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What it does: Develops software protocol underpinning a decentralized network for value transfer that has garnered less hype than Bitcoin but may have a better shot at widespread adoption. Ripple, led by CEO Chris Larsen, had some ups and downs over the past 12 months. The company, formerly known as Ripple Labs, got hit with a civil enforcement action but landed several partners (including two U.S. banks) and an investment from Santander.

Why it matters: Value proposition will only become more relevant as the Fed nudges the industry toward real-time payments.

Related Article: Santander Invests in Ripple as Startup Expands Services