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Blockchain Tech for Vehicle Titles Pulls $5M in Investment

A little more than a year after launch, Cleveland-based CHAMPtitles has enticed some investors as a digital alternative to in-person transactions, a selling point that could gain traction after COVID-19.

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A startup out of Cleveland that wants to digitize vehicle titles using blockchain technology has raised $5 million from investors.

A news release last week said CHAMPtitles, which launched in March 2019, will put the money toward improving its technology, sales and marketing. It said the fundraising round was the first outside investment sought by the company, drawing interest from multiple unspecified investors.

The company is the first of four planned startups overseen by Ownum, a holding company focused on using blockchain to solve problems and improve processes.

Billed by blockchain advocates Bernie Moreno and Shane Bigelow — the company’s chairman and CEO, respectively — as a secure, digital simplification of a traditionally complicated process, CHAMPtitles allows relevant parties to verify their part of a vehicle title transaction remotely. Bigelow explained to Government Technology last year that transferring vehicle titles typically involves a consumer, car dealer, manufacturer, bank, insurance company, state department of motor vehicles and title-issuing authority, such as a court clerk or county recorder; but prior to blockchain, the process had to be done on paper because of security concerns for all involved.

In a statement last week, Bigelow said investments coming from “well-regarded family offices in New York, Boston, Cleveland and Florida” will bring CHAMPtitles closer to reality.

“Partners in the title ecosystem are awakening to the benefits of digitizing the title process,” Bigelow’s statement read. “Now that states, banks, insurance companies and many others are seeking the savings, consumers will benefit greatly from the adoption of digital titles.”

One investor, John Benis, said in a statement that he was confident the company understands the needs of its clients and is well-situated to deliver.

“There is so much waste and redundancy in our vital records system in the U.S., and the space is ripe for a digital solution. CHAMPtitles will bring efficiency and cost reduction to banks, insurance companies and vehicle dealers,” he said.

CHAMPtitles is the first of four companies launched, or planned for launch, by Ownum, which Bigelow and Moreno incorporated in May 2018. All four propose to save governments time and money by digitizing paper processes. Vital Chain, which digitizes and catalogues birth and death certificates, announced its first client last month; DigiCredits and Tech Tags, for transferring tax credits and helping government monitor vehicles, respectively, are listed as “coming soon” on Ownum’s website.

Ownum’s news release also made the case that the COVID-19 pandemic is revealing the pitfalls of depending on in-person transactions to conduct crucial business, and the future is likely to bring online alternatives.