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|Industry||Financial services, technology|
Uphold (formerly Bitreserve) is a cloud-based digital money platform enabling users to buy, hold, convert and transact across 30+ currencies and commodities, including 8 cryptocurrencies. Uphold members can deposit funds to their account via bank account, credit card in addition to cryptocurrencies such as XRP, bitcoin, litecoin and ethereum into reserve-backed currencies and commodities allowing anyone with a device to send, receive, and exchange money and commodities. Headquartered in Charleston, South Carolina, with offices in Larkspur, California, Braga, London, and Shanghai, Uphold allows users to convert bitcoin into "cloud money," in 30+ currencies (dollars, euros, yen, rupee and others) and 4 precious metals (Gold, Silver, Platinum, and Palladium). The company also has an open API and has stated interest in addressing the remittance market through partnerships with the retail outlet Elektra and the Salinas Group. (Remittances from the US to Mexico alone ran to an estimated $22 billion last year, according to the World Bank.) Though Uphold holds bitcoins as stable, real-world currency, Anthony Watson, the former CEO, has stated it is "not a bitcoin company. In terms of bitcoin's relevance to us, it is a means to an end."
Uphold (previously Bitreserve), founded by Halsey Minor in 2013, is a company born out of Minor's own difficult experience with finances and financial institutions in the past. Through his personal struggles he became aware of the importance of currency stability, and grew perceptive to the lack of inclusion and transparency in traditional financial services. In May 2014, Uphold launched its private beta program and in October 2014, Uphold launched for public use. The rationale behind the company and "[Minor's] goal was to make money free and easy to use." Additionally, the crash of 2008 showcased a need for more transparent financial institutions and for a better solution to traditional banking. These circumstances have inspired Minor and his growing team at Uphold to push the limits of financial technology services and strive to make it more accessible, affordable, and secure.
In June 2015, Uphold removed all fees regarding money transfer for verified members, making it a low-cost financial technology services company. Its users are now "able to instantaneously exchange and convert world currencies for low fees.""Previously, Uphold charged 0.45% commission for BTC-USD transactions." This function was further inspired by Minor's personal frustrations with the lack of transparency and efficiency in traditional banking services. In his own words, "The legacy finance industry has grown adept at hiding costs from customers – where they extract fees from those in society who can least afford it. Now that Uphold offers its members the ability to convert and exchange money for free, all of us together take another giant leap toward replacing the current global financial system with one that is fair, inclusive, accountable and transparent – a system organized for the benefit of all people everywhere."
In June 2015, Uphold also launched a new platform for application programming interfaces (APIs) called Uphold Connect, in an effort to expand the company from a Bitcoin-based service to "an open platform for the currency exchange and transactions online and on mobile devices." Uphold also announced its partnerships with associate companies using its services, including Grupo Salinas banking and Elektra SA, made possible by the new API platform. Minor has described Connect as "a nexus that will drive functionality and partnerships 1,000 times faster than they would otherwise have been." In November 2017, Uphold partnered with Heleum on a multi-currency trading application.
In May 2016, Uphold launched its iOS app and adding Litecoin to its list of supported currencies, precious metals, and cryptocurrencies, bringing its total number to 29 currencies, 4 commodities and 3 cryptocurrencies.
In July 2016, Uphold announced a new pricing structure, removing the previous .05% withdrawal free, new exchange rates and improved transparency. Reduced fee's for China UnionPay on-boarding value to less than half the original fee – dropping from 3.8% to 1.8%. Transactions between users remain free.
Services and features
Uphold used to offer free accounts and transfers between users for a variety of supported currencies and commodities, low-cost metal holdings and movement, and additionally for all verified members, allows for low-cost currency conversions. On November 1, 2017 they added hidden fees for inactive accounts. Users are able to make currency exchanges in 29 major currencies, and can also convert these currencies into precious metals, at the mid-market rate. Since the launch of their new open API platform, Uphold Connect, enables third-party companies to integrate with Uphold – allowing their own users to hold money in various currencies, as well as transact in Bitcoin, online and on mobile devices. The company also provides two transparency features: the Reserveledger, a public record of all changes made to Uphold assets, and the Reservechain, a real-time public record of all users’ transactions that occur across the company's network. The accuracy of both features are verified by accountants each quarter. Uphold is the first financial service to date to publish a real-time reserve. When speaking on the importance of the Reservechain and company solvency, Minor said "It will allow [users] to construct, at any moment in time, an exact balance sheet for the organization. It will be the definitive record of our obligations to our members."
On January 19, 2015, the company closed its Series B and raised $9.6 million via crowdfunding efforts in both the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Uphold worked with UK crowdfunding company, CrowdCube, and online U.S. brokerage company, Venovate, to achieve this, which was the second largest crowdfunding effort in the digital currency sector to date. The company has also received significant investments from Ricardo Salinas-Pleigo in order to develop their remittance solutions. Uphold has raised $14.6 million in funding so far, as stated in April 2015.
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