38. Ripple

Persephone Kavallines

Founders: Chris Larsen, Arthur Britto
CEO: Brad Garlinghouse
Launched: 2012
Headquarters: San Francisco
$293 million
Valuation: $10 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Blockchain, cloud computing, Internet of Things, machine learning
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 1 (No. 28 in 2020)

After a tough few years for digital currencies, crypto mania is back, with bitcoin and other tokens surging to new heights, at least, before the volatility investors have come to expect from crypto returned with a vengeance this month. Still, broader adoption of cryptocurrencies has been a boon to San Francisco-based Ripple, a fintech company that's mostly known for a cryptocurrency called XRP. Its RippleNet platform uses blockchain technology to send money across borders for banks and other financial institutions — think blockchain meets SWIFT.

Ripple also utilizes XRP, a digital asset that even after the recent crypto correction is sitting on big gains this year. Payments into emerging markets often require pre-funded local currency accounts around the world, meaning liquidity costs are high, according to Ripple. The company's on-demand liquidity service uses XRP as a kind of "bridge" between currencies, which it says allows payment providers and banks to process cross-border transactions much faster than they would over legacy payment rails.

Still, though Ripple may be a benefactor of the rising interest in cryptocurrencies, it faces a major regulatory headwind in the United States. The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Ripple, co-founder Christian Larsen and CEO Brad Garlinghouse with conducting an illegal securities offering that raised more than $1.3 billion through sales of XRP. Ripple denies the SEC allegations, contending that XRP is a currency rather than a security that would be subject to strict rules.

The company has since beefed up its board, appointing former U.S. treasurer Rosie Rios as a board member. Ripple thinks the U.S. lacks regulatory clarity when it comes to crypto and is hoping to change that. It is, however, threatening to relocate to other jurisdictions if XRP is deemed a security in the U.S.

Last valued by investors at $10 billion, Ripple is backed by the likes of Japanese financial services giant SBI Holdings, Spanish bank Santander and top venture capital firms including Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed and Peter Thiel's Founders Fund.

Contributed by Ryan Browne

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