Alameda Research Leads $50 Million Investment in Travel App Maps.me

Major travel app Maps.me has raised $50 million as part of a plan to integrate DeFi payments. Alameda Research led the funding round.

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Key Takeaways

  • Maps.me has raised $50 million to embed decentralized finance services for its users.
  • Alameda Research led the funding round. Genesis Trading and CMS Holdings also participated.
  • Maps.me is an offline mapping application with over 140 million users, so the upgrade bodes well for wider DeFi adoption.

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Maps.me is integrating DeFi for its 140 million users. Ahead of the overhaul, the travel app raised $50 million in a funding round led by Alameda Research. 

Maps.me Makes DeFi Move

Maps.me, an offline mapping app with more than 140 million users, has raised $50 million to transition into DeFi. 

The application will create a wallet that merges DeFi tools, enabling users to store assets, exchange value in multiple currencies, and earn up to 8%. Alex Grebnev, Maps.me’s co-founder, said:

“The industry is waiting for a catalyst for the mass adoption of DeFi tools and we’re excited to make this a reality by leveraging our active user base as a means to bootstrap a retail community for a new innovative DeFi platform on Maps.me.”

Maps.me is a mobile app that provides detailed offline maps worldwide. It’s frequently used by people who are preparing to travel abroad. A DeFi integration is potentially highly disruptive as it eliminates the need for high foreign exchange fees and commissions. 

Grebnev told Crypto Briefing that he thinks digital currencies have certain advantages over cash.

“There are many benefits to choosing digital assets over cash, including lower fees, highly secure transactions, and fewer exchange rate issues,” he said. “Today, more and more companies accept digital assets for goods and services.”

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a big impact on global travel, and by extension, companies like Maps.me. Nevertheless, Grebnev says that international travel is likely to return, in his opinion. He also argued that bespoke wallet services like those that Maps.me offers will help people manage their finances after the pandemic has passed. He said:

“Embedded wallet services that enable consumers to make payments, generate yield, invest, and save on purchases – will be important in helping [people] manage their financial lives regardless of the coronavirus.”

Alameda Research Signals Support

Though Genesis Capital and CMS Holdings participated in the $50 million funding round, it was led by Alameda Research, the quantitative trading firm led by renowned crypto personality Sam Bankman-Fried.

In a joint release announcing the news, Bankman-Fried pointed to the potential “killer app” effect the wallet could have for DeFi. 

“By embedding and democratizing access to yield-earning finance to millions of users via an everyday app, Maps.me has the potential to really propel DeFi mainstream adoption and bring a groundbreaking technology to the masses.”

Decentralized finance has grown at an exponential rate in the last year. Since January 2020, the total number of DeFi users has increased from 600,000 to 1 million. But the idea of a “killer app” has been elusive to date. DeFi is still considered a niche area of the cryptocurrency space, with Bitcoin, and to a lesser extent Ethereum, driving the narrative. 

Joseph Todaro, a partner at Greymatter Capital, recently highlighted the Google trends for the search terms “Bitcoin,” “Ethereum,” and “DeFi.” By some distance, Bitcoin is still the most searched for term of the three. 

But with Maps.me catering to millions of users, it could be the spark that starts a move towards wider DeFi adoption. Of the app’s 140 million users, 70% are between the ages of 18 and 40. Last year, 60 million people used the app across 195 countries. 

Disclosure: At the time of writing, the author of this feature owned ETH, among a number of other cryptocurrencies. 

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