How Pariti is connecting founders with capital, resources and talent in emerging markets

According to Startup Genome, Beijing, London, Silicon Valley, Stockholm, Tel Aviv are some of the world’s best startup ecosystems. The data and research organisation uses factors like performance, capital, market reach, connectedness, talent, and knowledge to produce its rankings.

Startup ecosystems from emerging markets excluding China and India didn’t make the organisations’ top 40 list last year. It is a known fact that these regions lag well behind in all six factors, and decades might pass before they catch up to the standards of the aforementioned ecosystems.

However, a Kenyan B2B management startup founded by Yacob Berhane and Wossen Ayele wants to close the gap on three of the six factors — access to capital, knowledge, and talent.

These issues, specifically that of access to capital, is heightened in Africa. For instance, only 25% of funding goes to early-stage startups in Sub-Saharan Africa compared to more than 50% in Latin America, MENA, and South Asia regions.

“We wanted to build a solution that will help startups be successful that otherwise would not have been able to get the resources they needed,” said CEO Berhane to TechCrunch. “This problem is especially acute in Africa because it’s particularly nascent, but this platform is designed for founders across emerging markets. So basically anywhere that doesn’t have a mature, healthy startup ecosystem.”

So, how is the team at Pariti setting out to solve these problems? Ayele tells me that in one sense, Pariti is like an unbundled accelerator.

In a typical accelerator, founders will need to go through an intense program where they are loaded with information on all the things a startup will likely need to know at some point in their growth. Whereas with Pariti, founders get the needed information or resources that are immediately relevant to helping them get to the next stage of the business.

A three-way marketplace

When a founder joins Pariti, they run their company through an assessment tool. There, they share pitch materials and information about their business. Pariti then assesses each company across more than 70 information points ranging from the team and market to product and economics.

After this is done, Pariti benchmarks each company against its peers. Companies in the same industry, product stage, revenue, fundraising are some of the comparisons made. The founder gets a detailed assessment with feedback on their pitch materials, the underlying metrics that they can use to develop their business and, their ability to raise capital down the line.

“This approach gives us an extremely granular view of their businesses, its strengths, weaknesses and allows us to triage the right resources to the founder based on their particular needs.”

It doesn’t end there. Pariti also connects the founders for one-on-one sessions with members of its global expert community. Their backgrounds, according to Ayele, run the gamut from finance and marketing to product and technology across a range of sectors. Pariti also provides vetted professionals for hire from its community if a founder needs more hands-on support building a product.

Ayele says founders can continue to go through this process multiple times, getting assessed, implementing feedback, and connecting with resources and talent.

On another end, Pariti allows investors to sign up on its platform, thereby collating data on their preferences. So once a startup wants to raise capital, the platform matches them with investors based on their profile and preferences.

“We’ve built an algorithm-based matching platform where we curate relevant deals to VC investors. We also simplify the investor reach-out process for founders, which is a huge pain point — especially in this ecosystem.”

Pariti’s investor platform

In a nutshell, Pariti helps founders connect with affordable talent, access capital and develop their businesses. Professionals can find interesting opportunities to mentor startups and get paid gig opportunities. They also get more exposure to the early stage ecosystem while tracking their progress, verifying their skills and increasing earning potential. Investors can run extremely lean operations with access to proprietary deal flow, automated deal filtering and on-demand experts to support due diligence, research and portfolio support.

According to the COO, the company has seen a tremendous amount of value built through the platform so far. A testament to this is an experience shared by Kiiru Muhoya, founder of Kenyan fintech startup Fingo Africa with TechCrunch, on how the platform helped him raise a $250,000 pre-seed round.

He said that after going through Pariti’s assessment ahead of a planned fundraiser, he realized that the market he was targeting was too small. Also, he needed to learn more about what VCs were looking for to be successful.

Muhoya decided to switch to being at the other end of things. Joining the expert platform on Pariti, he began to review companies and provided feedback to other founders. This led him to take some months off to pivot his business based on Pariti’s first feedback and what he had learned from the expert platform. He took his startup through another assessment on the platform and thus closed the round.

The company has made significant strides since launching in 2019. It has over 500 companies across 42 countries, 100 freelance experts, and 60 investors using its platform. Berhane also adds that five funds currently use Pariti’s operating system for their deal management.

“For us, I think we’re building the rails for how ventures are built and scaled in emerging markets. We have partners in place across emerging markets, including Latin America and India. We also have a strong interest in the United States, where we see a real need for our platform.” Berhane said.

It charges a subscription model for investors, but Berhane wouldn’t disclose the numbers. He says that Pariti will begin to charge a subscription fee for founders as well. Another revenue stream comes when investors or founders pay a certain transaction fee when using Pariti’s freelance experts for projects. The same happens when there’s any fundraise executed from the platform.

Talking about fundraising, the company recently secured an undisclosed pre-seed capital from angels and VCs like 500 Startups, Kepple Africa and Huddle VC.

But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Pariti as one issue that has stood out in dealing with founders and investors is trust. Berhane says founders have shared some horror stories about engaging with investors, while investors have shared trust concerns about founders reporting false numbers.

Pariti tries to address this by providing NDAs for both parties where the company will not share founders data with investors until they want it to be.  And investors won’t get deals that Pariti hasn’t thoroughly vetted.

Both founders of East African descent — Berhane from Eritrea and Ayele from Ethiopia — crossed paths a couple of times but took different routes to be where they are now.

Wossen Ayele (COO) and Yacob Berhane (CEO)

Ayele started his career at a consulting shop with offices across East Africa before moving back to the U.S. for law school. There, he got his first exposure to the early-stage startup world and worked with an emerging markets-focused VC fund.

“I could see how technology and innovation could play a role in helping communities – whether it’s through financial inclusion, access to essential goods and services, connecting people at the base of the pyramid to markets,” he said.

Upon graduation and completion of his legal training, Ayele headed back to Nairobi to get involved with its growing African startup ecosystem, where he and Berhane founded the company.

The CEO who studied finance and investment banking in the U.S. moved back to Africa to start a pan-African accelerator in Johannesburg, South Africa. While he has worked in managerial positions for companies like the African Leadership University and Ajua, Berhane spent most of his time brokering deals for them which ultimately led him to start Pariti. 

“After helping businesses raise more than $20m and seeing how that money led to job creation and upward mobility for employees, I knew there was a path I could have that would be meaningful within finance. I continued to think about the growing asymmetry of access to capital, talent and knowledge in the startup ecosystem and the lack of infrastructure addressing it. Pariti was how we wanted to solve it.”

#africa, #diversity, #enterprise, #finance, #nairobi, #pariti, #startup-ecosystem, #startups, #talent, #tc

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Flourish, a startup that aims to help banks engage and retain customers, raises $1.5M

It’s not uncommon these days to hear of U.S.-based investors backing Latin American startups.

But it’s not every day that we hear of Latin American VCs investing in U.S.-based startups.

Berkeley-based fintech Flourish has raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by Brazilian venture capital firm Canary. Founded by Pedro Moura and Jessica Eting, the startup offers an “engagement and financial wellness” solution for banks, fintechs and credit unions with the goal of helping them engage and retain clients.

Also participating in the round were Xochi Ventures, First Check Ventures, Magma Capital and GV Angels as well as strategic angels including Rodrigo Xavier (former Bank of America CEO in Brazil), Beth Stelluto (formerly of Schwab),  Gustavo Lasala (president and CEO of The People Fund) and Brian Requarth (Founder of Viva Real). 

With clients in the U.S., Bolivia and Brazil, Flourish has developed a solution that features three main modules: 

  • A rewards engine designed to incentivize users to save or invest money
  • An intelligent and automated micro-savings feature where users can create personalized rules (such as transferring $15 into a rainy day fund every time their favorite sports team wins)
  • A financial knowledge module, where personal financial transactions and spending patterns are turned into a question and answer game. 

In the U.S., Flourish began by testing end-user mechanics with organizations such as CommonWealth and OpportunityFund. In 2019, it released a B2C version of the Flourish app (called the Flourish Savings App)  as a pilot for its banking platform, which can integrate with banks through a SDK or an API.  It is also now licensing its engagement technology to banks, retailers and fintechs across the Americas. Flourish has piloted or licensed its solution to US-based credit unions, Sicoob (Brazil’s largest credit union) and BancoSol in Bolivia. 

The startup makes money through a partnership model that focuses on user activation and engagement. 

Both immigrants, Moura and Eting met while in the MBA program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. Moura emigrated to the U.S. from Brazil as a teen while Eting is the daughter of a Filiponio father and mother of Mexican descent.

The pair bonded on their joint mission of building a business that empowered people to create positive money habits and understand their finances.

Currently, the 11- person team works out of the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. It plans to use its new capital to increase its number of customers in LatAm, do more hiring and develop new functionalities for the Flourish platform. 

In particular, it plans to next focus on the Brazilian market, and will scale in a few select countries in the Americas. 

