Indian fintech Slice launches $27 credit limit cards to tap 200 million users

Even as there are hundreds of millions of Indians who have bank accounts, only about 30 million of them have credit cards. The adoption rate of the plastic card has largely remained stagnant in the South Asian nation for the last few years.

The relatively young credit-rating system in India covers only a tiny fraction of the nation’s population. And banks neither have sophisticated underwriting systems nor the risk appetite to make any attempts to move the needle.

Slice, a Bangalore-based startup, believes it has found the solution. The startup, which has years of experience in issuing its cards to young professionals with no traditional jobs, said on Wednesday it’s launching a card with 2,000 Indian rupees ($27) as the default limit to tap the nation’s potential addressable market of 200 million individuals.

Rajan Bajaj, founder and chief executive of Slice, said the startup’s new credit limit card — considerably lower than industry’s lowest of about $270 — is aimed at those who don’t have a great credit score — or any score — and slowly help them build it.

The startup, which has been lately disbursing as many as 100,000 new super cards — its marquee offering — to users each month, is not charging any joining fee or annual fee with its new card and is offering the same benefits as its super card.

Bajaj said the startup is able to offer this card to users because it has spent years building its own credit underwriting system that supports this.

“In the last few years, we have actively invested in building a strong risk infrastructure by leveraging data science. Without robust risk management capabilities, it’s impossible to scale such a business and make such a truly inclusive product. But once the capability is built, no one can take the growth away from you. Currently, with a 50% m-o-m growth, our NPA is still less than 2%, a validation of our superior credit underwriting capabilities.”

Rajan said the startup arrived at the $27 figure because it believes this amount “still allows users to make meaningful transactions,” adding that by properly utilizing this limit and paying on time, users can instantly get approved for higher limits.

“We are confident this will encourage users to provide us with extra information that we need to increase their credit limit,” he told TechCrunch in an interview.

The startup, which raised $20 million in a financing round two months ago, is hoping to issue about 1 million of these new cards to users by the end of March next year.

It may raise more, soon. Investors are chasing the startup to finance a new round of about $100 million at a significantly higher valuation than that of its previous round. Rajan declined to comment on fundraise talks.

#asia, #credit-card, #credit-cards, #finance, #india, #payments, #slice

All the reasons why you should launch a credit or debit card

Over the previous two or three years we’ve seen an explosion of new debit and credit card products come to market from consumer and B2B fintech startups, as well as companies that we might not traditionally think of as players in the financial services industry.

On the consumer side, that means companies like Venmo or PayPal offering debit cards as a new way for users to spend funds in their accounts. In the B2B space, the availability of corporate card issuing by startups like Brex and Ramp has ushered in new expense and spend management options. And then there is the growth of branded credit and debit cards among brands and sports teams.

But if your company somehow hasn’t yet found its way to launch a debit or credit card, we have good news: It’s easier than ever to do so and there’s actual money to be made. Just know that if you do, you’ve got plenty of competition and that actual customer usage will probably depend on how sticky your service is and how valuable the rewards are that you offer to your most active users.

To learn more about launching a card product, TechCrunch spoke with executives from Marqeta, Expensify, Synctera and Cardless about the pros and cons of launching a card product. So without further ado, here are all the reasons you should think about doing so, and one big reason why you might not want to.

Because it’s (relatively) easy

Probably the biggest reason we’ve seen so many new fintech and non-fintech companies rush to offer debit and credit cards to customers is simply that it’s easier than ever for them to do so. The launch and success of businesses like Marqeta has made card issuance by API developer friendly, which lowered the barrier to entry significantly over the last half-decade.

“The reason why this is happening is because the ‘fintech 1.0 infrastructure’ has succeeded,” Salman Syed, Marqeta’s SVP and GM of North America, said. “When you’ve got companies like [ours] out there, it’s just gotten a lot easier to be able to put a card product out.”

While noting that there have been good options for card issuance and payment processing for at least the last five or six years, Expensify Chief Operating Officer Anu Muralidharan said that a proliferation of technical resources for other pieces of fintech infrastructure has made the process of greenlighting a card offering much easier over the years.

#banking, #business-intelligence, #cardless, #credit-card, #debit-cards, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #expensify, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #fintech-infrastructure, #fintech-startup, #marqeta, #mastercard, #mobile-payments, #online-payments, #payment-processing, #payment-processor, #payments, #startups, #synctera, #tc

What does Brazil’s new receivables regulation mean for fintechs?

Something strange is afoot in Brazil, and it promises great changes for how merchants get paid.

This the story of one regulator, the Brazilian Central Bank, and how it has taken center stage in creating a framework that will have far-reaching effects across merchants and fintechs in this fast-growing Latin American nation.

But first, some background: Unlike in the rest of the world, when a credit card is used for payment in Brazil, the merchant does not receive the funds owed to them all at once. Instead, nearly 50% of card sales are completed in monthly installments, leaving the sellers to manage a difficult cash flow process.

The most common solution for merchants is that they end up selling the remaining receivable at a discount — taking less than they are owed — in order to get their money sooner. And we’re not talking about a small-volume market: Some R$2 trillion (Brazilian Reais) in card transactions were processed in 2020.

This compelling new regulatory framework brings new opportunities for many players willing to participate in receivables discounting operations.

Here’s what this looks like in practice: Let’s say Maria purchases a few articles of clothing from retailer Clothing Incorporated. When paying via her credit card at checkout, Maria can choose to pay in two to 12 installments. Maria decides to pay the balance of R$620 over six installments.

While Maria is happy with the products in hand, Clothing Incorporated is without the full payment — and for small merchants in particular, the difficulties associated with limited working capital can be acute. Clothing Incorporated can either wait the full six months to be paid, receiving payments from their merchant acquirer each month until they are paid in full, or they can choose to dramatically discount the amount they are owed and not have to wait the six months.

Let’s say Clothing Incorporated merchant acquirer is ExMarko — instead of receiving R$620 over six months (net of any merchant discount rates), they could receive R$520 within days after the purchase, with ExMarko pocketing the rest when it comes in. This comes at a steep cost of doing business to the merchant, with an implied annualized interest rate that sometimes can reach  ~70% — for a risk-free operation, since the acquirer is only liquidating earlier its own obligation to pay the merchant.

#brazil, #column, #credit-card, #ec-brazil, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #ecommerce, #finance, #latin-america, #merchant-services, #payments, #quona-capital, #startups

Venmo to allow credit cardholders to automatically buy cryptocurrency with their cash back

PayPal-owned Venmo is expanding its support for cryptocurrency with today’s launch of a new feature that will allow users to automatically buy cryptocurrency using the cash back they earned from their Venmo credit card purchases. Unlike when buying cryptocurrency directly, these automated purchases will have no transaction fees associated with them — a feature Venmo says is not a promotion, but how the system will work long term. Instead, a cryptocurrency conversion spread is built into each monthly transaction.

Cardholders will be able to purchase Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash through the new “Cash Back to Crypto” option, rolling out now to the Venmo app.

Venmo had first introduced the ability for customers to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency in April of this year, as part of a larger investment in cryptocurrency led by parent company, PayPal. In partnership with Paxos Trust Company, a regulated provider of cryptocurrency products and services, Venmo’s over 70 million users are now able to access cryptocurrency from within the Venmo app. 

The cash back feature, meanwhile, could help drive sign-ups for the Venmo Credit Card, by interlinking it with the cryptocurrency functionality. Currently, Venmo cardholders can earn monthly cash back across eight different spending categories, with up to 3% back on their top eligible spending category, then 2% and 1% back on the second highest and all other purchases, respectively. The top two categories are adjusted monthly, based on where consumers are spending the most.

To enable Cash Back to Crypto, Venmo customers will navigate to the Venmo Credit Card home screen in the app, select the Rewards tab, then “Get Started.” From here, they’ll agree to the terms, select the crypto of their choice, and confirm their selection. Once enabled, when the cash back funds hit the customer’s Venmo balance, the money is immediately used to make a crypto purchase — no interaction on the user’s part is required.

The feature will not include any transaction fees, as a cryptocurrency conversion spread is built into each monthly transaction. This is similar to how PayPal is handling Checkout with Crypto, which allows online shoppers to make purchases using their cryptocurrency. The cryptocurrency is converted to fiat, but there are not transaction fees.

The feature can also be turned on or off at any time, Venmo notes.

The company views Cash Back to Crypto as a way for newcomers to cryptocurrency to enter the market, without having to worry about the process of making crypto purchases. It’s more of a set-it-and-forget-it type of feature. However, unless users make regular and frequent transactions with their Venmo Credit Card, these cash back-enabled crypto purchases will likely be fairly small.

The company has yet to offer details on how many Venmo credit cardholders are active in the market. So far, PayPal CEO Dan Schulman has only said, during Q1 earnings, that the card “is outpacing our expectations for both new accounts and transactions.” This past quarter, the exec noted that the company was also seeing “strong adoption and trading of crypto on Venmo.”

“The introduction of the Cash Back to Crypto feature for the Venmo Credit Card offers customers a new way to start exploring the world of crypto, using their cash back earned each month to automatically and seamlessly purchase one of four cryptocurrencies on Venmo,” noted Darrell Esch, SVP and GM at Venmo, in a statement. “We’re excited to bring this new level of feature interconnectivity on the Venmo platform, linking our Venmo Credit Card and crypto experiences to provide another way for our customers to spend and manage their money with Venmo,” he added.

The new option will begin rolling out starting today to Venmo Credit Cardholders.

#apps, #bitcoin, #credit-card, #crypto, #cryptocurrencies, #cryptocurrency, #digital-currency, #finance, #mobile-payments, #money, #paypal, #venmo

Square to buy ‘buy now, pay later’ giant Afterpay in $29B deal

In a blockbuster deal that rocks the fintech world, Square announced today that it is acquiring Australian buy now, pay later giant Afterpay in a $29 billion all-stock deal.

