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River Financial closes a US$5.7M seed round

River Financial is a company building a challenger financial institution and Bitcoin brokerage focused on the long-term investor. The companies seed round was led by Polychain Capital. Participants in the round include Slow Ventures, Castle Island Ventures, DG Daiwa Ventures, Pfeffer Capital Ltd, IDEO CoLab Ventures, Cygni Capital, and a number of angel investors.

River Financial was launched in January 2019 by cousins, Alex Leishman and Andrew Benson. Benson is currently the COO of the company, while Leishman is the CEO. Leishman is a former aerospace engineer and had been involved in the Bitcoin and crypto space since early 2014.

Benson had previously founded or co-founded a handful of B2B technology services companies specializing in information management, software development, digital marketing, media streaming, and cybersecurity. River Financial is his first stint in the world of crypto.

Leishman, on the other hand, became fascinated with the idea of non-governmental currencies when he was doing his undergrad after reading the works of F.A. Hayek. According to Leishman, his “dream was to someday build an institution that provided financial services using a sound alternative to government-issued fiat currency.”

The founder discovered Bitcoin shortly after graduating and after reading the whitepaper he realized that this new decentralized currency was the answer. “It was neither private nor government-controlled and it was already attracting quite a bit of attention. That’s when I decided to leave my job and move to San Francisco to get involved in Bitcoin-related work,” Leishman said.

His first role in the crypto space was working as a software engineer for, a crypto exchange focussed on the Taiwanese market. He then had stints at Airbnb, was a researcher at Stanford University where he was a teaching assistant for the first Bitcoin class there with Dan Boneh.

He then joined Polychain Capital in April 2018. At Polychain, Leishman was an engineer where he built asset management infrastructure and was an investor focussed on bitcoin projects.

Polychain is one of the early crypto-focused funds that was launched in 2016 by Olaf Carlson-Wee, who was one of the early hires at Coinbase. Polychains first fund was back by the likes Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, Pantera Capital, and a range of other investors.

The firm has made over 50 investments in the past four years backing well-known companies in the space such as Celo, Compound, Coinbase, Coinlist, Dfinity, KEEP Protocol, Dharma Labs, and others.

“The evolution of finance is only happening faster in the wake of the current global economic crisis,” Olaf Carlson-Wee said in reference to Polychains investment in River Financial. “We see River Financial as bridging the gap between traditional finance and Bitcoin.”

Elizabeth Stark of Lightning Labs, Steve Lee of Square Crypto and James Page of Pinterest have been advisors to the company, according to the companies website.

Unlike other companies that facilitate the purchase of Bitcoin, River Financial has decided to focus on the 55+ age group and to operate as a conventional bank which is a structure that is understood by their client base.

The firm has also recently launched a white-glove service for investors who want to purchase up to US$250M worth of Bitcoin and have a private adviser assigned to them. This service is tailored to the ultra-high net worth individuals and family offices.

According to a blog post by Leishman, the companies volume has grown an average of 80% month over month since launch. The firm claims that a major driver for their impressive growth has in part been due to the monetary intervention by the Federal Reserve.

River Financial states that customers over the age of 55 have accounted for 77% of their volume growth. It’s possible that Bitcoin is becoming more accepted investment after well-known investors such as Paul Tudor Jones have said they are investing in it.

River Financial closes a US$5.7M seed round (1)
Source: River Financial

In line with how they aim to be structured the firm is not targeting clients who are traders as there are many exchanges that offer that service. River Financial is setting up to be the first bitcoin-focused financial institution that will not present users with the opportunity to purchase altcoins.

In a Twitter thread, Leishman said stated that over the next couple of months the firm will be releasing a number of new features and financial services that they “believe will help support Bitcoin on its journey to becoming the world’s de facto store of value and medium of exchange.”

River Financial’s services are currently available in 15 US states, and the firm expects to be in 40 states by the end of the year. Currently, the firm has 15 team members that bring experience from Republic, Blockstream, Yelp, Microsoft, UBS, Bitmain, and various other institutions.


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