“There are three things that make Latin America, and more specifically Brazil, attractive to us at this moment,” Moura said. “Currently, the B2B financial technology market is still in its nascency. This combined with open banking regulation and the need for more responsible products provides Flourish a unique opportunity in Brazil.”

#bank, #banking, #bolivia, #brazil, #canary, #finance, #financial-services, #flourish, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #uc-berkeley, #united-states, #venture-capital

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Income verification is white-hot right now, and Plaid wants in

Fresh off the termination of its planned merger with Visa, Plaid announced Thursday a new income verification product, which it said is aimed at “improving the lending lifecycle” with payroll data.

Dubbed simply Income, the new product — which is currently in beta — is designed to make it easier for people to verify their income in order to do things like secure loans, qualify for mortgages, rent apartments and lease cars, among other things.

Plaid Income gives lenders — both at fintech companies and financial institutions — verified and permissioned data on the income, employment status and tax liabilities of individual users.

The San Francisco-based company says it has been developing its Payroll product suite for more than a year. Last month, Plaid launched its other product in that suite, Deposit Switch, which is designed to allow people to “quickly” switch their direct deposits to a new or existing bank account by linking their payroll account via Plaid.

Notably, Plaid opted to build out its own income verification offering rather than partner with another fintech.

A spokesperson told TechCrunch via email that the company is “always” looking to provide people with the most holistic view of their financial lives. 

“Over the past few years, we’ve added support for several additional different types of consumer-permissioned data, including liabilities, investments, mortgage data and more,” the spokesperson added. “It’s become clearer that payroll data has huge potential value for enabling new or more streamlined services that help people better manage their financial lives, and we knew we wanted to bring that to market ourselves.”

Historically, the process of providing information so that lenders can verify employment status, income and ability to pay can place a heavy burden on applicants.

“They often need to retrieve and then share multiple documents or PDFs, which then a lender must process and review,” Plaid points out. With Income, the process is streamlined, the fintech infrastructure provider claims.

Using Plaid Link, applicants have the choice to share their payroll information using one of two methods:

  • Authenticating using their employer or payroll provider account 
  • Uploading payroll documents including paystubs, W2s and supported types of 1099s 

To provide a more “familiar and secure” experience for applicants, Plaid is developing credential-less authentication capabilities. This means that, say, an applicant for a credit card could supply key identifying information to the lender that Plaid would then use to locate his or her income information. Or maybe another bit of explanation of why this matt Also, an applicant will have the chance to review the information they are sharing and opt out of sharing it at any time.

Image Credits: Plaid

Kate Adamson, product lead at Plaid, said the company views access to payroll data as the next area of opportunity in financial services.

“The past decade of fintech innovation has shown that people can make better financial decisions more easily with better access to and control of their own financial data,” she told TechCrunch.

The income verification space is an increasingly crowded one. Last June, TechCrunch wrote about Pinwheel, an API layer for payroll data that handles everything from income and employee verification to easily switching and managing direct deposit. The company officially came out of stealth last year, announcing that it had raised a $7 million seed round from Josh Kopelman at First Round Capital and Greg Bettinelli at Upfront Ventures.

There’s also Argyle, which is building a “gateway to access employment records.” In October, that startup announced a $20 million Series A funding round led by Bain Capital Ventures. Ironically, Argyle’s name was inspired by Plaid, according to Argyle CEO and co-founder Shmulik Fishman. At the time, he told me that the company intentionally named Argyle after a pattern.

“I’m a huge fan of Plaid, and make no secret about it,” Fishman had said. “Plus, there’s a number of other successful companies such as Stripe and Checkr named after patterns. We went through a list of patterns and polka dots didn’t sound very good. So we settled on Argyle. And ultimately, we want to be the Plaid for employment records.”

#finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #payroll, #plaid, #san-francisco, #tc

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Revolut lets customers switch to Revolut Bank in 10 additional countries

Fintech startup Revolut has its own banking license in the European Union since late 2018. It lets the company offer some additional financial services without partnering with third-party companies. And the company is going to let customers switch to Revolut Bank in 10 additional countries.

The Bank of Lithuania has granted a specialized license — it isn’t a full-fledged license per se as it focuses on some activities. The company is taking advantage of European passporting rules to operate in other European countries. Right now, Revolut takes advantage of its banking license in two countries — Poland and Lithuania.

In Lithuania for instance, you can apply for a credit card with a credit limit that’s twice the value of your monthly salary (up to €6,000). The company also offers personal loans between €1,000 and €15,000. You can pay back over 1 to 60 months.

Now, customers in Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia will be able to become Revolut Bank customers. It’s not a transparent process as you need to get through a few steps to carry your account over.

But once this process is done, your deposits are protected under the deposit guarantee scheme. If Revolut Bank shutters at some point down the road, customers can claim up to €100,000 thanks to the scheme — both euros and foreign currencies are protected.

You can expect new credit products in the 10 new markets. Overall, Revolut has attracted 15 million customers. The company recently announced that it was also applying for a banking license in the U.K., its home country and its biggest market.

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

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Minu, a Mexico City-based, pay-on-demand startup, lands a $14M Series A

Many of the startups raising capital in Mexico are focused on financial inclusion, aiming to level the playing field in a country that is largely unbanked and has a burgeoning middle class.

One such company, minu, a Mexico City-based, pay-on-demand startup, announced Wednesday that it has raised $14 million in a Series A round of funding led by FinTech Collective.

New investors VEF, XYZ Ventures, and FJ Labs, as well as DocuSign founder Tom Gonser and Gusto CFO Mike Dinsdale also participated in the financing. Existing backers QED, Next Billion Ventures, and Village Global also put more money in the company. 

The financing — which included $2.5 million in debt from Banco Sabadell Mexico — brings minu’s total raised since its 2019 inception to a total of $20 million. 

Co-founders Nima Pourshasb, Rafa Niell, and Paolo Rizzi were driven to build out a pay on demand offering in Mexico.

“We really think the lack of financial health is one of the key drivers slowing the potential and productivity of Mexican society,” Pourshasb said.

Minu aims to solve the employee liquidity gap between paychecks in an effort to help people see reduced financial stress and avoid expensive loans. The company offers 24×7 instant access to employees’ earned wages for a $2 fixed withdrawal fee.

Today, minu has over 100 large enterprise clients including TotalPlay, Telefonica, Scotiabank, OfficeMax, Rappi, Adecco, Manpower, Cap Gemini, and public sector clients such as the Electoral Institute of the State of Mexico. It saw its transaction volume and revenue grow by 18 times in 2020, albeit from a small base. The company declined to reveal hard revenue figures.

Minu operates under the premise that the liquidity gap is profound in Mexican society. An estimated 70% of workers live from paycheck to paycheck with average wages of $550/month, noted Pourshasb. And only 37% of Mexicans over 15 years old have a bank account, according to recent World Bank stats.

“Some people are continuously getting loans — at very high interest rates —  to cover recurring expenses such as food and transport,” Pourshasb said.

Minu’s first product offers instant, 24-7 access to earned wages.

“This is money that is already earned,” Pourshasb said. “Our users have an app to see how much is available and if they need those funds, they can instantly receive them.” 

The company’s distribution model is B2B so it works alongside large enterprises to offer access to the wages as a benefit for employees. Businesses are attracted to that model, Pourshasb explained, because they don’t have to pay for it or change their payroll process.

“We integrate with payroll so the process is automated and there’s no added work for them,” he added. “It also doesn’t affect cash flows. These are upfront funds so if someone withdraws money, it gets deducted from payroll.”

Some employers do subsidize the cost of the transaction fee for employees.

Looking ahead, minu says it will use its fresh capital to boost its headcount of 60 as well as expanding its offering to include financial education, savings, smart spend and insurance products. The company also plans to expand outside of Mexico.

Carlos Alonso Torras, who leads Latin America investing for New York-based FinTech Collective, believes that minu leverages “a strong combination of an exceptional founding team and auspicious macro trends.”

“We see the company’s current product as the basis for a platform that will offer an array of necessary financial products to a very underserved demographic,” he wrote via email. “Minu is already creating a moat vis a vis competitors via deep integrations, high client satisfaction and a broadening financial wellness offering. As the early mover in a market whose characteristics are conducive to the success of pay on demand, the immediate growth potential is remarkable, and Minu is uniquely positioned to excel.”

The investment marks the firm’s fifth in Mexico. Overall, FinTech Collective says it seeks and backs entrepreneurs “who are rewiring how money flows through the world.”

“Due to COVID, we are seeing a pandemic stricken world where hundreds of millions of people are facing greater financial instability, and we believe that fintech has a vital role to play in accelerating the emergence of a spending middle class underserved by traditional financial systems,” Torras added. 

Fintechs in Mexico have been busy. Last week, Stori raised a $32.5 million Series B round with the goal of “becoming Mexico’s leading credit card issuer for the rising middle class.”

Also in February, Flink raised $12 million in a Series A led by Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Accel.

