Der Klimawandel ist real, und jeder muss einen Beitrag dazu leisten, ihn zu stoppen – auch und vielleicht sogar gerade Softwareentwickler. Aber wie?
A payments startup whose backend was originally built by the founder while still living with his parents and bootstrapping the company is today announcing a massive round of funding that catapults it into being one of the most valuable startups in Europe. Mollie, an Amsterdam-based startup that provides a way for businesses to integrate payments into sites, documents and other services by way of an API, is today announcing that it has raised €665 million ($800 million) in an all-equity round that values the company at €5.4 billion ($6.5 billion).
Blackstone Growth (BXG), Blackstone’s growth equity investing business, led the investment, with participation also from EQT Growth, General Atlantic, HMI Capital, Alkeon Capital, and TCV. TCV led Mollie’s breakout Series B in September last year.
Mollie has been on a major growth tear in recent years. The company is currently on track to process some €20 billion (nearly $24 billion) in payments in 2021, up 100% on the year before when it processed around €10 billion. It currently has 120,000 monthly active merchants (versus 100,000 in 2020), and customers include the likes of Deliveroo, Unicef, Acer and Guess. It’s adding between 400 and 500 new customers each day.
To be sure, the pandemic saw a massive shift in commerce with all kinds of transactions — buying goods, paying for services, handling your banking and other finances — all moving into the digital world, and that also played out for Mollie.
But that is also not the full story: growing at the same pace this year as last appears to indicate that even as we start to see more signs of the pandemic moving on (well, at least for some…), the shift to paying and buying online (and using Mollie’s rails to do so) will stay.
“The only thing you can reliably measure in payments is consumer spend. That was at 10% and now it’s at 15-20%,” said Shane Happach, who took over as CEO of Mollie in April of this year from founder Adriaan Mol (who, incidentally, was also the founder of MessageBird; Mol’s knickname is Mollie, hence the name of this company).
In an interview, Happach explained that consumer spend, and the subsequent addressable consumer market, is the metric that best indicates how a company like Mollie will grow. So while Mollie has largely been profitable since being founded back in 2004, the plan now will be to put the gas on growth, building related services around payments to continue expanding its product offering while also continuing to move move into more geographies beyond its core, and biggest, market of Europe, helped in no small part by its new, big investors.
That will bring it into deeper competition with a whole raft of players. That is to say, Mollie is far from the only payments company on the market, nor is it the only one that has seen business boom in recent times. But it is bigger and much more fragmented than you might think. Happach — who spent a decade at WorldPay before joining Mollie — points out that the top ten players in payments have 50% of the market, but the other 50% is held by about 5,000 players.
“You’d be really surprised, companies like Stripe are in the 5,000. They’re not in the top ten,” he said. (JP Morgan, WorldPay, Fiserv (First Data), PayPal are among those that make up the first ten.). That essentially gives the company a lot of opportunity to grow and consolidate, while also underscoring just how big the market is for everyone.
Stripe came up a few times in our conversation, in particular when talking about competitive threats — its basic premise, like Mollie’s, has been the building of a payments platform (complex for any non-payment company to do) that can be integrated by customers anywhere by way of a simple API; when talking about valuations (Stripe is now valued at $95 billion); and when talking about product playbooks.
In all cases, the main takeaway seems to be that Stripe’s success speaks to the market Mollie has ahead of it. “We see a huge opportunity in the super underserved population of SMBs,” Happach said. “Especially if you look at our core markets, where most of our customers come from today, the financial services that they can get access to are very clunky.” The company, he added, will be focusing on a few areas that it believes it can do better than what’s out there now, which also complements its payments business: working capital for small businesses, card issuing and corporate card programs, expense management, and business banking. (All areas, I should note, where Stripe also has launched products.)
It will also be interesting to watch how and if Mollie, as it grows, gets more confident to potentially change its cut. It’s taken PayPal years, but it has recently rebalanced its rates. Happach notes Mollie never has and has no plans to follow it.
One area where Mollie is less likely to invest the new capital is in acquisitions, however.
“I came from a company that had acquired a load of other companies, and I think there’s pluses and minuses,” Happach said. “For Mollie, we are building an organic plan…. [Acquisitions are] always an opportunity, [but] I would say it’s not the thesis of what we have agreed with investors is the most likely things that we’d like to do…. I think, right now, we’re mainly focused on hiring as much great talent as we can, really beefing up our commercial product and engineering teams. There’s still quite a lot to do by just investing in our own business building and training our own people and serving the customers that we’ve already got in the best possible way.”
The company, indeed, hasn’t really grown through a sales force or big marketing investments but largely through word of mouth up to now, one reason Blackstone came knocking.
“One of the things that really impressed us at Blackstone is that of the hundreds that sign up to Mollie on a daily basis, 90-95% of them have almost no interaction with Mollie directly,” said Paul Morrissey, who heads up Blackstone’s investing activities in Europe. “They’re just finding Mollie, loving the product and just getting going and that goes back to kind of the unit economics of the business… It talks to their competitive position in the market.”
