Fintech veteran Jitendra Gupta is ready for his new inning — now he is going after banks in India

For most people in India, having to engage with banks doesn’t instill a sense of joy. Banks in the South Asian market are notorious for making unannounced spam calls to upsell customers loans and credit cards, even when they have been explicitly asked not to do so.

Moreover, when a customer does reach out to a bank with a query, it can take forever to get the job done. Take ICICI Bank, India’s third largest bank and until recently my only banking partner for over six years, for an example.

It is now in its third month in figuring out who exactly in its relationship with Amazon is supposed to re-issue me a credit card. I have moved on with my life, and it looks like they did, too, likely before they even looked at my query.

Small and medium-sized businesses aren’t a big fan of banks, either. If you operate an early-stage startup, it’s anyone’s guess if you will ever be able to convince a bank to issue you a corporate account. So of course, startups — Razorpay and Open — took it upon themselves to fix this experience.

For consumers, too, in recent years, scores of startups have arrived on the scene to improve this banking experience. Whether you are a teenager, or just out of college, or a working professional, or don’t have a credit score, there are firms that can get you a credit card and loan.

But even these services have a ceiling limit of some sort. And customers aren’t loyal to any startup.

“A customer’s relationship is always with the entity where they park their savings deposit,” said Jitendra Gupta, a high-profile entrepreneur who has spent a decade in the fintech world. Since these customers are not parking their money with fintech, “the startups have been unable to disrupt the bank. That’s the hard reality.”

So what’s the alternative? Gupta, who co-founded CitrusPay (sold to Naspers’ PayU) and served as managing director of PayU, has been thinking about these challenges for more than two years.

“If you really want to change the banking industry, you cannot operate from the side. You have to fight from the centre, where they deposit their money. It’s a very time-consuming process and requires a lot of initial capital and experience with banks,” he told TechCrunch in an interview.

After more than a year and a half of raising about $24 million — from Sequoia Capital India, 3one4 Capital, Amrish Rau, Kunal Shah, Kunal Bahl, Tanglin Venture Partners, Rainmatter and others — Gupta is ready to launch what he believes will address a lot of the issues individuals face with their banks.

His new startup, called Jupiter, wants to bring “delight” to the banking experience, and it will launch in India on Thursday.

“We believe that a bank account should be a smart account, where it gives you insight, shares personalized tips and guides you through attaining some financial discipline,” he said.

A snapshot of the reach of banks and fintech startups in India. Data: CIBIL, Statista, BofA Global Research. Image: BofA

To be sure, Jupiter, too, will offer loans and other financial services to customers. But instead of making irrelevant calls to customers, it will assess which of its customers are running short on money and give the option to take a credit line from its app itself, he said. “The upsell doesn’t need to happen by way of spam. It needs to happen by way of contextualization and personalization.”

“Jupiter has been built in a deep integration with the underlying bank, allowing the consumer to have a frictionless experience for all their banking needs,” said Amrish Rau, chief executive of Pine Labs, co-founder of CitrusPay and longtime friend of Gupta.

The startup, which employs 115 people, has developed a number of products for customers joining on day one. The products include the ability to buy now and pay later on UPI, a feature first offered in the market by Jupiter, and a mutual fund portfolio analyzer. A debit card, in-app chat with a customer service agent, expense categorisation, finding the right card, determining the existing health insurance coverage, and more are ready to ship, the startup said.

Jupiter is currently working on providing zero mark-up on forex transactions, and frictionless two-factor authentication. The startup has published a public Trello page where it has outlined the features it is working on and when it expects to ship them, as well as features suggested by its beta-testing customers. “I want to establish full transparency in what we are working on to build trust with customers,” said Gupta.

Jupiter will have its own customer relationship team that will engage with the startup’s users. The startup, which last month opened a waiting list for customers to sign up, had amassed more than 25,000 applications as of two weeks ago.

Even Jupiter, which one day wishes to disrupt the banking sector, currently has to partner with banks. Its partners are Federal Bank and Axis Bank.

I asked Gupta about the excitement his investors see in Jupiter. “Everyone believes, as you see with fintech giants such as Nubank globally, that we will become a full bank,” he said.

But for the time being, Gupta said he is not looking to partner with more banks. “I don’t want Jupiter to attract customers because they want to bank with Federal or Axis. I want them to come to Jupiter because they want to bank with Jupiter,” he said.

In the next 12 months, the startup hopes to serve more than 1 million customers.

#apps, #asia, #banking, #finance, #india, #jitendra-gupta, #startups

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DataRails books $25M more to build better financial reporting tools for SMBs

As enterprise startups continue to target interesting gaps in the market, we’re seeing increasingly sophisticated tools getting built for small and medium businesses — traditionally a tricky segment to sell to, too small for large enterprise tools, and too advanced in their needs for consumer products. In the latest development of that trend, an Israeli startup called DataRails has raised $25 million to continue building out a platform that lets SMBs using Excel to run financial planning and analytics like their larger counterparts.

The funding closes out the company’s Series A at $43.5 million, after the company initially raised $18.5 million in April (some at the time reported this as its Series A, but it seems the round had yet to be completed). The full round includes Zeev Ventures, Vertex Ventures Israel, and Innovation Endeavors, with Vintage Investment Partners added in this most recent tranche. DataRails is not disclosing its valuation, except to note that it has doubled in the last four months, with hundreds of customers and on target to cross 1,000 this year, with a focus on the North American market. It has raised $55 million in total. 

The challenge that DataRails has identified is that on one hand, SMBs have started to adopt a lot more apps, including software delivered as a service, to help them manage their businesses — a trend that has been accelerated in the last year with the pandemic and the knock-on effect that has had for remote working and bringing more virtual elements to replace face-to-face interactions. Those apps can include Salesforce, NetSuite, Sage, SAP, QuickBooks, Zuora, Xero, ADP and more.

But on the other hand, those in the business who manage its finances and financial reporting are lacking the tools to look at the data from these different apps in a holistic way. While Excel is a default application for many of them, they are simply reading lots of individual spreadsheets rather than integrated data analytics based on the numbers.

DataRails has built a platform that can read the reported information, which typically already lives in Excel spreadsheets, and automatically translate it into a bigger picture view of the company.

For SMEs, Excel is such a central piece of software, yet such a pain point for its lack of extensibility and function, that this predicament was actually the germination of starting DataRails in the first place,

Didi Gurfinkel, the CEO who co-founded the company with Eyal Cohen (the CPO) said that DataRails’ initially set out to create a more general purpose product that could help analyze and visualize anything from Excel.

“We started the company with a vision to save the world from Excel spreadsheets,” he said, by taking them and helping to connect the data contained within them to a structured database. “The core of our technology knows how to take unstructured data and map that to a central database.” Before 2020, DataRails (which was founded in 2015) applied this to a variety of areas with a focus on banks, insurance companies, compliance and data integrity.

Over time, it could see a very specific application emerging, specifically for SMEs: providing a platform for FP&A (financial planning and analytics), which didn’t really have a solution to address it at the time. “So we enabled that to beat the market.”

“They’re already investing so much time and money in their software, but they still don’t have analytics and insight,” said Gurfinkel.

That turned out to be fortunate timing, since “digital transformation” and getting more out of one’s data was really starting to get traction in the world of business, specifically in the world of SMEs, and CFOs and other people who oversaw finances were already looking for something like this.

The typical DataRails customer might be as small as a business of 50 people, or as big as 1,000 employees, a size of business that is too small for enterprise solutions, “which can cost tens of thousands of dollars to implement and use,” added Cohen, among other challenges. But as with so many of the apps that are being built today to address those using Excel, the idea with DataRails is low-code or even more specifically no-code, which means “no IT in the loop,” he said.

“That’s why we are so successful,” he said. “We are crossing the barrier and making our solution easy to use.”

The company doesn’t have a huge number of competitors today, either, although companies like Cube (which also recently raised some money) are among them. And others like Stripe, while currently not focussing on FP&A, have most definitely been expanding the tools that it is providing to businesses as part of their bigger play to manage payments and subsequently other processes related to financial activity, so perhaps it, or others like it, might at some point become competitors in this space as well.

In the meantime, Gurfinkel said that other areas that DataRails is likely to expand to cover alongside FP&A are likely to include HR, inventory, and “planning for anything,” any process that you have running in Excel. Another interesting turn would be how and if DataRails decides to look beyond Excel at other spreadsheets, or bypass spreadsheets altogether.

The scope of the opportunity — in the U.S. alone there are more than 30 million small businesses — is what’s attracting the investment here.

“We’re thrilled to reinvest in DataRails and continue working with the team to help them navigate their recent explosive and rapid growth,” said Yanai Oron, General Partner at Vertex Ventures, in a statement. “With innovative yet accessible technology and a tremendous untapped market opportunity, DataRails is primed to scale and become the leading FP&A solution for SMEs everywhere.”