 

#banco-sabadell, #finance, #financial-inclusion, #financial-technology, #fintech-startup, #fj-labs, #funding, #fundings-exits, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #payroll, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital, #village-global, #xyz-ventures

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Proptech startup States Title, now Doma, going public via SPAC in $3B deal

Real estate tech startup Doma, formerly known as States Title, announced Tuesday it will go public through a merger with SPAC Capitol Investment Corp. V in a deal valued at $3 billion, including debt.

SPACs, often called blank-check companies, are increasingly common. They exist as publicly traded entities in search of a private company to combine with, taking the private entity public without the hassle of an IPO.

When it floats later this year, Doma will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol DOMA. The transaction is expected to provide up to $645 million in cash proceeds, including a fully committed PIPE of $300 million and up to $345 million of cash held in the trust account of Capitol Investment Corp. V. 

CEO Max Simkoff founded San Francisco-based Doma in September 2016 with the aim of creating a technology-driven solution for “closing mortgages instantly.” While it initially was founded to instantly underwrite title insurance, the company has expanded that same approach to handle “every aspect” of closing and escrow.

Doma has developed patented machine learning technology that it says reduces title processing time from five days to “as little as one minute” and cuts down the entire mortgage closing process “from a 50+ day ordeal to less than a week.” The startup has facilitated over 800,000 real estate closings for lenders such as Chase, Homepoint, Sierra Pacific Mortgage and others.

The name change is designed to more accurately reflect its intention to expand “well beyond” title into areas such as appraisals and home warranties.

Its goal with going public is to be able to “continue to invest in growth, market expansion and new products.”

Anchoring the PIPE include funds and accounts managed by BlackRock, Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, SB Management (a subsidiary of SoftBank Group), Gores, Hedosophia, and Wells Capital. Existing Doma shareholder Lennar has also committed to the PIPE and Spencer Rascoff, co-founder and former CEO of Zillow Group, has committed a personal investment to the PIPE.

Up to approximately $510 million of cash proceeds are expected to be retained by Doma, and existing Doma shareholders will own no less than approximately 80 percent of the equity of the new combined company, subject to redemptions by the public stockholders of Capitol and payment of transaction expenses.

In mid-February, Doma announced it had closed on $150 million in debt financing from HSCM Bermuda, which had previously invested in the company. And last May, it announced a massive $123 million Series C round of funding at a valuation of $623 million.

Doma joins the growing number of proptech companies going the public route. On Monday, Compass, the real-estate brokerage startup backed by roughly $1.6 billion in venture funding, filed its S-1

In 2020, Social Capital Hedosophia II, the blank-check company associated with investor Chamath Palihapitiya, announced that it would merge with Opendoor, taking the private real estate startup public in the process.

Porch.com also went public in a SPAC deal in December. And, SoftBank-backed View, a Silicon Valley-based smart window company, will complete a recent SPAC merger to be publicly listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange on March 8. The company is expected to debut trading with a market value of $1.6 billion.

#exit, #finance, #fundings-exits, #real-estate, #startups, #tc

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Instacart raises $265M at a $39B valuation

On-demand grocery delivery platform Instacart has raises a $265 million funding ground from existing investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital, D1 Capital Partners and others. The new funding, which, like its past few rounds, isn’t assigned a Series alphabetical designation, pushes the company’s valuation to $39 billion – more than double its $17.7 billion valuation when it raised is last financing, a $200 million venture round in October 2020.

What’s behind the massive increase in the value investors are willing to ascribe to the business? Put simply, the pandemic. Last year, Instacart announced three separate raises, including a $225 round in June, followed by a $100 million round in July. The rapid sequence of venture capital injections were likely designed to fuel growth as demand for grocery delivery services surged while people attempted to quarantine or generally spend less time frequenting high-traffic social environments like grocery stores.

In a blog post announcing the news, Instacart doesn’t put specifics on the growth rates of usage over the course of 2020, but it does express its intent to grow headcount by 50% in 2021, and continue to scale and invest in its advertising, marketing and enterprise efforts specifically in a quote.

On the product side, Instacart broadened its offerings from groceries to also include same-day delivery of a wide range of products, including prescription medicine, electronics, home decor, sport and exercise equipment and more. It’s capitalizing on the phenomenon of increased consumer spending during the pandemic, which is a reverse from what many anticipated given the impact the ongoing crisis has had on employment.

Instacart Chief Financial Officer Nick Giovanni said in a quote that the company expects this to be “a new normal” for shopping habits, and the size and pace of the company’s recent funding, as well as its ballooning valuation, seem to suggest its investors also don’t think this is a trend that will revert post-pandemic.

#andreessen-horowitz, #chief-financial-officer, #d1-capital-partners, #electronics, #finance, #funding, #fundraising, #instacart, #investment, #money, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #sequoia-capital, #startups, #tc, #valuation, #venture-capital

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Indonesian payments infra startup Xendit raises $64.6M in Accel-led Series B

Fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation is happening all over the world. And Southeast Asia is no exception.

Indonesia’s Xendit, a startup focused on building digital payments infrastructure for the region, has just raised $64.6 million in a Series B led by Silicon Valley heavyweight Accel. The funding brings the total amount raised by the Jakarta-based company to $88 million since its 2015.

Notably, Y Combinator also participated in the financing. In fact, Xendit is the first Indonesian company to go through Y Combinator’s accelerator program. It also was ranked No. 64 on Y Combinator’s top 100 companies (by valuation and top exits) list in January 2021

Xendit works with businesses of all sizes, processing more than 65 million transactions with $6.5 billion in payment value annually. Its website promises businesses that “with a single integration,” they can accept payments in Indonesia and the Philippines. The company describes itself as building out financial services and digital payments infrastructure “in which the next generation of Southeast Asian SaaS companies can be built on top of,” or put more simply, it aspires to be the Stripe of Southeast Asia.

Xendit has been growing exponentially since its launch — with its CAGR (compound annual growth rate) increasing annually by 700%, according to COO and co-founder Tessa Wijaya. In 2020, the company saw its customer count increase by 540%. Customers include Traveloka, TransferWise, Wish and Grab, among others. Xendit declined to reveal hard revenue figures.

It also declined to reveal its current valuation but we do know that as of October 2019, it was valued at at least $150 million – a pre-requisite for appearing on this Y Combinator liston which it ranked No. 53. 

The idea for Xendit was formed when CEO Moses Lo met his co-founders while studying at University of California, Berkeley. Shortly after, they went through Y Combinator, and launched Xendit in 2015. 

One of the company’s main benefactors was Twitch co-founder Justin Kan. According to Lo, “he happened to have some family in Indonesia, and it was also about the time when Asia was becoming more interesting for YC.”

Xendit was originally launched as a P2P payments platform before evolving into its current model.

Today, the startup aims to help businesses of all sizes seamlessly process online payments, run marketplaces, distribute payroll manage finances and detect fraud via machine learning. It aims for fast and easy integrations so that businesses can more easily accept payments digitally.

The market opportunity is there. One of the world’s most populous countries that is home to more than 270 million people — an estimated 175 million of which are internet users — Indonesia’s digital economy is expected to reach $300 billion by 2025.

Add to that a complex region that is home to 17,000 different islands and a number of regulatory and technological challenges.

“Trying to build the businesses of tomorrow on yesterday’s infrastructure is holding Southeast Asia’s businesses back,” Lo said.

The global shift toward more digital transactions over the past year led to increased demand for Xendit’s infrastructure and services, according to Wijaya. To meet that demand, the company doubled its employee headcount to over 350 currently.

The pandemic also led to Xendit branching out. Prior to 2020, many of the company’s customers were large travel companies. So the first few months of the year, the startup’s business was hit hard. But increased demand paved the way for Xendit to expand into new sectors, such as retail, gaming and other digital products.

Looking ahead, the startup plans to use its new capital to scale its digital payments infrastructure “quickly” with the goal of providing millions of small and medium-sized businesses across Southeast Asia with “an on-ramp to the digital economy.” It is also eyeing other markets. Xendit recently expanded into the Philippines and also is considering other countries in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore, according to Wijaya.

Xendit is also similar in scope to San Francisco-based Finix, which aims to make every software company a payments company. Xendit acknowledges the similarities, but notes it is also “looking to tackle broader challenges related to accessibility, security and reliability that are unique to Southeast Asia,” with a deep understanding of the region’s unique geographical and cultural nuances.

To Accel partner Ryan Sweeney, Xendit has “quietly” built a modern digital payments infrastructure that’s transformed how Southeast Asian businesses transact.

“Their team’s combination of deep local expertise and global ambitions means they’re uniquely positioned to do what no other company could do in the region,” he said. “The vision of Xendit is a bold one: they are building the digital payments infrastructure for Southeast Asia, and fits squarely into Accel’s global fintech thesis.”

Other fintechs that Accel has backed include Braintree/Venmo, WorldRemit,GoFundMe and Monzo, and more recently Galileo, TradeRepublic, Lydia, Public.com and Flink.

