto with a growing appetite for risk as the biggest players enter.
Biggest players like Facebook . Elliptic’s PR name removes the likes of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency, Line Corporation’s LINK, and central bank digital currencies, as markers of an increase in general attention to crypto assets. And it says the Series B funds will be used to accelerate product development to support “an emerging class of asset-backed crypto assets.”
Regulatory attention to crypto, which has been increasing globally for years, but appears to rush several things now that Facebook has pulled the curtain off an ambitious global digital currency plan that also has acceptance of a host of other domestic technologies and technology. financial names – is another claimed feed for Elliptic’s business. More crypto carries increasing risk.
He also points to the Intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force’s global regulatory framework for crypto assets as an example of some of the broader, risk-based requirements now wrapped around those dealing with crypto assets.
According to Smith, the focus on Asia for business expansion is a measure of the relative maturity of interest in opportunities around crypto assets and localized attention to regulation.
“Revenue growth is certainly very strong in this region. We have been working with clients in Asia for several years and have seen first-hand how vibrant their crypto asset ecosystems are. Countries like Singapore and Japan have developed clear regulatory frameworks for crypto assets, and companies based in these countries are serious about meeting their compliance obligations, ”he says.
“We have also found that traditional financial institutions in Asia are particularly interested in interacting with crypto assets, and we will work with them as they take their first steps into this new asset class.”
“We believe that crypto assets will play an increasingly important role in our daily lives and are shaping the future of banking. Our investment in Elliptic is an additional commitment to this belief and to SBI Holding’s appetite to help build the ecosystem related to digital assets, “adds Yoshitaka Kitao, CEO of SBI Group, in a statement of support.
“Elliptic’s pioneering approach is to enable the transparency, integrity and trust necessary for this vision to become a reality. We are seeing increasing demand for their services across our portfolio of crypto asset related companies and we see Elliptic as the best located to fulfill this considerable opportunity. “
While Elliptic’s business is focused on reducing the risk to other businesses of inadvertently transacting with criminals who use crypto to launder money or exchange assets under the legal radar, the proportion of transactions that such illicit activity represents in the Bitcoin space represents. a small fraction of the total minutes.
“Based on our analysis, approximately $ 1BN worth of Bitcoin has been spent on the dark web, so far in 2019, on items ranging from narcotics to stolen credit cards. This represents a very small part of all Bitcoin activity – less than 0.5% of Bitcoin payments during this period, ”says Smith.
Not that that lessens regulatory risk. Nor, therefore, the business opportunity for Elliptic to sell support services to help others avoid touching cool things.
“Crypto money launderers are continually developing new techniques to cover their tracks, from the use of mixers to transactions in privacy currencies like monero,” adds Smith. “We are also constantly innovating to keep pace with this and help our clients detect money laundering. For example, our work with researchers from MIT and IBM demonstrated the application of deep learning techniques for the identification of illicit crypto-asset transactions. “