“Businesses are constantly about to start, in the midst of, or have just finished a round of financial reporting—it’s a never-ending cycle,” added Oren Zeev, founding partner at Zeev Ventures. “But with DataRails, FP&A can be simple, streamlined, and effective, and that’s a vision we’ll back again and again.”

#datarails, #enterprise, #europe, #excel, #finance, #financial-planning, #fpa, #funding, #low-code, #no-code, #smbs, #smes

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Revolut revenue grew by 57% in 2020

Fintech startup Revolut has filed some financial results and is sharing details with the press. In 2020, the company reported $361 million in revenue (£261 million) — that’s a 57% increase compared to 2019 revenue of $229 million (£166 million).

Interestingly, those revenue figures have been adjusted to include fair value gains on cryptocurrency assets — it means that Revolut holds some crypto assets on its balance sheet. Revolut made $54 million (£39 million) in fair value gains on cryptocurrency assets.

Gross profit reached $170 million (£123 million) last year. At the same time, the company still reports operating losses. In particular, Q1 2020 was a particularly bad quarter with $76 million (£55 million) in adjusted operating loss.

In 2020, total non-adjusted operating loss reached $277 million (£200.6 million). Like many tech companies, administrative expenses are responsible for this loss. With a staff of 2,200 people, the company spent $367 million (£266 million) on administrative costs alone. But things seem to be improving as you can see:

Image Credits: Revolut

These trends aren’t that surprising as I reported that fintech startups spent most of 2020 focusing on profitability and improving their margins. At the end 2020, Revolut had 14.5 million personal customers and 500,000 companies using Revolut Business.

“As the extraordinary circumstances of 2020 drove the trend towards digital financial management we continued to innovate for customers to make their financial lives easier and accelerate daily use. We launched 24 new retail and business products, expanded into the US, Japan and Australia and launched banking services in Lithuania, all while significantly improving our profitability,” founder and CEO Nikolay Storonsky said in a statement. “We began 2021 with a more resilient and productive business that will enhance our trajectory towards rapid growth.”

When you compare Q1 2020 to Q1 2021, things are radically different for the fintech company. Revenue increased by 130% year-over-year and gross profit grew by 300% between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021.

Revolut has been launching a ton of products to diversify its sources of revenue. It is increasingly becoming a financial super app with current accounts, debit cards, trading services, insurance products, premium subscriptions, cryptocurrency trading and more.

Interestingly, interchange revenue from card transactions represents a good chunk of the company’s revenue. In 2020, cards and interchange generated $131 million (£95 million) in revenue. Every time a Revolut customer makes a card purchase, the card scheme (Visa or Mastercard) gives back some fees to Revolut. It’s an incredibly small percentage-based fee, but it can add up when you generate millions of purchases.

Foreign exchange and wealth generated $111 million (£80 million) in revenue. That’s another big one. And finally, subscriptions, such as Revolut Plus, Revolut Premium and Revolut Metal, accounted for $104 million (£75 million) in revenue.

Those are three strong pillars that all contribute to the company’s bottom line. They all represent a bit less or a bit more than a third of the company’s overall revenue.

Image Credits: Revolut

While the company has expanded aggressively over the years, the U.K. is still by far its biggest market. In 2020, 88.4% of the company’s (non-adjusted) revenue was related to its activities in the U.K. The European Economic Area without the U.K. represented 10.2% of revenue. The U.S., Japan, Australia and other markets were nearly negligible.

Revolut has also raised a mega round of funding in 2020 — a $500 million Series D round that was extended to $580 million in total. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company launches an initial public offering within the next 12 months.

#challenger-bank, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #neobank, #revolut, #startups

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Tiger Global in talks to back BharatPe at $2.5 billion valuation

Indian fintech startup BharatPe is in advanced stages of talks to raise about $250 million in a new financing round led by Tiger Global, two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The new round, a Series E, is valuing the three-year-old New Delhi-headquartered firm at a pre-money valuation of $2.5 billion, sources said, requesting anonymity as the matter is private. The round hasn’t closed, so terms may change, sources cautioned.

BharatPe, which prior to the new round had raised about $233 million in equity and $35 million in debt, was valued at about $900 million in its Series D round in February this year, and $425 million last year.

Indian news outlet the CapTable first reported about the talks between Tiger Global and BharatPe and said the round would value the startup at over $2 billion. BharatPe declined to comment.

BharatPe operates an eponymous service to help offline merchants accept digital payments and secure working capital. Even as India has already emerged as the second-largest internet market, with more than 600 million users, much of the country remains offline.

Among those outside of the reach of the internet are merchants running small businesses, such as roadside tea stalls and neighborhood stores. To make these merchants comfortable with accepting digital payments, BharatPe relies on QR codes and point of sale machines that support government-backed UPI payments infrastructure.

The startup, which serves more than 6 million merchants, said it had deployed over 50,000 PoS machines by November of last year, and enables monthly transactions worth more than $123 million. It does not charge merchants for universal QR code access, but is looking to make money by lending. Grover said the startup’s lending business grew by 10x in 2020.

On Friday, India’s central bank RBI granted an in-principle licence to Centrum Financial Services to set up a small finance bank. Centrum Financial Services has collaborated with BharatPe for the license, according to local media.

The startup is additionally also working to launch two new B2C apps, one of which will enable credit on QR UPI, another source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. The new products will launch as soon as this month, the source said.

#apps, #asia, #bharatpe, #finance, #funding, #india, #tc, #tiger-global

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Wise announces plans to go public via direct listing

Wise, the fintech company formerly known as TransferWise, has announced that it wants to become a public company on the London Stock Exchange. Instead of following the traditional IPO route, Wise plans to go public via a direct listing. This is going to be the biggest direct listing on the London Stock Exchange.

If you’re not familiar with Wise, the company specializes in cross-border money transfers. If you want to send money to someone living in another country, traditional retail banks charge a lot in foreign exchange fees, foreign transaction fees, etc.

Of course, there are some well-known alternative options, such as Western Union and MoneyGram. While those companies provide some convenient on-ramp and off-ramp methods, they’re still more expensive than Wise.

With Wise, users first upload money to their Wise account using a bank transfer or a debit card. They can then send money in another currency to a recipient’s bank account. The company tries to be as transparent and upfront as possible when it comes to fixed and variable fees.

Originally founded in 2011, Wise has grown quite a lot as its revenue grew from $422 million to $586 million in its most recent financial year (from £303 million to £421 million respectively). It represents $57 million (£41 million) in profit before tax — the company says it has been profitable since 2017.

Overall, Wise has 10 million customers who process around $7 billion (£5 billion) in cross-border transactions every month. More recently, the company diversified its revenue by adding new products.

For instance, customers can hold money in 56 currencies in their Wise accounts. They get account numbers in 10 different currencies as well as a debit card. This feature is particularly useful for freelancers who want to accept payments in another country or people moving abroad for a year or two.

The company has also expanded beyond B2C with Wise Business. Those accounts work a bit like regular Wise accounts, but with multiple users and additional features. Wise also powers cross-border transactions in third-party services, such as Monzo and N26.

Opting for a direct listing is an interesting move. A few companies have chosen direct listings in the U.S., such as Spotify, Coinbase and Slack. It means that you’re confident there’ll be enough interests from investors as banks aren’t helping you with your introduction.

It also means that Wise doesn’t need more money as a direct listing doesn’t let you raise additional capital.

Like many tech companies, Wise plans to introduce a dual-class share structure, which means that all of Wise’s existing shareholders will get more votes per share for a while. This is going to be an important listing for the European fintech scene and also for the British tech ecosystem. Now, let’s see how investors feel about Wise.

#europe, #finance, #fintech, #startups, #transferwise, #wise

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Unit raises $51M in Accel-led Series B to grow its banking-as-a-service platform

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Every company is a fintech.” 

But these days, that’s becoming more and more true as an increasing number of companies that are not even in the financial services space seek to add a fintech component to their offering.

A group of startups poised to benefit from this shift are those offering banking as a service. One such startup, Unit, has raised $51 million in a Series B round to further its goal of making it possible for companies and fintechs alike to build banking products “in minutes.”

Silicon Valley-based Accel led the round for Unit, bringing the company’s total raised since its 2019 inception to nearly $70 million. Existing backers Better Tomorrow Ventures, Aleph, Flourish Ventures and TLV Partners also participated in the latest financing

Founders Itai Damti and Doron Somech are no strangers to growing companies. The pair previously co-founded — and bootstrapped — Leverate, a Tel Aviv-based B2B trading tech provider. Unit has dual headquarters in Tel Aviv and New York City.

