Mobile payments platform Beamit, which focuses on international money transfers between the U.S. and developing markets, has just closed a $2.4 million seed round led by Founder’s Co-op, with participation from Bezos Expeditions (the personal investment company of Jeff Bezos), TomorrowVentures (the investment vehicle for Eric Schmidt) and a small group of angel investors.
The funds will be used to further product development as the company moves towards public availability, currently slated for Q3 2012. The company says the first market being targeted is the Philippines.
Beamit CEO Matt Oppenheimer formerly ran Barclays Bank’s mobile banking unit in Kenya, which has given him first-hand experience in both mobile banking and the challenges that come from working in developing markets.
“Before starting Beamit, I was living in Nairobi, Kenya where I was running Mobile and Internet Banking Initiatives for Barclay’s Bank Kenya,” explains Oppenheimer. “Many Kenyans received money in an old and antiquated way using a cash-based system on both ends but it was an expensive and a painful customer experience. I knew that there was the opportunity to leverage digital channels, including mobile phones, to improve the lives of our customers, so I returned to the USA in May 2011 to start Beamit.”
Oppenheimer partnered with Josh Hug, Chief Product Officer, during the TechStars Seattle 2011 program. Hug, whose past experience was CEO and co-founder of Shelfari, a social reading startup acquired by Amazon in 2008, gives Beamit its Bezos connection.
Says Oppenheimer of his partner, “he is committed to reducing inefficiencies across borders and bringing transparency to this market. His decision to partner with me was a game changer as his product and startup experience perfectly compliment my financial services and emerging markets background.”
He also notes that Hug’s passion for the space arises from his partner’s own global travels (Oppenheimer says he himself has visited 30 countries and worked in three), as well as his family connections.
The startup is all about meeting the demand for international remittances – that is, the sending and receiving of funds internationally, which today is still often done through physical branches for both the deposits and withdrawal of the cash. According to the World Bank, $374 billion in remittances are transferred home every year, with the average cost of a $300 transfer over $27 (9.3%).
As Beamit rolls into beta, the startup is now inviting a select number of customers to transfer money from the U.S. to the Philippines, a country that receives roughly $7 billion in annual transfers from the U.S.
Sign up to get on the waiting list here.
Seattle-based Beamit had previously raised $750,000 in angel financing. The new $2.4M round of equity financing includes the conversion of the $750K convertible note.