Sixteen months ago, Ripple raised $55 million by selling equity in a typical Silicon Valley funding round from strategic investors, following earlier financing from Alphabet's GV (Google Ventures), Andreessen Horowitz and others. The round placed the value of the company around $400 million.
Today the San Francisco start-up could bring in many times that amount of cash every month -- if it wanted to -- without giving up any company ownership or control.
Ripple develops software that banks use for fast global financial settlements. But almost all of its current value comes from being the creator and majority holder of XRP, a digital currency that was obscure a year ago, but now has a total market value of about $130 billion.
XRP, which trades publicly like bitcoin, went on an inexplicable rally starting last year. Even after plummeting from a high of $3.84 in early January to $1.30 (including a 30 percent drop on Tuesday), it's still up almost 200-fold in the past 12 months.
Ripple owns about 60 billion of the 100 billion XRP created, giving it a market value -- based just on its holdings -- of close to $80 billion.
The company's revenue is unknown, although CEO Brad Garlinghouse told CNBC that some banks are paying the company millions of dollars for its software. Regardless, $80 billion is far ahead of where any reasonable investor would value the company.