#accel, #digital-services, #digital-transformation, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #indonesia, #jakarta, #payment-solutions, #payments, #philippines, #recent-funding, #ryan-sweeney, #southeast-asia, #startups, #venture-capital, #xendit, #y-combinator

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Square’s bank arm launches as fintech aims ‘to operate more nimbly’

Known for its innovations in the payments sector, Square is now officially a bank.

Nearly one year after receiving conditional approval, Square said Monday afternoon that its industrial bank, Square Financial Services, has begun operationsSquare Financial Services completed the charter approval process with the FDIC and Utah Department of Financial Institutions, meaning its ready for business.

The bank, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, will offer business loan and deposit products, starting with underwriting, and originating business loans for Square Capital’s existing lending product.

Historically, Square has been known for its card reader and point-of-sale payment system, used largely by small businesses – but it has also begun facilitating credit for the entrepreneurs and smalls businesses who use its products in recent years.

Moving forward, Square said its bank will be the “primary provider of financing for Square sellers across the U.S.”

In a statement, Square CFO and executive chairman for Square Financial Services, Amrita Ahuja said that bringing banking capability in house will allow the fintech to “operate more nimbly.”

Square Financial Services will continue to sell loans to third-party investors and limit balance sheet exposure. The company said it does not expect the bank to have a material impact on its consolidated balance sheet, total net revenue, gross profit, or adjusted EBITDA in 2021.

Opening the bank “deepens Square’s unique ability to expand access to loans and banking tools to underserved populations,” the company said.

Lewis Goodwin had been tapped to serve as the bank’s CEO, and Brandon Soto its CFO. With today’s announcement, Square also announced the following new appointments:

  • Sharad Bhasker, Chief Risk Officer
  • Samantha Ku, Chief Operating Officer
  • Homam Maalouf, Chief Credit Officer
  • David Grodsky, Chief Compliance Officer
  • Jessica Jiang, Capital Markets and Investor Relations Lead

The trend of fintechs becoming bank continues. In February, TechCrunch reported on the fact that Brex had applied for a bank charter.

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

A number of fintech companies, or those with fintech services, have spun up products typically offered by banks, including deposit and chequings accounts as well as credit offerings. Often, these are designed to provide capital to customers who might not be able to get funding on favorable terms from traditional banking institutions, but who might qualify for business-building loans from a provider who knows their company, like Square, inside and out.

#amrita-ahuja, #bank, #banking, #fdic, #finance, #salt-lake-city, #square, #square-capital, #startups, #tc, #utah

0

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck explains why the company needs a bigger rocket, and why it’s going public to build it

Rocket Lab packed a ton of news into Monday to kick off this week: It’s going public via a SPAC merger, for one, and it’s also building a new, larger launch vehicle called Neutron to support heavier payloads. I spoke to Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck about why it’s building Neutron now, and why it’s also choosing to go public at the same time. Unsurprisingly, the two things are tightly linked.

“We have the benefit of flying Electron [Rocket Lab’s current, smaller launch vehicle] for a lot of customers. and we also have a Space Systems Division that supplies components into a number of spacecraft, including some of the mega constellations,” Beck told me. “So we have very strong relationships with, with a lot of different customers, and I think we get unique insight on where the industry is going, and where the where the pain points are.”

Those pain points informed Neutron, which is a two-stage reusable rocket. Rocket Lab already broke with Beck’s past thinking on what the launch market needed by developing partial reusability for Electron, and it’s going further still with Neutron, which will include a first-stage that returns to Earth and lands propulsively on a platform stationed at sea, much like SpaceX’s Falcon 9. But the market has shifted since Rocket Lab built Electron – in part because of what it helped unlock.

“The creation of Neutron came from from two discrete factors: One, the current need in the marketplace today. Also, if you project it forward a little bit, you know, Neutron will deliver the vast majority – over 90% of – all the satellites that, that are around or in some form of planning. And if you look at those satellites, 80% of them are mega constellations, by volume. So, in talking with, with a bunch of different customers, it was really, really apparent that a mega constellation-building machine is what the market really needs.”

Beck says that combining that market needs with a historical analysis that showed most large launch vehicles have taken off half-full resulted in them arriving at Neutron’s 8 metric ton (just over 17,600 lbs) total cargo mass capacity. it should put it in the sweet spot where it takes off full nearly every time, but also can still meet the mass requirement needs of just about every satellite customer out there, both now and in the future.

“We’re covered in scars and battle wounds from the development of Electron,” “The one thing that that Elon and I agree on very strongly is, by far the hardest part of a rocket is actually scaling it – getting to orbit is hard, but actually scaling manufacturing is ridiculously hard. Now, the good news is that we’ve been through all of that, and manufacturing ins’t just as product on the floor; it’s ERP systems, quality systems, finance, supply chain and so on and so forth. So all that infrastructure is is built.”

In addition to the factory and manufacturing processes and infrastructure, Beck notes that Electron and Neutron will share size-agnostic elements like computing and avionics, and much of the work done to get Electron certified for launch will also apply to Neutron, realizing further cost and time savings relative to what was required to get Electron up and flying. Beck also said that the process of making Electron has just made Rocket Lab extremely attuned to costs overall, and that will definitely translate to how competitive it can be with Neutron.

“Because electron has a $7.5 million sticker price, we’ve just been forced into finding ways to do things hyper efficiently,” he said. “If you’ve got a $7.5 million sticker price, you can’t spend $2 million on flight safety analysis, payload environmental analysis, etc – you just can’t do that. With a $60 or $80 million vehicle that you can amortize that. So we’ve kind of been forced into doing everything hyper, hyper efficiently. And it’s not just systems; it includes fundamental launch vehicle design. So when we apply all of those learnings to nNutron, we really feel like we’re gonna bring a highly competitive product to the marketplace.”

As for the SPAC merger, Beck said that the decision to go public now really boils down to two reasons: The first is to raise the capital required to build Neutron, as well as fund “other” projects. The other is to acquire the kind of “public currency” to pursue the kinds of acquisitions in terms of business that Rocket Lab is hoping to achieve. Why specifically pursue a SPAC merger instead of a traditional IPO? Efficiency and a fixed capital target, essentially.

“We were actually sort of methodically stepping towards an IPO at the time and, we were just sort of minding our own business, but it was clear we were pursued very vigorously by a tremendous number of potential SPAC partners,” Beck told me. “Ultimately, on the balance of timelines, this just really accelerated our ability to do the things we want to do. Because, yes, as you pointed out, that this kind of streamlined the process, but also provided certainty around proceeds.”

The SPAC transaction, once complete will result in Rocket Lab having approximately $750 million in cash to work with. One of the advantages of the SPAC route is that how much you raise via the public listing isn’t reliant on how the stock performs on the day – Beck and company know and can plan on that figure becoming available to them, barring any unexpected and unlikely barriers to the transaction’s closing.

“Having all the capital we need, sitting there ready to go, that really sets us up for a strong execution,” he said. “If you look at Rocket Lab’s history, we’ve only raised spend a couple of hundred million dollars to date, within all the things we’ve done. So capitalizing the company with $750 million – I would expect big things at that point.”


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#aerospace, #ceo, #computing, #electron, #elon, #finance, #launch, #manufacturing, #peter-beck, #rocket, #rocket-lab, #rocket-launch, #rocketry, #science, #spac, #space, #spacex, #supply-chain, #tc

0

First Boulevard raises $5M for its digital bank aimed at Black America

The murder of George Floyd last May ignited many things in the United States last year — one of which that was perhaps unexpected: a rise in the number of digital banks targeting the Black community.

Some members of the Black community took their belief that big banks are not meeting their needs and turned them into startup concepts.

One of those startups, First Boulevard (formerly called Theme), has just raised $5 million in seed funding from Barclays, Anthemis and a group of angel investors such as actress Gabrielle Union, Union Square Ventures John Buttrick and AutoZone CFO Jamere Jackson.

For co-founder and CEO Donald Hawkins, the genesis for the Overland, Kansas-bank came after Floyd’s murder, when he and friend Asya Bradley were talking about what they felt Black America “really needed to get out of a vicious cycle” of dealing with the same issues with no real solutions in sight.

CEO Donald Hawkins

COO Asya Bradley

“After viewing yet another tragedy engulf the Black community, and the all-too-familiar protests against persisting issues,” Hawkins said. “it was beyond clear to me that the solutions Black America needs must be financially-focused and developed within our community.”

The pair both had fintech experience. Hawkins had founded Griffin Technologies, a company focused on providing real-time, contextual intelligence to community banks and credit unions. And Bradley most recently was a founding team member and head of revenue at Synapse, a platform that built banking-as-a-service APIs to help bank the unbanked of America by connecting fintech platforms to banking institutions.

They discovered that there were only about 19 Black banks in the U.S., collectively holding about $5 billion in assets.