The purchase price is based on the closing price of Square common stock on July 30, which was $247.26. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2022, contingent upon certain closing conditions. It values Afterpay at more than 30% premium to its latest closing price of A$96.66.

Square co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said in a statement that the two fintech behemoths “have a shared purpose.”

“We built our business to make the financial system more fair, accessible, and inclusive, and Afterpay has built a trusted brand aligned with those principles,” he said in the statement. “Together, we can better connect our Cash App and Seller ecosystems to deliver even more compelling products and services for merchants and consumers, putting the power back in their hands.”

The combination of the two companies would create a payments giant unlike any other. Over the past 18 months, the buy now, pay later space has essentially exploded, appealing especially to younger generations drawn to the idea of not using credit cards or paying interest and instead opting for the installment loans, which have become ubiquitous online and in retail stores.

As of June 30, Afterpay served more than 16 million consumers and nearly 100,000 merchants globally, including major retailers across industries such as fashion, homewares, beauty and sporting goods, among others.

The addition of Afterpay, the companies’ statement said, will “accelerate Square’s strategic priorities” for its Seller and Cash App ecosystems. Square plans to integrate Afterpay into its existing Seller and Cash App business units, so that even “the smallest of merchants” can offer buy now, pay later at checkout. The integration will also give Afterpay consumers the ability to manage their installment payments directly in Cash App. Cash App customers will be able to find merchants and buy now, pay later (BNPL) offers directly within the app.

Afterpay’s co-founders and co-CEOs Anthony Eisen and Nick Molnar will join Square upon closure of the deal and help lead Afterpay’s respective merchant and consumer businesses. Square said it will appoint one Afterpay director to its board.

Shareholders of Afterpay will get 0.375 shares of Square Class A stock for every share they own. This implies a price of about A$126.21 per share based on Square’s Friday close, according to the companies.

Will there be more consolidation in the space? That remains to be seen, and Twitter is all certainly abuzz about what deals could be next. Here in the U.S., rival Affirm went public earlier this year. On July 30, shares closed at $56.32, significantly lower than its opening price and 52-week-high of $146.90. Meanwhile, European competitor Klarna — which is growing rapidly in the U.S. — in June raised another $639 million at a staggering post-money valuation of $45.6 billion.

No doubt the BNPL fight for the U.S. consumer is only heating up with this deal.

#afterpay, #apps, #buy-now, #cash-app, #credit-card, #director, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #jack-dorsey, #klarna, #online-payments, #online-shopping, #pay-later, #payments, #square, #tc, #twitter, #united-states, #up

Payments company Paystone raises $23.8M to help service-based businesses engage with customers

Paystone, a payments and integrated software company, secured another strategic investment this year, this time $23.8 million ($30 million CAD) from Crédit Mutuel Equity, the private equity arm of Crédit Mutuel Alliance Fédérale.

The Canada-based company got its start in 2008 as the payment processing company Zomaron, and rebranded itself as Paystone in 2019. Today it provides electronic payments and customer engagement technology to businesses, particularly those that provide services, CEO Tarique Al-Ansari told TechCrunch.

“Paystone is on a mission to help businesses grow, and we were enthralled by their commitment to that mission and their focus on service-oriented verticals,” said Léa Perge, investor at Crédit Mutuel Equity in Canada, via email.

While most of the company’s peers focus on product companies, Al-Ansari saw how underserved the service side was: their needs are different, and unlike retail, aren’t looking to sell online. Rather, they need an online presence and digital marketing to engage with customers, but their focus is being findable and having content that tells people why they should do business with them.

Paystone provides the marketing through content, help with reviews and with loyalty and rewards programs. However, rather than reward for spending, Paystone rewards for behavior. Refer a friend, get a reward. Write a review, get a reward. Al-Ansari calls it “payments as a benefit.” Referrals and reviews are how businesses become more findable, and the more content that’s out there, the more it helps people consider the business trustworthy, he added.

The new funding gives Canada-based Paystone total funds raised in 2021 of $78.8 million in a mix of debt and equity. It raised $54.9 million in January, funds that were barely touched as of yet, Al-Ansari said.

Though he wasn’t actively seeking new funds, Al-Ansari had been speaking with Crédit Mutuel Equity, which used to be CIC Capital Canada, prior to the pandemic, and their deal was put on hold.

Crédit Mutuel Equity came back with similar interest, and taking into account the kind of talent Paystone wanted to go after and its acquisition strategy — the company has already acquired five companies — Al-Ansari decided to take the additional funds. He said it gives the company options to hire more and double down on building the company, as well as enough capital to look for more acquisitions.

This year, Paystone entered the U.S. market for the first time and will do a proper launch later this year. The company has over 30,000 merchant locations on its platform throughout North America, and Al-Ansari expects that to grow by 5,000 this year. The company has 150 employees currently, and another 50 are expected to come on board by the end of the year.

In addition, Al-Ansari expects growth to accelerate for the rest of the year. The company processes around $6 billion in credit card payments and is on track to bring in $55.7 million in revenue this year. It is cash flow positive, residuals from the company’s origins of being bootstrapped, he said.

“We want to become the go-to destination for service businesses to set up a digital presence to accept payments and provide loyalty and rewards,” Al-Ansari said. “We will do this by solidifying our market position and growing our platform with the tools that customers want.”

 

#canada, #credit-card, #credit-mutuel-alliance-federale, #credit-mutuel-equity, #enterprise, #finance, #funding, #lea-perge, #loyalty-program, #payment-processing, #payments, #paystone, #recent-funding, #startups, #tarique-al-ansari, #tc, #venture-capital

Cardless raises $40M to help more brands launch custom credit cards

Many consumers use their credit cards to rack up rewards to be used toward travel. 

But what if you’re a sports fan, and using your credit card could lead to a virtual conversation with a player on your favorite team? Thanks to San Francisco-based Cardless, that opportunity may be less of a stretch than you think.

The startup, which is out to give brands and tech companies a way to launch custom co-branded credit cards, has raised $40 million in a Series B funding round led by Activant Capital. Other investors include the owners and management of the Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics and existing backers such as Accomplice and Pear VC. The financing brings the two-year-old company’s total raised since its 2019 inception to $50 million. Accomplice and Greycroft co-led its $7 million Series A last June.

Put simply, Cardless aims to help consumer brands launch credit cards “very quickly and easily” by handling the program creation, card underwriting, lending, issuance and customer service for brands. This quarter, the startup launched three digital programs — with the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, British soccer team Manchester United and the Miami Marlins, a Major League Baseball team based in Florida.

The company is out to modernize the whole concept of co-branded credit card programs. Of the 200 that exist in the U.S. today, only one is from a company that is less than two decades old, according to Cardless’ co-founder and president Michael Spelfogel.

“There are close to 200 brands with traditional cards but they are often old legacy businesses such as Costco and Sam’s,” he told TechCrunch. “We want to connect folks with brands they love most, and elevate fans’ relationships with those brands.”

Cardless’ customized rewards programs are catered to very specific demographics “that actually truly appreciate the value that that brand is providing,” Spelfogel added. 

“Our first programs helped fans get things like players’ autographs and experiences that money can’t buy,” he said.  The company plans to announce “several” more programs this year and says that it’s able to do so “in a matter of weeks” compared to traditional issuers, which can take months or more than a year to issue similar programs.

Those reward programs include digital apps and numberless, virtual cards.

Image Credits: Cardless; left to right: Michael Spelfogel, co-founder and president; Scott Kazmierowicz, co-founder and CEO.

Cardless is attempting to shake up a massive market. Consumer credit cards yielded an estimated $150 billion in revenue for traditional banks in 2019, but startups only captured a small fraction of the value. Cardless aims to help brands and tech companies snag a larger piece of the huge market by working with a bank issuer to provide simple card issuance and bespoke digital credit programs for customers of those brands. 

“This funding round is the result, not the start, of the long-awaited transition to digital-focused card issuing,” said Scott Kazmierowicz, Cardless CEO, in a written statement.

Cardless is not restricted to working with sports brands.

“We’re committed to supporting the super users of today’s influential brands across a variety of verticals,” said Spelfogel.  “Cardless puts the customer first by eliminating fees and providing responsible products with transparent rates.”

Andrew Steele of Activant was impressed with Cardless’ ability to power and execute “unique” credit card programs “for prestigious and innovative brands” just two years after launch.

“Most brands have been restricted from launching innovative credit card programs due to the limitations of incumbent providers,” he added. “It became clear that Cardless can transform and expand one of the largest markets in digital payments, and that we’re only in the early innings of what’s possible.”

#activant-capital, #apps, #cardless, #credit-card, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #loyalty-program, #manchester-united, #payments, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #startup, #startups, #united-states, #venture-capital

Homebrew leads Z1’s effort to bring digital banking to Latin America’s teens

Z1, a Sao Paulo-based digital bank aimed at Latin American GenZers, has raised $2.5 million in a round led by U.S.-based Homebrew.

A number of other investors also participated in the financing including Clocktower Ventures, Mantis – the VC firm owned by The Chainsmokers, Goodwater, Gaingels, Soma Capital and Rebel Fund. Notably, Mantis has also backed Step, a teen-focused fintech based in the U.S., and Goodwater has also invested in Greenlight, which too has a similar offering as Z1.

Z1 participated in Y Combinator’s Winter ‘21 batch earlier this year, and at the time got $125,000 in funding from the accelerator. Maya Capital led its $700,000 seed round in March of 2020.

Put simply, Z1 is a digital bank app built for teenagers and young adults. The company was founded on the notion that by using its app and linked prepaid card, Brazilian and Latin American teenagers can become more financially independent.

João Pedro Thompson and Thiago Achatz started the company in late 2019 and soon after,  Mateus Craveiro and Sophie Secaf joined as co-founders. In its early days, Z1 is focused on Brazil but the startup has plans to expand into other countries in Latin America over time.

“Z1 is what we’re building to be the go to bank of the next generation, and not just be a digital bank for teens,” Achatz told TechCrunch. “We want to grow with him and one day, be the biggest bank in Brazil and LatAm.” 

