Online payments firm Stripe Inc. is moving to take advantage of the easing of U.S. financial restrictions with Cuba, announcing Friday it will offer a range of services to Cuban entrepreneurs.
As part of Stripe’s new Atlas program, the services will enable entrepreneurs to incorporate U.S. companies, set up U.S. bank accounts, and use Stripe to start accepting payments from customers around the world.
Stripe CEO Patrick Collison is joining a delegation of corporate executives accompanying President Barack Obama on his historic trip to Cuba next week. The company is working with Merchise Startup Circle, a Havana-based startup incubator, to recruit entrepreneurs for the program.
“The effort is part of a deluge of interest by U.S. companies in Cuba including airlines, hotels and other tourist interests following the loosening of trade restrictions,” Fortune said.
But according to the Wall Street Journal, there are “still many hurdles to doing business in Cuba, including restrictions for some individuals, incomplete local financial infrastructure, and limited and restricted Internet access.”
“There is more opportunity, but it’s all uncharted territory,” said Dave Seleski, president of Florida-based Stonegate Bank, which began opening correspondent accounts in Cuba to transact across borders last year.
Many large banks have avoided working with countries with nascent financial infrastructure, including Cuba, due to potential security risks. But Stripe said its expansion to Cuba was facilitated by rule changes recently announced by the Obama administration that, among other things, allow U.S. banks to open business banking accounts for Cuban nationals.
Stripe Atlas will charge Cubans $500 to sign up for the service.
“The restrictions on access to financial services have made it extremely tough for Cuban developers and founders to start new businesses or to work with U.S. investors or partners,” Stripe said in a news release. “Despite this, more than 70% of Cubans say that they’d like to start a business.”