“And their technology was really behind the times,” Hawkins said. “We also took a hard look at some of the existing digital banks to really see who was really going about it  in the same way that we felt like America needed, and it was pretty clear at that point, that no one was really attacking the issue of helping Black America build some level of financial stability through the form of wealth-building play.”

The pair formed First Boulevard last August under the premise that Black Americans are “massively underserved consumers” of financial products and services despite having a collective spending power of $1.4 trillion annually. The startup’s mission is to empower Black Americans “ to take control of their finances, build wealth and reinvest in the Black economy” via a digitally-native platform.

Part of its goal with the new capital involves building out a Black business marketplace, which will give its members Cash Back for Buying Black™. It also plans to use the money to expand its team, increase its customer base and grow its platform to offer fee-free debit cards, financial education and on developing technology to help members automate their saving and wealth building goals.

History has proven that oppressed communities can succeed when their finances are centralized, and when it comes to financial services for the Black community, a centralizing force is long overdue,” Hawkins said.

The bank’s Cash Back for Buying Black™ program helps members earn up to 15% cashback when they spend money at black-owned businesses. 

“I believe the most recent stat but that also was that 41% of black owned businesses have closed since COVID-19 started,” Hawkins said. “We want to support them as much as we can.”

First Boulevard also is focused on passively building wealth for its communities.

“Black America as a whole has been blocked from learning how money works. We want to connect our members to wealth-building assets such as micro investments like money market accounts, high yield savings and cryptocurrency — things that Black America has largely been blocked from,” Hawkins said.

Bradley, who serves as First Boulevard’s COO, believes the current financial industry was not built to serve the needs of melanated people. Its goal is to take their understanding of the unique needs of the Black community to provide things such as early access to wages, round up savings features, targeted financial education and budgeting tools.

The pair aims to have a “fully inclusive” team that represents the community it’s trying to serve. Currently, its 20-person staff is 60% black, and 85% BIPOC. Two-thirds of its leadership team are women and 100% is BIPOC.

“We are very proud of that considering that in the fintech space, those are not normal numbers from a leadership perspective,” Bradley said.

For Katie Palencsar, an investor at the Female Innovators Lab by Barclays and Anthemis, said that her firm has always recognized “that access to financial services has long remained a challenge despite the digital evolution.”

“This is especially true for Black Americans who often reside in financial deserts and struggle to find platforms that truly look to serve them,” she said. “First Boulevard deeply understands the challenge.”

Palencsar believes that First Boulevard’s mission of helping Black Americans not just bank, but actually build wealth, is unique in the market.

First Boulevard sees the wealth gap that continues to grow within the U.S. and wants to build a digital banking platform that addresses the systemic and structural challenges that face this population while enabling Black Americans and allies to invest in the community,” she said.

The company also recently announced a partnership with Visa, under which First Boulevard will be first to pilot Visa’s new suite of crypto APIs. First Boulevard will also launch a First Boulevard Visa Debit card.

First Boulevard is one of several digital banks geared toward Black Americans that have emerged in recent months. Paybby, a digital bank for the black and brown communities, recently acquired Wicket, a neobank that uses AI and biometric technology to create a personalized experience for users. Hassan Miah, the CEO and founder of Paybby, said the bank’s goal is to be “the leading smart, digital bank for the Black and Brown communities.”

Paybby, which started by offering a bank account and a way to expedite PPP loans, will soon be adding a cryptocurrency savings account for the Black and Brown communities.   

“Black buying power is projected to grow to $1.8 trillion by 2024,” Miah said. “Brown buying power is over $2 trillion. Paybby wants to take a good portion of this multi-trillion dollar market and give it back to these communities.”

Last October, Greenwood raised $3 million in seed funding from private investors to build what it describes as “the first digital banking platform for Black and Latinx people and business owners.”

At the time, co-founder Ryan Glover, founder of Bounce TV network, said it was “no secret that traditional banks have failed the Black and Latinx community.”

#anthemis, #bank, #banking, #barclays, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #funding, #fundings-exits, #george-floyd, #greenwood, #recent-funding, #startups, #tc, #venture-capital

0

Docyt raises $1.5M for its ML-based accounting automation platform

Accounting isn’t a topic that most people can get excited about — probably not even most accountants. But if you’re running any kind of business, there’s just no way around it. Santa Clara-based Docyt wants to make the life of small and medium business owners (and their accounting firms) a bit easier by using machine learning to handle a lot of the routine tasks around collecting financial data, digitizing receipts, categorization and — maybe most importantly — reconciliation.

The company today announced that it has raised a $1.5 million seed-extension round led by First Rays Venture Partners with participation from Morado Ventures and a group of angel investors. Docyt (pronounced “docket”) had previously raised a $2.2 million seed round from Morado Ventures, AME Cloud Ventures, Westwave Capital, Xplorer Capital, Tuesday and angel investors. The company plans to use the new investment to accelerate its customer growth.

At first glance, it may seem like Docyt competes with the likes of QuickBooks, which is pretty much the de facto standard for small business accounting. But Docyt co-founder and CTO Sugam Pandey tells me that he thinks of the service as a partner to the likes of QuickBooks.

Image Credits: Docyt

“Docyt is a product for the small business owners who find accounting very complex, who are very experienced on how to run and grow their business, but not really an expert in accounting. At the same time, businesses who are graduating out of QuickBooks — small business owners sometimes become midsized enterprises as well — [ … ] they start growing out of their accounting systems like QuickBooks and looking for more sophisticated systems like NetSuite and Sage. And Docyt fits in in that space as well, extending the life of QuickBooks for such business owners so they don’t have to change their systems.”

In its earliest days, Docyt was a secure document sharing platform with a focus on mobile. Some of this is still in the company’s DNA, with its focus on being able to pull in financial documents and then reconciling that with a business’ bank transactions. While other systems may put the emphasis on transaction data, Docyt’s emphasis is on documents. That means you can forward an emailed receipt to the service, for example, and it can automatically attach this to a financial transaction from your credit card or bank statement (the service uses Plaid to pull in this data).

Image Credits: Docyt

For new transactions, you sometimes have to train the system by entering some of this information by hand, but over time, Docyt should be able to do most of this automatically and then sync your data with QuickBooks.

“Docyt is the first company to apply AI across the entire accounting stack,” said Amit Sridharan, founding general partner at First Rays Venture Partners. “Docyt software’s AI-powered data extraction, auto categorization and auto reconciliation is unparalleled. It’s an enterprise-level, powerful solution that’s affordable and accessible to small and medium businesses.”

#accounting, #accounting-software, #ame-cloud-ventures, #artificial-intelligence, #finance, #machine-learning, #netsuite, #quickbooks, #recent-funding, #startups, #xplorer-capital

0

Foresite Capital raises $969 million fund to invest in healthcare startups across all stages of growth

Health and life science specialist investment firm Foresite Capital has raised a new fund, its fifth to date, totally $969 million in commitments from LPs. This is the firm’s largest fund to date, and was oversubscribed relative to its original target according to fund CEO and founder Dr. Jim Tananbaum, who told me that while the fundraising process started out slow in the early months of the pandemic, it gained steam quickly starting around last fall and ultimately exceeded expectations.

This latest fund actually makes up two separate investment vehicles, Foresite Capital Fund V, and Foresite Capital Opportunity Fund V, but Tananbaum says that the money will be used to fuel investments in line with its existing approach, which includes companies ranging from early- to late-stage, and everything in between. Foresite’s approach is designed to help it be uniquely positioned to shepherd companies from founding (they also have a company-building incubator) all the way to public market exit – and even beyond. Tananbaum said that they’re also very interested in coming in later to startups they have have missed out on at earlier stages of their growth, however.

Image Credits: Foresite Capital

“We can also come into a later situation that’s competitive with a number of hedge funds, and bring something unique to the table, because we have all these value added resources that we used to start companies,” Tananbaum said. “So we have a competitive advantage for later stage deals, and we have a competitive advantage for early stage deals, by virtue of being able to function at a high level in the capital markets.”

Foresite’s other advantage, according to Tananbaum, is that it has long focused on the intersection of traditional tech business mechanics and biotech. That approach has especially paid off in recent years, he says, since the gap between the two continues to narrow.

“We’ve just had this enormous believe that technology, and tools and data science, machine learning, biotechnology, biology, and genetics – they are going to come together,” he told me. “There hasn’t been an organization out there that really speaks both languages well for entrepreneurs, and knows how to bring that diverse set of people together. So that’s what we specialized i,n and we have a lot of resources and a lot of cross-lingual resources, so that techies that can talk to biotechies, and biotechies can talk to techies.”

Foresite extended this approach to company formation with the creation of Foresite Labs, an incubation platform that it spun up in October 2019 to leverage this experience at the earliest possible stage of startup founding. It’s run by Dr. Vik Bajaj, who was previously co-founder and Chief Science Officer of Alphabet’s Verily health sciences enterprise.