Thompson agrees. 

“We’re acquiring users really early and creating brand loyalty with the intention of being their bank for life,” he said. “We will still meet their needs as they grow into adulthood.”

Image Credits: Z1

While Z1’s offering is not completely unlike that of Greenlight here in the U.S. the founders agree that its products have been adapted more to the Brazil-specific cultural and market situation.

For example, points out Thompson, most teenagers in Brazil use cash because they don’t have access to other financial services, whether they be traditional or digital.

“We offer an account where they can deposit money, cash out money via an instant payment system in Brazil or spend through a prepaid credit card,” he said. “Most sites don’t accept debit cards so this is a big step compared to what teens already have.”

Part of the company’s use for the capital is to make its product more robust so they can do things like save money for big purchases such as an iPhone and earn interest on their accounts.

Another big difference between Brazil and the U.S., the company believes, is that many parents in general in Latin America haven’t had a true financial education that they can pass down to their kids.

“We’re not top down like Greenlight,” Achatz said. “That approach doesn’t make sense in Latin America. Here, many are independent from an early age and already work whether it’s through a microbusiness, a side job or selling things on Instagram. They’re much more self-taught and the income they earn is often outside of their parents.”

Z1 has grown 30% per week and 200% per month since launch, spending “very little” on marketing and relying mostly on word-of-mouth. For example, the company is following the lead of its U.S. counterparts and turning to TikTok to spread the word about its offering. 

“Step has around 200,000 followers on TikTok, and we have a little under half of that,” the company says. “We’re well-positioned in terms of branding.”

For lead investor Homebrew, the opportunity to educate and provide financial services to Gen Z in Latin America is even more exciting than the opportunity in the US., notes partner Satya Patel.

Over one third of LatAm Gen Z’ers have a “side hustle,” generating their own income independent from their parents, he said.

“While millennials grew up during an economic boom, Gen Z grew up during recessions – 3 in Brazil over the last decade – and wants to become financially independent as soon as possible. They’re becoming economically educated and active much earlier than previous generations,” Patel added.

He also believes the desire to transact online, for gaming and entertainment in particular, creates a groundswell of GenZ demand in Brazil for credit card and digital payments products.

#apps, #bank, #brazil, #clocktower-ventures, #computing, #credit-card, #digital-bank, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greenlight, #homebrew, #iphone, #latin-america, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #satya-patel, #software, #soma-capital, #startups, #tc, #tiktok, #united-states, #venture-capital, #y-combinator, #z1

After selling Bread last year for over $500M, this founder just raised millions for his new fintech startup

When Daniel Simon sold Bread, a consumer purchase finance and payments startup he’d co-founded, to Alliance Data Systems for over $500 million late last year, he quickly set his sights on building another startup.

During the pandemic, Simon says he observed how much strain was placed on what he described as ‘real-world’ businesses and their employees — such as truck drivers, plumbers, HVAC installers and last-mile delivery people — “and how little the last decade of innovation in fintech has done to meet the needs of the vast and vital fleets segment.”

So he teamed up with former Bread COO (and former Lyft exec) Andrew Woolf to found Coast, a company that is aiming to meet those needs with the mission of becoming “the financial platform for the future of transportation.”

And today, the New York-based company is announcing it has raised $6 million in an “oversubscribed” seed round of funding led by Better Tomorrow Ventures. Avid Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, BoxGroup, Colle, Foundation Capital, Greycroft, and Max Levchin’s SciFi VC — as well as more than a dozen angels including founders of Plaid, Flexport, Marqeta, Bread, Albert, Addi, Lithic, and other fintech and logistics startups — also put money in the round.

Coast co-founders Daniel Simon and Andrew Woolf

Businesses that operate fleets need to enable their drivers to pay for vehicle-related expenses when they’re on the road, such as maintenance, roadside assistance and gas.

But once a fleet reaches a size of more than just a few vehicles, traditional small business credit cards are no longer sufficient because they lack the line-item level security, visibility, and controls necessary with a mobile workforce, according to Simon. 

“Fleet owners need transactions to be authorized, for instance, for buying gas for the company van, not the personal car, and for filling up at the pump, not making other purchases in the gas station convenience store,” he said.

Historically, fleets have turned to specialized fleet and fuel credit cards which provide controls like restricting purchases to only fuel products of a particular grade or tracking expenses on a per-vehicle basis. But Simon argues that the companies that sell such cards were founded decades ago with very little innovation since.

Coast’s goal is to use technology to provide fleet business owners and their employees payments products that are intuitive and easy to use.

“They need their employee and vehicle payments integrated into the rest of their operations, and they need fair and transparent financial products that are simple to understand,” Simon said. Bottom line, he wants to bring the “same sort of ease of use and transparency that Bread brought to e-commerce consumers and retailers to a category of business and employee that is often overlooked in tech.”

Coast’s first product, which is set to launch later this year, is a commercial fuel charge card. Drivers will be able use a physical Coast card they keep in their wallet or a shared Coast card in the vehicle, and when they swipe it at a pump at any merchant that takes Visa, Simon says Coast will conduct a “rapid review of a complex set of rules to enforce the fleet business’s policies and flag potentially fraudulent transactions.”

“No need for entering data prompted by the pump – the driver fills up and is on their way,” he said.

Fleet owners and managers can use Coast’s web portal to assign drivers and vehicles, set policies and rules about who can purchase what, how much, how often, and when. They can also get reporting and alerts on their expense policies and potential abuse. At the end of the month, they will be able pay their Coast balance in full.

Down the line, the company plans to add integrations into major accounting platforms as well as into telematics platforms that provide real-time data on vehicle status and location “so it can provide actionable spending insights back to fleet managers.” Over time, Coast also plans to expand into more categories of fleet businesses’ spending as it seeks to become more of a holistic platform for the industry.

Sheel Mohnot of Better Tomorrow Ventures, who took a seat on Coast’s board as part of the financing, says his firm was impressed by both the size of the opportunity and the team at Coast that’s tackling it. 

“The space is one of those massive unsexy categories with huge incumbents that most people have never heard of but customers — who are forced to use them — universally despise. It’s the perfect recipe for a startup to come in and disrupt it with a much better experience,” Mohnot told TechCrunch via e-mail. “Similar to what Ramp or Brex do for startups, Coast does for fleet operators – it helps them control their spending so they can focus on growing their business.”

#articles, #avid-ventures, #bessemer-venture-partners, #better-tomorrow-ventures, #boxgroup, #bread, #coast, #credit-card, #daniel-simon, #driver, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech, #foundation-capital, #funding, #fundings-exits, #lithic, #lyft, #marqeta, #money, #new-york, #payments, #plaid, #recent-funding, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #web-portal

A bank for the creator economy, Karat Financial raises $26M in Series A funding

The creator economy is changing the way that people earn a living, whether you’re an Instagram influencer or a freelance graphic designer. But traditional banks haven’t caught up.

Take Alexandra Botez for example. The Stanford graduate earns six figures playing chess on Twitch, where she has 877,000 followers. But when she tried to apply for a business credit card, she was rejected twice. Meanwhile, when the creator behind TierZoo, a YouTube channel with 2.7 million subscribers, tried to rent an apartment, he was rejected because his landlord didn’t see his business as legitimate.

Eric Wei noticed this disconnect while he was a Product Manager at Instagram, where he helped build Instagram Live. With co-founder Will Kim, a previous investor with seed fund Lucky Capital, Wei launched Karat Financial, a better banking system for digital creators. Today, Karat Financial announced a $26 million Series A round led by Union Square Ventures with participation from GGV Capital and SignalFire.

“Banks need to understand you in order to trust you, and it’s only when they trust you that they’re willing to give you credit, process your payments, and hold your money,” Wei told TechCrunch. “If Alexandra Botez has 800,000 followers, and let’s say a tenth of them are paying a monthly subscription fee on Twitch, you can actually back into what these creators’ income streams are, and develop a better underwriting model than what the banks have today.”

But Karat isn’t solving a problem exclusive to the 1% of digital creators. Even for someone like a self-employed small business owner or a gig worker, it can be challenging to find a landlord that will rent an apartment without a proof of employment letter and regular paystubs. But the creator economy remains a fast-growing sector — more than two million creators make over $100,000 per year, and according to VC firm SignalFire, over 46.7 million people have enough of a following to monetize their content part-time.

“This whole industry exploded,” said Kim. “If it’s a flash in the pan, it’s a fifteen-year-old flash.”

Wei and Kim founded Karat in 2019, then earned a spot in Y Combinator’s Winter 2020 accelerator. By June 2020, Karat launched its first product, the Karat Black Card, a credit card for creators, and earned $4.6 million in seed funding from investors like Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin.

Image Credits: Karat

“Our vetting process is we try to evaluate creators as the businesses they are,” Wei said. The Karat Black Card doesn’t charge interest or fees, and only turns a marginal profit off of bank interchange fees. Karat will also advance credit for sponsorship payments at no cost to the creator. So if you’re an influencer and get paid $1,000 to make a video sponsored by a clothing company, it could take months to get paid. Karat will give you that $1,000 now, so long as you pay them back once the clothing company pays you.

Karat proved its concept with 50% growth from month to month and eight figures in transactions since launch last year. More than 30 creators have invested in Karat, including Jared Leto, 3LAU, Nas Daily, and Josh Richards — that’s all without any spending on influencer marketing.

“It turns out that when you do a good job for creators, they share you around with other people,” Wei said.

Since then, their portfolio of investors has grown to include YouTube co-founder Steven Chen, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Former TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer, and Former Wealthfront CEO Adam Nash, among others.

But Karat’s ultimate ambition isn’t to give creators a line of credit. They started out with the credit card to prove their concept, but in the long term, they hope to create a financial infrastructure for creators. That means helping them launch merchandise lines, incorporate their business, get a mortgage, take out business loans, and file their taxes. Wei says that would come after the company’s Series B, opening a more lucrative income stream than collecting bank interchange fees.