That is somewhat due to change with the company embarking on a big hiring push, taking its team of 480 to just under 800 in the next nine months.
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Online teaching came into the spotlight for many students and parents in the last year, and today one of the companies that saw a big lift during that rush of activity is announcing a big round of funding to carry it into what has emerged as a more permanent change of habits for many learners.
GoStudent, a marketplace where K-12 students (and their parents) can find and engage with one-to-one video-based tutors in a variety of subjects, has raised €205 million ($244 million), in a Series C round that values the company at €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion).
The funding is coming at a time of strong growth. The Vienna, Austria-based startup is now live in 18 countries and sees some 400,000 sessions booked monthly on its platform, up 700% year-on-year (and up 15% month-on-month). It says it is on track to double employees to 1,000 and reach 10,000 tutors by the end of this year. The plan is to expand to more countries — Mexico and Canada are next on the list — and to continue growing its lists of tutors and subjects covered.
(As a point of comparison, when it last fundraised in March, GoStudent was booking a mere 250,000 tutoring sessions over its platform.)
DST Global is leading the round, with SoftBank (via its Vision Fund 2), Tencent, Dragoneer and previous backers Coatue, Left Lane Capital and DN Capital also participating. Vienna, Austria-based GoStudent has raised €291 million to date, including a €70 million round only this past March and €13.3 million in a Series A this past November.
The rapid pace of funding and GoStudent’s rising valuation — this investment makes it the highest-valued edtech startup in Europe, the company said — comes amid a streak of funding rounds for edtech companies.
And that may be no surprise: online and other digital tools in the last year especially felt more relevant (and in many cases were used more) than ever before due to social distancing during the pandemic. (Other recent deals have included funding for Byju’s, Kahoot, Formative, Engageli, Lingoda, Brainly, ClassDojo, Newsela, and Yuanfudao, among many others.)
But in the case of GoStudent, it’s also because the startup itself is also doing an A+ job in scaling its concept.
The company has been around since 2016 — when it started out initially providing a network for people to help each other answer questions (similar to Brainly), as well as connect with tutors, and for tutors to organize classes — but it was only about 2.5 years ago that GoStudent started to focus more squarely on one-to-one tutoring.
GoStudent provides a fully-integrated service, which lets students and their parents select from a range of topics that are typically taught in schools — currently some 30 subjects, including sciences, math, computing, languages, history, business and more — that they can be tutored on generally or specifically with the aim of taking an exam.
Tutoring comes from people who are tested, vetted and interviewed by GoStudent before they can join the platform; and before engaging tutors, parents and students interview an individual tutor and go through a practice lesson as part of that.
Learning plans are then organized according to students’ schedules and what they are setting out to do (they can send over their homework, or chapters they’re studying in school or even a curriculum outline); and the classes, assessments and payments (based on packages booked), are all handled over the platform, too.
Although there are a number of ways of learning a subject over the internet today — and specifically a number of online-only direct tutoring platforms in the market now (including Brainly, Yuanfudao, and others) — Ohswald said that by and large GoStudent’s biggest competition is the bigger in-person business of teaching, and of students and tutors connecting with each other through word of mouth — the “offline shadow market of tutors,” as he calls it.
All the same, while there are tech tools involved in provisioning and running lessons, at its heart GoStudent is also still about humans connecting to help each other, rather than humans connecting with computer programs.
Interestingly, its founders believe that the Covid-19 pandemic effect was not uniformly positive for its business.
“The pandemic had mixed effects,” Ohswald said. “On the one hand there was a natural demand from kids and parents. But with the schools closed, there was less pressure, less exams, less demand for after-school study. That aspect had a negative effect. But more broadly, there was a BIG boost for digital education. So the mindset of the parent and family drastically shifted.”
He noted that many families turned to tutoring to help “support the kids at home, to help them to stop being overwhelmed.” (And I would add, especially in the first part of the lockdown last year when schools were scrambling a little to regroup and teach online, that as a parent, we found it a relief to have at least some consistency with private tutors online at that time.)
What that means, essentially, is that while GoStudent did well in the last year, the company does not want to tie its growth to a specific set of pandemic circumstances that may well become less of an issue in the year ahead.
Indeed, for better or worse, there are bigger factors at play that predate the pandemic. Increasing pressure on students to perform their best competing against others, a continuing focus on testing, and a general level of academic ambition; but also a much easier and cheaper way of finding and connecting with people who can help students feel more supported in their efforts: all of these are also playing a role.
“GoStudent is one of the fastest growing companies that we have ever backed. The company has grown 800% in terms of revenue and 70x in terms of value since 2020 and we are convinced that this is just the beginning,” Nenad Marovac, founder and managing partner, DN Capital, told TechCrunch. “We believe that GoStudent can become one of the top digital schools in the world. By leveraging technology GoStudent democratizes quality education to all at affordable prices.”
