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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The fintech endgame: New supercompanies combine the best of software and financials

If money is the ultimate commodity, how can fintechs — which sell money, move money or sell insurance against monetary loss — build products that remain differentiated and create lasting value over time?

And why are so many software companies — which already boast highly differentiated offerings and serve huge markets— moving to offer financial services embedded within their products?

A new and attractive hybrid category of company is emerging at the intersection of software and financial services, creating buzz in the investment and entrepreneurial communities, as we discussed at our “Fintech: The Endgame” virtual conference and accompanying report this week.

These specialized companies — in some cases, software companies that also process payments and hold funds on behalf of their customers, and in others, financial-first companies that integrate workflow and features more reminiscent of software companies — combine some of the best attributes of both categories.

Image Credits: Battery Ventures

From software, they design for strong user engagement linked to helpful, intuitive products that drive retention over the long term. From financials, they draw on the ability to earn revenues indexed to the growth of a customer’s business.

Fintech is poised to revolutionize financial services, both through reinventing existing products and driving new business models as financial services become more pervasive within other sectors.

The powerful combination of these two models is rapidly driving both public and private market value as investors grant these “super” companies premium valuations — in the public sphere, nearly twice the median multiple of pure software companies, according to a Battery analysis.

The near-perfect example of this phenomenon is Shopify, the company that made its name selling software to help business owners launch and manage online stores. Despite achieving notable scale with this original SaaS product, Shopify today makes twice as much revenue from payments as it does from software by enabling those business owners to accept credit card payments and acting as its own payment processor.

The combination of a software solution indexed to e-commerce growth, combined with a profitable payments stream growing even faster than its software revenues, has investors granting Shopify a 31x multiple on its forward revenues, according to CapIQ data as of May 26.

How should we value these fintech companies, anyway?

Before even talking about how investors should value these hybrid companies, it’s worth making the point that in both private and public markets, fintechs have been notoriously hard to value, fomenting controversy and debate in the investment community.

#banking-as-a-service, #column, #customer-service-software, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #ec-fintech, #enterprise, #finance, #financial-services, #insurance, #tc, #venture-capital

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As buy-now-pay-later startups keep raising capital, a dive into Klarna, Afterpay and Affirm’s earnings

Venture capitalists continue to fund buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) startups, evidence of ongoing optimism regarding not only e-commerce, but the specific model for financing consumer purchases as well.

Evidence of continued investor confidence in the BNPL space cropped up several times in the second quarter. Divido, a startup that TechCrunch described as a “white-label [BNPL] platform for retail finance that integrates with e-commerce platforms,” raised $30 million. And Zilch raised $80 million for an “over-the-top” BNPL solution.


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Zilch is now worth $800 million.

There are other examples, but those will suffice to get us into the correct mindset for today’s work as we look back at data points regarding the financial performance of more mature BNPL tech companies. So, as in February when we were looking at Q4 2020 numbers, today we’re looking into the more recent performance of Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay.

Growth versus profitability

As startups scale, they focus a bit more on profitability. Super-early-stage startups aren’t often too worried about net margins, for example, as their revenues can be nascent and their costs rising as they staff up for a product launch or another similar event.

But as those same startups mature into unicorn territory, questions about their model’s profitability on a unit basis, operating cash burn and aggregate profitability will start to pop up. The Rule of 40 is a startup rubric for a reason.

And in the cases of Affirm and Afterpay, we’re in fact examining public companies. So we can safely care even more about their profitability than we might if they, like Klarna, were still waiting for an IPO.

For each, then, we’ll consider growth and profitability. Let’s start with Klarna:

Klarna’s latest data, dealing with Q1 2021, breaks down as follows:

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Reading the IPO market’s tea leaves

Although it’s a truncated holiday week here in the United States, there’s been a bushel of IPO news. This morning, we’re going to sort through the updates and come up with a series of sentiment calls regarding these public offerings.


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Here’s what’s in our basket of news items this morning:

  • Marqeta‘s first IPO price range (fintech)
  • 1st Dibs‘ first IPO price range (e-commerce)
  • Zeta Global‘s IPO pricing (martech)
  • The start of SoFi trading post-SPAC (fintech)
  • The latest from BarkBox (e-commerce)

A brief note on why we care to do all this work:

We care because it’s worth knowing what current demand is for venture-backed shares on the public markets. The third quarter is expected by many in the private markets to be an active period for exits. So, for founders, investors, and a host of technology startup employees, we’re gearing up for a busy period.