“What’s going on, or last couple decades, is that the innovation cycles are getting faster and faster,” Tananbaum said. “So and then at some point, the people that are having the really big wins on the public side are saying, ‘Well, these really big wins are being driven by innovation, and by quality science, so let’s go a little bit more upstream on the quality science.’”

That has combined with shorter and shorter healthcare product development cycles, he added, aided by general improvements in technology. Tananbaum pointed out that when he began Foresite in 2011, even, the time horizons for returns on healthcare investments were significantly longer, and at the outside edge of the tolerances of venture economics. Now, however, they’re much closer to those found in the general tech startup ecosystem, even in the case of fundamental scientific breakthroughs.

CAMBRIDGE – DECEMBER 1: Stephanie Chandler, Relay Therapeutics Office Manager, demonstrates how she and her fellow co-workers at the company administer their own COVID tests inside the COVID testing room at Relay Therapeutics in Cambridge, MA on Dec. 1, 2021. The cancer treatment development company converted its coat room into a room where employees get tested once a week. All 100+employees have been back in the office as a result of regular testing. Relay is a Foresite portfolio company. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“Basically, you’re seeing people now really look at biotech in general, in the same kind of way that you would look at a tech company,” he said. “There are these tech metrics that now also apply in biotech, about adoption velocity, other other things that may not exactly equate to immediate revenue, but give you all the core material that usually works over time.”

Overall, Foresite’s investment thesis focuses on funding companies in three areas – therapeutics at the clinical stage, infrastructure focused on automation and data generation, and what Tananbaum calls “individualized care.” All three are part of a continuum in the tech-enabled healthcare end state that he envisions, ultimately resulting “a world where we’re able to, at the individual level, help someone understand what their predispositions are to disease development.” That, Tananbaum suggests, will result in a transformation of this kind of targeted care into an everyday consumer experience – in the same way tech in general has taken previously specialist functions and abilities, and made them generally available to the public at large.

#alphabet, #articles, #biotech, #biotechnology, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #foresite-capital, #fund, #fundings-exits, #health, #innovation, #investment, #jim-tananbaum, #machine-learning, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #venture-capital, #vik-bajaj

0

Former top Paytm exec is building his own financial services startup

The executive who built the financial services boutique for Paytm, India’s most valuable startup, from the ground is ready to do something similar all over again.

Pravin Jadhav, the former chief executive of Paytm Money, revealed on Thursday his own startup, Raise Financial Services.

This time, Jadhav — under whose leadership, Paytm had amassed over 6 million Money customers — is focusing on serving a different set of the population.

Hundreds of millions of users in India today don’t have access to financial services. They don’t have a credit card, banks don’t lend to them, and they have never purchased an insurance cover or invested in mutual funds or stocks.

Scores of large firms and startups in India today are attempting to reach these users by building an underwriting technology that can use alternative data to determine an applicant’s credit worthiness. It’s a tough and capital intensive business, built on pillars of uncertainties, assumptions and hopes.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Jadhav said Raise Financial Services is aimed at customers living in metro, tier 1 and tier 2 cities (so very much in and around urban cities). “They want financial products, they are literate about these products, but they are not being served the way they should be,” he said.

Pravin Jadhav, left, poses with Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma. Jadhav left Paytm last year.

He said his new startup will offer products across financial services including investing, financing, insurance, wealth, and payments. “Just not doing the banking part, as I believe that is more of an infrastructure play,” he said.

“The idea is to offer great exceptional products that are not being offered by anyone. Number 2: Focus a lot on tech-driven distribution. And third is that today the quality of customer service experience is bad across the market. So we are trying to solve that,” he said. “Over time, we will try to stitch all of this together.”

Jadhav also announced he has raised a Seed financing round. He did not disclose the amount, but revealed enough high-profile names, including: Kunal Shah (Cred), Kalyan Krishnamurthi (Flipkart), Amod Malviya and Sujeet Kumar (Udaan), Sameer Nigam and Rahul Chari (PhonePe), Amrish Rau (Pine Labs, Citrus Pay), Sandeep Tandon (Freecharge), Jitendra Gupta (Jupiter), Girish Mathrubootham (Freshworks), Nischal Shetty (WazirX), Kuldeep Dhankar (Clevertap), Sreevatsa Prabhakar (Servify), and Amit Bhor (Walnut).

Jadhav himself is also investing, and venture investor Mirae Asset Venture is leading the round, with participation from Multi-Act Private Equity, Blume Ventures (via its Founder’s Fund) and US based early-stage investor Social Leverage, for which it is the first investment in India.

Ashish Dave, CEO of Mirae Asset Venture’s India business, told TechCrunch that even though he had known Jadhav, it was listening to him at various Clubhouse sessions that prompted him to reach out to Jadhav.

Jadhav said users can expect the startup’s first product to be live by the end of the year. (TechCrunch understands it’s shipping much sooner. Raise Financial Services’ offerings will have some similarities with SoFi and Goldman Sachs’ Marcus.)

#asia, #finance, #funding, #india, #online-lending, #paytm, #sofi

0

Five takeaways from Coinbase’s S-1

The Coinbase S-1 is out! And hot damn, did the company have a good fourth quarter.

TechCrunch has a first look at the company’s headline numbers. But in case you’ve been busy, the key things to understand are that Coinbase was an impressive company in 2019 with more than a half-billion in revenue and a modest net loss. In 2020, the company grew sharply to more than $1.2 billion in revenue, providing it with lots of net income.


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The company’s Q4 2020 was about as big as its entire 2019 in revenue terms, albeit much more profitable because the sum was concentrated in a single quarter instead of spread out over four.

However, beyond the top-level numbers are a host of details to explore. I want to dig more deeply into Coinbase’s user numbers, its asset mix, its growing subscription incomes, its competitive landscape and who owns what in the company. At the end, we’ll riff on a chart that discusses the correlation between crypto assets and the stock market, just for fun.

Sound good? You can read along in the S-1 here if you want, and I will provide page numbers as we go.

Inside Coinbase’s direct listing

To make things simpler, we’ll frame our digging in the form of questions, starting with: How many users did Coinbase need to generate its huge 2020 revenue gains?

The answer: not as many as I expected. In 2019, Coinbase generated $533.7 million from what it describes as 1 million “Monthly Transacting Users” (page 14). That works out to $533.7 million in revenue per MTU for the year.

In 2020, Coinbase generated $1.28 billion in revenue off of 2.8 million MTUs, which works out to around $457 apiece during the year. That’s a bit lower, but not terribly so. And given that the company’s transaction margins ranged in the mid-80s percent during much of 2020, each Coinbase active trader was still quite valuable, even at a lower revenue point.

As we noted in our first look at the company’s economics, Coinbase’s metrics are highly variable. Its MTU figure is no exception. Observe the following chart from its S-1 filing (page 95):

Coinbase’s Q1 2018 was nearly as popular in MTU terms as its final quarter of 2020. And from that point in time, the company’s MTUs fell 70 percent to its Q1 2019 nadir. That’s a lot of variance.

The company itself notes in its filing that “MTUs have historically been correlated with both the price of Bitcoin and Crypto Asset Volatility,” though the company does point out that it expects such correlations to diminish over time.

The answer to our question is that it only takes a few million MTUs for Coinbase to be a huge business. But the other side of that point is that Coinbase has shown twice in two years (2018, 2019) that the number of traders on its platform can decline.

What assets do Coinbase users hold? This is a question that I am sure many of you crypto enthusiasts have. But first, what does the Coinbase user asset base look like? Like this, historically (page 96):

Holy shit, right? The chart shows two things. First, the rapid appreciation of cryptocurrencies overall, which you can spy in the upward kick of the black line. And then the blue bars show how the assets on Coinbase’s platform grew from $17 billion at the start of 2020 to $90 billion by year’s end.

#a16z, #coinbase, #cryptocurrencies, #direct-listing, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #finance, #fundings-exits, #startups, #tc

0

USV has been aggressively selling off shares in Coinbase in run up to IPO

Coinbase’s S-1 publicly dropped this morning with much anticipation. My colleague Alex Wilhelm has the high-level details, but there was one major wrinkle for the crypto trading darling: two of its early investors seem to be cutting down their stakes pre-IPO.

The most notable case is Union Square Ventures, the prominent venture firm where Fred Wilson co-led the Series A round into the company back in 2013, which was the first investment made under the firm’s then newly christened blockchain thesis.

Over the past two years — which is the extent of disclosures that Coinbase includes in its S-1 filing — USV has been rapidly selling off its holdings in the company across multiple transactions, mostly selling to other venture firms around the cap table. Since late 2019, the firm has sold off approximately 28% of its holdings in Coinbase.

USV currently owns about 7.3% of Coinbase’s outstanding shares, or roughly 13.9 million of a total of 191.3 million based on Coinbase’s disclosed share count. As the following table indicates, USV has conducted four separately-dated transactions to sell nearly 5.5 million shares of its holdings in secondary transactions.

