Montréal-based cryptocurrency startup Shakepay has nabbed $44 million CAD in Series A funding as well as the backing of experienced FinTech investors and Canadian tech leaders to tackle what it sees as a growing demand for Bitcoin-focused products.
Shakepay has grown to serve over 900,000 Canadians with only $1 million CAD in financing.
Shakepay offers a platform for buying and selling Bitcoin. To date, the startup has grown to serve over 900,000 Canadian users with only $1 million CAD in venture financing. But over the past year, Shakepay co-founder and CEO Jean Amiouny said the company realized “the opportunity is much, much bigger” than it initially thought.
“We have two percent of Canadians on Shakepay,” Amiouny told BetaKit in an interview. “We’re less than an order of magnitude away from the big banks, and we think that the way Canadians will be interacting with their money is going to change.”
Armed with a ton of fresh capital and a $313 million valuation, Shakepay plans to tackle this opportunity by ramping up its hiring efforts and rolling out new FinTech products that help its customers earn, access, and build wealth in Bitcoin.
The startup’s all-equity, all-primary round, which closed earlier this month, was led by FinTech-focused Virginia VC firm QED Investors, with continued participation from California’s Boost VC and Montréal’s BoxOne Ventures.
Shakepay’s Series A financing was also supported by Toronto-based Golden Ventures, New York’s Broadhaven, Mistplay founder Henri-Charles Machalani, Ada co-founder Mike Murchison, Jevon MacDonald, Mark MacLeod, and Shopify product and engineering leaders like Dan Debow and Farhan Thawar.
Amiouny described Shakepay’s mobile platform as “the app I can tell my mom to download and buy Bitcoin.” According to its website, the company’s app allows users to buy Bitcoin “in minutes” using Interac e-Transfer, and cash out to their bank accounts “instantly.” It also permits users to send peer-to-peer payments, and earn Bitcoin rewards through its newly launched credit card and a program that encourages users to log in daily and shake their phones.
Founded in 2015 by Amiouny and CTO Roy Breidi, Shakepay began as a Bitcoin-loadable Visa card that users could spend in physical retail stores. The startup launched its offering with a partnering issuing bank before running into some problems. In 2018, Shakepay executed a “major pivot” and turned into a crypto exchange, sensing an opportunity to provide an easier way to buy and sell Bitcoin.
“We completely pivoted away into what you see today, the ability for Canadians to buy and sell Bitcoin,” said Amiouny. “That was the main value proposition, and that’s what allowed us to grow so fast in the last couple of years.”
Shakepay’s Series A round follows a “surge in growth” in 2021 for the startup, which surpassed $6 billion in total volume, growing 381 percent to more than 900,000 customers, and scaling its team from 20 to 70 employees.
Amiouny attributes some of this growth to a rising number of Canadians questioning the low returns on their savings accounts, particularly during today’s high inflation. “I think people are starting to realize that, ‘okay, maybe holding Canadian dollars is not the best way to save into the future,’” said the CEO, who added that many have turned to Bitcoin as a “better store of value.”
Shakepay aims to build on this growth with the support of QED Investors. Launched by Capital One founder Nigel Morris in 2007, QED specializes in FinTech firms. The firm’s past investments include companies like Credit Karma, Nubank, and Klarna. QED partner Matt Burton is joining Shakepay’s board as part of the round, alongside Amiouny and Breidi.
Burton told BetaKit that he was “really impressed with [Shakepay’s] scrappiness” and ability to grow up to this point “with a bottoms-up, community-based marketing plan,” adding that the startup “could have raised $100 million if they wanted to.”
“They have been amazing in building a ton of value for their users and building an amazing community with almost no resources,” said Burton. Shakepay’s mission also resonated with Burton, who identified a chance to help the startup roll out its new card offering given his past experience.
According to Amiouny, Shakepay’s simple approach differentiates the startup from other crypto players. “What you’ll see with most crypto companies is maybe they offer a ton of different cryptocurrencies, they offer really advanced features … That’s not really our game plan. Our game plan, really, is simplicity.”
Amiouny said the startup is “more about mimicking the way consumers generally spend Canadian dollars and save their money,” adding that it wants Canadians “to see Bitcoin more as a savings account.”
The CEO believes there is room for Shakepay to play “somewhere in the middle,” in the space between other crypto exchanges and challenger banks.
Shakepay has taken a “proactive” approach to regulation, securing a license as a Money Service Business by FINTRAC and Revenu Québec to operate in all Canadian provinces and territories.
Aminouny described Shakepay as “the app I can tell my mom to download and buy Bitcoin.”
The startup does not charge commissions or transaction fees — rather, it makes money by charging a markup when its customers buy and sell Bitcoin. Unlike other crypto marketplaces where customers buy from and sell to other users, Shakepay sells Bitcoin to its customers and buys it from them. But Shakepay’s ambitions involve becoming more than just an exchange.
“We’re starting to become this ecosystem of products that’s really geared towards replacing your need for a savings account at BMO, that’s not really generating, not allowing you to accumulate wealth or build wealth, into something that does,” said Amiouny.
Shakepay plans to use “most” of its Series A capital to support the launch of new products. In December, the firm launched its Shakepay Visa Prepaid Card to 180,000 early access customers, ahead of its full rollout this year. The new product offers users Bitcoin rewards when they spend Canadian dollars with Visa-accepting merchants.
Going forward, Shakepay plans to focus on a small set of products “that will provide the most benefit” to its users, but declined to share any more details about the startup’s product roadmap.
For now, Amiouny thinks Shakepay’s valuation is great, but he believes there is still “a long way to go for the Montréal crypto startup. “A lot of us at Shakepay are very, very excited about the future,” he said.
Feature image courtesy of Shakepay