And today’s IPO climate could be the on-ramp to that rush of unicorn liquidity. So let’s understand where we’re starting through the prism of debut updates en masse.

Marqeta

  • First IPO price range: $20 to $24 per share
  • Max IPO raise: $1,254,545,448
  • Implied simple valuation range: $10.6 billion to $12.7 billion

The last known private-market value of Marqeta was set in May 2020, when the company raised $150 million at what PitchBook estimates was a $4.3 billion valuation. From that perspective, the company could up to triple its final private valuation in its public debut. There was some other money sloshing around the company since that May round, however, so its pricing could have shifted some in the intervening months.

Our read is that even if Marqeta does not raise its IPO range, its pricing is bullish, and if it does raise its range, it could become even more so. At a flat $12 billion price, the company’s Q1 2021 run rate puts it on a 27.8x revenue multiple. That’s rich.

1st Dibs

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Embedded finance will help fill the life insurance coverage gap

An estimated 41 million Americans say they need life insurance but have yet to purchase coverage. Despite this awareness among consumers, the Life Insurance Marketing and Research Association estimates a $12 trillion coverage gap, with about 50% of millennials planning to purchase coverage within the next year.

There’s latent demand for life insurance currently unaddressed by much of the financial services industry, and embedded finance can be the solution. It’s imperative for companies to consider product lines and partnerships to expand markets, create new revenue streams and provide added value to their customers.

There’s latent demand for life insurance currently unaddressed by much of the financial services industry, and embedded finance can be the solution.

Connecting consumers with products they need through channels they already know and trust is both a massive revenue opportunity and a social good, providing financial resilience to families at a time when they need it most.

Why bundle life insurance?

The concept of digitally bundling financial products in a packaged offering to a customer is certainly not new — but it is for the life insurance space.

Embedded finance uses technology and operations infrastructure to offer products and services through entities that may not be financial institutions at all. Think of embedded finance like on-demand shopping; customers benefit from both the transaction (buying financial protection for their families) and the convenience it provides (from whatever platform they are currently engaging with).

Similar to how Amazon saves shoppers 75 hours a year, bundling life insurance gives consumers back time in their day and can improve their financial health.

#bestow, #column, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #embedded-finance, #finance, #financial-services, #insurance, #life-insurance, #startups

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How to break into Silicon Valley as an outsider

Domm Holland, co-founder and CEO of e-commerce startup Fast, appears to be living a founder’s dream.

His big idea came from a small moment in his real life. Holland watched as his wife’s grandmother tried to order groceries, but she had forgotten her password and wasn’t able to complete the transaction.

“I just remember thinking it was preposterous,” Holland said. “It defied belief that some arbitrary string of text was a blocker to commerce.”

So he built a prototype of a passwordless authentication system where users would fill out their information once and would never need to do so again. Within 24 hours, tens of thousands of people had used it.

Nothing beats building human networks. That’s the way that you’re going to get this done in terms of fundraising.

Shoppers weren’t the only ones on board with this idea. In less than two years, Holland has raised $124 million in three rounds of fundraising, bringing on partners like Index Ventures and Stripe.

Although the success of Fast’s one-click checkout product has been speedy, it hasn’t been effortless.

For one thing, Holland is Australian, which means he started out as a Silicon Valley outsider. When he arrived in the U.S. in the summer of 2019, he had exactly one Bay Area contact in his phone. He built his network from the ground up, a strategic process he credits to one thing: hard work.

On an episode of the “How I Raised It” podcast, Holland talks about how he built his network, why it’s important — not just for fundraising but for building the entire business — and how to avoid the mistakes he sees new founders make.

Reach out with relevance

Holland’s primary strategy in building networks sounds like an obvious one — reach out to relevant people.

“When I first got to the States, I wanted to build networks,” Holland said, “but I didn’t really know anyone here in the Bay Area. So I spent a lot of time reaching out to relevant people — people working in payments, people working in technology, people working in identity authentication — just really relevant people in the space working in Big Tech who were building large-scale networks.”

One of the people Holland connected with was Allison Barr Allen, then the head of global product operations at Uber. Barr Allen managed her own angel investment fund, but Holland wasn’t actually looking for money when he reached out to her. He was much more interested in her perspective as the leader of an enormous financial services operation.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #ec-how-to, #networking, #san-francisco, #silicon-valley, #startups, #united-states

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Amid the IPO gold rush, how should we value fintech startups?

