Amidst the recent downturn in cryptocurrency, at least one blockchain and crypto startup is still eyeing expansion. San Francisco-based Ripple announced that it is opening its first Canadian office in Toronto.
“Quite a number of the other leading lights in crypto, we were informed, got COVID – all collectively, it seemed – late last week, and were therefore unable to travel.”
– Paddy Cosgrave
Ripple offers a number of solutions, including cross-border payments, and an end-to-end central bank digital currency (CBDC) platform for minting, managing, transacting, and destroying CBDCs.
Ripple intends to hire 50 engineers initially for its Canadian office. However, Ripple’s SVP of people, places and communications, Kiersten Hollars, told BetaKit that the startup’s long term plan is to expand to hundreds of blockchain software engineers including applied machine learning scientists, data scientists, and product managers.
Toronto will act as a key engineering hub for Ripple. Devraj Varadhan, SVP of Engineering at Ripple, said the Toronto team will play a pivotal role in driving Ripple’s innovations from blockchain protocol development and decentralized applications to machine learning and payment solutions.
Ripple is flexible when it comes to work, and Hollars said employees can decide what’s best for them and their lifestyle. “Initially, the new Ripple office will be housed in a WeWork location in downtown Toronto, and as we continue growing we plan to open a stand-alone office in the coming year,” she said.
Ripple claims strong ties to Toronto through its University Blockchain Research Initiative (UBRI), which is meant to support research into several areas of blockchain and crypto technology while providing students with the opportunity to acquire technical skills.
At the Toronto Metropolitan University, the Cybersecurity Research Lab (CRL) is working on innovations in blockchain and digital payments within Toronto through its partnership with UBRI. The CRL is designing Mosaïque, a digital wallet and platform for developing decentralized systems to provide the infrastructure for building applications that create, share and update business documents between organizations and individuals.
As part of the partnership, the CRL established a Ripple Blockchain Collaboratory designed to advance this innovation, while for its part Ripple donated $150,000 to the CRL.
Ripple is also involved with the University of Waterloo, providing a multi-million dollar contribution in 2018 to fund a Ripple Chair held by Anwar Hasan, a professor of computer engineering who is an expert in cryptography, and graduate studies scholarships designed to attract new talent and a new research fund. The opening of the Toronto office could potentially provide Waterloo graduates with employment opportunities.
“I’m thrilled that Ripple is putting down roots in Toronto where we know the company will be able to benefit from the highly skilled technical talent, booming ecosystem, and competitive economic advantages the Region offers,” said John Tory, Mayor of the City of Toronto. “Ripple’s globally-renowned, innovative technology, and first-mover attitude will be a perfect fit for the diverse, entrepreneurial, and committed spirit of Toronto.”
Ripple’s expansion comes at a time when crypto in general is contracting. By mid-June, market capitalization of global cryptocurrencies had fallen from about $2.26 trillion to $986 billion —a 56 percent decline over the past two and a half months, with companies like Terra and Celsius suffering from the financial crash.
Nor have Canadian crypto firms been insulated from the stock rout. Since the Kevin O’Leary-backed crypto startup WonderFi closed its acquisition of Toronto-based crypto trading platform Bitbuy in March, WonderFi has reduced its staff across the two businesses by between 15 and 20 percent.
The crypto downturn even impacted the Collision tech conference, with a nearly a quarter of the crypto and blockchain companies pulling out at the last minute, according to the Globe and Mail. Paddy Cosgrave, the conference’s chief executive and co-founder, told the Globe: “Quite a number of the other leading lights in crypto, we were informed, got COVID – all collectively, it seemed – late last week, and were therefore unable to travel.”
One of the blockchain/crypto startups that still went ahead with Collision was Ripple, where CEO Brad Garlinghouse was set to speak on how to regulate cryptocurrencies, a pertinent topic given that the SEC has been pursuing Ripple since 2020. According to Cointelegraph.com, “the securities regulator filed a lawsuit alleging that Ripple executives had used Ripple (XRP) tokens to raise funds for the company starting in 2013, claiming it was unregistered security at the time.”
Over 14 funding rounds, Ripple has raised $293.8 million USD ($381.8 million CAD).
Hollars noted that in the past year Ripple opened new offices in key cities including Miami and Dublin, Ireland, and has plans to hire more than 350 of people globally in 2022, with nearly 50 percent of those roles outside the United States.
Hollars said while there’s no denying the signs of a downturn, Ripple continues to focus on its real-world use cases for crypto and blockchain technologies. “While others in the industry have announced layoffs and hiring freezes, we are doubling down on bringing on world class talent that will serve our customers for years to come,” she said. “Ripple has been around since 2012 – this isn’t the first downturn we’ve seen and it won’t be the last.”