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Ratan Tata, Amex invest in US bitcoin startup Abra

Abra claims to be the world’s first peer-to-peer money transfer network for digital cash

Abra claims to be the world’s first peer-to-peer money transfer network for digital cash

Abra, a bitcoin-powered remittance app, has secured an undisclosed amount in funding from Tata Sons’ chairman emeritus Ratan Tata and American Express as part of an expanded Series A funding round.

Last month, Abra concluded its Series A round from Arbor Ventures, RRE Ventures, First Round Capital and other investors, taking the total external capital raised to about $14 million.

“These are the first investments in the crypto currency world for both American Express and Ratan Tata,” Abra, which is run by Plutus Financial Inc, said.

This would be Tata’s 13th known investment in a new-age technology startup after he retired as Tata Sons’ chairman three years ago.

Crypto currency means money that is made hidden and private—and therefore secure—by means of encryption, or coding. Bitcoin, which was launched in 2009, is often described as the first crypto currency, even though prior systems existed.

Abra claims to be the world’s first peer-to-peer money transfer network for digital cash. Its app combines on-phone storage of digital cash with person-to- person cash transfers. It achieves this through a network of human ATMs, called Abra Tellers, who are essentially individuals or businesses that earn money by transacting in digital cash via the app. Abra uses Bitcoin as the reserve currency.

The Abra app will be available to registered users in the US and Philippines in the coming weeks. Subsequently, it will be made available in other countries.

“As people and businesses transact more globally, there’s a need for more convenient and affordable ways to move money, and we think the blockchain (a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed) could play an important role in the evolution of money transfer and commerce, especially in emerging markets,” said Harshul Sanghi, managing partner, American Express Ventures. “We’re pleased to invest in Abra…and imagine new possibilities for blockchain technology,” he added.

Abra counts Arbor Ventures, Blockchain Capital, Carthona Capital, Cyanotype, Digital Currency Group, First Round Capital, Future Perfect Ventures, Haystack, Jungle Ventures, The Launch Fund, Lehrer Hippeau Ventures, Liberty City Ventures, NYCA, Pantera Capital and RRE Ventures as investors.

As per VCCedge, the research platform of VCCircle and Techcircle.in, Tata has been one of India’s most prolific angel investors this year.

In his new avatar as an individual investor, Tata is building a personal portfolio of new-age businesses across consumer internet, e-commerce, analytics, ehealth, media, food-tech and clean-tech sectors.

Tata has backed ventures such as YourStory, Infinite Analytics, Ampere, Ola, Paytm’s parent One97 Communications, Snapdeal, Urban Ladder, Bluestone and CarDekho besides investing in Chinese handset maker Xiaomi.

Last month, he invested in Holachef Hospitality Pvt Ltd, which runs an online marketplace where professionals and amateur chefs can sell meals.

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