If there has ever been a golden age for fintech, it surely must be now. As of Q1 2021, the number of fintech startups in the U.S. crossed 10,000 for the first time ever — well more than double that if you include EMEA and APAC. There are now three fintech companies worth more than $100 billion (Paypal, Square and Shopify) with another three in the $50 billion-$100 billion club (Stripe, Adyen and Coinbase).

Yet, as fintech companies have begun to go public, there has been a fair amount of uncertainty as to how these companies will be valued on the public markets. This is a result of fintechs being relatively new to the IPO scene compared to their consumer internet or enterprise software counterparts. In addition, fintechs employ a wide variety of business models: Some are transactional, others are recurring or have hybrid business models.

In addition, fintechs now have a multitude of options in terms of how they choose to go public. They can take the traditional IPO route, pursue a direct listing or merge with a SPAC. Given the multitude of variables at play, valuing these companies and then predicting public market performance is anything but straightforward.

It is important to note that fintech is a complex category with many different types of players, and not all fintech is created equal.

The fintech gold rush has arrived

For much of the past two decades, fintech as a category has been very quiet on the public markets. But that began to change considerably by the mid-2010s. Fintech had clearly arrived by 2015, with both Square and Shopify going public that year. Last year was a record one with eight fintech IPOs, and there has been no slowdown in 2021 — the first four months have already produced seven IPOs. By our estimates, there are more than 15 additional fintech companies that could IPO this year. The current record will almost certainly be shattered well before the end of the year.

Fintech IPOs from 2000 to 2021

Image Credits: Oak HC/FT

#coinbase, #column, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #enterprise-software, #finance, #klarna, #lendingclub, #ondeck, #payoneer, #paypal, #shopify, #special-purpose-acquisition-company, #stripe

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The era of the European insurtech IPO will soon be upon us

Once the uncool sibling of a flourishing fintech sector, insurtech is now one of the hottest areas of a buoyant venture market. Zego’s $150 million round at unicorn valuation in March, a rumored giant incoming round for WeFox, and a slew of IPOs and SPACs in the U.S. are all testament to this.

It’s not difficult to see why. The insurance market is enormous, but the sector has suffered from notoriously poor customer experience and major incumbents have been slow to adapt. Fintech has set a precedent for the explosive growth that can be achieved with superior customer experience underpinned by modern technology. And the pandemic has cast the spotlight on high-potential categories, including health, mobility and cybersecurity.

Fintech has set a precedent for the explosive growth that can be achieved with superior customer experience underpinned by modern technology.

This has begun to brew a perfect storm of conditions for big European insurtech exits. Here are four trends to look out for as the industry powers toward several European IPOs and a red-hot M&A market in the next few years.

Full-stack insurtech continues to conquer

Several early insurtech success stories started life as managing general agents (MGAs). Unlike brokers, MGAs manage claims and underwriting, but unlike a traditional insurer, pass risk off their balance sheet to third-party insurers or reinsurers. MGAs have provided a great way for new brands to acquire customers and underwrite policies without actually needing a fully fledged balance sheet. But it’s a business model with thin margins, so MGAs increasingly are trying to internalize risk exposure by verticalizing into a “full-stack” insurer in the hope of improving their unit economics.

This structure has been prevalent in the U.S., with some of the bigger recent U.S. insurtech IPO successes (Lemonade and Root), SPACs (Clover and MetroMile), and more upcoming listings (Hippo and Next) pointing to the prizes available to those who can successfully execute this expensive growth strategy.

#column, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #europe, #finance, #insurance, #insurtech, #ipo, #risk-management, #startups

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The IPO market is sending us mixed messages

If you only stayed up to date with the Coinbase direct listing this week, you’re forgiven. It was, after all, one heck of a flotation.

But underneath the cryptocurrency exchange’s public debut, other IPO news that matters did happen this week. And the news adds up to a somewhat muddled picture of the current IPO market.

To cap off the week, let’s run through IPO news from UiPath, Coinbase, Grab, AppLovin and Zenvia. The aggregate dataset should help you form your own perspective about where today’s IPO markets really are in terms of warmth for the often-unprofitable unicorns of the world.