Damti and Somech founded Unit in late 2019 and spent the first year stealthily building out the platform with the mission of empowering companies to embed financial services into their product, accelerating their time to market. Unit officially launched its platform in late 2020, and over the last three months, it has seen deposit volume grow by more than 300% and new end users by 600% (albeit from a small base).

With its platform, Unit touts, companies in a variety of industries — such as freelance or creator economy and personal financial management, for example — can build financial products directly into their software. This gives them the ability to build and launch next-gen bank accounts, cards, payment and lending products. Customers include Wethos, Lance, Benepass, Moves and Tribevest, among others.

“Our mission is to expand financial access for all and we do it by empowering the next generation of fintech builders,” Damti said. Only about 20% of its customers are what might be considered true fintechs, he said. The remaining 80% are companies that are not but rather want to embed banking as a service into their offering.

Unit, Damti claims, takes what was once “a very expensive and complex process of 18 months” that includes finding and managing a bank relationship, building a compliance team and building a tech stack “that gets you to a competitive banking offering, and turns it into one API and one dashboard that helps companies launch accounts cards, payments and lending within five weeks.”

In conjunction with the funding, Unit is also announcing today a new offering, Unit Go, which it says allows companies to create live bank accounts and issue physical and virtual cards in minutes. Founders and developers can try it out by creating a free account, building in Unit’s live environment and testing their products using real funds. Unit Go is currently in beta and will be available to the public in the fall of 2021. 

The company plans to use its new capital to grow its headcount of 26 and fast-track its Unit Go offering. It also wants to expand its platform into additional financial products, software development kits (SDKs) and integrations. (It’s already integrated with Plaid, for example).

Of course, Unit is not the only startup in the burgeoning banking-as-a-service (BaaS) space. It competes with the likes of Railbank, Treasury Prime and Stripe. Damti believes there are a few things that help differentiate Unit in the increasingly crowded space.

For one, according to Damti, Unit intentionally “put compliance at the front and center of what we do.” As evidence of that, earlier this year, it tapped Amanda Swoverland to serve as its chief compliance officer. 

Secondly, Damti emphasizes that Unit is not a matchmaker or marketplace along the lines of Synctera.

“We are acting as a company that connects banks to the tech ecosystem and banks are critical vendors and partners to us, but we see them as a built-in element within Unit, because we believe that the most excellent experience in this ecosystem can only come from software companies,” Damti told TechCrunch. 

And finally, he notes, Unit is technically distinct in that it is actually building a ledger, which Damti describes as “the most critical and sensitive part of the ecosystem.”

By owning the ledger and not delegating, he said, Unit is “able to offer a radically better experience.”

“As far as the transaction environment, the cleanliness of the data that we provide and the fees that our customers are able to control and tweak, owning that ledger piece is super critical for the experience,” Damti said.  

Accel partner Amit Kumar notes that in recent years, the landscape has shifted from hundreds of fintech startups “trying to beat incumbents with slightly better products” to thousands of tech companies trying to launch fintech businesses in their verticals.

“Unit’s strong emphasis on managing compliance addresses the risk typically associated with offering banking services and allows customers to bring these products to market much faster than previously possible,” he told TechCrunch. “Unit is building the platform to power the next generation of fintech.”

#accel, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #payments, #recent-funding, #startups, #unit, #venture-capital

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Insurtech AI startup Akur8 closes $30M Series B

Automating insurance claims is a big business, and the world of AI is coming at it ‘full pelt’. The latest is Akur8, an insurtech automating insurance platform whose ‘Transparent AI’ product is trying to eat into the incumbent large business of Willis Towers watson, among others.

It’s now closed a Series B funding round of $30m led by an undisclosed investor. This brings its total funding to $42m. The round is to support international expansion.

Akur8 is used by actuaries and pricing teams to make faster decisions about insurance claims.

Customers include AXA, Generali, and Munich Re, specialty insurers Canopius and Tokio Marine Kiln, insurtechs Wakam and wefox, as well as mutualistic player Matmut.

Samuel Falmagne, co-founder and CEO of Akur8 commented: “We are happy to announce the closing of our Series B funding round and are grateful for the support we have seen from our investors. This latest milestone will enable us to accelerate the transformation of insurance pricing even further, fuel our international expansion in the US and APAC, and equip P&C and health carriers with a state-of-the-art, integrated pricing solution that we have been building and refining tirelessly.”

Julien Creuzé, Partner at BlackFin Capital Partners Said: “The BlackFin team is thrilled to see Akur8 continue to spread its wings and deploy its next-generation pricing platform across insurance carriers worldwide. We have built a great relationship with the Akur8 management team and it’s a pleasure to welcome new investors and continue this journey with them.”

#akur8, #artificial-intelligence, #axa, #blackfin-capital-partners, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #insurance, #munich-re, #partner, #tc, #united-states

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Novo, a neobank for SMBs, banks $41M

Small businesses have traditionally been underserved when it comes to IT — they are too big and have too many requirements that can’t be met by consumer products, yet are much too small to afford, implement or thoroughly need apps and other IT build for larger enterprises. But when it comes to neobanks, it feels like there is no shortage of options for the SMB market, nor venture funding being invested to help them grow.

In the latest development, Novo, a neobank that has built a service targeting small businesses, has closed a round of $40.7 million, a Series A that it will be using to continue growing its business, and its platform.

The funding is being led by Valar Ventures with Crosslink Capital, Rainfall Ventures, Red Sea Ventures, and BoxGroup all also participating. The startup is not disclosing valuation but Novo — originally founded in New York in 2018 but now based out of Miami — has racked up 100,000 SMB customers — which it defines as businesses that make between $25,000 and $100,000 in annualized revenues — and has seen $1 billion in lifetime transactions, with growth accelerating in the last couple of years.

There are a wide variety of options for small businesses these days when it comes to going for a banking solution. They include staying with traditional banks (which are starting to add an increasing number of services and perks to retain small business customers), as well as a variety of fintechs — other neobanks, like Novo — that are building banking and related financial tools to cater to startups and other small businesses.

Just doing a quick search, some of the others targeting the sector include Rho, NorthOne, Lili, Mercury, Brex, Hatch, Anna, Tide, Viva Wallet, Open, and many more (and you could argue also players like Amazon, offering other money management and spending tools similar to what neobanks are providing). Some of these are not in the U.S., and some are geared more at startups, or freelancers, but taken together they speak to the opportunity and also the attention that it is getting from the tech industry right now.

As CEO and co-founder Michael Rangel — who hails from Miami — described it to me, one of the key differentiators with Novo is that it’s approaching SMB banking from the point of view of running a small business. By this, he means that typically SMBs are already using a lot of other finance software — on average seven apps per business — to manage their books, payments and other matters, and so Novo has made it easier by way of a “drag and drop” dashboard where an SMB can integrate and view activity across all of those apps in one place. There are “dozens” of integrations currently, he said, and more are being added.

This is the first step, he said. The plan is to build more technology so that the activity between different apps can also be monitored, and potentially automated

“We’re able to see this is your balance and what you should expect,” he said. “The next frontier is to marry the incoming with outgoing. We’re using the funding to build that, and it’s on the roadmap in next six months.”

Novo has yet to bring cash advances or other lending products into its platform, although those too are on the roadmap, but it is also listening to its customers and watching what they want to do on the platform — another reason why it’s clever to make it easy to for those customers to integrate other services into Novo: not only does that solve a pain point for the customer, but it becomes a pretty clear indicator of what customers are doing, and how you could better cater to that.

Listening to the customers is in itself becoming a happy challenge, it seems. Novo launched quietly enough — between 2018 and the end of 2019, it had picked up only 5,000 accounts. But all that changed during 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic, which Rangel describes as “just hockey stick growth. We grew like crazy.”

The reason, he said, is a classic example of why incumbent banks have to catch up with the times. Everyone was locked down at home, and suddenly a lot of people who were either furloughed or laid off were “spinning up businesses,” he said, and that led to many of them needing to open bank accounts. But those who tried to do this with high-street banks were met with a pretty significant barrier: you had to go into the bank in person to authenticate yourself, but either the banks were closed, or people didn’t want to travel to them. That paved the way for Novo (and others) to cater to them.

Its customer numbers shot up to 24,000 in the year.

Then other market forces have also helped it. You might recall that banking app Simple was shut down by BBVA ahead of its merger with PNC; but at the same time, it also shut down Azlo, it’s small business banking service. That led to a significant number of users migrating to other services, and Novo got a huge windfall out of that, too.

In the last six months, Novo grew four-fold, and Rangel attributed a lot of that to ex-Azloans looking for a new home.

The fact that there are so many SMB banking providers out there might mean competition, but it also means fragmentation, and so if a startup emerges that seems to be catching on, it’s going to catch something else, too: the eye of investors.

