Cross-border payments startup Thunes is partnering with Visa in a move that will add more than 1.5 billion new endpoints to Visa Direct’s digital payments network. This enables many more consumers and small businesses to send funds to markets in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where digital wallets are often the default payment method.
Based in Singapore and San Francisco, Thunes is backed by investors including Insight Partners, GGV and Checkout.com, and has raised $130 million in funding to date. Customers of its payments infrastructure include Uber Eats, Grab, MoneyGram, Remitly and Western Union, and it currently processes more than 180 million transactions a year across 130 countries.
One of Thunes’ focuses is emerging markets where there are a lot of unbanked people. Many use digital wallets as an alternative to traditional financial services, since they can top-up cash without needing a bank account or credit card.
CEO Peter De Caluwe told TechCrunch that Thunes was created to fix gaps in payments market’s slow traditional banking infrastructure. He cited research that shows half of the world’s population will use mobile wallets by 2025 but says Thunes believe adoption will happen faster than that, with its network connected to 2.7 billion mobile wallet users by 2022.
“Digital wallets are one of the fastest growing financial instruments for many small businesses and for unbanked individuals in emerging markets,” said De Caluwe. “Three billion people globally are still left out or poorly served by the formal economy. For these unbanked individuals in emerging markets, digital wallets are gaining traction as an empowering first entry point to the financial system.”
The partnership means that about 14,900 financial institutions that are Visa clients can integrate send-to-wallet services for customers, retailers and SMEs through Visa Direct. Visa’s network is now connected to Thunes’ B2B platform, which means Visa Direct can reach more than 1.5 billion new endpoints (for a total of 7 billion) and that the 78 digital wallet providers already integrated with Thunes get a new send-to-wallet capability.
Some examples of how Thunes’ software and APIs are used include connecting Paypal and Paypal Xoom payouts with top mobile wallets in Asia and Africa, including in Bangladesh, Indonesia and Kenya and facilitating payments for digital remittance companies like Remitly, World Remit and Moneygram. Grab used Thunes’ platform to localize payments, enabling it to accept mobile payment options and give on-demand payouts to drivers, which gave it an edge over Uber.