“We decided to roll Karat out with the same tried and true fintech playbook,” Wei said. “Start out with something simple before wedging and scaling into those other products. So for us, the card is just a means to an end. Our whole model is, we use the cards to develop our underwriting model and gain trust from creators, and eventually, we can build to be Square for creators.”

Already, Wei and Kim are getting texts from their internet celebrity clients, asking them to be their de-facto financial advisors.

“We’re just like, oh my gosh, we love you, but we’re not building those products yet,” Wei said. “We’ll do that when we hit our Series B, and yes, we’ll charge you fees, because we’re going to provide you with better service than what’s out there now.”

With the newly announced Series A round, Karat plans to double its staff with new hires and begin looking toward new product development.

#adam-nash, #articles, #banking, #ceo, #co-founder, #credit-card, #financial-infrastructure, #flash, #funding, #gig-worker, #jared-leto, #karat, #kevin-lin, #kevin-mayer, #merchant-services, #signalfire, #stanford, #steven-chen, #tiktok, #twitch, #union-square-ventures, #wealthfront, #y-combinator, #you, #youtube

The Nubank EC-1

Brazil is a country riven with economic contradictions. It has one of the largest and most profitable banking industries in Latin America, and is among the world’s most developed financial markets. Financial transactions that would take days to process in the United States through ACH happen instantaneously in Brazil. This sophistication, however, masks a backward state of affairs plagued by appalling customer service, exorbitant fees and lack of banking access for many.

The country’s financial system is volatile and often leaves its citizens with few or no alternatives. According to an HBS case study, “in December 2018 the interest rate in Brazil for corporate loans was 52.3%, for consumer loans it was 120.0% and for credit card indebtedness it was 272.42%.” Those rates are many multiples higher compared to figures in neighboring countries.

Brazil’s banking system is a massive market, and one ill-served by incumbents. If someone could thread the needle of product development, strategy and political horse trading required to build a bank in a country where it is nearly impossible for foreigners to own or invest in a bank, it would be one of the great startup and economic success stories of this century.

Nubank is on its way to realizing that objective. Its story is one of unmitigated success, even by the standards of our EC-1 series on high-flying companies and their hard-learned lessons. Just last week, this Brazilian credit card and banking fintech raised a $750 million round led by Berkshire Hathaway at a $30 billion valuation, becoming one of the most valuable startups in the world. It has 40 million users across Brazil, as well as Mexico and Colombia.

Yet, it’s a startup with a CEO and co-founder who isn’t Brazilian, didn’t speak the local language of Portuguese, hadn’t started a company before, and didn’t really know a lot about banking to begin with. This is a story of how raw execution, a “faster, faster” mentality and a fanaticism for making customer experience as enjoyable as a trip to Disney World can completely change the history of an industry — and country — forever.

Our lead writer for this EC-1 is Marcella McCarthy. McCarthy, who spent significant time in Brazil growing up and is trilingual in English, Spanish and Portuguese, has been covering the LatAm and Miami ecosystems for TechCrunch with an eye to the disruption underway in these interconnected regions. The lead editor for this package was Danny Crichton, the assistant editor was Ram Iyer, the copy editor was Richard Dal Porto, and illustrations were drawn by Nigel Sussman.

Nubank had no say in the content of this analysis and did not get advance access to it. McCarthy has no financial ties to Nubank or other conflicts of interest to disclose.

The Nubank EC-1 comprises four main articles numbering 9,200 words and a reading time of 37 minutes. Here’s what’s in the bank:

We’re always iterating on the EC-1 format. If you have questions, comments or ideas, please send an email to TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton at danny@techcrunch.com.

#banking, #brazil, #credit-card, #david-velez, #ec-brazil, #ec-fintech, #ec-latin-america-and-caribbean, #ec-1, #finance, #latin-america, #nubank, #nubank-ec-1, #startups

How contrarian hires and a pitch deck started Nubank’s $30 billion fintech empire

For most startups, the hardest early challenge is identifying a market and a product to serve it. That wasn’t the case for Nubank CEO David Velez, who understood the massive potential for success if he could break into Latin America’s most valuable economy with even a moderately modern banking offering.

Instead, the challenge was how to rebuild the concept of a bank in a country where banking is widely hated, all while the incumbents heavily entrenched with the state worked to block every move.

Nubank knew its market and geography, and through tenacious fundraising, inventive marketing and product development, and a series of contrarian hires, Velez and his team stripped bare the morass of Brazilian banking to build one of the world’s great fintech companies.

The challenge was how to rebuild the concept of a bank in a country where banking is widely hated, all while the incumbents heavily entrenched with the state worked to block every move.

In the first part of this EC-1, I’ll look at how Velez brought his skills and experience to bear on this market, how Nubank was founded in 2013, and how the team brought a Californian rather than Brazilian vibe to their first office on — no joke — California Street, in a neighborhood called Brooklin in the city of São Paulo.

The makings of an entrepreneur

The idea of being his own boss was ingrained in Velez from his earliest days in Colombia, where he grew up in an entrepreneurial family, with a father who owned a button factory. “I heard from my dad over and over again that you need to start your own company,” Velez said.

But years would pass and Velez still had no idea what he wanted to do. To “kill time,” and also to surround himself with entrepreneurial energy, Velez attended Stanford University — partially financed by the sale of some livestock — and then worked as an analyst at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley before switching to venture capital at General Atlantic and Sequoia.

#banking, #brazil, #credit-card, #david-velez, #ec-brazil, #ec-fintech, #ec-latin-america-and-caribbean, #ec-1, #finance, #fintech, #nubank, #nubank-ec-1, #online-bank, #online-banking, #startups, #tc

One woman’s drive to make a neobank as magical as Disney

As we mentioned in part 1 of this EC-1, David Velez had two key co-founding roles he needed to fill to get started building Nubank. For one, he needed a CTO to lead the engineering side of the business, as Velez didn’t have an engineering background.

Edward Wible, an American computer science graduate who spent most of his career in private equity, would take that responsibility. He didn’t bring years of coding experience, but he had qualities that Velez considered more important: A strong belief in the potential of the product and an equally intense commitment to working on it.

Given the occasionally hostile reaction of most incumbent banks to their customers in Brazil, Nubank’s starkly contrasting openness and transparency has garnered a huge following.

That left an even more important role to fill — one that was much harder to define. This other co-founder would need to blend knowledge of the Brazilian market and local savvy with expertise in banking, all while embodying a Silicon Valley ethos of focusing on customers. This person would also have to work in São Paulo for minimal wages out of a small office with just one bathroom, all in the belief that their equity (both stock and sweat) would one day be worth it.

Velez would eventually stumble upon Cristina Junqueira, who was qualified to do all this, and much, much more.

“Once someone said I was the glue of the operation, and that someone else was the brains. And I said, ‘No, I’m the glue and the brains, and I bet my brain is even better than his,”’ Junqueira said.

Junqueira didn’t just lead Nubank’s drive into the Brazilian market, she also upended age-old notions of what it means to be a 21st-century bank. Her inspiration was nothing short of Disney, and her mission was to create a bank as popular as the magical kingdom itself.

A bank. As popular as Disney. Sounds like a fairy tale, frankly.

Raised to be a doer

Unlike her co-founders Velez and Wible, Junqueira grew up in Nubank’s home market of Brazil. The eldest of four sisters, she remembers her parents — both dentists — always assiduously working to maintain their practice.

Their work ethic trickled down, but so did responsibility. As the oldest at home, she was forced to grow up quickly and take on responsibilities from an early age. “I remember being 11 years old and doing grocery shopping for the month,” she said. “I did everything very young.”

#brazil, #credit-card, #cristina-junquiera, #david-velez, #ec-brazil, #ec-fintech, #ec-latin-america-and-caribbean, #ec-1, #finance, #fintech, #nubank, #nubank-ec-1, #online-banking, #startups, #tc

How Nubank’s CX strategy made it one of the most loved digital banks

As we saw in parts 1 and 2 of this EC-1, by mid-2013, Nubank CEO David Velez had most of what he needed to get started. He’d brought on two co-founders, assembled ambitious engineering and operations teams, raised $2 million in seed funding from Sequoia and Kaszek, rented a tiny office in São Paulo, and was armed with a mission to deliver the kind of banking services that customers in a market as large and lucrative as Brazil’s should expect.

Despite being named Nubank, however, the startup couldn’t actually be a bank: Brazil’s laws made it illegal at the time for a foreigner-run company to operate a bank. That restriction required the team to develop an inventive product strategy to find a foothold in the market while they waited for a license directly from the country’s president.

Nubank was so adamant about differentiating itself from other banks that it chose Barney purple for its brand color and first credit card.

Nubank therefore pursued a credit card as its first offering, but it had to race against a clock counting quickly down to zero. At the time, Brazil didn’t have ownership restrictions on this product segment like it did with banking, but new rules were coming into force in just a few months in May 2014 that would block a company like Nubank from launching.

The company needed to execute rapidly over the next eight months if it wanted to be grandfathered into the existing regulations. The speed of operations was frantic to say the least, and the company would go on to work even faster, ultimately propelling itself into the stratosphere of fintech startups.

Full faith in credit

It’s easy to assume that the name Nubank refers to “new bank,” but that’s not really what the founders were going for. The word “nu” in Portuguese means “naked,” and Velez and his team wanted the name to reflect their vision: To build a 21st-Century bank without any of the shackles imposed by the traditional banks in Brazil.

The team wanted to offer services to as many people as possible, as there is a huge wealth gap in Brazil, where the minimum wage is around $200 a month.

Launching with just a credit card was both a strategic and practical business decision. Credit cards were widely used in the country, and everyone understood how they worked. Additionally, you could only use credit cards to shop online in Brazil, because debit cards weren’t accepted.

#brazil, #credit-card, #david-velez, #ec-brazil, #ec-fintech, #ec-latin-america-and-caribbean, #ec-1, #finance, #fintech, #nubank, #nubank-ec-1, #online-banking, #startups, #tc

Which Nubank will own the financial revolution?