Recall that we’re in the midst of a slightly more turbulent IPO window than we saw during the last quarter. After seemingly watching every company’s IPO price above-range and then charge higher on opening day, several companies pulled their offerings as the second quarter started. It was a surprise.

Since then we’ve seen Compass go public, but not at quite the level of performance it might have anticipated, and, then, this week, much has happened.

What follows is a mini-digest of IPO news from the week, tagged with our best read of just how bullish (or not) the happening really was:

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Digging into the Alkami Technology IPO

It appears that the slowdown in tech debuts is not a complete freeze; despite concerning news regarding the IPO pipeline, some deals are chugging ahead. This morning, we’re adding Alkami Technology to a list that includes Coinbase’s impending direct listing and Robinhood’s expected IPO.


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We are playing catch-up, so let’s learn about Alkami and its software, dig into its backers and final private valuation, and pick apart its numbers before checking out its impending IPO valuation. After all, if Kaltura and others are going to hit the brakes, we must turn our attention to companies that are still putting the hammer down.

Frankly, we should have known about Alkami’s IPO sooner. One of a rising number of large tech companies based in non-traditional areas, the bank-focused software company is based in Texas, despite having roots in Oklahoma. The company raised $385.2 million during its life, per Crunchbase data. That sum includes a September 2020 round worth $140 million that valued the company at $1.44 billion on a post-money basis, PitchBook reports.

So, into the latest SEC filing from the software unicorn we go!

Alkami Technology

Alkami Technology is a software company that delivers its product to banks via the cloud, so it’s not a legacy player scraping together an IPO during boom times. Instead, it is the sort of company that we understand; it’s built on top of AWS and charges for its services on a recurring basis.

The company’s core market is all banks smaller than the largest, it appears, or what Alkami calls “community, regional and super-regional financial institutions.” Its service is a software layer that plugs into existing financial systems while also providing a number of user interface options.

In short, it takes a bank from its internal systems all the way to the end-user experience. Here’s how Alkami explained it in its S-1/A filing:

Image Credits: Alkami S-1

Simple enough!

#alkami-technology, #ec-fintech, #ec-news-analysis, #finance, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc, #the-exchange

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As Compass downsizes its IPO, signs of weakness appear for high-growth companies

On the same day that Deliveroo’s IPO fizzled at the start of trading, Compass announced via a fresh S-1 filing that it will reduce the number of shares in its impending flotation and sell them at a lower price.

Taken together, the various market signs could point to a modest to moderate cooling in the tech IPO market.

The move by Compass, a venture-backed residential brokerage, to lower its implied public-market valuation and sell fewer shares is a rebuke of the company’s earlier optimism regarding its valuation and ability to raise capital. The company’s IPO is still slated to generate as much as a half-billion dollars, so it can hardly be called a failure if it executes at its rejiggered price range, but the cuts matter.

Especially when we consider several other factors. The Deliveroo IPO, as discussed this morning, was impacted by more than mere economics. And there are questions regarding how interested seemingly more conservative countries’ stock exchanges will prove in growth-oriented, unprofitable companies.

But added to the mix are recent declines in the valuation of public software companies, effectively repricing the value of high-margin, recurring revenue. The reasons behind that particular change are several, but may include a rotation by public investors into other asset categories, or an air-letting from a sector that may have enjoyed some valuation inflation in the last year.

In that vein, SMB cloud provider DigitalOcean’s own post-IPO declines from its offering price are a bit more understandable, as is a lack of a higher price interval from Kaltura, a video-focused software company, as it looks to list.

Taken together, the various market signs could point to a modest to moderate cooling in the tech IPO market. For a host of companies looking to debut via a SPAC, that could prove to be bad news.

#alex-wilhelm, #compass, #deliveroo, #ec-fintech, #ec-news-analysis, #fintech, #ipo, #spac, #tc

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Embedded procurement will make every company its own marketplace

In 2019, my colleague Matt Harris coined the term “embedded fintech” to describe how virtually all software-driven companies will soon embed financial services into their applications, from sending and receiving payments to enabling lending, insurance and banking services, an idea that quickly spread within the fintech community.

Vertical apps such as Toast for restaurants, Squire for barbershops and Shopmonkey for car repair shops will deliver financial services to businesses in the future rather than traditional, stodgy financial institutions.

Embedded procurement is the natural evolution of embedded fintech.

