Sila announced Monday it raised $13 million in Series A funding for its banking and payment platform that gives software teams tools to build the next generation of financial products and services.
Revolution Ventures led the round and was joined by existing investors Madrona Venture Group, Oregon Venture Fund and Mucker Capital, as well as Wise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus. The funding brings the total investment to date for Portland, Oregon-based Sila to $20 million.
The company was founded in 2018 by Shamir Karkal, Angela Angelovska, Isaac Hines and Alex Lipton to simplify digital payments and storage in a regulatory compliant way and build on blockchain technology. CEO Karkal has a long history in the fintech space, co-founding Simple, an app unifying various accounts into one accessible bank card, in 2009. It was acquired by BBVA in 2014 for $117 million and shuttered earlier this year.
Karkal told TechCrunch that the idea for Sila was born out of frustration while starting another bank. He saw a need for financial application development, but was hindered by a banking system “still stuck in the 20th century.” He thought consumers expected a different level of service, which is why many flock to fintechs.
However, whenever a business tried to connect existing banking systems, fintechs and cryptocurrency innovators, as it built and scale, would always run into technology and compliance issues, Karkal said.
“The problem with working with banks, is that you have to figure out how to integrate with their mainframe,” he added. “In the process, you end up having to also be compliance experts just to be able to do it.”
Whereas it took Karkal three years to get bank processes set up for other companies, it took Sila 18 months. Its banking APIs enable developers to create their own digital wallets, replacing the need to integrate with legacy financial institutions. Sila also has partnerships with fintech platforms, including Plaid, Alloy, Lithic and Arcus to move money, and is backed by Evolve Bank and Trust.
Sila can now get customers up-and-running in six to eight weeks. And unlike competitors that focus almost exclusively on e-commerce, most of Sila’s customers are doing regulated payments within the fintech, insurtech, commercial real estate and cryptocurrency spaces that tend to be more complex from a compliance basis, Karkal said.
Since the company launched its platform, business was building steadily, and took off in the second half of 2020. The company raised a $7.7 million seed round earlier in the year. In the last 12 months, Sila grew its revenue 10 times and customers’ end users grew over 500% in the last seven months.
Sila will use the new funding to increase headcount, target additional partners and expand product features, including its Ethereum MainNet stablecoin issuance and interoperability between FedWire and the Nacha Automated Clearing House network.
“There is a massive wave of fintechs emerging in the U.S., and we have barely scratched the surface,” Karkal said. “Places like India, Africa and Latin America could accelerate at the same time because they are mainly starting from zero. We are here to ‘arm the rebels’ and help those innovators build applications to give all end users a much better financial experience.”
As part of the investment, Clara Sieg, partner at Revolution Ventures, is joining the company’s board. She told TechCrunch she met the company’s co-founders through the Portland ecosystem.
Revolution tends to look at fintech startups from a consumer angle. Recognizing that the problem with building infrastructure meant dealing with banks, the firm set out how to find a company building the pipes to solve it, she said.
In the landscape of fintech, she considers Dwolla to be a competitor to Sila. Last week, the company raised $21 million to continue developing its API that allows companies to build and facilitate fast payments, specifically with a focus on ACH. However, it comes down to actually signing up customers, and that competitive landscape is pretty thin, Sieg added.
“Sila is building an easy way for people to program money and taking a regulatory eye to things,” Sieg said. “When Shamir was building Simple, he could see how challenging it was for incumbents to provide the tools developers need to embed financial services, and this is why we have confidence in his ability to win.”