Fellow early-stage fintech investor Ribbit Capital, which joined USV in the Series A, also conducted a smaller secondary transaction in November 2019, selling a bit less than 5% of its outstanding shares (559,228 of 11,995,949 shares).

What’s interesting is not just that USV in particular is selling a large part of its holdings, but also the price they were willing to sell at. According to Coinbase’s filing, USV sold 3.35 million shares at $23 per share in late 2019, and later sold about 2 million shares at $28.83 per share in mid-2020.

Those prices are well-below Coinbase’s Series E price per share of $36.19, which it received in late 2019. It’s also below the price set by the secondary transactions of Coinbase CEO and co-founder Brian Armstrong and Paradigm founder and Coinbase co-founder Fred Ehrsam, who received $32.57 for their shares in late 2018.

Now, there are a couple of nuances to consider here. The secondary sale of preferred shares will typically convert to common (even if the sale is to another preferred shareholder), which means that the shares sold would hold fewer investor rights and provisions, and therefore, are intrinsically worth less to investors. This was the case with Coinbase as it disclosed in its filing, and that may explain at least some of the gap in the price.

The timing of USV’s investment is also perhaps notable. The bulk of USV’s investment in Coinbase comes from its 2012 vintage fund, which if it follows default industry practice, has a targeted 10-year shelf life. That means that the fund is designed to pay out its returns by 2022 — which was quickly coming up for the firm back in 2019 and 2020. There may have been some pressure to sell at least some of the firm’s stake early to make the firm’s LPs happier.

It’s also useful to note that USV and Ribbit mostly sold to other, existing investors like A16Z and Paradigm, which shows that other investors deeply burrowed on the cap table were quite excited to put more money to work in Coinbase, even at a fairly late stage.

Nonetheless, it’s rare for an ambitious fund like USV to sell arguably its single most important investment of all time just a year or two before what may well be one of the largest blockbuster IPOs of 2021. At a valuation of $100 billion let’s say (which is what Coinbase priced at a recent private market transaction), USV’s stake would be worth about $7.3 billion. Yet, the shares it sold over the past two years would have been worth several billion at exit, and it sold them for about $140 million in cash.

The mystery here is perhaps solved a bit. Fred Wilson, in a blog post from early 2018, talked about “taking money off the table” in earlier USV investments like Twitter, where the firm “sold about 30% of our position in those two secondary transactions for about $250mm and returned 2x the entire fund to our investors.” Then referring to crypto, he said:

If you are sitting on 20x, 50x, 100x your money on a crypto investment, it would not be a mistake to sell 10%, 20% or even 30% of your position. Selling 25% of your position on an investment that is up 50x is booking a 12.5x on the entire investment, while allowing you to keep 75% of it going. I know that many crypto holders think that selling anything is a mistake. And it might be. Or it might not be. You just don’t know.

Clearly, he took money off the table. It’s a financially-astute, risk-adjusted approach, even if it left billions of returns behind. A16Z and Paradigm are, I am sure, quite pleased to have made the purchase.

#coinbase, #cryptocurrency, #finance, #fred-wilson, #fundings-exits, #union-square-ventures

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Stori raises $32.5M in a Lightspeed-led Series B to build Mexico’s credit card for the masses

While credit cards are commonplace in the United States, they are far less ubiquitous in many other countries, particularly those in Latin America. In Mexico in particular, cash remains the dominant method of payment with an estimated 86% of all payments being in the form of cash.

But card usage is growing as more people are shopping online than ever before. According to one recent study, Mexico topped the list of the world’s fastest growing e-commerce markets. Meanwhile, only 37% of Mexicans over 15 years old have a bank account, according to recent World Bank stats.

All these factors clearly make the country ripe for fintech innovation. 

And for the founders of Mexico City-based startup Stori, they spell opportunity.

From left to right, Stori founding team Juan Villaseñor, Marlene Garayzar, Bin Chen, Camila Burne

Stori launched its credit card product in Mexico in January 2020 and has so far had more than 1 million customers apply for a card. 

Several members of the founding team spent years at Capital One honing their skills in underwriting underserved populations while others worked at the likes of Mastercard, Morgan Stanley, GE Money, HSBC and Intel in Mexico and the U.S.

Now the company has raised a $32.5 million Series B round with the goal of “becoming Mexico’s leading credit card issuer for the rising middle class.”

Lightspeed Venture Partners led the company’s financing, which brings Stori’s total raised since its early 2018 inception to $50 million. According to Lightspeed Partner Mercedes Bent, the investment marked her firm’s first large investment in the Latin American region “with more to come.”

Existing backers Vision Plus Capital, BAI Capital and Source Code Capital also participated in the round.

Stori provides credit cards with “a 100% mobile app-based experience” to the rising middle income population in Mexico. The team spent its first two years building out the startup’s infrastructure and platform. 

In January 2021, the fintech’s monthly new customer growth was 14 times than what it saw in January 2020 and 6 times the company’s monthly average for 2020, according to co-founder Bin Chen. He declined to reveal its current total of customers.

Because the Mexican market is so huge (the country has a population of nearly 130 million), Stori is currently only focused on serving the country.

Just as in other parts of the world, Stori saw tailwinds in the COVID-19 pandemic in that it fueled customer demand for a way to pay digitally. 

“Consumers in Mexico are increasingly using e-commerce and app-based services like ride hailing and delivery and credit cards are the preferred payment methods in those channels,” Chen said. “They’re experiencing more cash flow fluctuation and irregular expenses and need access to flexible credit that can meet short term needs.”

And of course, during pandemic-related lockdowns, more people are turning to digital financial offerings to avoid visiting bank branches in person.

One commonality among all of Stori’s co-founders, according to Chen, is that each “comes from a modest background.”

“We all experienced the feeling of being excluded from the traditional financial service world. As an international student pursuing my master’s degree in Illinois more than twenty years ago, I was relying solely on teaching assistantship to cover my study and living expenses,” Chen recalled. “I often ran out of money, and had a hard time to make ends meet – I received many rejections before I got my first credit card.”

Similar to TomoCredit’s mission in the U.S., Stori’s founders are working to give middle and low-income customers that are “new to the formal financial system” an opportunity to access credit.

The company plans to use its new capital to grow its customer base, boost headcount and invest in product design, technology infrastructure and underwriting, said Chen, who previously worked at Capital One and Mastercard in both U.S. and emerging markets. Today, Stori has 80 employees spread across offices in Mexico, U.S. and China, up from 40 a year ago.

“Our goal is to become a leading digital bank for the underserved population in the region,” he said.

For its part, Lightspeed first met the company’s founders over a year ago.

“We were struck by the depth of their experience. They navigated the pitfalls of Covid masterfully — without the benefit of a US style stimulus — and showed that their underwriting models were strong and improving,” Bent said. “That is a reflection of the quality of the team.”

Yiran Liu, a partner at China-based Vision Plus Capital, says the firm led Stori’s Series A round and “continues to be super pro rata in this round.”

“We have a structural thesis on digital fintech models and are investing in these models globally, particularly in emerging markets,” Liu said in a written statement. “We are impressed by the team’s execution and excited by the local market opportunity as evidenced by the rapid growth.”

 

 

#credit-cards, #finance, #funding, #latin-america, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mercedes-bent, #mexico, #mexico-city, #payments, #recent-funding, #startups, #stori, #venture-capital

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Berlin’s MorphAIs hopes its AI algorithms will put its early-stage VC fund ahead of the pack

MorphAIs is a new VC out of Berlin, aiming to leverage AI algorithms to boost its investment decisions in early-stage startups. But there’s a catch: it hasn’t raised a fund yet.

The firm was founded by Eva-Valérie Gfrerer who was previously head of Growth Marketing at FinTech startup OptioPay and her background is in Behavioural Science and Advanced Information Systems.

Gfrerer says she started MorphAIs to be a tech company, using AI to assess venture investments and then selling that as a service. But after a while, she realized the platform could be applied an in-house fund, hence the drive to now raise a fund.

MorphAIs has already received financing from some serial entrepreneurs, including: Max Laemmle, CEO & Founder Fraugster, previously Better Payment and SumUp; Marc-Alexander Christ, Co-Founder SumUp, previously Groupon (CityDeal) and JP Morgan Chase; Charles Fraenkl, CEO SmartFrog, previously CEO at Gigaset and AOL; Andreas Winiarski, Chairman & Founder awesome capital Group.

She says: “It’s been decades since there has been any meaningful innovation in the processes by which venture capital is allocated. We have built technology to re-invent those processes and push the industry towards more accurate allocation of capital and a less-biased and more inclusive start-up ecosystem.”

She points out that over 80% of early-stage VC funds don’t deliver the minimum expected return rate to their investors. This is true, but admittedly, the VC industry is almost built to throw a lot of money away, in the hope that it will pick the winner that makes up for all the losses.

She now plans to aim for a pre-seed/seed fund, backed by a team consisting of machine learning scientists, mathematicians, and behavioral scientists, and claims that MorphAIs is modeling consistent 16x return rates, after running real-time predictions based on market data.