The embedded fintech movement has just begun, but there is already a sister concept percolating: embedded procurement. In this next wave, businesses will buy things they need through vertical B2B apps, rather than through sales reps, distributors or an individual merchant’s website.

If you own a coffee shop, wouldn’t it be convenient to schedule recurring orders for beans and milk from the same software portal where you process payments, manage accounting and handle payroll? The companies that figured out how to monetize financial services via embedded fintech are well positioned to monetize through procurement, too.

Embedded procurement is the natural evolution of embedded fintech. The salon software company Fresha is a typical embedded fintech story. Fresha’s platform is an online and mobile platform specially designed for spas and salons, encompassing appointment scheduling, reporting and analytics, marketing promotions, and point-of-sale capabilities. The software is free for salons; Fresha monetizes through payment processing.

In the future, Fresha will undoubtedly turn to embedded procurement, becoming a logical place for business owners to order and manage inventory like shampoo, scissors, brushes and other supplies. In turn, Fresha can aggregate demand from thousands of spas to place orders with its suppliers, leveraging its scale to negotiate more favorable pricing on behalf of its customers. Borrowing a concept from the healthcare world, vertical software companies will become group purchasing organizations in every sector.

#business-management, #column, #ec-column, #ec-ecommerce-and-d2c, #ec-fintech, #ec-market-map, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #payments, #procurement

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Steady’s Adam Roseman and investor Emmalyn Shaw outline what worked (and what was missing) in the Series A deck

When it comes to Steady, the platform that helps hourly workers manage their income, maximize their income, and access deals on things like benefits and financial services, the strengths of the business are clear. But it took time for founder and CEO Adam Roseman to clearly define and communicate each of them in his quest for fundraising.

To date, Steady has raised just under $30 million with investors that include Loeb.nyc, Recruit Strategic Partners, Propel Ventures and Flourish Ventures. In fact, Flourish’s Emmalyn Shaw sits on the board, having led the company’s Series A round in 2018.

As a partner at a $500 million fintech fund, her expertise in not only how fintech companies should think about fundraising but what it takes for them to be successful is invaluable. Lucky for us, we got the chance to sit down with both Steady CEO Adam Roseman and Emmalyn Shaw for a recent episode of Extra Crunch Live.

The duo were gracious enough to walk us through Steady’s Series A deck, explaining the importance of highlighting the strengths of the business. They went into detail on how Steady was successful in that during that fundraising process, and what the company could have done differently to be more effectively.

Shaw and Roseman also gave some fantastic advice for founders during the Pitch Deck Teardown, wherein speakers give their expert feedback on decks submitted by the audience. (If you’d like to have your pitch deck featured on an episode of Extra Crunch Live, hit up this link.)

Relationships first

Roseman shared that the best investors are ones that not only understand the business but understand you as a founder and a person. He explained that he and Shaw had plenty of time to get to know each other before the Series A deal.

“I’ve been a part of businesses in the past as an entrepreneur and on boards where it’s been the worst situation, especially when they don’t understand your business,” said Roseman. “Flourish took the time to understand it through and through and was entirely aligned. That makes for the best long-term partnership.”

While it’s a cliche, it remains true that investors often place bets based on a team and not an idea or a product. But what exactly makes a great team or founder? According to Shaw, it’s about vision and passion.

“In Adam’s case, he has a direction connection to what Steady is trying to do,” said Shaw. “That makes a huge difference in terms of commitment because you have ups and downs. They bring experience in terms of understanding the space, how to penetrate and scale and a deep understanding of fintech.”

#adam-roseman, #ec-fintech, #ec-how-to, #ecl, #emmalyn-shaw, #extra-crunch-live, #flourish-ventures, #jordan-crook, #pitch-deck, #steady, #tc, #websites

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Our favorite companies from Y Combinator’s W21 Demo Day: Part 1

It’s that time again! Today is Demo Day for Y Combinator’s latest accelerator batch — its largest to date, with more than 300 teams getting a minute each to pitch their companies to an audience of investors.

This is the third time YC has held its Demo Day via a Zoom livestream and the second time the entire program was entirely virtual. YC president Geoff Ralston outlined their thinking for this latest batch — and how/why they’ve expanded the program to over 300 companies — in a post this morning.

Want to see all of the companies? YC has a catalog of the entire Winter 2021 batch here (minus those that haven’t publicly launched), filterable by industry and region.