“The ability of the Novo team to grow the company rapidly during a year where businesses have faced unprecedented challenges is impressive,” said Andrew McCormack, founding partner at Valar Ventures, the firm co-founded by Peter Thiel, another big figure in fintech. “Novo tripled its small business customer base in the first half of 2021! Their custom infrastructure and banking platform put them in prime position to expand their services at an even faster pace as we come out of the health crisis. All of us at Valar Ventures are excited to join this team.”

#banking, #enterprise, #finance, #funding, #neobank, #smbs, #smes

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10x, a UK fintech, raises $187M to build new services for old banks

As so-called neobanks continue to gain more traction in the market with their more modern takes on banking and other financial services, a startup that’s building technology to help incumbent players better compete is announcing a big round of funding.

10x Future Technologies, a London-based fintech that helps larger, established banks build both next-generation services as well as tools to help their older services work more efficiently, has raised $187 million. We understand from sources close to the company that 10x’s valuation with this round is in the range of $700 million.

(The amount raised and valuation also roughly line up with the figures from Sky News, which reported earlier this month that 10x was raising new funding.)

10x will be using the funds both to expand into new geographies like North America, as well as to continue building more technology for its flagship platform. SuperCore, as that platform is called, is an all-in-one system built from scratch to run a wide range of banking services such as payments, core banking, mortgages, analytics, security and marketing, which 10x’s bank customers can integrate into their existing tech by way of APIs, or 10x can use to build those clients new services from the ground up.

This Series C round is full of heavy hitters that speak to the credibility 10x has picked up in its five years in the market.

Co-led by BlackRock and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments), it also includes existing investors JPMorgan Chase, Nationwide, Ping An and Australia’s Westpac.

The latter four include strategic backers: Antony Jenkins, the founder and CEO of 10x who himself used to work at big banks (his last role was CEO of Barclays, and although he left under a cloud, his prominence and track record are likely reasons for the company’s clout), tells us that 10x is currently building services for Westpac and Nationwide.

10x has two other banks as customers that it is not disclosing yet, which will be leading to more soon, Jenkins added, since the industry is “at a transitional moment” right now. Some of 10x’s engagements are already live, with “volume going over the platform,” he said. Others have yet to launch.

The opportunity that 10x is targeting is big, but also elusive.

Neobanks and other new-generation fintech providers are slowly chipping away at incumbent banks’ stronghold on consumer and business banking. They are typically doing this not by becoming fully-fledged banks themselves, but by stitching together suites of traditional and more modern banking services by way of APIs from other fintechs; machine learning algorithms to personalise services to customers; and modern interfaces to make the whole experience more user-friendly than what you might get from a traditional bank.

Incumbent banks want to compete against these new upstarts with rival products of their own, but in many cases they can’t: their infrastructure is too old, and oftentimes the company culture is even older.

This is where 10x comes in, providing the tools and advice to help them get new services up and running.

Jenkins notes that currently, a lot of the engagements 10x is seeing involve banks bolting on completely new services rather than building services to replace those they already offer. One fitting analogy here is that it’s a little like putting a modern extension on a very old house, rather than remodelling and modernizing the whole of the old house from the ground up.

But, it seems that we are now, five years into 10x’s life as a business, starting to see the first signs of banks willing to explore how to migrate their core data to more modern systems to make it more extensible and usable in a wider range of new services, and 10x believes it can be a partner in that back-end transformation, too.

“The legacy systems are where banks’ issues sit, because they are all architected around product, not customers,” he said. “But we believe that the industry is ready to contemplate the process of migration now.” The company is not yet working on any projects of this kind, he added, but it expects to in the next 12 months.

And even with other fintech startups, like FintechOS, also building services aimed at helping incumbent banks be more modern, that expectation spells opportunity for investors.

“We have been impressed with 10x’s strategy and ambition to play a key role at the heart transformations taking place in financial services, driven by technology innovation, consumer expectations and regulatory reform,” saiid William Abecassis, BlackRock’s Head of Innovation Capital, in a statement. “We are excited to be investing in the business as it scales into new markets.”

Leon Pedersen,  MD and Head of Thematic Investing, CPP Investments added: “10x is very well placed to change how big banks are built and deliver for their customers. 10x presents an attractive opportunity for a long-term investor like CPP Investments as we believe they will benefit from their exposure to the structural growth trend of financial institutions investing in digital initiatives and renewing core technology infrastructure, allowing banks to introduce new offerings and products much faster than using legacy platforms.”

#10x, #europe, #finance

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FamPay, a fintech aimed at teens in India, raises $38 million

How big is the market in India for a neobank aimed at teenagers? Scores of high-profile investors are backing a startup to find out.

Bangalore-based FamPay said on Wednesday it has raised $38 million in its Series A round led by Elevation Capital. General Catalyst, Rocketship VC, Greenoaks Capital and existing investors Sequoia Capital India, Y Combinator, Global Founders Capital and Venture Highway also participated in the new round, which brings FamPay’s to-date raise to $42.7 million.

TechCrunch reported early this month that FamPay was in talks with Elevation Capital to raise a new round.

Founded by Sambhav Jain and Kush Taneja (pictured above) — both of whom graduated from Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee in 2019 — FamPay enables teenagers to make online and offline payments.

The thesis behind the startup, said Jain in an interview with TechCrunch, is to provide financial literacy to teenagers, who additionally have limited options to open a bank account in India at a young age. Through gamification, the startup said it’s making lessons about money fun for youngsters.

Unlike in the U.S., where it’s common for teenagers to get jobs at restaurants and other places and understand how to handle money at a young age, a similar tradition doesn’t exist in India.

After gathering the consent from parents, FamPay provides teenagers with an app to make online purchases, as well as plastic cards — the only numberless card of its kind in the country — for offline transactions. Parents credit money to their children’s FamPay accounts and get to keep track of high-ticket spendings.

In other markets, including the U.S., a number of startups including Greenlight, Step and Till Financial are chasing to serve the teenagers, but in India, there currently is no startup looking to solve the financial access problem for teenagers, said Mridul Arora, a partner at Elevation Capital, in an interview with TechCrunch.

It could prove to be a good issue to solve — India has the largest adolescent population in the world.

“If you’re able to serve them at a young age, over a course of time, you stand to become their go-to product for a lot of things,” Arora said. “FamPay is serving a population that is very attractive and at the same time underserved.”

The current offerings of FamPay are just the beginning, said Jain. Eventually the startup wishes to provide a range of services and serve as a neobank for youngsters to retain them with the platform forever, he said, though he didn’t wish to share currently what those services might be.

Image Credits: FamPay

Teens represent the “most tech-savvy generation, as they haven’t seen a world without the internet,” he said. “They adapt to technology faster than any other target audience and their first exposure with the internet comes from the likes of Instagram and Netflix. This leads to higher expectations from the products that they prefer to use. We are unique in approaching banking from a whole new lens with our recipe of community and gamification to match the Gen Z vibe.”

“I don’t look at FamPay just as a payments service. If the team is able to execute this, FamPay can become a very powerful gateway product to teenagers in India and their financial life. It can become a neobank, and it also has the opportunity to do something around social, community and commerce,” said Arora.

During their college life, Jain and Taneja collaborated and built an app and worked at a number of startups, including social network ShareChat, logistics firm Rivigo and video streaming service Hotstar. Jain said their work with startups in the early days paved the idea to explore a future in this ecosystem.

Prior to arriving at FamPay, Jain said the duo had thought about several more ideas for a startup. The early days of FamPay were uniquely challenging to the founders, who had to convince their parents about their decision to do a startup rather than joining firms or startups as had most of their peers from college. Until being selected by Y Combinator, Jain said he didn’t even fully understand a cap table and dilutions.

He credited entrepreneurs such as Kunal Shah (founder of CRED) and Amrish Rau (CEO of Pine Labs) for being generous with their time and guidance. They also wrote some of the earliest checks to the startup.

The startup, which has amassed over 2 million registered users, plans to deploy the fresh capital to expand its user base and product offerings, and hire engineers. It is also looking for people to join its leadership team, said Jain.

#apps, #asia, #elevation-capital, #fampay, #finance, #funding, #general-catalyst, #global-founders-capital, #greenoaks-capital, #neobanks, #recent-funding, #rocketship-vc, #sequoia-capital-india, #startups, #tc, #venture-highway, #y-combinator

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Extra Crunch roundup: TC Mobility recaps, Nubank EC-1, farewell to browser cookies

What, exactly, are investors looking for?

Early-stage founders, usually first-timers, often tie themselves in knots as they try to project the qualities they hope investors are seeking. In reality, few entrepreneurs have the acting skills required to convince someone that they’re patient, dedicated or hard-working.

