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Forbes “Fintech 50” List, Reviewed: New Players, Veterans and Startups Which Didn’t Make the Cut


Forbes “Fintech 50” List, Reviewed: New Players, Veterans and Startups Which Didn’t Make the Cut

Review of the fresh Forbes’ “Fintech 50” list: Just six crypto companies made the cut this year, but four of them debuted for the first time

Recently, Forbes published the fresh edition of its “Fintech 50” list, counting the world’s top financial technology firms. Notably, there are just six crypto and blockchain companies featured this year, while the 2018 list contained 11 players from the field.

Given that the notorious crypto boom of 2017 has been followed by the relentless bear market, it is hardly surprising. Nevertheless, while there is considerably fewer crypto companies featured this year, less than half of them — Ripple, BitFury, Coinbase — have made the list before, which means that new blood arrived regardless of the market condition.



What does it do?

Ripple (XRP) is the longest-standing crypto-oriented company on the Forbes list, being recognized for the fifth year in a row. Its main focus is blockchain-powered cross-border remittance payments. Essentially, the San Francisco-based startup aims to overtake SWIFT — the system that handles as much as $5 trillion worth of transactions per day worldwide — with faster settlements.

What happened to it in 2018?

Overall, 2018 was a productive year for Ripple. While the company was burdened with lawsuits claiming that XRP tokens are securities (if proven, the company may face significant fines) and didn’t get listed on Coinbase following prolonged rumors, it succeeded to tap numerous financial institutions — such as the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) and Malaysian banking group CIMB — for its RippleNet network. Moreover, the firm launched blockchain money transfer apps in conjunction with Santander Bank and SBI Holdings.

Further, the company hired some senior-level talent: Former Google executive Amir Sarhangi became the startup’s vice president of products, and Kahina Van Dyke, Facebook’s former global director of financial services and payments partnerships, joined the company as senior vice president of business and corporate development. Finally, Ripple continued to team up with universities from across the globe to research blockchain technology, putting over $50 million into academic research.


What does it do?

BitFury is widely known as the largest non-Chinese mining company, but it was featured on the Forbes for the second year in a row for its endeavours to expand even further, among other reasons. This year, the magazine described the Amsterdam-based startup as a “full-service blockchain firm.”

What happened to it in 2018?

Notably, BitFury collaborated with big four consulting firm PwC to create a blockchain accelerator for businesses in Russia. It was also revealed that PwC had already been using Exonum — BitFury’s open source framework for building blockchain applications — for educational courses and seminars.

Moreover, rumors emerged that the startup was planning to go public, reviewing London, Amsterdam and Hong Kong as the host city for a potential initial public offering (IPO). BitFury also advanced on the self-regulatory field, unveiling its software stack Crystal designed to help fight crimes involving Bitcoin (BTC), and tapping a former United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) member to its advisory board. Finally, the firm didn’t forget its roots, having launched a new generation of its BTC mining hardware.


What does it do?

Similarly, Forbes praised Coinbase — a major U.S. Bitcoin wallet and retail exchange — for its moves beyond its usual line of work. The company was listed now for the third year in a row.

What happened to it in 2018?

In what seems one of the main achievements for the company from last year, Coinbase launched over-the-counter (OTC) trading for institutional customers, rolled out an educational program and acquired, a blockchain-powered paid messaging service. Moreover, the company listed its first stablecoin in collaboration with Circle, another Forbes-listed crypto startup and announced plans to expand to the Japanese market.



What does it do?

Circle is a Goldman Sachs-backed, Boston-based startup focused on making instant money transfers that also offers an insured Bitcoin wallet. The company was featured on Forbes’ “Fintech 50” for the first time this year.

What happened to it in 2018?

Indeed, the past months were especially productive for Circle, which launched its Ethereum-based, dollar-pegged stablecoin in collaboration with Coinbase, and went as far as to fully purchase U.S. crypto exchange Poloniex for $400 million.


What does it do?

Gemini, the Winklevoss brothers’ crypto exchange, also debuted on the Forbes list. Having chosen compliance as its main policy, the platform has been pushing the boundaries of the U.S. regulatory framework.

What happened to it in 2018?

After becoming the first official Bitcoin billionaires in Dec. 2017, the Winklevii were off to a jumpstart last year. After hiring a few Wall Street executives to seek institutional investment, the startup launched its own stablecoin with the approval of the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), and now continues its quest to land a SEC-approval BTC exchange-traded fund (ETF) — a potential game changer for the industry.

Most recently, the twins’ company successfully finished its major audit, becoming the first crypto exchange and custodian to complete a Service Organizational Control (SOC) 2 Review by Deloitte.


What does it do?

Enterprise-focused, New York-based blockchain startup Axoni is perhaps the least recognized newcomer on the crypto part of the Forbes list. The firm is focused on building blockchain solutions for capital markets, and has struck several partnerships with major financial institutions, as per the magazine.

What happened to it in 2018?

While there is little information on the startup available online (at least, compared to the other nominees), its August funding round didn’t go unnoticed. It was led by Goldman Sachs and other high-profile banks and venture capital investors, and allowed Axoni to secure $32 million. As Forbes puts it, the startup “is currently putting the $10 trillion credit derivative market onto smart contracts working with DTCC and a steering committee of 15 of world’s biggest banks.”

Who was left out this year?

As mentioned above, 2017 was more fruitful in regard to crypto agents on the list. This time, for instance, the company Blockchain, which was described as “the world’s most popular cryptocurrency wallet” by Forbes last year, didn’t make the cut.

U.S.-based startup Chain — which lists Visa, Nasdaq and Citigroup as customers for its service of creating private blockchains — was acquired by Stellar in September 2018, which could explain its absence this year.

Crypto compliance provider and research firm Chainalysis was also left out. In October 2018, the platform partnered with exchange Binance to assist in its expansions into various international markets, where different Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Customer (KYC) rules apply.

Crypto exchange ShapeShift, which is headquartered in the famous Crypto Valley in Switzerland, is missing as well this time, which comes as no surprise — a month ago, the company announced it was laying off as much as a third of its team, citing the crypto winter as the main reason.

Symbiont, the New York-located firm behind blockchain and smart contracts platform Assembly, which reportedly will be applied in capital markets, mostly stayed silent throughout 2018 — as a result, it’s not featured in the new edition. However, in late January 2019, the startup secured $20 million in investment from Citigroup and Nasdaq, among others — which means that it is off to a good start this year.

Finally, secure offline storage firm and BTC wallet Xapo didn’t make this list this time. Most recently, the startup announced it was relocating key business operations from Hong Kong to Switzerland due to “opaque” regulations.

Are they any other crypto companies on the list?

Robinhood, a stock trading app that launched zero-fee crypto trading of BTC and ETH for its users in 2018, is featured on the fresh “Fintech 50” list for the second year in a row, although not in the “Crypto and Blockchain” section. In January this year, it received a BitLicense to operate in New York, which implies that it might expand its crypto-related operation even further.

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