If you don’t have time to skim through it all, we’ve aggregated some of the companies that really managed to catch our eye. This is part one of two, covering our favorites from the companies that launched in the first half of the day.

As Alex Wilhelm put it last time we did one of these, “we’re not investors, so we’re not pretending to sort the unicorns from the goats.” But we do spend a lot of time talking with startups, hearing pitches and telling their stories; if you’re curious about which companies stood out, read on.

Prospa

Prospa is building a neobank for small companies in Nigeria. The startup charges customers $7 per month and has reached $50,000 in monthly recurring revenue. That’s some pretty darn good traction. We found Prospa notable because Nigeria’s economy and population are rapidly growing, neobanks have succeeded in a number of markets thus far, and the company’s clear business model and early traction stood out.

And Prospa isn’t targeting a small market. It said during its presentation that there are 37 million so-called “microbusinesses” in its target country. That’s a lot of scale to grow into, and it’s really nice to hear from a neobank that isn’t going to merely pray that interchange revenues will eventually stack to the moon.

— Alex

Blushh

Image Credits: Blushh

Blushh, built by a team of ex-Google, Amazon, Harvard and BCG professionals, is creating a directory of short, sensual audio stories for women in Asia. The startup believes that there is a massive unmet need for adult content created for women, instead of men, signing up 100 paying subscribers within its first month on the market.

During their pitch, co-founder Soy Hwang said Blushh wants to do for sexual wellness what “Spotify and Audible did for music and audio books.” This startup stands out because it is taking on an untapped market ridden with stigma and lack of innovation. It’s a risk on several levels, and considering the fact that many venture capitalists today still have a “vice” clause that prevents them from investing in sex tech, it will be key to see how Blushh funds itself to keep growing.

— Natasha

BrioHR

TechCrunch caught up with BrioHR a few weeks ago when the startup announced that it had closed a $1.3 million round. During its presentation, the company announced that it had reached $13,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR), or $156,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR).

The company is building human resources software for companies in Southeast Asia, a market it considers fraught with old software and outdated business processes. The company is doing two things. First, building software to help manage and pay workers. The latter part of its work requires lots of localization, so it’s rolling out more slowly than the rest of its software.

If Southeast Asia is as fertile ground for modern HR software as the United States has been shown to be, BrioHR could find more than enough room to grow. I’m excited to see how far the company can scale its ARR with the round that we recently covered.

— Alex

Charge Running

Strava walked so Charge Running could, well, run. The startup, founded by a former Navy SEAL, app connoisseur and kinesiology specialist, is an app that offers live virtual running classes. The consumer play is being framed by the team as a “Peloton for running” with motivation and social engagement during the run.

#ec-cloud-and-enterprise-infrastructure, #ec-consumer-applications, #ec-fintech, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

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Social+ payments: Why fintechs need social features

Social+ companies are upping the stakes for everyone by giving consumers multiple benefits at once: products that serve a purpose but also meet our need for belonging to a community.

But what exactly is a social+ company? One for which social engagement is an inextricable component of the product. That is to say: If you removed the social element, the product would cease to make sense. You can find plenty of examples in gaming (Fortnite), fitness (Strava, Peloton), commerce (Pinduoduo), audio (Clubhouse) and more. As noted in Andreessen Horowitz’s recent series Social Strikes Back, “The best version of every consumer product is the one that’s intrinsically social.”

Social+ products are seeing mass adoption because they marry community with functionality.

The benefits of a social+ company

Social+ products are seeing mass adoption because they marry community with functionality. Users form meaningful connections — and engage in value-adding conversations — within the context of the goal they’re trying to achieve. Whether it’s shopping for a deal or growing their assets, social+ products help users gain new knowledge, find motivation, garner status, form friendships and generally feel like they’re part of something.

Companies that base their business model on social+ products enjoy a variety of benefits:

Growth

When the social aspect of a product is integral to its function, users will often drive growth on their own steam, inviting their friends and family to join the community.

Members of highly engaged communities are inspired and fired up by their interactions with other members, and when they’re fired up about something, they talk about it. Participating in these communities makes users feel like they’re part of something, which can have a powerful effect on your growth.

Retention

Relationships matter. The relationship your users have with your brand is ultimately what will determine whether they stick with you or leave you for a competitor offering the same service — particularly at a more attractive price. If you provide your customers with access to a community they relate to and resources that make their lives easier, they’re more likely to be loyal.