Nubank’s first office, on California Street in the Brooklin neighborhood of São Paulo, makes for a great beginning to the company’s story. It wasn’t a Silicon Valley garage, but this tiny, one-bathroom rented house, where 30 people worked insane hours to push out the company’s debut credit card, lends just as well to an image of entrepreneurial spirit and drive.

As Nubank continues to make international waves, more and more VC investors are taking a look at the Brazilian ecosystem and could potentially fund other upstarts in the years to come.

But as Nubank’s story continued, the team eventually had to move out of that early office, and the next several offices, too. Eventually Nubank had to relocate to an eight-story building in São Paulo, which houses a large part of the company’s now 3,000-person team.

The startup reached decacorn status in far less than a decade, and it is growing faster than ever. When I interviewed CEO David Velez back in January to discuss Nubank’s $400 million Series G, he said, “We’ve gone from 12 million customers in 2019 to 34 million solely based on word of mouth.” By September last year, the company was onboarding 41,000 new customers per day.

In the five months since our interview, Nubank has managed to rope in a whopping 6 million customers to reach 40 million. It’s now valued at $30 billion.

Nubank’s present day headquarters in São Paulo, Brazil. Image Credits: NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP / Getty Images

Getting there hasn’t been easy. The company’s three co-founders, Velez, Edward Wible and Cristina Junqueira, had to make key strategic decisions about how to scale themselves to retain the company’s lead in the neobanking market. That lead is getting tougher to sustain every day. Nubank’s proliferating offerings and broader geographical remit has painted a massive target on its back, and a wide number of competitors have cropped up to run on the paths it pioneered.

Like most Disney films, a fairy-tale ending seems in order, but it’ll take a few more rotations of the film wheel to get to the ending.

Early mistakes and ingredients for success

For the co-founding trio, it became increasingly clear that Nubank’s growing scale demanded critical strategic decisions on how to bring order to the company.

By 2018, the company had thousands of employees, millions of customers, and they still didn’t have a head of HR. Growth until then had been somewhat unstructured. According to Junqueira, waiting so long to hire a head of HR was one of their early mistakes, because it stunted their ability to grow. “[Good] people continue to be our biggest bottleneck,” she says.

#brazil, #credit-card, #ec-brazil, #ec-fintech, #ec-latin-america-and-caribbean, #ec-1, #finance, #fintech, #nubank, #nubank-ec-1, #online-banking, #startups, #tc

Kafene raises $14M to offer buy now, pay later to the subprime consumer

The buy now, pay later frenzy isn’t going anywhere as more consumers seek alternatives to credit cards to fund purchases.

And those purchases aren’t exclusive to luxuries such as Pelotons (ahem, Affirm) or jewelry someone might be treating themselves to online. A new fintech company is out to help consumers finance big-ticket items that are considered more “must have” than “nice to have.” And it’s just raised $14 million in Series A funding to help it advance on that goal.

Neal Desai (former CFO of Octane Lending) and James Schuler (who participated in Y Combinator’s accelerator program as a high schooler) founded New York City-based Kafene in July 2019. The pair’s goal is to promote financial inclusion by meeting the needs of what it describes as the “consumers that are left behind by traditional lenders.”

More specifically, Kafene is focused on helping consumers with credit scores below 650 purchase retail items such as furniture, appliances and electronics with its buy now, pay later (BNPL) model. Consider it an “Affirm for the subprime,” says Desai.

Global Founders Capital and Third Prime Ventures co-led the round, which also included participation from Valar, Company.co, Hermann Capital, Gaingels, Republic Labs, Uncorrelated Ventures and FJ labs.

“Historically, if you could access credit, you could go to the bank or use a credit card,” Third Prime’s Wes Barton told TechCrunch. “But if you had some unexpected expense, and had to miss a payment with the bank, there would be repercussions and you could fall into a debt trap.”

Kafene’s “flexible ownership” model is designed to not let that happen to a consumer. If for some reason, someone has to forfeit on a payment, Kafene comes to pick up the item and the customer is no longer under obligation to pay for it moving forward.

The way it works is that Kafene buys the product from a merchant on a consumers’ behalf and rents it back to them over 12 months. If they make all payments, they own the item. If they make them earlier, they get a “significant” discount, and if they can’t, Kafene reclaims the item and takes the loan loss.

Image Credits: Kafene

It’s a modern take on Rent-A-Center, which charges more money for inferior products, Desai believes.

“This is also a superior product to credit cards, and the size of that market is massive,” Barton said. “We want to take a huge chunk of credit card business in time, and give consumers the flexibility to quit at any point in time, and fly free, if you will.”

Such flexibility, Kafene claims, helps promote financial inclusion by giving a wider range of consumers options to alternative forms of credit at the point of sale.

It also helps people boost their credit scores, according to Desai, because if they buy out of the loan earlier than the 12-month term, their credit score goes up because Kafene reports them as a positive payer.

“In any situation where they don’t steal the item, their credit score improves,” he said. “Even if they end up returning it because they can’t afford it. In the long run, they can have a better credit score to qualify for a traditional loan product.”

Kafene rolled out a beta of its financing product in December of 2019 and then had to pause in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company essentially “hibernated” from March to June 2020 and re-launched out of beta last July.

By October, Kafene stopped all enrollment with merchants because it had more demand that it could handle — largely fueled by more people being financially strained due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2021, the company was handling about $2 million a month in merchandise volume.

With its new capital, Kafene plans to significantly scale its existing lease-to-own financing business nationally, as well as to launch a direct-to-consumer virtual lease card.

#bank, #bnpl, #buy-now, #credit, #credit-card, #credit-score, #debt, #economy, #electronics, #finance, #fintech, #forward, #global-founders-capital, #kafene, #money, #new-york-city, #pay-later, #personal-finance, #recent-funding, #startup, #startups, #third-prime-ventures, #uncorrelated-ventures, #venture-capital, #y-combinator

Jeeves emerges from stealth with $131M in debt and equity and a16z as a lead investor

Jeeves, which is building an “all-in-one expense management platform” for global startups, is emerging from stealth today with $131 million in total funding, including $31 million in equity and $100 million in debt financing. 

The $31 million in equity consists of a new $26 million Series A and a previously unannounced $5 million seed round.

Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) led the Series A funding, which also included participation from YC Continuity Fund, Jaguar Ventures, Urban Innovation Fund, Uncorrelated Ventures, Clocktower Ventures, Stanford University, 9 Yards Capital and BlockFi Ventures.

A high-profile group of angel investors also put money in the round, including NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and the founders of five LatAm unicorns — Nubank CEO David Velez, Kavak CEO Carlos Garcia, Rappi co-founder Sebastian Mejia, Bitso CEO Daniel Vogel and Loft CEO Florian Hagenbuch. Justo’s Ricardo Weder also participated in this round and Plaid co-founder William Hockey put money in the $5 million seed funding that closed in 2020 after the company completed the YC Summer 2020 batch.

The “fully remote” Jeeves describes itself as the first “cross country, cross currency” expense management platform. The startup’s offering is currently live in Mexico — its largest market — as well as Colombia, Canada and the U.S., and is currently beta testing in Brazil and Chile. 

Dileep Thazhmon and Sherwin Gandhi founded Jeeves last year under the premise that startups have traditionally had to rely on financial infrastructure that is local and country-specific. For example, a company with employees in Mexico and Colombia would require multiple vendors to cover its finance function in each country — a corporate card in Mexico and one in Colombia and another vendor for cross-border payments.

Image Credits: Left to right: Jeeves co-founders Dileep Thazhmon and Sherwin Gandhi

Jeeves claims that by using its platform, any company can spin up their finance function “in minutes” and get access to 30 days of credit on a true corporate card, noncard payment rails, as well as cross-border payments. Customers can also pay back in multiple currencies, reducing FX (foreign transaction) fees.

“We’re building an all-in-one expense management platform for startups in LatAm and global markets — cash, corporate cards, cross-border — all run on our own infrastructure,” Thazhmon said. 

“We’re really building two things — an infrastructure layer that sits across banking institutions in different countries. And then on top of that, we’re building the customer-, or end user-facing app,” he added. “What gives us the ability to launch in countries much quicker is that we own part of that stack ourselves, versus what most fintechs would do, which is plug into a third-party provider in that region.” 

Image Credits: Jeeves

Indeed, the company has seen rapid early growth. Since launching its private beta last October, Jeeves says it has grown its transaction volume (GTV) by 200x and increased revenue by 900% (albeit from a small base). In May alone, Jeeves says it processed more transaction volume than the entire year to date, and more than doubled its customer base. It says that “hundreds of companies,” including Bitso, Belvo, Justo, Runa, Worky, Zinboe, RobinFood and Muncher, “actively” use Jeeves to manage their local and international spend. On top of that, it says, the startup has a waitlist of more than 5,000 companies — which is part of why the company sought to raise debt and equity.

The shift to remote work globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic has played a large role in why Jeeves has seen so much demand, according to Thazhmon.

“Every company is now becoming a global company, and the service to employees in two different countries requires two different systems,” he said. “And then someone’s got to reconcile that system at the end of the month. This has been a big reason why we’re growing so fast.”

One of Jeeves’ biggest accomplishments so far, Thazhmon said, has been receiving approval to issue cards from its own credit BIN (bank identification number) in Mexico. It can also run SPEI payments directly on its infrastructure. (SPEI is a system developed and operated by Banco de México that allows the general public to make electronic payments.)

“This gives us a lot of flexibility and allows us to offer a truly unique product to our customers,” said Thazhmon, who previously co-founded PowerInbox, a
Battery Ventures-backed MarTech company that he says grew to $40 million in annual revenue in three years.

Jeeves says it will use the fresh capital to onboard new companies to the platform from its waitlist, scale its infrastructure to cover more countries and currencies as well as do some hiring and expand its product line.

A16z General Partner Angela Strange, who is joining Jeeves’ board as part of the investment, is extremely bullish on the startup’s potential.