Johan Brenner, general partner at Creandum, was an early backer of Klarna, Spotify and several other European startups. Over the last two decades, he’s identified five key traits shared by people who create billion-dollar companies.


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Use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one- or two-year subscription


“A true unicorn founder doesn’t need to have all of those capabilities on Day One,” says Brenner, “but they should already be thinking big while executing small and demonstrating that they understand how to scale a company.”

Drawing from observations gleaned from working with founders like Spotify’s Daniel Ek, Sebastian Siemiatkowski from Klarna, and iZettle’s Jacob de Geer and Magnus Nilsson, Brenner explains where “VC FOMO” comes from and how it drives dealmaking.

We’re running a series of posts that recap conversations from last week’s virtual TC Mobility conference, including an interview with Refraction AI’s Matthew Johnson, a look at how autonomous delivery startups are navigating the regulatory and competitive landscape, and much more. There are many more recaps to come; click here to find them all.

Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
@yourprotagonist

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

Image Credits: Nigel Sussman

Founded in 2013 and based in São Paulo, Brazil, Nubank serves more than 34 million customers, making it Latin America’s largest neobank.

Reporter Marcella McCarthy spoke to CEO David Velez to learn about his efforts to connect with consumers and overcome entrenched opposition from established players who were friendly with regulators.

In the first of a series of stories for Nubank’s EC-1, she interviewed Velez about his early fundraising efforts. For a balanced perspective, she also spoke to early Nubank investors at Sequoia and Kaszek Ventures, Latin America’s largest venture fund, to find out why they funded the startup while it was still pre-product.

“There are people you come across in life that within the first hour of meeting with them, you know you want to work with them,” said Doug Leone, a global managing partner at Sequoia who’d recruited Velez after he graduated from grad school at Stanford.

Marcella also interviewed members of Nubank’s founding team to better understand why they decided to take a chance on a startup that faced such long odds of success.

“I left banking to make a fifth of my salary, and back then, about $5,000 in equity,” said Vitor Olivier, Nubank’s VP of operations and platforms.

“Financially, it didn’t really make sense, so I really had to believe that it was really going to work, and that it would be big.”

Despite flat growth, ride-hailing colossus Didi’s US IPO could reach $70B

Image Credits: Didi

In his last dispatch before a week’s vacation, Alex Wilhelm waded through the numbers in Didi’s SEC filing. The big takeaways?

“While Didi managed an impressive GTV recovery in China, its aggregate numbers are flatter, and recent quarterly trends are not incredibly attractive,” he writes.

However, “Didi is not as unprofitable as we might have anticipated. That’s a nice surprise. But the company’s regular business has never made money, and it’s losing more lately than historically, which is also pretty rough.”

What’s driving the rise of robotaxis in China with AutoX, Momenta and WeRide

AutoX, Momenta and WeRide took the stage at TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 to discuss the state of robotaxi startups in China and their relationships with local governments in the country.

They also talked about overseas expansion — a common trajectory for China’s top autonomous vehicle startups — and shed light on the challenges and opportunities for foreign AV companies eyeing the massive Chinese market.

The air taxi market prepares to take flight

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

“As in any disruptive industry, the forecast may be cloudier than the rosy picture painted by passionate founders and investors,” Aria Alamalhodaei writes. “A quick peek at comments and posts on LinkedIn reveals squabbles among industry insiders and analysts about when this emerging technology will truly take off and which companies will come out ahead.”

But while some electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) companies have no revenue yet to speak of — and may not for the foreseeable future — valuations are skyrocketing.

“Electric air mobility is gaining elevation,” she writes. “But there’s going to be some turbulence ahead.”

The demise of browser cookies could create a Golden Age of digital marketing

Though some may say the doomsday clock is ticking toward catastrophe for digital marketing, Apple’s iOS 14.5 update, which does away with automatic opt-ins for data collection, and Google’s plan to phase out third-party cookies do not signal a death knell for digital advertisers.

“With a few changes to short-term strategy — and a longer-term plan that takes into account the fact that people are awakening to the value of their online data — advertisers can form a new type of relationship with consumers,” Permission.io CTO Hunter Jensen writes in a guest column. “It can be built upon trust and open exchange of value.”

If offered the right incentives, Jensen predicts, “consumers will happily consent to data collection because advertisers will be offering them something they value in return.”

How autonomous delivery startups are navigating policy, partnerships and post-pandemic operations

Nuro second gen R2 delivery vehicle

Image Credits: Nuro

We kicked off this year’s TC Sessions: Mobility with a talk featuring three leading players in the field of autonomous delivery. Gatik co-founder and chief engineer Apeksha Kumavat, Nuro head of operations Amy Jones Satrom, and Starship Technologies co-founder and CTO Ahti Heinla joined us to discuss their companies’ unique approaches to the category.

The trio discussed government regulation on autonomous driving, partnerships with big corporations like Walmart and Domino’s, and the ongoing impact the pandemic has had on interest in the space.

Waabi’s Raquel Urtasun explains why it was the right time to launch an AV technology startup

Image Credits: Waabi via Natalia Dola

Raquel Urtasun, the former chief scientist at Uber ATG, is the founder and CEO of Waabi, an autonomous vehicle startup that came out of stealth mode last week. The Toronto-based company, which will focus on trucking, raised an impressive $83.5 million in a Series A round led by Khosla Ventures.

Urtasun joined Mobility 2021 to talk about her new venture, the challenges facing the self-driving vehicle industry and how her approach to AI can be used to advance the commercialization of AVs.

#artificial-intelligence, #av, #didi, #ec-techcrunch-tc-mobility, #entrepreneurship, #extra-crunch-roundup, #finance, #fintech, #klarna, #nubank, #robotaxi, #spotify, #startups, #tc, #transportation, #venture-capital

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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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Google will let enterprises store their Google Workspace encryption keys

As ubiquitous as Google Docs has become in the last year alone, a major criticism often overlooked by the countless workplaces who use it is that it isn’t end-to-end encrypted, allowing Google — or any requesting government agency — access to a company’s files. But Google is finally addressing that key complaint with a round of updates that will let customers shield their data by storing their own encryption keys.

Google Workspace, the company’s enterprise offering that includes Google Docs, Slides and Sheets, is adding client-side encryption so that a company’s data will be indecipherable to Google.

Companies using Google Workspace can store their encryption keys with one of four partners for now: Flowcrypt, Futurex, Thales, or Virtru, which are compatible with Google’s specifications. The move is largely aimed at regulated industries — like finance, healthcare, and defense — where intellectual property and sensitive data are subject to intense privacy and compliance rules.

(Image: Google / supplied)

The real magic lands later in the year when Google will publish details of an API that will let enterprise customers build their own in-house key service, allowing workplaces to retain direct control of their encryption keys. That means if the government wants that company’s data, they have to knock on their front door — and not sneak around the back by serving the key holder with a legal demand.

Google published technical details of how the client-side encryption feature works, and will roll out as a beta in the coming weeks.

Tech companies giving their corporate customers control of their own encryption keys has been a growing trend in recent years. Slack and cloud vendor Egnyte bucked the trend by allowing their enterprise users to store their own encryption keys, effectively cutting themselves out of the surveillance loop. But Google has dragged its feet on encryption for so long that startups are working to build alternatives that bake in encryption from the ground up.

Google said it’s also pushing out new trust rules for how files are shared in Google Drive to give administrators more granularity on how different levels of sensitive files can be shared, and new data classification labels to mark documents with a level of sensitivity such as “secret” or “internal”.

The company said it’s improving its malware protection efforts by now blocking phishing and malware shared from within organizations. The aim is to help cut down on employees mistakenly sharing malicious documents.

#api, #cloud-storage, #computing, #cryptography, #data-protection, #data-security, #egnyte, #encryption, #end-to-end-encryption, #finance, #google, #google-workspace, #google-drive, #healthcare, #privacy, #security, #technology, #thales

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Lydia partners with Cashbee to add savings accounts

French startup Lydia is better known as the dominant app for peer-to-peer payments. But the company has been adding more features, such as a debit card, account aggregation, donations, money pots and more. This week, the company is adding savings accounts thanks to a partnership with French fintech startup Cashbee.

If you aren’t familiar with Cashbee, the company lets you open savings accounts through a mobile app. After connecting your bank account with Cashbee, you can transfer money back and forth between your bank account and a savings account.

Right now, Cashbee partners with My Money Bank for the savings accounts. Cashbee doesn’t keep your money, it just acts as a middle person between your bank account and My Money Bank. With those savings accounts, users can expect an interest rate of 0.6% after an introductory rate of 2% for a few months.

Lydia basically offers the same terms and conditions with a few differences. Instead of earning 2% interest for the first three months, Lydia users only earn more interests during the first two months.