The beauty of social+ is that embedding social interaction within your product or app allows you to own that conversation and build a community around your brand. In the absence of built-in communities, these users are forced to turn to places like Reddit or WhatsApp to discuss, among other things, the relative advantages of competitors’ apps.

Harnessing the creativity of your users

User-generated content (UGC) is the lifeblood of any social+ product, driving user engagement and fostering connections among users. UGC means the company can harness the creativity and popularity of its users and doesn’t have to expend as many resources creating content users find valuable. Plus there’s the added bonus that authentic UGC — whether it’s a screenshot or a meme — lends the product far greater credibility than any marketing initiatives you could launch.

#api, #column, #ec-column, #ec-consumer-applications, #ec-fintech, #finance, #payments, #social, #tc, #user-generated-content

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No taxation without innovation: The rise of tax startups

In New York City, if you order a toasted bagel with cream cheese at a deli, you have to pay sales tax. Ask for that same bagel unprepared? You won’t. In Illinois, candy is subject to sales tax, but candy with flour is considered a regular grocery item. Meaning: A Kit Kat is tax-free, but M&Ms will cost you extra. And in Colorado, your daily coffee cup is considered essential packaging, while the lid is not, making it subject to a nonessential packaging tax.

These examples may seem trivial, but they illustrate the idiosyncrasies of sales tax — a fee consumers pay on their purchases that must ultimately be reconciled with the appropriate jurisdictions. Though sales tax is arguably the most complex type of indirect tax, businesses must also contend with other indirect taxes such as use tax, property tax and value-added tax (VAT).

Given the market needs for tax compliance, it’s somewhat shocking how poorly companies are being served by the majority of legacy software companies.

Such taxes may be easy to understand conceptually, but their calculation is convoluted in practice — particularly for sales tax, which is governed by more than 11,000 unique jurisdictions in the U.S. alone. There is no reliable methodology businesses can use to calculate annual remittances based on previous years’ accounting formulas because local tax code changes as much as 25% every year.

For large corporations, sales tax compliance drives sky-high financial planning and analysis spending, and small businesses face an even worse predicament because they can neither afford outsourced tax preparation nor have the expertise to handle this filing. No matter a company’s size, failure to pay the correct amount of sales tax can result in severe penalties and even bankruptcy.

Now, a new legion of startups is emerging to help companies manage the intricacies of indirect taxes, including TaxJar, Taxdoo and Fonoa.

Why does this matter now?

Smaller businesses have, until fairly recently, managed to limp through tax season by selling goods and services locally, and thus operating within relatively consolidated tax jurisdictions. But e-commerce changed this in at least two profound ways.

The first is that even the smallest businesses have transformed from simple brick-and-mortar ventures to complex entities transacting in multiple places online, including via their own storefronts and websites, third-party vendors such as Amazon and Etsy, and wholesale channels. Previously, a small business may have calculated a single type of sales tax — traditionally for storefront enterprises. Now, they may have to calculate different taxes across an increasing number of channels and their resulting tax codes.

Second, e-commerce expanded companies’ geographic reach, allowing them to sell across state and country lines. Until recently, this was an unqualified advantage to small businesses, which benefited from outdated laws requiring most businesses to pay taxes only where they had established nexus, or physical presence. But the 2018 Supreme Court case of South Dakota v. Wayfair put an end to that, with the court ruling that businesses with digital revenue levels above a certain threshold must pay taxes in all states and municipalities in which they sell.

To a large extent, businesses have met the resulting increase in their tax obligations either sloppily or not at all. But the economic fallout from the pandemic is making such noncompliance far less tenable as state and local governments face fiscal shortfalls. With states traditionally relying on sales tax as a primary source of revenue (second only to federal receipts), local governments are beginning not only to enforce their tax codes more vigilantly but also to create new laws that broaden the scope of taxable goods and services.

Given that the financial losses of the pandemic are projected to extend for years, it is unlikely states will revert to their previously relaxed standards of enforcement. Instead, it is far more plausible that COVID-19 will prove an opportunity for states to find new ways to capitalize on sales taxes related to e-commerce.

Small and medium businesses need more options for tax compliance

#column, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #ec-market-map, #ecommerce, #finance, #online-marketplaces, #startups, #tax, #tax-policy, #tc

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