Strange says she met Thazhmon about a year ago and was immediately intrigued.

“Not only were they working to provide the financial operating system within a country, starting in Mexico, they were designing their software platform to scale across multiple countries,” she said. “Finally — a multicountry/currency expense management & payouts platform, where increasingly companies have employees and operations in multiple countries from the start and can use a single company to manage their financials.”

Strange, who has been investing in Latin America for the past few years, notes that most companies in the region are unable to get a corporate credit card.

“That’s only the tip of the iceberg,” she told TechCrunch. “It’s cumbersome for companies to make bank to bank payouts, handle wires, and they usually also have expenses in the U.S. (and often other countries) so there is also FX. And they manage multiple bank accounts. Not only is paying hard, reconciliation on the backend takes weeks.”

As such, Strange said, with every country having their own bank transfer system, rules around who can issue a credit card, approved payment processors, currencies and bank accounts — payments and expense management across countries can be complex.

Jeeves, according to Strange, “gets as close to the networks/payment rails as possible” since it has its own issuing credit BIN versus needing to connect through legacy players.

Providing an orchestration layer on top of all the rails gives Jeeves the ability “to handle all the payment and reconciliation complexity” so “their customers don’t have to think about it,” she added.

 

#a16z, #andreessen-horowitz, #andressen-horowitz, #angela-strange, #apps, #bank, #banking, #bitso, #brazil, #canada, #chile, #clocktower-ventures, #colombia, #credit-card, #daniel-vogel, #david-velez, #expense-management, #finance, #financial-infrastructure, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #jaguar-ventures, #jeeves, #latin-america, #mexico, #money, #national-football-league, #nfl, #nubank, #online-payments, #operating-system, #payment-card, #payments, #profile, #rappi, #recent-funding, #runa, #software-platform, #stanford-university, #startup, #startups, #tc, #uncorrelated-ventures, #united-states, #urban-innovation-fund, #venture-capital, #william-hockey

Privacy.com rebrands to Lithic, raises $43M for virtual payment cards

When Privacy.com was founded in 2014, the company’s focus was to let anyone generate virtual and disposable payment card numbers for free.

The goal was to allow those users to keep users’ actual credit card numbers safe while allowing the option to cut off companies from their bank accounts. In an age of near-constant data breaches and credit card skimmers targeting unsuspecting websites, Privacy.com has made it harder for hackers to get anyone’s real credit card details.

The concept has appealed to many. At the time of its $10.2 million Series A last July, Privacy.com said it had issued 5 million virtual card numbers. Today, that number has more than doubled, to over 10 million, according to CEO and co-founder Bo Jiang.

“We set out to create the safest and fastest way to pay online. Our mobile app and web browser extension lets you generate a virtual card for every purchase you want to make online,” Jiang explained. “That can be especially convenient for things like managing subscriptions or making sure your kid doesn’t spend $1,000 on Fortnite skins.”

Over the years, the New York-based company realized the value in the technology it had developed to issue the virtual and disposable payment cards. So after beta testing for a year, Privacy.com launched its new Card Issuing API in 2020 to give corporate customers the ability to create payment cards for their customers, optimize back-office operations or simplify disbursements.

The early growth of the new card issuing platform, dubbed Lithic, has prompted the startup to shift its business strategy — and rebrand.

In the process of building out its consumer product, Privacy.com ended up building a lot of infrastructure around programmatically creating cards.

“If you think about the anatomy of credit/debit card transactions there’s a number of modern processors such as Stripe, Adyen, Braintree and Checkout,” Jiang told TechCrunch. “On the flip side, we’re focused on card creation and issuing, and the APIs for actually creating cards. That side has lagged the card acquiring side by five to seven years…We’ve built a lot to support card creation for ourselves, and realized tons of other developers need this to create cards.”

As part of its new strategy, Privacy.com announced today that it has changed its name to Lithic and raised $43 million in Series B funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners to double down on its card issuing platform and new B2B focus. Index Ventures, Tusk Venture Partners, Rainfall Ventures, Teamworthy Ventures and Walkabout Ventures also participated in the financing, which brings Lithic’s total raised to date to $61 million.

Image Credits: Lithic CEO and co-founder Bo Jiang / Lithic

Privacy.com, the company’s consumer product, will continue to operate as a separate brand powered by the Lithic card issuing platform.

Put simply, Lithic was designed to make it simple for developers to programmatically create virtual and physical payment cards. Jiang is encouraged by the platform’s early success, noting that enterprise issuing volumes tripled in the last four months. It competes with the likes of larger fintech players such as Marqeta and Galileo, although Jiang notes that Lithic’s target customer is more of an early-stage startup than a large, established company.

“Marqeta, for example, goes after enterprise and is less focused on developers and making their infrastructure accessible. And, Galileo too,” he told TechCrunch. “When you compare us to them, because we’re a younger company, we have the benefit of building a much more modern infrastructure. That allows us to bring costs down but also to be more nimble to the needs of startups.”

The benefits touted by Lithic’s “self-serve” platform include being able to “instantly” issue a card and “accessible building blocks,” or what the company describes as focused functionality so developers can include only the features they want.

Another benefit? An opportunity for a new revenue stream. Developers earn back a percentage of interchange revenue generated by the merchant, according to Lithic. “What we’ve noticed is a lot of folks have really big ambitions to build more of a stack in-house. We offer a path for folks by bringing more of a payments piece of the world that they can build for scale,” he said. “As a result of all these things, we end up not competing head to head with Marqeta, for example, on a ton of deals.”

The company charges a fee per card for Lithic API customers (it’s free for Privacy.com). And it makes money on interchange fees with both offerings.

For Charles Birnbaum, partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, the shift from B2C to B2B is a smart strategy. He believes Lithic is building a critical piece of the embedded fintech and payments infrastructure stack.

“We have been big fans of the Privacy.com team and product since the beginning, but once we started to see such strong organic growth across the fintech landscape for their new card processing developer platform the past year, we just had to find a way to partner with the team for this next phase of growth,” he said.

Index Ventures partner Mark Goldberg notes that as every business becomes a fintech, there’s been an “explosion” in demand for online payments and card issuance.

“Lithic has stood out to us as being the developer-friendly solution here — it’s fast, powerful and insanely easy to get up-and-running,” he said. “We’ve heard from customers that Lithic can power a launch in the same amount of time it takes an incumbent issuer to return a phone call.”

Lithic plans to use its new capital to expand the tools and tech it offers to developers to issue and manage virtual cards as well as enhance its Privacy.com offering.

#adyen, #api, #bessemer-venture-partners, #charles-birnbaum, #credit-card, #debit-card, #finance, #financial-services, #fintech, #funding, #index-ventures, #mark-goldberg, #marqeta, #money, #new-york, #online-payments, #payment-card, #payments, #payments-infrastructure, #privacy-com, #recent-funding, #smart-card, #startup, #startups, #stripe, #tc, #teamworthy-ventures, #tusk-venture-partners

alt.bank, Brazil’s latest fintech targeting the unbanked, raises $5.5M

It looks like everyone and their mother is trying to reinvent the Brazilian banking system. Earlier this year we wrote about Nubank’s $400 million Series G, last month there was the PicPay IPO filing and today, alt.bank, a Brazilian neobank, announced a $5.5 million Series A led by Union Square Ventures (USV).

It’s no secret that the Brazilian banking system has been poised for disruption, considering the sector’s little attention to customer service and exorbitant fee structure that’s left most Brazilians unbanked, and alt.bank is just the latest company trying to take home a piece of the pie.

Following Nubank’s strategy of launching a bank with colors that are very un-bank-like, signaling that they do things differently, alt.bank similarly launched its first financial product in 2019 — a fluorescent-yellow debit card which the locals have endearingly dubbed, “o amarelinho,” meaning, “the little yellow card.”

The company, founded by serial entrepreneur Brad Liebman, follows the founder’s $480 million exit of Simply Business, which was acquired by U.S. insurance giant Travelers in 2017.

Unlike many fintechs, alt.bank has a strong social mission and pays commissions for referrals that last for the customer’s lifetime. 

“Most fintechs just help wealthy people get wealthier, so I thought let’s do something with a social mission,” Liebman told TechCrunch in an interview.

To drive home the mission, and really target the unbanked, Liebman and his team of 80 employees have designed an app that can be used by the illiterate. Instead of words, users can follow color-coded prompts to complete a transaction. The company also plans to launch credit products soon.

According to the company, close to a million people have downloaded the android app since launch, but Liebman declined to disclose how many active users the company actually has.

Today, the company’s core offerings include the debit card, a prepaid credit card, Pix (similar to Zelle), a savings account and even telemedicine visits via a partnership with Dr. Consulta, a network of healthcare clinics throughout the country. The prepaid credit card is key because online stores in Brazil don’t accept debit card purchases.

In addition to the perk of ongoing commissions, alt.bank has also partnered with three major drugstores, allowing their users to get 5-30% off any item at the stores, including medication.

While the company is based in São Paulo and São Carlos, Liebman and his family are currently based in London due to regulations around the pandemic.

The investment in alt.bank marks USV’s first investment in South America, solidifying a trend by other major U.S. investors such as Sequoia who only in the last several years have started looking to LatAm for deals.

“The bar was high for our first investment in South America,” said Union Square Ventures partner John Buttrick. “The combination of the alt.bank business model and world-class management team enticed us to expand our geographic focus to help build the leading digital bank targeting the 100 million Brazilians who are currently being neglected by traditional lenders,” he added in a statement. 

 

#android, #apps, #bank, #banking, #brazil, #credit-card, #debit-card, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #fundings-exits, #mobile, #nubank, #online-stores, #payments, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #serial-entrepreneur, #south-america, #startups, #unbanked, #union-square-ventures

The second shot is kicking in

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

First and foremost, Equity was nominated for a Webby for “Best Technology Podcast”! Drop everything and go Vote for Equity! We’d appreciate it. A lot. And even if we lose, well, we’ll keep doing our thing and making each other laugh. (Note: we are in last place, which is, well, something.)