The other big difference is that Lydia asks you to put at least €1,000 on your savings account when you open it. If you go through Cashbee’s app, you only have to put €10 or more. But users can do whatever they want after that when it comes to putting some money aside and withdrawing money from the savings account.

But the fact that Cashbee is seamlessly integrated in Lydia is interesting. It’s going to expose Cashbee to a lot more users as Lydia has more than 5 million users. It’s also an important features if Lydia wants to become a financial super app.

This savings feature competes with Livret A, the most prevailing savings account in France. Everybody can open a Livret A in a retail bank. You get an interest rate of 0.5% net of taxes. On paper, 0.6% is better than 0.5%. But Cashbee’s savings accounts aren’t net of taxes.

If you’re a student and don’t pay any taxes, that’s a better deal. But many people pay 30% in taxes on accrued interests, which means that you end up earning 0.42% in interests net of taxes with a Cashbee account.

But it’s hard to beat the simplicity of Lydia’s solution here. For instance, you can save up to €1,000,000 on your savings account while the Livret A is limited to €22,950. In other words, if you’re already using Lydia to send, receive and spend money, you might want to check out those savings accounts.

#apps, #cashbee, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france, #france-newsletter, #lydia, #startups

0

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

0

Messenger adds Venmo-like QR codes for person-to-person payments in the U.S.

This spring, Facebook confirmed it was testing Venmo-like QR codes for person-to-person payments inside its app in the U.S. Today, the company announced those codes are now launching publicly to all U.S. users, allowing anyone to send or request money through Facebook Pay — even if they’re not Facebook friends.

The QR codes work similarly to those found in other payment apps, like Venmo.

The feature can be found under the “Facebook Pay” section in Messenger’s settings, accessed by tapping on your profile icon at the top left of the screen. Here, you’ll be presented with your personalized QR code which looks much like a regular QR code except that it features your profile icon in the middle.

Underneath, you’ll be shown your personal Facebook Pay UR which is in the format of “https://m.me/pay/UserName.” This can also be copied and sent to other users when you’re requesting a payment.

Facebook notes that the codes will work between any U.S. Messenger users, and won’t require a separate payment app or any sort of contact entry or upload process to get started.

Users who want to be able to send and receive money in Messenger have to be at least 18 years old, and will have to have a Visa or Mastercard debit card, a PayPal account or one of the supported prepaid cards or government-issued cards, in order to use the payments feature. They’ll also need to set their preferred currency to U.S. dollars in the app.

After setup is complete, you can choose which payment method you want as your default and optionally protect payments behind a PIN code of your choosing.

The QR code is also available from the Facebook Pay section of the main Facebook app, in a carousel at the top of the screen.

Facebook Pay first launched in November 2019, as a way to establish a payment system that extends across the company’s apps for not just person-to-person payments, but also other features, like donations, Stars, and e-commerce, among other things. Though the QR codes take cues from Venmo and others, the service as it stands today is not necessarily a rival to payment apps because Facebook partners with PayPal as one of the supported payment methods.

However, although the payments experience is separate from Facebook’s cryptocurrency walletNovi, that’s something that could perhaps change in the future.

Image Credits: Facebook

The feature was introduced alongside a few other Messenger updates, including a new Quick Reply bar that makes it easier to respond to a photo or video without having to return to the main chat thread. Facebook also added new chat themes including one for Olivia Rodrigo fans, another for World Oceans Day, and one that promotes the new F9 movie.

 

#apps, #cryptocurrencies, #e-commerce, #facebook, #facebook-messenger, #finance, #messenger, #mobile, #mobile-payments, #online-payments, #paypal, #qr-code, #social-media, #software, #technology, #united-states, #venmo

0

Money Minx aims to build a ‘Personal Finance’ OS for the everyday investor

New regulations are making it easier to invest in alternative assets via crowdfunding, and the recent explosion of crypto and NFTs means that investors are more diversified than ever. 

Keeping up with such a variety of investments may prove difficult to those who want to handle managing their investment portfolios on their own. Money Minx, a new San Diego-based startup co-founded by husband and wife team Hussein and Jessica Yahfoufi, wants to help with that.

Put simply, Money Minx aims to build a “Personal Finance OS” for every household. The platform is designed to help people track all of their investments — yes, including crypto and NFTs — in one place, in whatever currency. The company claims that its AI can also go a step further, and help people spot opportunities in their portfolio as well as catch potential risks.

“We built Money Minx to help people cover all their bases, better understand their personal balance sheet and grow their net worth,” Hussein said. “No financial advisor needed.”

Money Minx also aims to provide people with easy-to-use tools to create dashboards and reports. In its “soft launch” phase, the startup has been growing rapidly — from $15 million in assets tracked at the end of March to $107 million by mid-May. Its user base is growing by 40% month over month.

As many founders do, Hussein says he and Jessica developed the platform to meet a need of their own.

“We built this because we needed it as ‘do it yourself investors,’ said Hussein, who previously started crowdfunding site appsplit and works as a CTO at a San Diego-based fintech company. “I didn’t want to hire a financial advisor and spend 1% of my portfolio every year for them to tell me what to do. So I started to do it on my own on a spreadsheet and then started building this tool last year.”

Hussein talked to other investors and realized that many were also managing their own finances and had also moved into investing outside the stock market.

Image Credits: Money Minx co-founders Jessica and Hussein Yahfoufi / Money Minx

“Everyday investors are preferring to invest more in crowdfunding sites and alternative assets than the traditional stock market,” he said. 

This shift has created a gap in the market for an easy way to track investments across multiple platforms, the Yahfoufis believe. 

Money Minx operates as a SaaS business and charges a monthly subscription fee across three different plans ranging from $10 to $30 a month. Looking ahead, Hussein is considering building out a white-glove service.

Although Money Minx has been approached by interested VCs, Hussein says the company prefers to stay bootstrapped — for now.

Indeed, VCs are pouring money into the space. Just last week, personal finance startup Truebill announced it had raised a $45 million Series D funding round led by Accel.

#apps, #artificial-intelligence, #crowdfunding, #crypto-economy, #cryptocurrency, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #financial-advisor, #fintech, #money, #money-minx, #saas, #san-diego, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #truebill

0

Fintech startup TreasurySpring raises $10M for platform giving online access to Fixed-term-funds

Fixed-term-funds (FTFs) have historically been a bank-to-bank market. FTF products allow for investing into some of the safest assets including, UK Government bonds, US Government bonds and highly-rated corporations. They allow holders of large amounts of cash (such as charities, private funds, family offices etc) to reduce and diversify their risk, but also increasing returns.

TreasurySpring is a fintech startup that is aiming to opening up access to this area of financial markets, by creating a Fixed-Term Fund platform. It’s now raised a $10 million Series A investment round co-led by MMC Ventures and Anthemis Group. Existing investors, including ETFS Capital, participated, taking the total its raised to $15 million.

TreasurySpring says its FTF platform gives holders of large cash balances online access to a menu of proprietary cash investments on a daily basis. This gives them access to an asset class that is usually only available to major financial institutions.

Founded in 2016 by Kevin Cook (CEO), Matthew Longhurst and James Skillen, Cook said in a statement: “Following a break-out 12 months in which we increased AUM by 10x, we wanted to bring in the best possible investment partners to support our ambitious growth plans. We have long admired both Anthemis Group and MMC, so I am delighted that they co-led the round and we are excited to work with Sean, Ollie and their respective teams, as we move into the next phase of our journey to redefine cash investment and front-office treasury.”

Given the current low and negative interest rates and an uncertain global financial outlook, TreasurySpring says its platform is likely to appeal as an alternative to traditional bank deposits and money market funds. It says it’s now issued more than $9B of FTFs to a client base which includes FTSE 100 and other listed companies, fund managers, large private companies, charities, and family offices.

Yann Ranchere, partner at Anthemis Group said: “With its ambitious and mission-driven team, TreaurySpring is opening the traditional money market industry to a whole new pool of participants.”

Oliver Richards, partner at MMC Ventures added: “Having worked with the team at TreasurySpring for the last two years, we have absolute confidence in their ability to deliver on their unique vision to level the playing field in cash investing and short-term funding, through a platform that not only brings value to its clients and issuers but also enhances the diversification and systemic stability of the money markets as a whole.”

Does TreasurySpring have any direct competitors? The compay sdays not. That said, bank deposits and money market funds are still the only tools available to most holders of large cash balances, so the banks and asset managers that offer these products are competitors, “to an extent” admits the firm. Howeverr, they are also “collaborators in many instances.”

Cook said: “Adoption of the platform is being driven by a realisation that the risks and returns of the traditional [deposit and MMF] options are becoming ever less attractive, whilst building out the infrastructure to do anything else is complex, cumbersome, time consuming and expensive.”

