Techopia Live: Fintech firm Veem growing in both Kanata and Silicon Valley

Editor's Note

The above video misstates the amount of funding Veem has raised. At the time of recording, Veem had raised roughly US$70 million.

For small businesses looking to send money across borders, the user experience leaves a lot to be desired. Veem, a Silicon Valley fintech firm that calls Kanata its second home, is building out a substantial payment network underpinned by blockchain to cater to these underserved clients.

Sheila James, Veem’s vice-president of operations, joined Techopia Live this week to explain why she believes the global payments industry is “ripe for the fixing.”

The traditional process for businesses looking to send money internationally is through the banks’ SWIFT system, which involves a series of transactions – with the associated fees and currency conversions – across the banks’ global networks. While the process can take days and rack up a hefty cost along the way, James said one of the main issues with money transfers is the extensive amount of banking information senders and receivers need to exchange before they can get payments on their way.

“This was really the problem Veem was trying to solve. It really is about user experience on a very aged and out-of-date system,” James told Techopia Live.

Veem, which has so far raised US$70 million in venture capital, requires just a recipient’s name and email address. That simplicity, which mirrors person-to-person domestic payments, is Veem’s major selling point, James said.

One of the ways Veem simplifies payments is by introducing the blockchain as a new payment “rail.” James noted that the fintech firm was one of the first companies to use Bitcoin in its application: Veem converts a sender’s money to the digital currency as an intermediate step between the recipient’s final payout, thus removing a host of transactions and conversions from the standard process.

“Using new technology is what really helped us build a new, innovative payment network,” she said.

While Veem’s solution sounds like it belongs in the company of other Silicon Valley fintech stars such as PayPal and Square, the majority of the company’s 130 employees actually work out of its Kanata offices.

James said it was always the plan to grow Veem from both cities. Her history in the capital’s tech scene gave her confidence in the city’s talent pool: She and Veem co-founder Marwan Forzley worked together on Ottawa-based payments firm eBillMe before selling it to Western Union in 2011.

While Silicon Valley is ripe with fintech expertise, James said, access to talent is tight in San Francisco. She said that Ottawa tends to be a less competitive market and noted that the city’s tech workers are skilled when it comes to building products.

“It really is the tale of two cities. San Francisco and Ottawa complement each other extremely well,” James said.

To hear more about Veem’s global expansion push and plans to raise a new round of capital, watch the video above.