Regardless, the Equity team got together once again this week to not only go over the news of the week, but also to do a little soul searching. You see, some news broke yesterday, so we figured that we had to talk about it in our usual style. So, here’s the rundown:

  • Do you want to buy TechCrunch? Apparently you can? Albeit probably along with a few billion dollars worth of other assets — whatever is left of Yahoo and AOL — you can now own an NFT. A non-fungible TechCrunch. What is ahead for us? We don’t know. So if you do know, tell us. Until then we’ll just yo-yo gently between panic and optimism, as per usual.
  • We also dug into the latest All Raise venture capital data, and the results were abysmal. 
  • Next up was the news that fintech startups are setting records in 2021, raising more capital than ever before. That brought us to the latest from Brex.
  • And then there was a suspicious trend when three fintech companies focused on teen banking raised in one exhale. We talk Step, Greenlight, and Current.
  • Natasha talked about her last Startups Weekly post, in which she unpacked The MasterClass effect’s impact on edtech.
  • And to close, we discussed the latest cool-kid venture capital funds. Sure memes are cool, but did you know that they can help you raise a $10 million fund? They can!

We are back Monday morning with our weekly kick-off show. Have a great weekend!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:00 AM PST, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts!

#a16z, #banana-capital, #brex, #credit-card, #current, #edtech, #equity, #equity-podcast, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #greenlight, #health-tech, #masterclass, #startups, #step, #techcrunch, #verizon, #weekend-fund

Fraud prevention platform Sift raises $50M at over $1B valuation, eyes acquisitions

With the increase of digital transacting over the past year, cybercriminals have been having a field day.

In 2020, complaints of suspected internet crime surged by 61%, to 791,790, according to the FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report. Those crimes — ranging from personal and corporate data breaches to credit card fraud, phishing and identity theft — cost victims more than $4.2 billion.

For companies like Sift — which aims to predict and prevent fraud online even more quickly than cybercriminals adopt new tactics — that increase in crime also led to an increase in business.

Last year, the San Francisco-based company assessed risk on more than $250 billion in transactions, double from what it did in 2019. The company has over several hundred customers, including Twitter, Airbnb, Twilio, DoorDash, Wayfair and McDonald’s, as well a global data network of 70 billion events per month.

To meet the surge in demand, Sift said today it has raised $50 million in a funding round that values the company at over $1 billion. Insight Partners led the financing, which included participation from Union Square Ventures and Stripes.

While the company would not reveal hard revenue figures, President and CEO Marc Olesen said that business has tripled since he joined the company in June 2018. Sift was founded out of Y Combinator in 2011, and has raised a total of $157 million over its lifetime.

The company’s “Digital Trust & Safety” platform aims to help merchants not only fight all types of internet fraud and abuse, but to also “reduce friction” for legitimate customers. There’s a fine line apparently between looking out for a merchant and upsetting a customer who is legitimately trying to conduct a transaction.

Sift uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to automatically surmise whether an attempted transaction or interaction with a business online is authentic or potentially problematic.

Image Credits: Sift

One of the things the company has discovered is that fraudsters are often not working alone.

“Fraud vectors are no longer siloed. They are highly innovative and often working in concert,” Olesen said. “We’ve uncovered a number of fraud rings.”

Olesen shared a couple of examples of how the company thwarted fraud incidents last year. One recently involved money laundering through donation sites where fraudsters tested stolen debit and credit cards through fake donation sites at guest checkout.

“By making small donations to themselves, they laundered that money and at the same tested the validity of the stolen cards so they could use it on another site with significantly higher purchases,” he said. 

In another case, the company uncovered fraudsters using Telegram, a social media site, to make services available, such as food delivery, with stolen credentials.

The data that Sift has accumulated since its inception helps the company “act as the central nervous system for fraud teams.” Sift says that its models become more intelligent with every customer that it integrates.

Insight Partners Managing Director Jeff Lieberman, who is a Sift board member, said his firm initially invested in Sift in 2016 because even at that time, it was clear that online fraud was “rapidly growing.” It was growing not just in dollar amounts, he said, but in the number of methods cybercriminals used to steal from consumers and businesses.

Sift has a novel approach to fighting fraud that combines massive data sets with machine learning, and it has a track record of proving its value for hundreds of online businesses,” he wrote via email.

When Olesen and the Sift team started the recent process of fundraising, Insight actually approached them before they started talking to outside investors “because both the product and business fundamentals are so strong, and the growth opportunity is massive,” Lieberman added.

“With more businesses heavily investing in online channels, nearly every one of them needs a solution that can intelligently weed out fraud while ensuring a seamless experience for the 99% of transactions or actions that are legitimate,” he wrote. 

The company plans to use its new capital primarily to expand its product portfolio and to scale its product, engineering and sales teams.

Sift also recently tapped Eu-Gene Sung — who has worked in financial leadership roles at Integral Ad Science, BSE Global and McCann — to serve as its CFO.

As to whether or not that meant an IPO is in Sift’s future, Olesen said that Sung’s experience of taking companies through a growth phase such as what Sift is experiencing would be valuable. The company is also for the first time looking to potentially do some M&A.

“When we think about expanding our portfolio, it’s really a buy/build partner approach,” Olesen said.

#airbnb, #artificial-intelligence, #board-member, #credit-card, #credit-card-fraud, #crime, #crimes, #cybercrime, #doordash, #federal-bureau-of-investigation, #food-delivery, #fraud, #funding, #fundings-exits, #identity-theft, #insight-partners, #jeff-lieberman, #machine-learning, #mcdonalds, #online-fraud, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #san-francisco, #sift, #startup, #startups, #stripes, #tc, #twilio, #union-square-ventures, #wayfair, #y-combinator

Tribal Credit, which provides credit cards to startups in emerging markets, raises $34.3M

The B2B payments space has seen an explosion in demand, and investor interest, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses try to figure out how to pay each other digitally. The challenges become even more complex when dealing with cross-border payments.

Startups that were formed before the pandemic stand to benefit from the shift. One such startup, Tribal Credit, launched its beta in late 2019 to provide payment products for startups and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in emerging markets.

Today, Tribal Credit announced it has raised $34.3 million in a combined Series A and debt round led by QED Investors and Partners for Growth (PFG). Existing backers BECO Capital, Global Ventures, OTG Ventures and Endure Capital also participated in the round, along with new investor Endeavor Catalyst. The raise follows “10x” year-over-year growth, according to CEO and co-founder Amr Shady.

As part of the investment, Tribal received $3 million from the Stellar Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the development and growth of the open-source Stellar blockchain network. 

Tribal uses a proprietary AI-driven underwriting approval process to evaluate businesses and approve them for credit lines. Those businesses can then use those credit lines to spend on Tribal’s products, Tribal Card and Tribal Pay. Tribal Card is a business Visa card that allows users to create physical and virtual multi-currency cards. Tribal Pay allows them to make payments to merchants and suppliers that don’t accept credit cards. 

The company says its value proposition lies not only in its ability to provide SMEs with virtual and physical corporate cards, but also a digital platform that allows founders and CFOs “to give access to and manage the spend of their distributed teams.”

“We’ve seen more demand for making B2B online payments amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many SMEs migrating to digital and spending more on online products and services,” Shady told TechCrunch. “Companies in this new economy are digital and global first. The need for a corporate card was accelerated. As card spend grew during the pandemic, this meant greater liability on founders’ using their personal cards, or other competing cards linked to their personal credit.” 

Tribal, he said, underwrites the company without impacting the founders’ credit. 

Another accelerator for its products was how the pandemic forced teams to work remotely. Founders and CFOs needed a way to provide access to corporate payments while maintaining control, Shady pointed out. Tribal’s platform aims to streamline financial operations for a distributed team. 

Of course, Tribal is not the only company offering credit cards for startups. Brex, which has amassed $465 million in venture capital funding to date, also markets a credit card tailored for startups. While the companies are similar, there is a distinct difference, according to Shady: “Emerging market SMEs have different pains, particularly when it comes to cross-border payments.”

Tribal’s initial efforts are focused on Latin America, in particular Mexico, which is the startup’s biggest market.

Its new capital will go toward accelerating its growth in the region, according to Shady. In particular, the equity will go toward growing Tribal’s leadership team in Mexico, while the debt will fuel the company’s customers’ growing credit lines, Shady said.

“We have invested heavily in our product over the past year,” Shady said. “We’re the first mover in our segment in LatAm with a diverse suite of SME products that includes corporate cards, wire payments and treasury services. We’re incredibly excited by the future ahead of us in Mexico and beyond.” 

Customers include Minu, Ben and Frank, Fairplay and SLM, among others.

Looking ahead, Tribal is exploring four other Latin American markets and expects to be operational in one new market by year’s end, according to Shady.

Image Credits: Tribal Credit

QED Investors partner Lauren Morton said her firm has been following payments and the lending needs of SMEs in emerging markets closely.

“Compared with everything else we’ve seen in this market, Tribal has a differentiated and superior product that meets customers’ needs in a way that no competitor can match,” she said in a written statement. 

Morton went on to note that Tribal has had strong traction in Mexico, with adoption from “fast-growing startups” across the country, including many companies within QED’s own portfolio. 

PFG is providing the debt facility for Tribal. In addition to funding from PFG’s global fund, the firm will be co-investing from its Latin America Growth Lending Fund in partnership with IDB Invest and SVB Financial Group, the parent company of Silicon Valley Bank. 

Tribal Credit previously raised $7.8 million in a series of seed rounds. The latest round brings its total raised to $42.1 million. Tribal Credit also joined Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program, a move that it said should accelerate its integration with Visa’s global payment network.  The company currently has 75 employees, up from 31 last year.