#bank, #bond, #ceo, #economy, #europe, #finance, #fintech-startup, #investment, #mmc-ventures, #money, #ollie, #partner, #tc, #uk-government, #us-government

0

Recorded Future launches its new $20M Intelligence Fund for early-stage startups

Threat intelligence company Recorded Future is launching a $20 million fund for early-stage startups developing novel data intelligence tools.

The Intelligence Fund will provide seed and Series A funding to startups that already have venture capital funding, Recorded Future says, as well as equip them with resources to help with the development and integration of intelligence applications in order to accelerate their go-to-market strategy. 

Recorded Future, which provides customers with information to help them better understand the external cyber threats they are facing, will invest in startups that aim to tackle significant problems that require novel approaches using datasets and collection platforms, which the company says could be anything from technical internet sensors to satellites. It’s also keen to invest in startups building intelligence analysis toolsets that make use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as intelligence-driven applications that can be integrated into its own Intelligence Platform and ecosystem.

Recorded Future co-founder and chief executive Christopher Ahlberg said: “In a world of aggressive uncertainty, intelligence is the only equalizer. With the launch of the Intelligence Fund, we are investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs who share our vision for securing the world with intelligence.” 

So far, the Intelligence Fund has invested in two companies, the first being SecurityTrails, which provides customers with a comprehensive overview of current and historical domain and IP address data. The second investment went to Gemini Advisory, a fraud intelligence platform specializing in finding compromised data on the dark web, which Recorded Future went on to acquire earlier this year for $52 million in a bid to bolster its own threat intelligence capabilities. 

Recorded Future told TechCrunch that future investments could also be made with an eye to acquiring, but added that funding could also be given purely on the basis that the startup would make a good business or technology partner. Recorded Future was itself acquired by private equity firm Insight Partners back in 2019 for $780 million. The acquisition effectively bought out the company’s earlier investors, including Google’s venture arm GV, and In-Q-Tel, the non-profit venture arm of the U.S. intelligence community.

Commenting on the launch of the fund, Michael Triplett, managing partner at Insight Partners, said: “Cyberattacks continue to impact global enterprises across the globe, and we’re excited to see Recorded Future invest in intelligence startups tackling the business-critical issues that organizations face today. 

“The Intelligence Fund will provide the resources needed by entrepreneurs to build applications with data and mathematics at the core.” 

#christopher-ahlberg, #computing, #crunchbase, #dark-web, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #information-technology, #insight-partners, #machine-learning, #managing-partner, #prediction, #recorded-future, #security, #startup-company, #startups

0

Fintech giant Klarna raises $639M at a $45.6B valuation amid ‘massive momentum’ in the US

Just over three months after its last funding round, European fintech giant Klarna is announcing today that it has raised another $639 million at a staggering post-money valuation of $45.6 billion.

Rumors swirled in recent weeks that Klarna had raised more money at a valuation north of $40 billion. But the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank declined to comment until now.

SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2 led the latest round, which also included participation from existing investors Adit Ventures, Honeycomb Asset Management and WestCap Group. The new valuation represents a 47.3% increase over Klarna’s post-money valuation of $31 billion in early March, when it raised $1 billion, and a 330% increase over its $10.6 billion valuation at the time of its $650 million raise last September. Previous backers include Sequoia Capital, SilverLake, Dragoneer and Ant Group, among others.

The latest financing cements 16-year-old Klarna’s position as the highest-valued private fintech in Europe.

In an exclusive interview with TechCrunch, Klarna CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski said the company has seen explosive growth in the U.S. and plans to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally.

In particular, over the past year, the fintech has seen “massive momentum” in the country, with more than 18 million American consumers now using Klarna, he said. That’s up from 10 million at the end of last year’s third quarter, and up 118% year over year. Klara is now live with 24 of the top 100 U.S. retailers, which it says is “more than any of its competitors.”

Overall, Klarna is live in 20 markets, has more than 90 million global active users and more than 2 million transactions a day conducted on its platform. The company’s momentum can be seen in its impressive financial results. In the first quarter, Klarna notched $18.1 billion in volume compared to $9.9 billion in the prior year first quarter. In all of 2020, it processed $53 billion in volume. To put that into context; Affirm’s financial report in May projected it would process $8.04 billion in volume for the entire fiscal year of 2021 and Afterpay is projecting $16 billion in volume for its entire fiscal year. 

March 2021 also represented a record month for global shopping volume with $6.9 billion of purchases made through the Klarna platform.

Meanwhile, in 2020, Klara hit over a billion in revenue. While the company was profitable for its first 14 years of life, it has not been profitable the last two, according to Siemiatkowski, and that’s been by design.

“We’ve scaled up so massively in investments in our growth and technology, but running on a loss is very odd for us,” he told TechCrunch. “We will get back to profitability soon.”

Klarna has entered six new markets this year alone, including New Zealand and France, where it just launched this week. It is planning to expand into a number of new markets this year. The company has about 4,000 employees with several hundred in the U.S. in markets such as New York and Los Angeles. It also has offices in Stockholm, London, Manchester, Berlin, Madrid and Amsterdam. 

While Klarna is partnered with over 250,000 retailers around the world (including Macy’s, Ikea, Nike, Saks), its buy now, pay later feature is also available direct to consumers via its shopping app. This means that consumers can use Klarna’s app to pay immediately or later, as well as manage spending and view available balances. They can also do things like initiate refunds, track deliveries and get price-drop notifications.

“Our shopping browser allows users to use Klarna everywhere,” Siemiatkowski said. “No one else is offering that, and are rather limited to integrating with merchants.”

Image Credits: Klarna

Other things the company plans to do with its new capital is focus on acquisitions, particularly acqui-hires, according to Siemiatkowski. According to Crunchbase, the company has made nine known acquisitions over time — most recently picking up Los Gatos-based content creation services provider Toplooks.ai.

“We’re the market leader in this space and we want to find new partners that want to support us in this,” Siemiatkowski told TechCrunch. “That gives us better prerequisites to be successful going forward. Now we have more cash and money available to invest further in the long term.”

Klarna has long been rumored to be going public via a direct listing. Siemiatkowski said that the company in many ways already acts like a public company in that it offers stock to all its employees, and reports financials — giving the impression that the company is not in a hurry to go the public route.

“We report quarterly to national authorities and are a fully regulated bank so do all the things you expect to see from public companies such as risk control and compliance,” he told TechCrunch. “We’re reaching a point for it to be a natural evolution for the company to IPO. But we’re not preparing to IPO anytime soon.”

At the time of its last funding round, Klarna announced its GiveOne initiative to support planet health. With this round, the company is again giving 1% of the equity raised back to the planet.

Naturally, its investors are bullish on what the company is doing and its market position. Yanni Pipilis, managing partner for SoftBank Investment Advisers, said the company’s growth isfounded on a deep understanding of how the purchasing behaviors of consumers are changing,” an evolution SoftBank believes is only accelerating. 

Eric Munson, founder and CIO of Adit Ventures, said his firm believes the “best is yet to come as Klarna multiplies their addressable market through global expansion.” 

For Siemiatkowski, what Klarna is trying to achieve is to compete with the $1 trillion-plus credit card industry.

We really see right now all the signs are there. True competition is coming to this space, this decade,” he said. “This is an opportunity to genuinely disrupt the retail banking space.”

 

#amsterdam, #ant-group, #apps, #bank, #berlin, #bnpl, #buy-now-pay-later, #europe, #finance, #fintech, #france, #funding, #fundings-exits, #ikea, #klarna, #london, #los-angeles, #macys, #madrid, #manchester, #market-leader, #money, #new-york, #new-zealand, #nike, #payments, #recent-funding, #sebastian-siemiatkowski, #sequoia-capital, #softbank-investment-advisers, #softbank-vision-fund-2, #stockholm, #united-states, #venture-capital

0

Can payday loans be made obsolete? With $15M more, Clair wants to find out

The world seems to move faster every year, and yet, nothing feels slower than the speed by which paychecks get distributed. In the United States, work conducted the day after a pay period will take two weeks just to process, with a check or direct deposit coming another week or two later. For the tens of millions of employees who live paycheck-to-paycheck, that multi-week delay can be the difference of making a rent check — or not.

A variety of startups have approached this problem with different solutions, and one of the newest and most compelling offerings is Clair.

Using its own base of capital, New York City-based Clair offers instant — and most importantly — free earned wage advances to workers by integrating into existing HR technology platforms. It works with both full-time employees and also gig workers, and it offers a suite of online and mobile apps for workers to make sense of their finances and ask for an earned wage advance.

The company was founded in late 2019 by CEO Nico Simko, COO Alex Kostecki and CPO Erich Nussbaumer, and today, the company announced that it raised $15 million in Series A funding led by Kareem Zaki of Thrive Capital, who will join the company’s board of directors. Just a few months ago, Clair had announced a $4.5 million seed round led by Upfront Ventures, bringing its total funding to $19.5 million.

