But although Facebook has been building peer-to-peer transfer capabilities in a couple of its very biggest markets (the US and UK), one big hurdle for turning them on in developing markets has been local regulation, Ahmed said.“There are some trials right now for how to use messaging apps to transfer money in the region, but one reason we have not seen more is regulations,” he said.World Remit, a London-based startup with some 2 million users that offers a quick way for people to send money to each other with a focus on developing markets, has raised more funds to help it take on the likes of Western Union in the remittances market, estimated by the World Bank to be worth some 6 billion globally this year, and ramp its user number to 10 million.
The first of these is to increase the number of countries where payments will be able to originate.
Currently, the company lets people 148 countries, and Ahmed wants to bring complete parity to those figures, so that people can transfer money from any country to any country where World Remit operates.
“Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Alipay,” are all companies that could grow their businesses in the region were they allowed to work with more companies that could provide money transfer services to mobile phones, which for many individuals and small businesses have become their functioning proxies for bank accounts and credit cards.
Indeed, direct money transfers for basic needs is just one application.
To date, World Remit has mainly grown organically, and that is what it plans to do here.
But there is a big opportunity to expand World Remit’s footprint by way of acquisition.“At the minimum, most of the regulators require that the company that is licensed is the one that is visible to the customer, so that the customer knows clearly who is safeguarding the funds,” said Ahmed.“Some of the ‘powered by’ models are not acceptable to the more conservative regulators in those markets.” It’s not just Facebook that faces this problem, he added.“World Remit’s model is uniquely suited to scale and offers a best in class service that is vital to the livelihood of millions of consumers in Leap Frog’s core markets.The company also has a huge potential to expand globally – a combination that puts it at the heart of our profit with purpose philosophy.Specifically with this round, that functionality will get turned on in Africa.“Half of our transactions today go to Africa, and those are mostly digital transactions going into mobile money accounts in services like M-Pesa.The funding was led by a new, strategic investor: Leap Frog Investments, the firm founded in 2007 and backed by billions from the likes of Prudential, JP Morgan and the Omidyar Network specifically to make investments into financial and healthcare businesses improving services in emerging markets, specifically in regions like Africa and Asia.Previous investors Accel, TCV and an unnamed individual backer also participated.“But as companies like us become more global and taking a regional focus, we may see some M&A too.” The third area of focus is to keep beefing up its business in the US.Today, the country accounts for 14 percent of World Remit’s origination traffic by revenues, and the plan will be to boost this to 40 percent.