Lightnet, a Thailand-based fintech startup, has raised $31.2 million in Series A funding. It aims to replace the “inefficient” SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) system by offering blockchain-based remittance services.
Several notable investors have participated in Lightnet’s Series A round, including Singapore’s UOB Venture Management and Korea’s Hanwha Investment and Securities, both of whom led the round, according to an announcement Friday. HashKey Capital, Japan’s Seven Bank, Signum Capital, and Du Capital also participated in the round, among others.
Kelyn Tan Siang Wei, a spokeswoman for UOB Group, confirmed to The Block: "The investment was by UOB Venture Management, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UOB."
With the fresh capital in place, Lightnet aims to strengthen its Stellar blockchain-based platform and serve billions of unbanked migrant workers in Southeast Asian markets.
“We launched Lightnet to offer low-cost and instantaneous financial inclusivity and mobility to the four billion lives across Asia Pacific — all powered by Stellar’s fast, scalable, and sustainable blockchain technology,” said Chatchaval Jiaravanon, chairman of Lightnet.
Jed McCaleb, co-founder of the Stellar Development Foundation, is an advisor to the firm, according to Lightnet's website.
McCaleb told the Block: "Lightnet is helping create the world we imagined when we started Stellar, a world of greater financial inclusion and interoperability. The products they’ve built on Stellar are a testament to the way we can redefine domestic and international payments in a decentralized global marketplace."
To disrupt the remittance market?
Founded last year by Jiaravanon (a family member of Thailand’s conglomerate the Charoen Pokphand Group) and Interstellar, Lightnet aims to “disrupt a trillion U.S. dollar global remittance market.”
“We project that within three years, Lightnet will facilitate over $50 billion worth of annual transactions,” said Tridbodi Arunanondchai, vice-chairman of Lightnet.
Suvicha Sudchai, CEO of Lightnet, said that the firm is offering three solutions - “BridgeNet, LiquidNet and SmartNet.” He added that the main platform has been completed, and the first transaction is slated for Q1 of this year.
“In addition to the potential 500,000 cash agents across our ecosystem, Lightnet will integrate with several renowned payment and remittance partners such as MoneyGram, Seven Bank, Yeahka, Ksher across Japan, South Korea, and several other South East Asia nations to ensure successful activation of our ecosystem,” Sudchai added.
Ripple is also often positioned as a rival to SWIFT and is a partner of money transfer firm MoneyGram. Ripple has invested $50 million in MoneyGram to jointly offer blockchain-based remittance services. MoneyGram recently said that it processes 10% of its transactions between the U.S. and Mexican corridor via Ripple’s payments solution On-Demand Liquidity that leverages XRP cryptocurrency.
It remains to be seen how Lightnet fares into the market with its big claims. Lightnet said its smart contracts and distributed ledgers are “well-positioned to replace the decades-old, inefficient SWIFT system and unreliable underground banking.”
Facebook-led Libra stablecoin project also aims to serve the world’s 1.7 billion unbanked by offering financial services like remittances.
SWIFT, on its part, has also experimented with blockchain technology but found that it is "quite challenging" for banks to adopt a blockchain-based system today for payments.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from Jed McCaleb, co-founder of the Stellar Development Foundation.