London-based remittance startup Azimo has raised $15m from Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten to accelerate its expansion into Asia.

Founded in 2012, Azimo now provides services to over 190 countries in more than 80 currencies. The company claims that half a million people are already connected to its platform.

Commenting on the investment, Azimo CEO and founder Michael Kent said: "Rakuten’s investment is fantastic news for both our customers and the Azimo team.

"While we weren’t actively looking for additional capital, the approach from Rakuten really appealed because of their presence in markets core to our long-term ambitions. They have a huge presence in Asia, they really understand consumer financial services and as owners of Viber, and are a significant player in the social messaging market."

Azimo is already offering services into the Philippines and Thailand. With the help of Rakuten’s investment, the company plans to start focusing on outbound remittances from Asia as well.

As part of the deal, Oskar Mielczarek de la Miel – managing partner at the Rakuten FinTech Fund – will join the board of Azimo.

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"Azimo has cemented itself as the European specialist in digital remittances and its global network is unrivalled in the industry. This is a testament to an outstanding team, led by Michael and Marta, who saw an opportunity four years ago to disrupt the $600 billion remittance industry," Oskar Mielczarek de la Miel said.

"Rakuten prides itself on being a catalyst for digital innovation. In Azimo we see a scalable business model, technical expertise, and a strong social mission we believe will make them even more successful in the future," he added.