Her co-founder is Jan Saputra Müller, CTO and Co-Founder, who co-founded and served as CTO for several machine learning companies, including askby.ai.

There’s one problem: Gfrerer’s approach is not unique. For instance, London-based Inreach Ventures has made a big play of using data to hunt down startups. And every other VC in Europe does something similar, more or less.

Will Gfrerer manage to pull off something spectacular? We shall have to wait and find out.

#artificial-intelligence, #berlin, #ceo, #chairman, #chase, #citydeal, #co-founder, #cto, #economy, #europe, #finance, #head, #inreach-ventures, #jp-morgan-chase, #london, #machine-learning, #money, #sumup, #tc, #venture-capital

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With Atlanta rising as a new hub for tech, early stage firm Tech Square Ventures gets a new partner

Atlanta is coming up in the tech world with several newly minted billion-dollar businesses hailing from the ATL and the city’s local venture capital community is taking notice.

Even as later stage firms like the newly minted BIP Capital rebrand and  with increasingly large funds, earlier stage firms like Tech Square Ventures are staffing up and adding new partners.

The firm’s latest hire is Vasant Kamath, a general partner who joins the firm from Primus Capital, a later stage investment vehicle based out of Atlanta. Before that, he was managing investments for the private office of the Cox family.

Originally from Augusta, Ga. Kamath left the south to attend Harvard and then went out west for a stint at Stanford Business School.

In between his jaunts North and West Kamath spent time in Atlanta as an investment banker with Raymond James in the early 2000s, the beginnings of a lifelong professional career in technology. Before business school, Kamath worked at Summit Equity Partners in Boston investing in later stage technology companies.

Kamath settled in Atlanta in 2010 just as a second wave of technology companies began making their presence felt in the city.

The new Tech Square Village general partner pointed to Atlanta’s underlying tech infrastructure as one reason for the move to early stage. One pillar of that infrastructure is Georgia Tech itself. The school, whose campus abuts the Tech Square Ventures offices, is one of the top engineering universities in the country and the breadth of talent coming out of that program is impressive, Kamath said.

There’s also the companies like Airwatch, MailChimp, Calendly and others that represent the resurgence of Atlanta’s tech scene, Tech Square Ventures’ newest general partner said.

Not only are young companies reinvesting in the city, but big tech giants and telecom players like T-Mobile, Google, and Microsoft are also establishing major offices, accelerators, and incubators in Atlanta.

“There’s a lot of momentum here in early stage and i think it’s building. It’s the right time for a firm like TSV to take advantage of all of the things,” Kamath said. 

Another selling point for making the jump to early stage investing was the relationship that Kamath had established with Tech Square Ventures founder, Blake Patton. A serial entrepreneur who’s committed to building up Atlanta’s startup ecosystem, Patton has been the architect of Tech Square Ventures’ growth through two separate initiatives.

In all, the firm has $90 million in assets under management. What began with a small pilot fund, Tech Square Ventures Fund 1, (a $5 million investment vehicle) has expanded to include two larger funds raised in conjunction with major industrial corporate partners like AT&T, Chick-Fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Delta, Georgia-Pacific, Georgia Power, The Home Depot, UPS, Goldman Sachs, and Invesco, under the auspices of a program called Engage. Those funds total $54 million in AUM and the firm is halfway toward closing a much larger second flagship fund under the Tech Square Ventures name with a $75 million target.

All this activity has led to a blossoming entrepreneurial community that early stage funds like Tech Square Ventures hopes to tap.

“We see a fair number of folks from these large corporations spinning out and starting things themselves,” said Kamath. “For a decade plus, you have multiple entrepreneurs doing really well and increasing acceleration in terms of climate and exits.”

And more firms from outside of the region are beginning to take notice.

“I think that is happening,” said Kamath. “You might seen investment from outside the region. At the seed stage it’s harder you do need to have feet on the ground right when they’re starting and building their business. Once they’ve been vetted and had that early round of investment you will definitely see a lot of activity. We’re seeing more investment at the Series A and B from out of town. That’s the strategy.”

It all points to a burgeoning startup scene that’s based in a collaborative approach, which should be good not only for Tech Square Ventures, but the other early stage funds like Atlanta Ventures, Outlander Labs, BLH Ventures, Knoll Ventures and Overline, that working to support the city’s entrepreneurs, Kamath said.

#airwatch, #att, #atlanta, #bip-capital, #boston, #calendly, #chick-fil-a, #corporate-finance, #cox-enterprises, #delta, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #georgia, #goldman-sachs, #google, #harvard, #invesco, #investment-banker, #knoll-ventures, #mailchimp, #microsoft, #money, #private-equity, #serial-entrepreneur, #t-mobile, #tc, #tech-square-ventures, #technology, #venture-capital

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Fintech startup Finix closes on $3M in Black and Latinx investor-led SPV

Many founders talk about their desire for a more diverse investor base. Richie Serna took that desire and made it a reality.

Serna, who founded payments infrastructure startup Finix in 2016, had raised more than $95 million in venture funding from the likes of Lightspeed Venture Partners, American Express Ventures, Homebrew, Precursor Ventures, Insight Partners, Bain Capital Ventures, Visa and Activant Capital.

The San Francisco-based fintech last raised $30 million in an extension of its Series C round last August. At the time, Finix — which says its mission is to make every company a payments company — said it had seen its transaction volume more than quadruple from Q2 2019 to Q2 2020.

But Serna, a first-generation Mexican-American who was the first in his family to go to college (Harvard), wanted to broaden his company’s cap table even further. So he created a special purpose vehicle (SPV) that ultimately raised an additional $3 million and brought more than 80 “traditionally marginalized” investors onto Finix’s cap table. 

“This is very personal for me as a founder of color — making sure we have a diverse representation of people in our investor base,” Serna said.

Finix CEO and founder Richie Serna – Image courtesy of Finix

The effort, Serna added, was more than just diversifying his company’s cap table. It was also an initiative aimed at giving Black and Latinx investors access to an opportunity they may not have otherwise had. Indeed, the numbers are dismal. A recent NVCA-Deloitte Human Capital Survey found that 80% of investment partners at VC firms are white, and just 3% are Black and 3% are Hispanic/Latinx.

“This is about helping historically underrepresented groups build track records and get attribution for the work to help them start their careers and hopefully one day start their own fund,” Serna told TechCrunch. “So this is just one way that we at Finix can construct a rewrite of the story about the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley.”

It’s also not a one-time thing. Moving forward, in all subsequent rounds, Finix will be allocating 10% of each round to Black and Latinx investors.

Jewel Burks Solomon, managing partner of Collab Capital and head of Google for Startups, U.S. said the opportunity to invest in “a high growth company like Finix at a time that is typically reserved for a very select group of highly connected (usually white) investors is a big deal.”

“Access is the primary determinant of wealth creation,” Atlanta, Ga.-based Solomon added. “So creating an opportunity for access to folks who might not otherwise have it is game-changing.”

For Tiffani Ashley Bell, founder and executive director of The Human Utility (and now Finix investor), the SPV gives “talented, knowledgeable investors and operators from diverse backgrounds — especially Black and Latinx people — who have traditionally been excluded from investing early in rocket ship startups” a chance to be able to do so. 

While fundraising, Finix was also hiring for senior executive positions and through the process was able to find a few who came with a breadth of experience to help the company advance on its long-term goals — including the possibility of going public one day. As a result, its C-suite is now made up of a Mexican American (CEO), a woman (COO), a Black American (CGO, or chief growth officer) and an Indian American (CTO). 

For example, the company recently hired Fiona Taylor — who helped steer Solar City’s IPO and acquisition by Tesla and most recently served as Marqeta’s SVP of operations — to serve as its COO. 

The startup also tapped Ramana Satyavarapu to serve as its CTO. Satyavarapu was a founding member of Microsoft Office 365 and the head of engineering for Google Play Search. He also led software infrastructure engineering at Uber and was most recently the head of data platforms & products at Two Sigma, a quantitative hedge fund. 

Today, Finix has about 100 employees, 50% of whom Serna says he’s never met. The company plans to double its headcount over the next year.

On whether the new hires mean that an IPO was in Finix’s future, Serna replied: “We always like to think that we’re not just building for the next year, we’re building for the future. And I think if you look at the group that we’ve brought together, it’s pretty clear in terms of the direction that we’re trying to head as an organization.”

In looking ahead, Serna said he’s also excited about the potential of the SPV to add diversity to his company’s cap table.

“Black investors and other Latinx entrepreneurs were the first people to believe in me and back Finix,” he added. “I’m honored to pay it forward by creating the SPV, and I hope other founders are inspired to do the same.”

#activant-capital, #american-express-ventures, #bain-capital-ventures, #diversity, #finance, #finix, #funding, #homebrew, #insight-partners, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #payments, #precursor-ventures, #recent-funding, #richie-serna, #san-francisco, #startups, #techcrunch-include

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