“Pay advance” or “earned wage advance” (there is a slight distinction) have been the Silicon Valley euphemism for payday loan, an industry that has been plagued with allegations of fraud, deceit and rapacious greed that have bilked workers out of their hard-earned paychecks through usurious interest rates.

What sets Clair apart is that its offering is free to workers. Since it connects directly into HR systems, the startup takes on significantly less financial risk than traditional payday lenders, who don’t have access to the payroll data that Clair is able to analyze.

For Simko, one of his goals is simply to see the elimination of the traditional industry entirely. “I have a payday lender just in front of my apartment in Brooklyn and there is a long line on the 25th of every month, and I am not going to stop until that line disappears,” he said. “Success for us is just to become the winner in earned wage access.”

He is Argentine-Swiss, and came to the States to attend Harvard, where he met Nussbaumer. He ended up working at J.P. Morgan focused on the payments market. He stayed in touch with Kostecki, whose families are good friends, and the Swiss trio decided to go after this problem, partly inspired by Uber’s instant pay feature that it introduced in 2016 and which proved wildly successful.

Clair founders Alex Kostecki, Nico Simko, Erich Nussbaumer. Image Credits: Clair

Instead of making money on interest rates, fees, or tips, Clair instead wants to be the bank and financial service provider of choice for workers. As I noted last week about Pinwheel, an API platform for payroll, owning the direct deposit relationship with a worker all but guarantees they will conduct the vast majority of their financial transactions through that particular bank account.

Clair offers free instant pay advances as a gateway to its other offerings, which include spending and savings accounts, a debit card, a virtual in-app debit card, and financial planning tools. Simko said, “Our business model is to give earned wage access free for people and then sign them up automatically for a digital bank, and then we make money the same way Chime makes money, which is interchange fees.”

In fact, he and the company believe in that model so much, it will actually pay human capital technology platforms like workforce management and payroll systems to integrate with Clair as an inducement. It offers a recurring revenue fee stream for HR tools based on the number of users who join Clair, regardless of how much those workers use the software. We are “really going down the thesis of embedded fintech,” Simko said. “Employees start spending money on their Clair card, and we distribute that back to our [HR tech] partners.”

Clair joins a number of other companies in this space, which is becoming ever more heated as the perceived opportunity in financial services remains high among investors. Last year, payroll platform Gusto announced that it would expand from purely payroll to a financial wellness platform, which is partially based on its instant earned wage advances or what it dubs Cashout. We’ve covered Even, which is one of the originals in this space with a major partnership with Walmart, as well as neobank Dave, which offers pay advance features with a tipping revenue model. Dave just announced a $4 billion valued SPAC with VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings III.

Nonetheless, Clair’s angle is differentiated as the race to lock in every person globally with new financial services heats up. Simko says he sees a gargantuan opportunity to be the “Alipay” of the United States, noting that unlike China with Alipay, Nubank in Brazil and increasingly Latin America, and N26 and Revolut in Europe, there is still an opportunity for a comprehensive neobank to take over the U.S. market.

With the new funding, the company will continue to expand its product offerings, exploring areas like health care and debt repayment. “I can give APR not based on their credit score but on their employer’s credit score, which is the multi-billion dollar idea here,” Simko said. The team is nominally hubbed in New York with roughly half of the 25 or so person team.

#finance, #funding, #fundings-exits, #recent-funding, #startups

0

BukuWarung, a fintech for Indonesian MSMEs, scores $60M Series A led by Valar and Goodwater

BukuWarung, a fintech focused on Indonesia’s micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), announced today it has raised a $60 million Series A. The oversubscribed round was led by Valar Ventures, marking the firm’s first investment in Indonesia, and Goodwater Capital. The Jakarta-based startup claims this is the largest Series A round ever raised by a startup focused on services for MSMEs. BukuWarung did not disclose its valuation, but sources tell TechCrunch it is estimated to be between $225 million to $250 million.

Other participants included returning backers and angel investors like Aldi Haryopratomo, former chief executive officer of payment gateway GoPay, Klarna co-founder Victor Jacobsson and partners from SoftBank and Trihill Capital.

Founded in 2019, BukuWarung’s target market is the more than 60 million MSMEs in Indonesia, according to data from the Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs. These businesses contribute about 61% of the country’s gross domestic product and employ 97% of its workforce.

BukuWarung’s services, including digital payments, inventory management, bulk transactions and a Shopify-like e-commerce platform called Tokoko, are designed to digitize merchants that previously did most of their business offline (many of its clients started taking online orders during the COVID-19 pandemic). It is building what it describes as an “operating system” for MSMEs and currently claims more than 6.5 million registered merchant in 750 Indonesian cities, with most in Tier 2 and Tier 3 areas. It says it has processed about $1.4 billion in annualized payments so far, and is on track to process over $10 billion in annualized payments by 2022.

BukuWarung’s new round brings its total funding to $80 million. The company says its growth in users and payment volumes has been capital efficient, and that more than 90% of its funds raised have not been spent. It plans to add more MSME-focused financial services, including lending, savings and insurance, to its platform.

BukuWarung’s new funding announcement comes four months after its previous one, and less than a month after competitor BukuKas disclosed it had raised a $50 million Series B. Both started out as digital bookkeeping apps for MSMEs before expanding into financial services and e-commerce tools.

When asked how BukuWarung plans to continue differentiating from BukuKas, co-founder and CEO Abhinay Peddisetty told TechCrunch, “We don’t see this space as a winner takes all, our focus is on building the best products for MSMEs as proven by our execution on our payments and accounting, shown by massive growth in payments TPV as we’re 10x bigger than the nearest player in this space.”

He added, “We have already run successful lending experiments with partners in fintech and banks and are on track to monetize our merchants backed by our deep payments, accounting and other data that we collect.”

BukuWarung’s new funding will be used to double its current workforce of 150, located in Indonesia, Singapore and India, to 300 and develop BukuWarung’s accounting, digital payments and commerce products, including a payments infrastructure that will include QR payments and other services.

#apps, #asia, #bukuwarung, #digital-bookkeeping, #e-commerce, #finance, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #msmes, #southeast-asia, #startups, #tc

0

Todd and Rahul’s Angel Fund closes new $24 million fund

After making investments in 57 startups together, Superhuman CEO Rahul Vohra and Eventjoy founder Todd Goldberg are back at it with a new $24 million fund and big ambitions amid a venture capital renaissance with fast-moving deals a plenty.

Todd and Rahul’s Angel Fund” announced their first $7.3 million fund just weeks before the pandemic hit stateside last year and they were soon left with more access to deals than they had funding to support; they went on raise $3.5 million in a rolling fund designed around making investments in later stage deals beyond Seed and Series A rounds.

“We closed right before Covid hit and we had one plan but then everything accelerated,” Goldberg tells TechCrunch. “A lot of our companies started raising additional rounds.”

With their latest raise, Vohra and Goldberg are looking to maintain their wide outlook with a single fund, saying they plan to invest three-quarters of the fund in early stage deals while saving a quarter of the $24 million for later stage opportunities. Still, the duo know they likely could’ve chosen to raise more.

“A lot of our peers were scaling up into much larger funds,” Vohra says. “For us, we wanted to stay small and collaborative.”

Some of the firm’s investments from their first fund include NBA Top Shot creator Dapper Labs, open source Firebase alternative Supabase, D2C liquor brand Haus, alternative asset platform Alt, biowearable maker Levels and location analytics startup Placer. Their biggest hit was an early investment in audio chat app Clubhouse before Andreessen Horowitz led its buzzy seed round at a $100 million valuation. Clubhouse most recently raised at $4 billion.

The pair say they’ve learned a ton through the past year of navigating increasingly competitive rounds and that fighting for those deals has helped the duo hone how they market themselves to founders.

“You never want to be a passive check,” Goldberg says. “We do three things: help companies find product/market fit, we help them super-charge distribution.. and we help them find the best investors.”

A big part of the firm’s appeal to founders has been the “operator” status of its founders. Goldberg’s startup Eventjoy was acquired by Ticketmaster and Vohra’s Rapportive was bought by Linkedin while his current startup Superhuman has maintained buzz for its premium email service and has raised $33 million from investors including Andreessen Horowitz and First Round Capital.

Their new has an unusual LP base that’s made up of over 110 entrepreneurs and investors, including 40 founders that Vohra and Goldberg have previously backed themselves. Backers of their second fund include Plaid’s William Hockey, Behance’s Scott Belsky, Haus’s Helena Price Hambrecht, Lattice’s Jack Altman and Loom’s Shahed Khan.

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