#artificial-intelligence, #bank, #beco-capital, #blockchain, #blockchain-network, #credit, #credit-card, #debt, #economy, #fairplay, #finance, #frank, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #mexico, #minu, #money, #online-payments, #online-products, #partners-for-growth, #payment-network, #payments, #qed-investors, #recent-funding, #silicon-valley-bank, #slm, #startups, #svb-financial-group, #tc, #tribal-credit, #venture-capital

Avant doubles down on digital banking with Zero Financial acquisition

Avant, an online lender that has raised over $600 million in equity, announced today that it has acquired Zero Financial and its neobank brand, Level, to further its mission of becoming a digital bank for the masses.

Founded in 2012, Chicago-based Avant started out primarily as an online lender targeting “underserved consumers,” but is evolving into digital banking with this acquisition. The company notched gross revenue of $265 million in 2020 and has raised capital over the years from backers such as General Atlantic and Tiger Global Management.

“Our path has always been to become the premier digital bank for the everyday American,” Avant CEO James Paris told TechCrunch. “The massive transition to digital over the last 12 months made the timing right to expand our offerings.” 

The acquisition of Zero Financial and its neobank, Level (plus its banking app assets), will give Avant the ability to offer “a full ecosystem of banking and credit product offerings” through one fully digital platform, according to Paris. Those offerings include deposits, personal loans, credit cards and auto loans.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed other than the fact that the acquisition was completed with a combination of cash and stock.

Founded in 2016, San Francisco-based Zero Financial has raised $147 million in debt and equity, according to Crunchbase. New Enterprise Associates (NEA) led its $20 million Series A in May of 2019.

Level was unveiled to the public in February of 2020, created by the same California-based team that founded the “debit-style” credit card offering Zero, according to this FintechFutures piece. The challenger bank was created to target millennials dissatisfied with the incumbent banking options.

Zero Financial co-founder and CEO Bryce Galen said that Avant shared his company’s mission “to challenge the status quo by bringing innovative financial services products to consumers who might otherwise be unable to access them.”

Avant, notes Paris, uses thousands of AI-driven data points to determine credit risk. With this acquisition, that lens will be expanded with data, such as a deposit customer’s cash flow, how they manage their finances and whether they pay their bills on time. 

“This will allow us to make credit decisions faster and deliver personalized options to help underbanked consumers gain financial freedom, at any and every stage of their financial journey,” Paris told TechCrunch. “It will also build long-term engagement and loyalty and help grow our reach beyond the 1.5 million customers we’ve served to date.”  

Like a growing number of fintechs, Avant operates under the premise that a person’s ability to get credit shouldn’t be dictated by a credit score alone.

“A significant amount of Americans have poor, bad or no credit at all. For these people, accessing credit isn’t exactly easy and often comes with extra fees,” Paris said. That’s why, he added, Avant has focused on providing options for such consumers with “transparent, rewards-driven products.”

Level’s branchless, all-digital platform offers things such as cashback rewards on debit card purchases, a “competitive APY” on deposits, early access to paychecks and no hidden fees, all of which are especially beneficial for consumers on the path to financial freedom, according to Paris.

Since its inception in 2012, Avant has connected more than 1.5 million consumers to $7.5 billion in loans and 400,000 credit cards. The company launched its credit card in 2017 and over the past two years alone, it has grown its number of credit card users by 170%.

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #avant, #bank, #banking, #california, #challenger-bank, #chicago, #credit-card, #debit-card, #digital-banking, #economy, #exit, #finance, #funding, #general-atlantic, #level, #ma, #money, #premier, #san-francisco, #startups, #tc, #tiger-global-management, #zero-financial

LA’s socially conscious bank challenger, Aspiration, launches a carbon offset credit card

Aspiration, the financial services business for socially conscious consumers, is back with another environmentally friendly offering for its customers — this time, it’s a credit card.

The Los Angeles-based company, which has raised roughly $250 million from investors including the celebrities Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr.’s Footprint Coalition, and Orlando Bloom and more traditional institutional investors like AlphaEdison, Capricorn Investment Group, the Omidyar Network, and Allen & Co., wouldn’t say how much about the terms of the card or the credit limits available.

What Aspiration co-founder Andrei Cherny did discuss was the company’s sense of the significance of its new offering.

“There are plenty of credit cards out there that let you rack up miles, this is the only card that rewards you for taking miles off of the planet,” Aspiration co-founder and CEO Andrei Cherny said in a statement. “For the first time, you can have a climate change-fighting tool right in your wallet.” 

The key to Aspiration’s offset services is nothing more or less than tree planting. It’s the easiest way for consumers to eventually cancel out the greenhouse gas emissions associated with daily living in the U.S.

Every time someone uses the card, Aspiration will have one of its global reforestation partners plant a tree. If a customer uses Aspiration’s credit card 60 times, the resulting trees that are planted are enough to offset the carbon emissions from an average American home

“What we’re doing is basing it on the average American’s carbon footprint,” Cherny affirmed. “Every time you make a purchase Aspiration plants your tree. The way the math works out. The average carbon impact of the average tree when you have 60 of them you eliminate the emissions from an average American home.”

Using Aspiration’s app, which includes other tools for consumers to gauge the social impact of their purchases, credit card customers can track their progress towards offsetting their emissions. For every month in which a user gets to carbon zero, Aspiration will reward them with 1% cashback on their credit card purchases.

Cherny said the company works with accredited partners and uses satellite imaging and on-the-ground monitoring to ensure that the forestation projects are proceeding according to plan and that the trees aren’t being harvested.

The company isn’t just doing this out of a sense of corporate responsibility there’s actually an arbitrage case where the planting of seeds becomes a profit center (however nominal) for the company.

“As we get to scale that will be the case,” Cherny said. “We are not a nonprofit, we’re a for-profit company dedicated to saving the planet. Until people can make a profit off of saving the planet in the same way people have been profiting on destroying the planet, there are going to continue to be problems… If only oil companies and incumbent banks can make money by destroying the planet, then we’re in trouble.”

#allen-co, #andrei-cherny, #aspiration, #capricorn-investment-group, #carbon-footprint, #co-founder, #credit-card, #forestry, #greenhouse-gas-emissions, #leonardo-dicaprio, #los-angeles, #oil, #omidyar-network, #renewable-energy, #satellite-imaging, #tc, #united-states

Brex applies for bank charter, taps former Silicon Valley Bank exec as CEO of Brex Bank

Brex is the latest fintech to apply for a bank charter.

The fast-growing company, which sells a credit card tailored for startups with Emigrant Bank currently acting as the issuer, announced Friday that it has submitted an application with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Utah Department of Financial Institutions (UDFI) to establish Brex Bank.

The industrial bank will be located in Draper, Utah, and be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Brex.

The company has tapped former Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) exec Bruce Wallace to serve as the subsidiary’s CEO. He served in several roles at SVB, including COO, Chief Digital Officer and head of global services. It also has named Jean Perschon, the former CFO for UBS Bank USA, to be the Brex Bank CFO.

Last May, Brex announced that it had raised $150 million in a Series C extension from a group of existing investors, including DST Global and Lone Pine Capital.

With that raise, Brex, which was co-founded by Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi, had amassed $465 million in venture capital funding to-date.

The company said in a statement today that “Brex Bank will expand upon its existing suite of financial products and business software, offering credit solutions and FDIC insured deposit products to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).”

Offering credit products to small businesses has become a popular product offering and source of revenue for tech companies serving entrepreneurs, including Shopify and Square in the commerce arena. Likewise, offering business-focused bank accounts, like Shopify Balance, which is currently in development with a plan to launch sometime this year in the U.S.

These financial products can provide additional opportunities for revenue on interest and cost of borrowing for these companies, who might have better insight into the risk profiles of the types of businesses they serve than traditional lenders and FIs.

“Brex and Brex Bank will work in tandem to help SMBs grow to realize their full potential,” said Wallace.

Brex is based in San Francisco and counts Kleiner Perkins Growth, YC Continuity Fund, Greenoaks Capital, Ribbit Capital, IVP, and DST Global as well as Peter Thiel and Affirm CEO Max Levchin among its investors. It currently has over 400 employees, and though it had significant layoffs mid-year in 2020, it cited restructuring rather than financial difficulty as the cause of that downsize.

Other fintechs that have made moves toward bank charters include Varo Bank, which this week raised another $63 million and SoFi, which last October was granted preliminary approval for a national bank charter.

#bank, #brex, #business-software, #california, #ceo, #cfo, #credit-card, #draper, #dst-global, #finance, #greenoaks-capital, #henrique-dubugras, #ivp, #kleiner-perkins, #lone-pine-capital, #max-levchin, #peter-thiel, #ribbit-capital, #san-francisco, #shopify, #silicon-valley-bank, #sofi, #tc, #utah, #varo-bank

Fintech Marqeta expands into credit card space days after filing for an IPO

Marqeta is expanding into the consumer credit card space to help other brands launch credit card programs. 

The move comes just days after the payment card issuing company reportedly filed confidentially for an initial public offering, making it the latest fintech to make a move to the public markets.

The value of the IPO is expected to be around $10 billion, according to Reuters. Marqeta — which is working with Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase on the offering — is reportedly hoping to complete the IPO by April.

Oakland, California-based Marqeta raised $150 million last May at a $4.2 billion valuation, TechCrunch previously reported. Then in October, Mastercard put an undisclosed amount of money in Marqeta.

The company, which provides the tools for financial services platforms of all stripes to provide cards, wallets and other payment mechanisms, counts Cash App, Affirm, DoorDash, and Instacart among its customers. At the end of 2020, Marqeta says it had issued 270 million cards through its platform, up from 140 million at the end of 2019. The company, which has over 550 employees, is live in 35 countries.

Now, Marqeta is partnering with another startup, Deserve, on its new credit card initiative.

As Deserve CEO Kalpesh Kapadia explains it, his company’s technology and open API platform will power Marqeta’s program management services, including origination, underwriting, bank and bureau Integration, customer service, compliance and risk management. 

Marqeta founder and CEO Jason Gardner described Marqeta’s expansion into building new credit products as a “major milestone” for the company in building out a “truly comprehensive card issuing platform, able to support any card t