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deutsche-startups.de präsentiert heute wieder einmal einige junge Startups, die zuletzt, also in den vergangenen Wochen und Monaten an den Start gegangen sind, sowie Firmen, die zuletzt aus dem Stealth-Mode erwacht sind. Übrigens: Noch mehr neue Startups gibt es in unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar.
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Tipp: In unserem Newsletter Startup-Radar berichten wir einmal in der Woche über neue Startups. Alle Startups stellen wir in unserem kostenpflichtigen Newsletter kurz und knapp vor und bringen sie so auf den Radar der Startup-Szene. Jetzt unseren Newsletter Startup-Radar sofort abonnieren!
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Foto (oben): Shutterstock
The Gillmor Gang recording session is nestled on Friday midday on the East Coast and midmorning out West. Streamed live on Twitter, Facebook Live, and Youtube embed, the show is then edited, sweetened with titles and music, and released on Techcrunch. It’s a kind of hybrid between podcast, Zoom collaboration meeting, and work-from-anywhere encounter group. The Gang grew out of the early days of podcasting, now undergoing rescaffolding from social, drop-in, or just plain fast following from a variety of social networks. The latest entry, Live Audio Rooms from Facebook, is “soft-launching” with verified famous people and creators in good standing up first.
Facebook typically waits just long enough to decide what features to copy, and appears ready to aggregate the strategies of the rest of the market behind a Facebook infrastructure if not firewall. This may incorporate not just social audio features like tipping and raising hands to speak but also live video streaming and perhaps screen-sharing tools like ones announced at Apple’s WWDC for Facetime. Inevitably, the context returns to Clubhouse and its parallel tech media strategy.
Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) debuted their publishing site, and the media tried its best to push back without burning any bridges to the high-flying venture firm. Even more interesting than the future.com website was a Clubhouse Launch Party where we met authors and their editors for about two hours of chat. Marc Andreessen sat in at the beginning, and A16Z partner Margit Wennmachers provided context for the launch. The strategy: project trust and insight from a venture firm and go direct from technologists to the tech and investment audience. It’s an interesting time in the wake of the Trumpian alternative facts blight, where the cable media seems tied in knots by trying to salvage ratings gold with yet another crisis-to-crisis breaking news schtick.
After that gambit begins to tire, the pitch shifts to the undermining of Democracy by the Autocrats, which although real, is not exactly compelling ratings magic. With vaccinations reaching movie popcorn immunity levels, streaming television is shifting from all out binge releases to the much more familiar weekly cliffhanger model. Working from anywhere is being negotiated based on a hybrid of the best of watching your kids grow up while getting back to a collaborative office when you’ve seen enough of them or them of you.
On the Gang this time, Keith Teare suggests Netflix may be in a bit of a tough spot, as the easing pandemic puts pressure on new shows slowed down by production lockouts. It’s true: the quality seems to be slipping almost imperceptibly, but nothing is accelerating to put pressure on the Big 4 or 5 Flixes including Disney, Amazon Prime, and maybe Hulu. DiscoBros (Frank Radice’s catchy rebrand for Discovery/WarnerMedia) can be fun, Apple TV+ should buy in to boost production, and then we need to look to the Creator Economy to hurry up and save us.
Every few days there’s another social audio pivot/acquisition/update, the most interesting besides Facebook’s if you can call it that being Spotify Greenroom with its auto record and captioning features and inevitable integration with its Anchor podcasting tools. Tip jar resistance is almost a thing, in case you’re wondering. The only thing more enervating is speculation on whether Clubhouse is jumping the shark — I don’t think so. If the Future.com suggests more copying of The Information’s events model, there’s plenty of runway ahead. And social audio gold is anything about Clubhouse on Clubhouse.
For those of us who still remember tech news, the Apple announcements almost reach orbit with the mixture of M1 magic and iOS/MacOS/WatchOS/TVOS blurring. My favorite list is of features that don’t show up on Intel machines, all the cool ones. For the first time in years, we traded up to M1’s on both our Macbooks including a Pro and Air, and in the process enabled Blur mode on Zoom on both essentially for free. The hardware is starting to feel like a subscription service (HaaS) which as Salesforce’s trajectory suggests is likely a very big deal. (Disclosure: I work for Salesforce.) For creators, moving from hardware like Newtek’s Tricaster and BlackMagic’s ATEM Mini to software-based OBS and then NDI5 over the public network is not prime time, but getting there real soon now. Keith thinks so, Brent Leary says maybe. I say, if Apple bundles Apple TV and Apple TV+ with newsletter plugins from Twitter Revue and Substack subscriptions….
from the Gillmor Gang Newsletter
The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, June 11, 2021.
Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor
@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang