Fintech startup SellersFunding raises $166.5M in equity, credit round to support e-commerce sellers

SellersFunding secured $166.5 million in a combination of Series A equity funding and a credit facility to continue developing its technology and payments platforms for e-commerce businesses.

Northzone led the round and was joined by Endeavor Catalyst and Fasanara. SellersFunding CEO Ricardo Pero did not disclose the funding breakdown, but did say the company previously raised two seed rounds for a total of $40 million in equity and more than $100 million in credit facilities, including one that the company was expanding to $200 million.

SellersFunding, with offices in Florida, New York and London, created a digital platform that delivers financial tools and resources to streamline global commerce for thousands of marketplaces, including working capital, cross-border cash management, tax solutions and business valuation.

Pero got the idea for the company after spending 20 years in the financial industry. He left JP Morgan in 2016 with a drive to start his own company. He was consulting for a friend selling on Amazon who asked him to help make sense of Amazon’s fees and to review the next year’s budget because the friend was struggling to keep up with growth.

“I helped him address the fees issue, but when I went to talk to traditional lenders, I found that they have no clue about e-commerce and the needs of SMEs,” he said.

In addition to being a lending source for businesses selling on these marketplaces, SellersFunding leverages sales data provided by the marketplaces and e-commerce platforms to create sales and cash flow estimates based on the credit limits given to clients so that owners can better understand the fees they are paying and make more informed decisions.

He founded the company in 2017, and today has over 30,000 registered users and is approaching $10 billion in sales volume that is feeding data into SellersFunding’s daily models. The company makes money as both a lender and on fees it charges for payments collected by its customers. Merchants can collect money from marketplaces and pay their suppliers in local or foreign currency.

SellersFunding has consistently grown 300% year over year, Pero said. As such, he intends to use the new funding to scale globally, expand the team, create a marketing budget and look for two small acquisitions in the U.S. and Europe.

The company will continue to invest on the payments side and to promote cross-border payments.

“When I look at the payments landscape, companies are competing on pricing and I don’t think we will ever have a focus there, but instead will compete on customer experience,” Pero added. “Our core business will always be lending and our core investments will be payments and technology, but then we will extend to other services that our clients want.”

With an eye on expanding internationally, it fit to bring on Northzone as a partner, he added. The venture firm is based in Europe and was of a similar vision for thinking globally.

Jeppe Zink, general partner at Northzone, said via email that Pero and his team “are the most experienced in this category” and are building a category leader that is “more experienced and understanding of the lending side than its competitors.”

“We have seen this massive rise in e-shopping, most of the new ones coming from marketplaces like Amazon and Shopify, and if you look at the sellers, thousands are small businesses sourcing their goods which means that they are very important customers,” Zink added. “Normal banks like Barclay can’t check credit. SellersFinding is helping small businesses get this credit, and rightly so. In the same way we thought neobanks won with accounts created when it comes to delivering credit and banking products, they are nowhere to be found yet.”

#banking, #ecommerce, #endeavor-catalyst, #enterprise, #fasanara, #financial-tools, #funding, #jeppe-zink, #northzone, #online-lending, #payments, #recent-funding, #retailers, #ricardo-pero, #saas, #sellersfunding, #startups, #tc

Is India’s BNPL 2.0 set to disrupt B2B?

Both as a term and as a financial product, “buy now, pay later” has become mainstream in the past few years. BNPL has evolved to assume various forms today, from small-ticket offerings by fintechs on consumer checkout platforms and marketplaces, to closed-loop products offered on marketplaces such as Amazon Pay Later (which they are now extending for outside use as well). You can also see some variants offered by companies that want to expand the scope of consumption and consumer credit.

Globally, BNPL has seen the most growth in the consumer segment and has driven retail consumption and lending over the past few years. Consumer BNPL offerings are a good alternative to credit cards, especially for people who do not have a credit history and can’t get credit from banks. That said, a specific vertical of BNPL products is gaining traction — one targeted toward small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This new vertical is known as “SME BNPL.”

BNPL can be particularly useful when flow-based underwriting or transaction-based underwriting is used to offer credit to small businesses.

B2B commerce in India is moving online

E-commerce has seen tremendous growth in India over the past decade. Skyrocketing smartphone and internet penetration led to rapid growth in e-commerce across large cities and smaller towns alike. Consumer credit has also taken off in parallel as credit cards and digital lending spurred credit-based consumption across offline and online stores.

However, the large B2B supply chain enabling the burgeoning retail market was plagued by bottlenecks and inefficiencies because it involved a plethora of intermediaries and streamlining became a big problem. A number of tech players responded by organizing the previously disorganized B2B commerce market at various touch points, inserting convenience, pricing and easier product access through tech-enabled logistics and a modern supply chain.

Online B2B and B2C penetration in India in 2019

Image Credits: Redseer

India’s B2B e-commerce space has developed rapidly since 2020. Small businesses have moved from using paper to smartphone apps for running a significant part of their day-to-day business, leading to widespread disruption in how businesses transact today. The COVID-19 pandemic also forced small businesses, which were earlier using physical means to procure goods and services, to try new and online models to conduct their affairs.

Graph depicting growth of India's B2B retail market

Image Credits: Redseer

Moreover, the Indian government’s widespread promotion of an instant payments system in the form of the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has changed how people send money to each other or pay merchants for their goods and services. The next step for solving the digital B2B puzzle is to embed credit inside every transaction and invoice.

Investments in online B2B in india 2016-19

Image Credits: Redseer

If we compare online B2B transactions to the offline world, there is only one missing link: The terms offered to small businesses by their supplier/distributor or vendor. Businesses, unlike consumers, must buy goods and services to eventually trade them, or add value and sell to consumers or others down the value chain. This process is not immediate and has a certain time cycle attached.

The longer sales cycle means many small businesses require credit payment terms when buying inventory. As B2B commerce scales and grows through digital means, a BNPL product that caters to the needs of SMEs can support their growth and alleviate the burden on their cash flows.

How does consumer BNPL differ from SME BNPL?

An SME BNPL product is a purchase financing product for small businesses transacting with suppliers, distributors, aggregator platforms or B2B marketplaces.

#asia, #bnpl, #column, #e-commerce, #ec-column, #ec-fintech, #ec-india, #ec-indian-subcontinent, #finance, #india, #online-lending, #online-shopping, #retail, #small-business, #startups, #supply-chain, #tc

Addi raises $75M to advance ‘buy now, pay later’ in LatAm, nearly triples valuation

Buy now, pay later is officially everywhere, and Latin America is no exception.

Today, one startup in the region, Addi, is announcing a $75 million extension to its Series B, bringing the total round size to $140 million. In late May, the startup announced it had raised $35 million in an equity round led by Union Square’s Opportunity Fund, and $30 million in debt funding from Architect Capital.

The company, which has dual headquarters in Bogota, Colombia, and São Paulo, Brazil, declined to reveal its new valuation other than to say it is “nearly triple” what it was 90 days ago when it closed on the first tranche of its Series B, and that it is now in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars range.

New York-based Greycroft led the extension, which also included participation from new backers GGV Capital, Citius Capital and Intersection Growth Partners, as well as existing investors Union Square’s Opportunity Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, Endeavor Catalyst, Foundation Capital, Monashees and Quona Capital. 

With the latest financing, Addi has now raised a total of $220 million in debt and equity since its September 2018 inception — $140 million of that in equity and over $80 million in debt.

Addi co-founder and CEO Santiago Suarez, says he, Daniel Vallejo and Elmer Ortega started the company with a vision of making digital commerce a reality in Latin America — a region where an estimated fewer than 25% of people have a credit card.

“To do this, we had to solve the payment problem,” he said. “We wanted to make frictionless payments possible while allowing customers to afford what they wanted.”

Addi started with a buy now, pay later offering, which allowed consumers to make purchases in minutes with “just a few clicks.” Today, the company allows customers to pay for their purchases over three months at no cost. For bigger purchases, Addi lets them pay for up to 24 months at what it describes as “competitive and fair rates.”

Addi is currently available for e-commerce, mobile and brick-and-mortar purchases in Brazil and Colombia, with plans to expand across Latin America in the coming years. In particular, it plans to enter the Mexican market in 2022.

Since the beginning of this year alone, Addi has grown its GMV (gross merchandise volume) by 13x, according to Suarez.

“And our ARR has seen similar growth,” he said.

Like many other companies, Addi temporarily saw a slowdown in business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it quickly bounced back.

“We lost 99% of our GMV in 20 days when the pandemic hit. We had to make some painful decisions, including letting go of many of our colleagues at a very difficult time,” Suarez recalled. “We also refocused the business on e-commerce and digital payments, and we haven’t looked back since then.”

As a result, Addi reached its pre-COVID high again in March/April of 2021, and has grown by about 3x since.

For now, the company is more focused on growth than profitability, Suarez added.

“This round has increased our focus on making digital commerce ubiquitous and accessible across Latin America,” he said.

Indeed, Latin America led the world in e-commerce sales growth last year. For its part, Addi currently has more than 150,000 customers, a number that is growing at 30% to 40% month over month. On the merchant side, it has close to 500 merchant partners, including brands such as Arturo Calle, Mario Hernandez, Keep Running and Claro. Earlier this year, it inked a strategic partnership with Banco Santander.

Addi currently has over 260 employees (or as Suarez put it, partners), up from less than 120 a year ago. The company prides itself as being “one of the few Latin American startups” that grants equity to everyone on staff.

“And we make it a point of speaking about partners and co-owners rather than employees,” Suarez told TechCrunch.

The company plans to use the new capital to speed up its product roadmap and geographic expansion. On the product side, it will be launching “a one-click checkout solution” for its merchant partners and customers by year’s end. Addi will also be accelerating its entry into Mexico, as mentioned previously, where it’s aiming to launch in early 2022.

Greycroft’s Thabet Mahayni said that prior to investing in Addi, his firm had been tracking the startup “for a long time.”

“In addition to an exceptional team, we believe the BNPL value proposition is stronger in LatAm than anywhere else in the world,” Mahayni told TechCrunch.” We…believe they have an opportunity to fundamentally reshape the entire consumer payments experience in the region.”

That is in part because currently, consumers in Latin America have very few alternatives when it comes to credit, he points out. Card penetration is very low and those who apply for credit “face a cumbersome and frustrating application process,” Mahayni added.

And those who do have credit cards are often given very low limits with high interest rates.

“It’s easy to see how this dynamic makes it difficult and expensive for consumers to access safe and reliable credit,” he said. 

Addi, according to Mahayni, has “rebuilt the entire onboarding, underwriting and fraud stack so they can provide safer credit alternatives to consumers while enabling merchants to meaningfully increase their basket sizes and GMV.”

It’s the second LatAm investment for Greycroft, which previously invested in Rocket.chat, a Brazilian enterprise communication and collaboration platform.

In Mexico next year, Addi will join existing player, Nelo. That startup raised $3 million in April, and at the time, was live with more than 45 merchants and over 150,000 users. Also, Alchemy earlier this year entered the Mexican market.

#addi, #architect-capital, #bnpl, #brazil, #colombia, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #greycroft, #latin-america, #mexico, #online-lending, #payments, #recent-funding, #startups, #union-square-opportunity-fund, #union-square-ventures, #venture-capital

Egyptian fintech MNT-Halan lands $120M from Apis Partners, DisrupTech and others

Over 70% of Egypt’s young and fast-growing population of over 100 million is financially underserved despite mobile penetration exceeding 90%.

Traditional banks often overlook this segment because of their spending power or financial status and fintechs have seized the opportunity to cater to their needs.

One such fintech is MNT-Halan, and today, the company which describes itself as “Egypt’s leading fintech ecosystem” is announcing that it has closed a $120 million investment.

The investors backing MNT-Halan include private equity firms Apis Growth Fund II, Development Partners International (DPI), and Lorax Capital Partners; VCs like Venture Partners, Endeavor Catalyst, and DisruptTech.

They join previous local investors like GB Capital, DPI, Algebra Ventures, Wamda, Egypt Ventures, Shaka VC, Nowaisi Capital, Unidelta, Battery Road Digital Holdings that have backed the company in the past. 

In 2017, Mounir Nakhla and Ahmed Mohsen started Halan as a ride-hailing and delivery app offering two and three-wheeler services to customers in Egypt. Since then, it has provided other features including wallets, bill payment services, e-commerce with buy now, pay later (BNPL), micro and consumer loans, all in a bid to become a super app.

Then in June this year, Netherlands-based MNT Investments BV entered a share swap agreement with the Egyptian super app to accelerate the progress of its payments and lending arm, especially in BNPL across Egypt and the MENA region. 

Before the merger, MNT acquired the shares of Raseedy, the first independent and interoperable digital wallet in Egypt licensed by its Central Bank to disburse, collect and transfer money digitally through mobile applications.

As MNT-Halan, it has also obtained the micro, consumer, and nano finance licenses to provide services to both businesses and consumers across Egypt.

This has enabled the company to build a fintech ecosystem that connects consumers, merchants, and micro-enterprises via a digital platform and payment solutions.   

As a business and consumer lender, MNT-Halan offers BNPL services, nano loans, microfinance, SME lending, payroll lending, and light-vehicle finance.

Its digital payments ecosystem provides services around loan disbursement and collection, peer-to-peer transfers, payroll disbursement, remittances, and bill payments. 

Then in mobility, MNT-Halan provides courier, delivery, and ride-hailing services.  

MNT-Halan claims to be Egypt’s largest and fastest-growing lender to the unbanked. Serving over 4 million customers in Egypt, of which 1 million are monthly active users, MNT-Halan has disbursed over $1.7 billion worth of loans to 1.8 million borrowers since inception. The company also claims to process $100 million monthly, growing 20x over the past five years. 

The investment, a mixture of private equity and venture capital money, will help the company improve its technology and product while scaling to customers within and outside Egypt. 

“We are at the forefront of the digital revolution sweeping across Egypt, bringing together the unbanked population with our technology. We are on track to bring financial inclusion to tens of millions of Egyptians. As a result, we will unleash this segment’s earnings potential and drive greater participation in the economy,” said CEO Nakhla.

One of its investors, Apis Growth Fund II, is a London-based private equity fund. It makes quasi-equity investments in the financial sector and related market infrastructure — payment gateways, switches, and payment platforms — in Africa and Asia.

MNT-Halan is its first landmark investment in Egypt but second on the continent after taking part in TymeBank’s $109 million investment in February this year. 

The co-founders and managing partners Matteo Stefanel and Udayan Goyal said this in a statement, “We are thrilled to be investing in MNT-Halan, which is our first investment in Egypt. Our belief is that they will be the leading player digitizing the unbanked and bringing financial services to millions of underserved customers in the country.

“We look forward to partnering with them to extend their impressive growth trajectory and believe Mounir Nakhla’s track record, combined with MNT-Halan’s tech team and operational expertise, provide the ideal opportunity to invest in Egypt’s fintech sector.” 

Prior to this news, Halan as an independent entity had raised $26.4 million, according to Crunchbase. This investment takes it to a combined total of $146.4 million, of which the latest is one of the largest raised in Africa this year and continues to prove the dominance of fintech on the continent.

#africa, #apis-growth-fund-ii, #bnpl, #egypt, #finance, #financial-inclusion, #funding, #halan, #mnt-halan, #online-lending, #payments, #private-equity, #startups, #tc, #tymebank

Lessons from COVID: Flexible funding is a must for alternative lenders

Rachael runs a bakery in New York. She set up shop in 2010 with her personal savings and contributions from family and friends, and the business has grown. But Rachael now needs additional financing to open another store. So how does she finance her expansion plans?

Because of stringent requirements, extensive application processes and long turnaround times, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like Rachael’s bakery seldom qualify for traditional bank loans. That’s when alternative lenders — who offer short and easy applications, flexible underwriting and quick turnaround times — come to the rescue.

Alternative lending is any lending that occurs outside of a conventional financial institution. These kinds of lenders offer different types of loans such as lines of credit, microloans and equipment financing, and they use technology to process and underwrite applications quickly. However, given their flexible requirements, they usually charge higher interest rates than traditional lenders.

Securitization is another cost-effective option for raising debt. Lenders can pool the loans they have extended and segregate them into tranches based on credit risk, principal amount and time period.

But how do these lenders raise funds to bridge the financing gap for SMBs?

As with all businesses, these firms have two major sources of capital: equity and debt. Alternative lenders typically raise equity funding from venture capital, private equity firms or IPOs, and their debt capital is typically raised from sources such as traditional asset-based bank lending, corporate debt and securitizations.

According to Naren Nayak, SVP and treasurer of Credibly, equity generally constitutes 5% to 25% of capital for alternative lenders, while debt can be between 75% and 95%. “A third source of capital or funding is also available to alternative lenders — whole loan sales — whereby the loans (or merchant cash advance receivables) are sold to institutions on a forward flow basis. This is a “balance-sheet light” funding solution and an efficient way to transfer credit risk for lenders,” he said.

Let’s take a look at each of these options in detail.

Funding sources for alternative lenders.

Image Credits: FischerJordan

Equity capital

Venture capital or private equity funding is one of the major sources of financing for alternative lenders. The alternative lending industry is said to be a “gold mine” for venture capital investments. While it is difficult for such companies to receive credit from traditional banks because of their stringent requirements in the initial stages, once the founders have shown a commitment by investing their own money, VC and PE firms usually step in.

However, VC and PE firms can be expensive sources of capital — their investment dilutes the ownership and control in the company. Plus, obtaining venture capital is a long, involved and competitive process.

Alternative lenders that have achieved good growth rates and scaled their operations have another option: An IPO lets them quickly raise large amounts of money while providing a lucrative exit for early investors.

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Sequoia, Jay-Z, Will Smith back Landis’ $165M debt, equity round toward making homeownership accessible to everyone

Homeownership is one of the key components to building intergenerational wealth, and Landis is working to make that a reality for renters.

U.S. homeownership rates in 2020 were about 65.8% according to Statista. The rate reached its peak of 69.2% in 2004 before falling sharply due to the economic recession of 2007-2009. The rate reached 63.7% in 2016 before steadily going back up.

To continue with its mission, Landis raised $165 million in a combination of debt and Series A equity funding. Sequoia Capital led the round and was joined by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation venture investment arm Arrive, Will Smith’s Dreamers VC and existing investor Signia Venture Partners. A group of founders also invested in the company, including those from Plaid, Cash App, Ethos, Instacart, Front, Flatiron Health and Tango. This latest funding brings Landis’ total debt and equity raised to date to $182 million.

“Landis helps families take their very first steps toward homeownership,” Roelof Botha, partner at Sequoia, said in a written statement. “By focusing on financial literacy and individualized coaching, we are giving everyone the opportunity to own their home, increasing financial inclusion and equality in America. Our technology is particularly relevant to those with low-to-moderate income who have been neglected by traditional financial solutions.”

Cyril Berdugo and Tom Petit founded Landis in 2018 and told TechCrunch that the idea for the company came after witnessing renters losing money, by, for example, paying $1,700 per month to live in a home where, based on its value, a mortgage would be $1,000 per month.

The New York-based fintech company receives referrals from real estate agents and mortgage lenders to work with prospective homeowners, who are typically unable to qualify for a mortgage due to poor credit, lack of down payment savings or debt.

It uses its underwriting technology to determine if the client will be able to afford a mortgage in the next 12 to 24 months. If so, Landis gives the client a budget to pick a property, and will purchase the home and rent it to the client, who will then work toward saving money and building a stronger financial footing to get to mortgage-readiness.

Berdugo and Petit don’t see their relationship with renters as a typical landlord-renter one, but instead as a partnership. Clients have also taught the pair that school districts matter in where they purchase a home and setting their children up for equal success is important.

“Our clients are more motivated than typical renters and really want to hang on, improve their savings, and it is working,” Petit said. “They are so much more successful. We also feel it when they call and ask for advice and even try to beat their deadlines.”

Berdugo did not disclose the round’s debt versus equity breakdown, or go into specifics about growth metrics, but did say the driver for the funding round was to expand into new states, add to Landis’ headcount and improve user experience.

The company is already operating in 29 cities in 11 states and plans to increase that to 20 states by next year. Berdugo and Petit target states where the impact will be greatest, like where rents are higher than they should be.

In addition to the funding announcement, Landis said it opened up access to its Landis Homeownership Coach mobile app for free to everyone with an iPhone. The app provides a dashboard view of credit, down payment savings and debt, with insights and actions for clients toward reaching their goal of qualifying for a mortgage.

“Inequality to financial literacy and financial services are related,” Berdugo said. “People with low-to-moderate income don’t have access to services that wealthier people have, and we are trying to bridge that gap by providing financial literacy and services to get them mortgage ready.”

#apps, #cyril-berdugo, #dreamers-vc, #flatiron-health, #funding, #instacart, #jay-z, #landis, #mortgage, #online-lending, #real-estate, #recent-funding, #roc-nation, #roelof-botha, #sequoia-capital, #signia-venture-partners, #startups, #tc, #tom-petit, #venture-capital, #will-smith

With open banking on the horizon, the fintech-SME love story is just beginning

The fintech sector has been hugely successful (and hugely profitable) for much of the last decade, and even more so during the pandemic. But it might come as a surprise to learn that many in the industry believe that the story is just beginning and the sector is poised to achieve much more, with fintech’s next decade expected to be radically different from the last 10 years.

Long before the pandemic, the way in which banks were regulated was changing. Initiatives like Open Banking and the Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2) were being proposed as a way to promote competition in the banking industry — allowing smaller challenger firms to break into a market that has long been dominated by corporate titans.

Now that these initiatives are in place, however, we’re seeing that their effect goes way beyond opening up a gap for challenger banks. Since open banking requires that banks make valuable data available via APIs, it is leading to a revolution in the way that small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs) are funded — one in which data, and not hard capital, is the most important factor driving fintech success.

Open banking and data freedom

In order to understand the changes that are sweeping fintech and reconfiguring the way that the industry works with small businesses, it’s important to understand open banking. This is a concept that has really taken hold among governmental and supranational banking regulators over the past decade, and we are now beginning to see its impact across the banking sector.

Allowing third parties access to the data held at banks will allow the true financial position of SMEs to be assessed, many for the first time.

At its most fundamental level, open banking refers to the process of using APIs to open up consumers’ financial data to third parties. This allows these third parties to design, build and distribute their own financial products. The utility (and, ultimately, the profitability) of these products doesn’t rely on them holding huge amounts of capital — rather, it is the data they harvest and contain that endows them with value.

Open-banking models raise a number of challenges. One is that the banking industry will need to develop much more rigorous systems to continually seek consumer consent for data to be shared in this way. Though the early years of fintech have taught us that consumers are pretty relaxed when it comes to giving up their data — with some studies indicating that almost 60% of Americans choose fintech over privacy — the type and volume shared through open-banking frameworks is much more extensive than the products we have seen up until now.

Despite these concerns, the push toward open banking is progressing around the world. In Europe, the PSD2 (the Payment Services Directive) requires large banks to share financial information with third parties, and in Asia services like Alipay and WeChat in China, and Tez and PayTM in India are already altering the financial services market. The extra capabilities available through these services are already leading to calls for the U.S. banking system to embrace open banking to the same degree.

Serving SMEs

If the U.S. banking industry can be convinced of the utility of open banking, or if it is forced to do so via legislation, several groups are likely to benefit:

  • Consumers will be offered novel banking and investment products based on far more detailed data analysis than exists at present.
  • The fintech companies who design and build these products will also see the use of their products increase, and their profit margins alongside this.
  • Arguably, even banks will benefit, because even in the most open models it is banks who still act as the gatekeepers, deciding which third parties have access to consumer data, and what they need to do to access.

By far the biggest beneficiary of open banking, however, will be SMEs. This is not necessarily because open-banking frameworks offer specific new functionality that will be useful to small and medium-sized businesses. Instead, it is a reflection of the fact that SMEs have historically been so poorly served by traditional banks.

SMEs are underserved in a number of ways. Traditional banks have an extremely limited ability to view the aggregate financial position of an SME that holds capital across multiple institutions and in multiple instruments, which makes securing finance very difficult.

In addition, SMEs often have to deal with dated and time-consuming manual interfaces to upload data to their bank. And (perhaps worst of all) the B2B payment systems in use at most banks provide very limited feedback to the businesses that use them — a lack of information that can cost businesses dearly.

New capabilities

Given these deficiencies, it’s not surprising that fintech startups are keen to lend to small businesses, and that SMEs are actively looking for novel banking products and services. There have, of course, already been some success stories in this space, and the kinds of banking systems available to SMEs today (especially in Europe) are leagues ahead of the services available even 10 years ago.

However, open banking promises to accelerate this transformation and dramatically improve the financial services available to the average SME. It will do this in several ways. Allowing third parties access to the data held at banks will allow the true financial position of SMEs to be assessed, many for the first time.

Via APIs, fintech companies will be able to access information on different types of accounts, insurance, card accounts and leases, and consolidate data from multiple countries into one overall picture.

This, in turn, will have major effects on the way that credit-worthiness is assessed for SMEs. At the moment, there is a funding gap facing many SMEs, largely because banks have been hesitant to move away from the “balance sheet” model of assessing credit risk. By using real-time analytics on an SME’s current business activities, banks will be able to more accurately assess this risk and lend to more businesses.

In fact, this is already happening in countries where open banking is well advanced – in the U.K., Lloyds’ Business ToolBox offers unlimited credit checks on companies and directors in addition to account transaction data.

Open banking will also allow peer comparison analytics far ahead of what we have seen until now. APIs can be used to provide SMEs real-time feedback on how they are performing within their market sector. Again, this ability is already available in the U.K., with Barclays’ SmartBusiness Dashboard offering marketing effectiveness tools as part of a customizable business dashboard.

These capabilities will be so useful to SMEs that they are likely to drive the popularity of any fintech product that offers them. For SMEs, this value will lie mainly in intelligent data-analytics-based insights, recommendations and automatic prompts that can be built on top of account aggregation.

Then, additional insights generated from these same monitoring tools could enable banks and alternative lenders to be more proactive with their lending — offering preapproved lines of credit, in a timely manner, to SMEs that would have previously found it difficult to access funding.

The bottom line

Crucially for the fintech sector, it’s almost a certainty that SMEs will be willing to pay fees for data-analytics-based value-added services that help them grow. This is why some startups in this space are already attracting huge levels of funding, and why open banking is at the heart of the relationship between tech and the economy.

So if fintech has had a good year, this is likely to be just the start of the story. Backed by open-banking initiatives, the sector is now at the forefront of a banking revolution that will finally give SMEs the level of service they deserve and unleash their true potential across the economy at large.

#alipay, #asia, #banking, #china, #column, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #financial-technology, #fintech, #india, #online-lending, #open-banking, #opinion, #payment-services-directive, #payments, #paytm, #startups

A year after expanding to Europe, Nigerian fintech Lidya raises $8.3M to scale lending operations

Nigerian fintech and lending startup Lidya today announced that it has completed its $8.3 million pre-Series B funding round.

Alitheia Capital led the investment via its uMunthu Fund. Other investors that participated include Bamboo Capital Partners, Accion Venture Lab and Flourish Ventures.

In addition to the $1.3 million seed round secured in 2017 and $6.9 million Series A a year later, Lidya has raised a total of $16.5 million.

This investment will see Lidya grow its lending operations for small and medium businesses across its markets.

The idea for Lidya came about in Nigeria when Tunde Kehinde and Ercin Eksin saw the need to offer lending services while at their previous company Africa Courier Express (ACE). ACE was a last-mile e-commerce delivery company that provided logistics services to businesses and consumers.

The founders, who also held founding and executive roles at Jumia Nigeria, noticed that most of the businesses ACE worked with had credit and financing issues. And although options existed, the founders felt these platforms could not adequately cater to their ever-growing needs.

As co-CEOs, the pair launched Lidya as a digital SME lending platform in 2016. On the platform, businesses can create accounts and apply for loans ranging from $500 to $50,000, with decisions made within 24 hours.

Lidya claims to use 100 data points to evaluate each applicant and build a credit score for them to assess credit risk. When the company announced its raise in 2018, it had disbursed 1,500 business loans and was poised to enter new African markets. But it chose Europe instead.

In October 2019, Lidya announced that it had launched new lending operations in Poland and the Czech Republic. But it was not until March and April 2020 the company’s activities in Eastern Europe fully kickstarted. Since then, Lidya claims to have disbursed over $3 million to SMEs in the two countries. To date, the company has disbursed over 25,000 loans and claims to have more than a 90% customer repeat rate. 

So, what was behind the decision to expand to Europe instead of other African markets? “We wanted to build a global business from day one given the size of the problem where there is a $3 trillion credit gap,” CEO Kehinde said to TechCrunch. “We challenged ourselves not to limit ourselves to one market and went through some data before expanding to Europe.”

With this raise, Lidya wants to solidify its presence in the three markets. The investment has also brought a change to the company’s leadership structure. Per a statement released by the company, Eksin has left Lidya to pursue other projects while Kehinde takes over as the sole CEO.

Image Credits: Lidya

Currently, both European markets represent about 30% of Lidya disbursement volume while the overall default rate is less than 1%. Unlike most lending companies that raise debt financing to fund loans, Lydia uses equity to fund its loan book. Quite the unconventional method, but Kehinde points why the company thought that path was necessary. 

“The idea was for us to show that our algorithms work and that we can disburse money into the market and get it back. Then we can transition to using debt for our lending operations,” the CEO said as the company looks to finalize deals with banks, family offices, and hedge funds in the coming months. This is in addition to the $300,000 line of credit Lidya has secured from Bamboo Capital Partners. 

Lidya began lending in Europe at the height of the pandemic. Kehinde recounts how tough it was for the team, especially in a period that was so unusual.

“It is difficult enough to attempt to launch in two new countries but try doing that remotely,” he said. “We’re so decentralized. We had operations in Nigeria, and we were launching in Eastern Europe remotely, making sure the puzzle stays together. The team really stepped up. Everyone doubled down on the mission and we came out of the year without having any deterioration.”

The CEO adds, “Now the focus is to get back to gear. We want to be able to do 5x what we’ve done historically by this time next year. If we do that, we’ll be successful, and our customers will be successful as well.”

Lydia will grow out its teams in Lagos, Prague and Warsaw and use a portion of the funds to support lines of credit.

Speaking on the investment, Alitheia Capital co-founder and managing director said, “Lidya is tackling the fundamental challenge of providing access to credit for dynamic small and growing businesses that otherwise have limited options for financing working capital to scale their businesses in Africa and Europe. Alitheia Capital and Goodwell are  pleased to be backing a team whose mission aligns with our objective of driving growth  and social impact by enabling access and inclusion to finance and financial services.”

It’s quite rare to see expansion moves from Nigerian or African startups to Europe. An exception to that might be South African startups who frequently open offices in the U.K. and the Netherlands. Kehinde relishes the company’s achievement so far, having gained some foothold in both the Czech Republic and Poland. He says there is more to expect from the five-year-old digital lender.

“We’re really excited about the fact that we started in Nigeria and now our product is live in two European countries. Typically people come into Nigeria from other parts of the world but we’ve gone from Nigeria to other parts. We’re proud of the traction we’ve gotten in our push to build the biggest finance house for SMEs in our markets.”

#africa, #eastern-europe, #europe, #finance, #financial-services, #funding, #lagos, #lidya, #lydia, #online-lending, #tc, #tunde-kehinde

Tiger Global leads $42M Series B in Nigerian credit-led neobank FairMoney

Neobanks have led the charge as regards venture capital funding for consumer fintech startups. But while they have collectively dominated the fintech space, they don’t operate a monolithic model.

There are five distinct models, and the one adopted by Nubank, the $30 billion behemoth, is the credit-led model. Neobanks operating this model start by offering credit via cards or on an app and subsequently offer bank accounts as a gateway to other services.

Nigerian fintech startup FairMoney operates this model. Today, it is announcing a $42 million Series B raise to diversify its offerings and expand to “become the financial hub for its users.” 

Tiger Global Management led the round. Existing investors from the company’s previous rounds, DST Partners, Flourish Ventures, Newfund, and Speedinvest, participated. The investment comes after FairMoney raised €10 million Series A two years ago and €1.2 million seed in 2018.

Founded in 2017 by Laurin Hainy, Matthieu Gendreau, and Nicolas Berthozat, FairMoney started as an online lender that provides instant loans and bill payments to customers in Nigeria.

When CEO Hainy spoke to TechCrunch in February, the company was six months into its expansion to India. One of the highlights of that discussion was FairMoney’s impressive numbers in 2020. Last year, the company disbursed a total loan volume of $93 million to over 1.3 million users who made more than 6.5 million loan applications

The company also made some progress on the India front, processing more than 500,000 loan applications from over 100,000 unique users.

So what has changed since then? For one, Hainy says FairMoney ticked one of the goals which was acquiring a microfinance bank license. The license allows FairMoney to operate as a financial service provider in Nigeria.

“We have received our MFB banking license which now enables us to open current accounts for our users, and we’re doing that on quite a big scale,” Hainy said to TechCrunch. “We opened accounts for our repeated and new customers, which I think is quite a unique company strategy because we don’t need to burn millions of dollars of customer acquisition cost on users like other competitors. I think all of that has enabled us to become sort of the largest digital bank in Nigeria.”

Quite the claim but behind it are figures to back it up. Of the company’s current 3.5 million registered users, 1.3 million are unique bank account holders. The company says it is projecting to disburse $300 million worth of loans to them this year. How will it finance that? By raising bonds. FairMoney’s loan book is grown by its capital markets activity and has convinced some investment banks to invest a substantial amount in its unlisted bond

The credit-led neobank offers loans to individuals from ₦1,500 (~$3) to ₦500,000 (~$1,000) ranging from days to six months. Small business loans have become a prominent service most digital banks have begun to offer in Nigeria’s retail sector, and FairMoney sees an opportunity there. Hainy states that from now on, the company will start servicing loans to registered SMEs in Nigeria. In the works also is the issuance of cards. However, unlike the credit cards operated by Nubank, FairMoney is shipping debit cards, the more prevalent one in the Nigerian market.

“The ambition is that by the end of the year, the customer has the full-fledged banking experience from P2P transfers and lending to debit cards and current accounts. In addition to that, we are working on a number of additional services from savings products, stock trading, and crypto-trading products potentially depending on where regulation is heading,” Hainy added

But while most African companies, after completing a Series B raise, think about expansion, it’s a different case for FairMoney. Hainy calls this a ‘focus round’ and says FairMoney wants to consolidate its position in Nigeria and India; therefore, it is not considering any expansion to other markets.

“We feel that with India and Nigeria, we have tons of work to do and tons of problems to solve. We are doubling down on the Nigerian opportunity, which is building out more banking services and becoming one of the commercial banks in the country. And then India by building a large credit book there,” the CEO combined.

African fintech startups have attracted a lot of capital this year and they continue to do so. So far, the continent has seen three nine-figure raises, all from fintech companies Flutterwave, TymeBank and Chipper Cash. There’s also one reportedly in the works from OPay.

Nigerian fintechs are leading the crop as exciting startups keep coming from the country week in week out, gaining access to capital at an astonishing rate.

It is not news that while local investors are cutting checks at pre-seed and seed levels, and sometimes Series A, international investors control the continent’s latter stages. TymeBank cited U.K. and Philippines venture capital firms as investors. For Chipper Cash, it was SVB Capital, Ribbit, and Bezos Expeditions, while Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global invested in Flutterwave.

In FairMoney, Tiger Global has made a return to the continent. Per public knowledge, it is the first time the U.S. hedge fund is investing in two African startups in a year after backing Flutterwave in March. “We are excited to partner with FairMoney as they build a better financial hub for customers in Nigeria and India,” Scott Shleifer, partner at Tiger Global, said in a statement. “We were impressed by the team and the strong growth to date and look forward to supporting FairMoney as they continue to scale.”

Hainy calls the investment a great industry signaling for the continent. He believes Tiger Global decided to back FairMoney because the company has been able to scale tremendously and shown that it can operate banking and lending while running a profitable business when most of its counterparts are not.

“I think what most people have been discussing is the question of sustainability. How long can digital banks operate as financial service providers while making losses? So I think that’s another great signal for the market that we’ve actually managed to do that in a profitable manner, providing upside for our shareholders and also showing our clients that they can actually bank on us in the future,” Hainy added.

And to achieve its goal to become a financial hub for its customers’ banking needs, the CEO said the company is embarking on a hiring spree for top talent. “We are hiring worldwide, and there are 150 open positions out there right now that we’re trying to fill with strong talent to help us build the financial app for Nigerians.”

#africa, #digital-bank, #fairmoney, #finance, #funding, #india, #neobank, #nigeria, #nubank, #online-lending, #tc, #tiger-global-management

Float wants to provide liquidity to African SMBs in a way never done before

According to research, 85% of African SMBs have zero access to financing, and each day, African SMBs have billions locked up in receivables due to long payment cycles. This leads to cash flow problems that cause businesses to be late on important expenses and fulfilment of new orders.

Jesse Ghansah and his co-founder Barima Effah want to answer these problems with their newly launched startup Float.

Ghansah is a serial entrepreneur. Since leaving the university in 2014, he has co-founded several tech startups but made his mark globally with OMG Digital, a startup with offices in Ghana and Nigeria that wanted to become the “BuzzFeed of Africa.” In 2016, OMG Digital was one of the first African companies accepted into Y Combinator.

Ghansah had a good run with the company and left two years ago. For his newest venture, he turned his focus outside media to fintech. Formerly Swipe, Float is an 18-month-old Lagos and San Francisco-based company aiming to close the $300 billion liquidity gap for Africa’s small and medium businesses. The company took part in YC’s Winter batch 2020, making Ghansah one of the few two-time YC founders in Africa.

Float has evolved from the last time we partly covered them during their Demo Day as “Brex for Africa.” According to CEO Ghansah, Float is “rethinking the way African businesses manage their financial operations, from managing cash and making payments to accessing credit.”

After 18 months in stealth, Float is finally going live, and we spoke with the CEO to get a glimpse into its progress and what makes it different from similar platforms on the continent.

TC: What problem would you say Float is solving?

JG: If you ask any small business, cash flow will most likely be the number one problem that they face. And this stems from the whole payment cycle, which is after you provide a service or deliver a product. Businesses that serve other businesses have to wait typically for 30-90 days for their payments to come in. This is like a traditional payment cycle where you have to offer credit sales to your customers to stay competitive; that’s why you send an invoice, and the customer will pay you back within that time frame. 

That creates a lot of problems in terms of constant cash crunches. Because you’re waiting for your revenue to come in, they sometimes fall behind in meeting certain expense payments like payroll, inventory, utilities. That’s what really causes a lot of these cash flow issues, and because of that, businesses can’t grow. For existing businesses, these are the issues they face and getting credit in terms of working capital is extremely difficult if you’re dealing with banks. 

TC: Did you have a personal experience with this problem seeing as your past venture was in media?

JG: As you know, I was a co-founder at OMG Digital, and as a media company, we had to wait for months to get paid by our partners. We needed credit this time and proceeded to get an overdraft from a long-term partner bank where we had transacted more than $100,000. But the bank wanted us to deposit 100% collateral in cash before they could give the overdraft. 

I also remember taking money from loan sharks with ridiculous interest rates, sometimes as high as 20% a month, just to meet payroll. That sort of threw me into solving those problems with Float.

TC: There are a plethora of lenders giving loans to businesses. How is Float solving the credit issue differently?

JG: So our credit product is quite different regarding how we present it to the customer. It is less complex than a loan; it is more flexible than a business overdraft. Also, there’s a difference in the tools that we provide. So we don’t just give money; what we’ve provided is a software solution with credit embedded. 

Float

Right now, we’ve built what we call the cash management tool for businesses where they get credit at the critical set of moments in time. For instance, if you want to pay a lender and need credit, you can withdraw the credit and make payment immediately. We provide a credit line that businesses can tap into any time they want as soon as they onboard to our platform, and it increases and decreases based on the transactions performed on our platform. 

So that’s just on the credit side. We’ve also built tools to help businesses stay on top of their cash flow. We give them invoicing, budgeting tools and spend management tools and a way for them to manage all their bank accounts because we know that existing businesses usually have more than one bank account. On Float, they can see all their balances and transactions, and we’re building a way for these businesses to make payments from their accounts on Float. 

You can think of Float as a really well-built cash management platform. You get credit when you need it to make vendor payments or boost your working capital, which has been pivotal to our loss rate of 0%. Then two, tools that give total visibility about your businesses so you know where your money is coming in and going out.

TC: Float’s loss rate is 0%? Does that mean no business has defaulted on your platform?

JG: Yes, we’ve not had any default so far. We’ve advanced $2.8 million to our pilot customers in Nigeria, and we don’t have any losses in the last eight months; it’s because of the type of loans we’re giving. We give businesses money to boost their working capital. So we’re essentially giving you an advance for your future revenue. 

If you look like, in the U.S., Pipe has built this for SaaS companies and are building for other customer segments, which is essentially what we’re doing. So, for us, the way we’re solving the cash flow issue is that we’re sorting your future revenue and as your customers pay you through our platform, then we make deductions. 

You can think of us as a Stripe Capital, Square Capital, Pipe or the new multidimensional lending platforms we have now. When you consider lending, I’d say there are different phases. Lending 1.0 was when you’d fill an application online, and you’d get a loan decision. Lending 2.0 and 3.0 is where credit is embedded in online tools businesses already use. That’s why it has worked really well because the businesses on our platform aren’t exactly looking for a lifeline but are looking to boost their cash flow and basically step on the gas to grow.

TC: But this loss rate will likely change as soon as you onboard more businesses, right?

JG: Yes, definitely it’s going to change. The thing with lending is that with more customers, your credit model gets tested. The more customers you have, the more probability that you’re going to have default losses. But as long as you have, like a solid credit risk criteria and assessment, you must always try to keep it as small as possible. It’s almost impossible to have a 0% default rate when you begin to grow fast.

TC: What strategy does Float put in place to mitigate losses and reduce risk?

JG: The way our credit product works is that we’re constantly connected to your bank; we know who your vendors are, know who your suppliers are, and know who your customers are. We know how much money is flowing in and out of your business at any point in time. So as I mentioned, we can quickly adjust your credit limits as soon as we sense a difference in your activity. If we notice your invoice activity has dropped and we’re not receiving as much money as you were in the previous weeks, we reduce your limit. It’s a very dynamic sort of type of product, and it is really different from what you see out there today.

TC: Aside from lending, how have the other tools been helpful to businesses?

JG: With our pilot phase, we’ve been able to give credit and also processed invoicing and vendor payments for our customers worth about $5 million. 

When you think of business payments, sometimes people always think about Paystack and Flutterwave. They’re tackling a different segment which is basically consumers paying businesses. For us, we’re centred around businesses paying other businesses. Their method, as we know, is a very drawn-out process, and that market is 10 times bigger than the market Paystack and Flutterwave are serving. 

Float

L-R: Barima Effah and Jesse Ghansah

If you look at your big multinational corporations, they have thousands of vendors on their payroll every month. Globally trillions of dollars are flowing from business to business, and that is where we want to play in. We’re launching the new version of our invoicing product and vendor payments, and a product where we can pay for services upfront on behalf of our customers and they pay back in 30 days.

TC: I’m tempted to call Float a digital bank for small businesses. Would you say there are differences?

JG: Of course there are. Almost any business owner will tell you that business banking is mostly broken. Legacy banks typically provide an outdated, underwhelming user experience. Businesses quickly move beyond basic banking needs, and for them, the options are frustratingly limited.

African neo-banks are aiming to compete with traditional banks. Still, in reality, they are actually now competing with each other for a relatively tiny slice of the market due to not solving the core problems facing businesses. A marginally better UX and a quick account opening experience is the value proposition that probably resonates well with a new startup business or a budding freelancer. However, to an already operating retail business owner that struggles to make timely payments to suppliers due to poor cash flow, that’s grossly inadequate.

This, coupled with the trust matters, reconciliation, and auditing headaches involved in moving accounts, is why neobanks haven’t taken off in this market.

There are little to no switching costs using Float because we have designed our platform to run on top of existing business bank accounts and payment processors. The idea is to provide a single platform that provides businesses with the credit they need, a consolidated view of their existing business banking and cashflow activity, coupled with various payment tools to enable them to speed through their financial operations so they can spend more time actually growing their business.

#africa, #buzzfeed, #cashflow-management, #economy, #finance, #float, #ghana, #liquidity, #media, #nigeria, #omg-digital, #online-lending, #payments, #square-capital, #startups, #tc, #y-combinator

Divido bags $30M to take its ‘buy now, pay later’ platform to more markets

London-based Divido, a whitelabel platform for retail finance that integrates with ecommerce platforms (but can also support omni-channel) so retailers can offer consumers a ‘buy now, pay later’ option at the point of sale, has bagged a $30M Series B to fund international expansion.

The funding round is led by global banks HSBC and ING, with participation from Sony Innovation Fund by IGV*, SBI Investment, OCS, Global Brain and DG Daiwa Ventures along with existing investors DN Capital, Dawn Capital, IQ Capital and Amex Ventures.

The Series B follows a $15M Series A back in 2018 — when the fintech product was available in a handful of European markets and the U.S., with a goal of launching in 10 more countries by the end of 2019.

Evidently, that anticipated rapid-fire international expansion didn’t exactly pan out as planned, as Divido is only operating in ten markets across two continents now — a little under two years later. But, flush with Series B funding, it says it’s looking to fuel the pace of its international push.

The 2014-founded startup operates a marketplace model where lenders compete to offer the most suitable credit line to consumers to grease purchases — partnering with businesses such as banks, retailers and payment partners so they can offer a ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ to their users at the point of sale.

Divido claims its product leads to up to 20%-40% more sales for retailers — and it says it has more than 1,000 clients and operators at this stage (a metric it was also reporting in September 2018).

Its pitch is that by partnering with multiple lenders it can offer higher acceptance rates and lower fees to consumers so they have greater choice to spread payment for larger purchases. It also means it doesn’t need a banking licence itself, so can (in theory) scale faster into more markets.

Credit suitability is also assessed by the lenders on its platform, not by Divido itself.

The pandemic has clearly put pressure on many consumers’ personal finances which is likely to be driving more demand for alternative options to credit cards to spread purchase costs. Although the move toward diversifying ‘pay later’ options long pre-dates COVID-19 — via startups like Klarna and the scores that have sprung up in its wake.

Commenting on the Series B in a statement, Christer Holloman, founder and CEO, said: “The retail finance market is in a period of exponential growth, expected to hit $2.5 trillion next year. At Divido, we have created a global standard for banks, retailers and payment partners to connect seamlessly to offer ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ to consumers. It is hugely exciting to have this round led by global clients, which is testament to the strength of our product and the strategic impact we deliver.”

In another supporting statement, HSBC’s Catherine Zhou, its global head of venture, digital innovation and partnerships, said: “There is clear demand for retail finance across the globe, both from customers and merchants. The Divido platform enables lenders to serve customers in this area with a compelling, well-managed proposition.”

While Jan Willem Nieuwenhuize, MD of ING Ventures, added: “ING is focusing our innovation efforts around defined value spaces. Divido aligns with our lending value space and has a strong strategic fit with ING’s consumer finance business. This is an exciting and rapidly growing market that is constantly evolving and accelerating following Covid. We see Divido as an innovator at the very forefront of the market, so perfectly fits the profile for the dynamic, disruptive companies we choose to partner with.”

 

#banking, #consumer-finance, #credit, #dawn-capital, #divido, #dn-capital, #europe, #finance, #fundings-exits, #global-brain, #hsbc, #klarna, #london, #ocs, #online-lending, #payments, #sbi-investment, #sony-innovation-fund

Settle raises $15M from Kleiner Perkins to give e-commerce companies more working capital

Alek Koenig spent four years at Affirm, where he was head of credit.

There he saw firsthand just how powerful the alternative lending model could be. Koenig realized that it wasn’t just consumers who could benefit from the model, but businesses too.

So in November 2019, he founded Settle as a way to give e-commerce and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies access to non-dilutive capital. (Not every company wants to raise venture money). By June 2020, the startup had launched its platform, which is designed to help these businesses manage their cash flow. Over time, he recruited a previous co-worker, Shane Morian, to serve as Settle’s CTO.

And today, the company is announcing that it has raised $15 million in a Series A funding round led by Kleiner Perkins. This follows a previously unannounced $6 million seed raise led by Founders Fund in November 2020. Other investors in the company include SciFi (Affirm founder Max Levchin’s VC firm), Caffeinated Capital, WorkLife Ventures, Background Capital and AngelList Venture CEO Avlok Kohli.

With the pandemic leading to a massive shift toward digital and online shopping, ecommerce and CPG businesses found themselves with the challenge of keeping up with demand while trying to manage their cash flow. The main problem was the lag between accounts receivables and accounts payables.

“These companies suffer from the problem where there are these huge cash flow gaps from buying inventory, waiting to receive it and then turning it into revenue,” Koenig explains. “It takes quite a bit of time for these customers to actually get revenue from all those inventory purchases they need to make. What we do is make it really easy for companies to pay their vendors with extended payment terms.”

Settle does this by automatically syncing to a business’ accounting software and combining that with working capital products it’s developed.

Put simply, Settle will pay a vendor, and then brands can pay Settle back when they turn that COGS (cost of goods sold) into revenue. The startup says it also saves brands money on expensive wire fees.

Image Credits: Settle

“Businesses really value getting cash sooner, so they can use it in their operations,” Koenig said. “We’ve worked to reimagine the CFO suite for brands, starting with integrated financing and bill pay solutions.”

The concept of non-dilutive capital is not a new one with other startups tackling the space in different ways. For example, Pipe aims to give SaaS companies a way to get their revenue upfront, by pairing them with investors on a marketplace that pays a discounted rate for the annual value of those contracts.

Settle is focused on the e-commerce vertical, and building a unique product for that category, Koenig says, rather than trying to build a product aimed for several different industries.

“We don’t want to be a mediocre product for everybody,” he told TechCrunch. “But rather a phenomenal product for this vertical.”

Since its launch last June, Settle has seen its business jump by 1000% although it’s important to note that’s from a small base. Settle is currently working with over 300 brands including baby stroller retailer Lalo, Spiceology and men’s skincare brand Disco. So far, all of its growth has been organic.

“Last year when the pandemic hit, offline retail shut down and ecommerce got a big boost. But that meant that a lot of these companies were running out of orders and were out of stock on many items, so they were just kind of leaving money on the table,” Koenig said. “Once they started using us, they were able to buy more inventory, so we actually help them make more profit, and not just create more sales.”

His reasoning for that last statement is that by giving these businesses the ability to purchase items in bulk, they could get cheaper price per unit costs as well as cheaper shipping costs.

The company is planning to use its new capital in part to grow its team of 20, as well as raise more debt so that it can continue lending money to businesses.

Kleiner Perkins’ Monica Desai Weiss said her firm believes that Koenig and CTO Morian’s expertise in underwriting, capital markets and e-commerce give the pair “a rare skill set that’s unique to their market.”

She’s also drawn to the company’s embedded approach.

“Whereas most lending businesses are fairly transactional and opportunistic, Settle becomes deeply embedded in the way their merchants forecast and grow,” she told TechCrunch. “That approach has demonstrated inherent virality and their timing is perfect — the past year has changed consumer behaviors permanently and also produced massive opportunities for global entrepreneurship via ecommerce. In that way, we see the umbrella of e-commerce expanding massively in the coming years, and we believe Settle will be key to enabling that shift.”

#avlok-kohli, #background-capital, #business, #caffeinated-capital, #ceo, #cfo, #corporate-finance, #cto, #e-commerce, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #finance, #fintech, #founders-fund, #funding, #fundings-exits, #head, #inventory, #kleiner-perkins, #online-lending, #payments, #private-equity, #recent-funding, #settle, #startup, #startup-company, #startups, #supply-chain-management, #venture-capital, #worklife-ventures

Payments, lending and neobanks rule fintechs in emerging markets, report says

Tech investments in emerging markets have been in full swing over the past couple of years and their ecosystems have thrived as a result. Some of these markets like Africa, Latin America, and India, have comprehensive reports by publications and firms on trends and investments in their individual regions. But there’s hardly a report to compare and contrast trends and investments between these regions and rightfully so. Such a task is Herculean.

Well, a report released today by data research organization Briter Bridges and global inclusive tech accelerator Catalyst Fund is punching above its weight to offer a holistic representation to the darling sector of these three markets: fintech.

The report “State of Fintech in Emerging Markets Report” has three objectives — to evaluate the investment, product, and inclusivity trends across emerging markets.

The team surveyed over 177 startups and 33 investors across Africa, Latin America, and India. Though this sample size used is minuscule, the key findings are quite impressive.

Let’s dive in.

Fintechs have raised $23B across the regions since 2017

There’s no stopping emerging markets’ favorite. The sector has continued to receive the largest share of investments year-on-year for the past five years.

More than 300 million unbanked African adults account for 17% of the world’s unbanked population. So it’s not difficult to see why in 2019, the continent witnessed five mega deals in Branch, Tala, World Remit, Interswitch, and OPay that amounted to a total of over $775 million. While this dropped last year to $362 million, companies like Flutterwave, TymeBank, Kuda have raised sizeable rounds during this period.

fintech funding five years emerging markets

Image Credits: Briter Bridges & Catalyst Fund

Latin America is home to a growing base of digital users, enabling regulation and reforms, and vibrant small businesses. And just like Africa, the percentage of unbanked people is high, 70%. Fintechs in the region have taken the opportunity to cater to their needs and have been compensated with mega-rounds, including NuBank, Neon, Konfio, and Clip. Collectively, fintech startups have raised $10 billion in the past five years.

In 2019 alone, Indian fintech startups raised a record of $4.8 billion, per the report. Then last year, the sector brought in $3 billion. Over the past five years, they have totaled $11.6 billion with notable names like CRED, Razorpay, Groww, BharatPe, among others.

Africa’s average seed rounds stand at $1M, India and Latin America average $3M

Per the report, early-stage deals have been increasing over the past five years totaling over $1.6 billion. Their average size, especially for seed rounds, has grown from $750,000 in 2017 to $1 million in 2020. For  Latin America, the average seed deal in the last five years was around $5.7 million while India did approximately $4.6 million. The report says the data for the latter was skewed because of CRED’s $30 million seed round.

Image Credits: Briter Bridges & Catalyst Fund

Latin America is IPO-hungry, India breeds unicorns while Africa is just getting started with M&A

Last year, Stripe’s acquisition of Paystack was the highlight of Africa’s M&As because of its size and the homegrown status of the Nigerian fintech startup. Other larger rounds include the $500 million acquisition of Wave by WorldRemit (which happens to be the largest from the continent) and the DPO Group buyout by Network International for $288 million.

Unlike the African fintech market that has noticed mega acquisition deals and many undisclosed seven-figure deals, the Latin American fintech market is a sucker for IPOs. Per the report, fintechs in the region have several $100 million rounds (Nubank, PagSeguro,  Creditas, BancoInter and Neon) but have sparse M&A activity. Some of the startups to have gone public recently include Arco Educacao, Stone Pagamentos, Mosaico, and Pagseguro

On the other, India has more than 25 billion-dollar companies and keeps adding yearly. Just last month, the country recorded more than eight. These unicorns include established companies like PayTm and new ones like CRED.

Payments, credit, and neobanks lead fintech activity

The report shows that payments companies are the crème de la crème for fintech investment across the three regions. Within that subset, B2B payments reign supreme. The next two funded fintech categories are credit and digital banking.

In Africa, payments startups have seen more investments than credit and neobanks. Flutterwave, Chipper Cash, Wave, Paystack, DPO come to mind.

most funded fintech categories emerging market

Image Credits: Briter Bridges & Catalyst Fund

Latin America most funded fintechs are neobanks. And it is the only region with all three product categories closely funded at $2-3 billion. Some of these companies include NuBank, Creditas, and dLocal.

India’s top-funded fintech startups are in payments. But it has notable representation in credit and neobanks, some of which have raised nine-figure rounds like Niyo, Lendingkart, and InCred.

Investors are enthused about the future of insurance, payments, and digital banks

From the handful of investors surveyed in the report on their view on future trends in fintech products 5 years from now, most of them chose insurance, payments, and digital banking models.

Investment platforms and embedded models are also areas of interest. They were less keen on agriculture and remittances while wealth tech platforms and neobanks were also lower in priority. How is it that digital banking and neo-banking are at two ends of the spectrum of investor choice? I can’t say for sure.

investors appetite in the coming years emerging markets

Image Credits: Briter Bridges & Catalyst Fund

Parts of the report talk about underserved consumers in these regions and how fintech startups are serving them. It also discusses whether these fintech startups promote financial inclusion and what features and products would get them to that point.

In all of this, the glaring fact, which is no news, is that Africa is lagging years behind Latin America and India. Talking with Briter Bridges director Dario Giuliani, he pointed out that he’d lean on five years. He added that what makes India a better market at this stage is because it is a country rather than a continent.

“It is easier to manage one country than 54 countries in Africa and 20 in Latin America,” he said to TechCrunch. “In Africa, we use the label ‘Africa,’ but we’re very much talking about 4-6 countries. Latin America is basically Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia who are seeing massive companies rise. India is one.”

One key detail the report mentions is that most fintechs across emerging markets are crossing over to different sectors like crop insurance, credit lines for distributors and vendors, KYC, e-commerce payment gateways, medical finance, and insurance. Guiliani says he expects this to continue.

#africa, #banking, #brazil, #briter-bridges, #catalyst-fund, #chipper-cash, #digital-banking, #dlocal, #finance, #financial-inclusion, #financial-technology, #fintech, #flutterwave, #india, #latin-america, #ma, #nubank, #online-lending, #payments, #paystack, #paytm, #startups, #stripe, #tc, #tymebank, #wave, #worldremit

How Shopify aims to level the playing field with its machine learning-driven model of lending

Shopify is widely known for giving independent merchants a platform to start, run, market and manage their businesses.

But over the past 5 years, the company has been steadily growing another part of its own business: Shopify Capital. Through this arm, the Canadian commerce giant revealed today that it has provided $2 billion in funding to tens of thousands of entrepreneurs.

Besides being a cool milestone, how it works is interesting. Merchants don’t necessarily have to apply for loans. Shopify’s machine learning models identify eligible merchants based on their previous sales history and store performance, according to Solmaz Shahalizadeh, vice president of data science and engineering, commerce intelligence at Shopify. If a merchant accepts a pre-approved offer, they can generally receive funding in 2 to 5 business days.

While the milestone is significant, I was especially intrigued by the model by which Shopify lends money to its merchants. 

It is intentional about using machine learning and AI “to make sure offers are based on factors different from any other in the financial industry,” Shahalizadeh said. “We don’t ask for a business plan. Our models see the business performance and it’s potential and makes an offer based on that.”

“We use 70 million data points to understand larger trends across the platform for merchants, and can see they are growing before they even can so we can preemptively offer them,” she added.

Kaz Nejatian, vice president of merchant services at Shopify, emphasizes that Shopify Capital does not lend in the manner of traditional banks by charging interest on loans.

“Our funding is designed to work off sales. If you don’t sell anything, we don’t get paid back until you make sales,” Nejatian said. “It’s a highly merchant aligned form of funding designed to fund the type of people banks and VCs won’t fund.”

The company’s model also aims to eliminate any biases that exist in the current financial system, when it comes to educational background, ethnicity, race or gender, he added.

For Nejatian, it’s also personal. His mother is a Shopify merchant who herself struggled with getting capital herself last year.

“Our goal is to reduce barriers to entrepreneurship by offering access to funds,” he said.

As part of that effort, Shopify Capital has increased the maximum amount of funding to $2 million. Previously, it granted funds ranging from $200 to $1 million.

Shopify offers two types of funding – merchant cash advances and loans. Shopify Capital charges a fixed fee (factor rate) on its financings.

On a merchant cash advance for example, it purchases $10,000 of a merchant’s future receivables in exchange for a promise to remit $10,900 of their future sales. The $900 is the amount it charges for the financing, and is repaid by a merchant’s daily remittances on days they make sales.

On its loans, it also applies a similar fixed fee to get a total repayment number, which is repaid via daily payments and milestone payments.

Simply put, the fixed fee that it charges is how Shopify earns money in exchange for funding our merchants. This fee, plus the amount advanced, are returned to the company over the life of a financing via daily remittance payments.

Says the company: “By charging a fixed fee, a merchant is able to understand exactly how much they’ll be expected to repay, before they take financing from Shopify Capital. These amounts don’t change over the life of a financing.”

Over time, Shopify plans to continually improve the machine learning algorithm behind Capital, making its predictive model “even smarter,” Shahalizadeh said. 

“Our model allows us to predict merchants’ minimum sales with 90% accuracy while helping us make more proactive, pre-qualified offers as quickly as possible,” she added.

Shopify merchant Steven Borrelli, Founder of CUTS, says that when he was looking for funding as a newer business, he ran into the challenge of most traditional banks and lenders wanting to see that he had been in business for several years.

CUTS started with getting $2,000 in funding from Shopify Capital. Over the last three years, it has grown into a business with sales “in the tens of millions.”

“We found Shopify Capital to be so valuable that we’ve returned for 10 rounds of funding. Our most recent round of Shopify Capital was $1 million,” he said. “So far we’ve used the funding for expanding our product line and growing our inventory.”

#artificial-intelligence, #bank, #ecommerce, #finance, #machine-learning, #merchant-services, #online-lending, #publishing, #shopify

Mortgage is suddenly sexy as SoftBank pumps $500M in Better.com at $6B valuation

Digital mortgage lender Better.com has raised a $500 million round from Japanese investment conglomerate SoftBank that values the company at $6 billion.

The financing is notable for a few reasons. For one, that new $6 billion valuation,  is up 50% from the $4 billion it was valued at last November when it raised $200 million in Series D financing. It’s also up tenfold from its $600 million valuation at the time of its Series C raise in August 2019.

Secondly, it’s further proof that mortgage – a traditionally “unsexy” industry that has long been in need of disruption – is officially hot. For all its controversy, when SoftBank invests, people pay attention.

The COVID-19 pandemic and historically-low mortgage rates fueled acceleration in the online lending space in a way that no one could have anticipated. That, combined with the general fervour in venture funding, means it’s not a big surprise that Better.com has raised $700 million in just a matter of months.

The investment brings Better.com’s total funding raised to over $900 million since its 2014 inception. Other backers include Goldman Sachs, Kleiner Perkins, American Express, Activant Capital and Citi, among others.

According to the Wall Street Journal, SoftBank is buying shares from Better’s existing investors, and agreed to give all of its voting rights to CEO and founder Vishal Garg “in a sign of its eagerness” to invest in the company. 

During a one-on-one interview at Lendit Fintech’s USA 2020 virtual event in October, Garg had told me that an IPO was definitely in the works.

“We’ll do it when it’s right,” he said. “One of the core tenets of American capitalism is the ability for your customers to buy your stock.”

At that time, he had also told me that before the pandemic, Better was processing about $1.2 billion a month in loans. But as of October 2020, it was funding over $2.5 billion per month, and had gone from 1,500 staffers to about 4,000 worldwide. 

“When the pandemic started we were doing less than sort of like $50 million a month of revenue,” he said. “We’re two-and-a half times that now.”

#activant-capital, #better-com, #ceo, #citi, #companies, #finance, #fintech, #funding, #fundings-exits, #goldman-sachs, #kleiner-perkins, #online-lending, #recent-funding, #softbank, #softbank-group, #startups, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #united-states, #venture-capital, #vishal-garg, #vodafone

Mexican unicorn Kavak raises a $485M Series D at a $4B valuation.

Kavak, the Mexican startup that’s disrupted the used car market in Mexico and Argentina, today announced its Series D of $485 million, which now values the company at $4 billion. This round more than triples their previous valuation of $1.15 billion, which established them as a unicorn just a couple of months ago in October of 2020. Kavak is now one of the top five highest-valued startups in Latin America.

The round was led by D1 Capital Partners, Founders Fund, Ribbit, and BOND, and brings Kavak’s total capital raised to date to more than $900 million. Kavak recently soft-launched in Brazil, and this new round of funding will be used to build out the Brazilian market and beyond, said Carlos García Ottati, Kavak’s CEO and Co-Founder. The company plans to do a full launch in Brazil in the next 60 days, García said, and we can expect to see Kavak in markets outside Latin America in the next 24 months, he added.

“We were built to solve emerging market problems,” García said.

Kavak, which was founded in 2016, is an online marketplace that aims to bring transparency, security, and access to financing to the used car market. The company also offers its own financing through its fintech arm, Kavak Capital, and counts more than 2,500 employees and 20 logistics and reconditioning hubs in Mexico and Argentina.

“In Latin America, 90% of the [used car] transactions are informal, which leads to a 40% fraud rate,” said García, who experienced these challenges first-hand when he moved to Mexico from Colombia a couple of years ago and bought a used car. 

“My budget allowed me to buy a used car, but there was no infrastructure around it. It took me 6 months to buy the car, and then the car had legal and mechanical issues and I lost most of my money,” he said. Kavak buys cars from individuals, refurbishes them, and offers warranties to buyers.

“Instead of buying a new car, they can buy a better car that still has all the warranties. It’s a really aspirational process,” said García. The company, which really amounts to four companies in one given its areas of focus, was built to be comprehensive by design in order to meet the various gaps in the market, García said.

“When you’re building a business here [Latin America], you need to build several businesses because so many things are broken,” he said. That’s why the financing option, for example, has been a key to their success, according to García.

Financing has traditionally been hard to come by in Brazil, and as García said, the used car market lacks infrastructure there, too. That being said, Brazil is Latin America’s fintech hub, and the space has been made leaps and bounds over the last 7-10 years with companies such as Nubank, PagSeguro, Creditas, PicPay, and others leading the way. As a result, credit cards and loans are more widely available today in the region, offering competition for Kavak Capital. While Kavak has localized some of its product for the Brazilian market — namely building out a Portuguese language version of the app and website — García said the markets are very similar.

“In Brazil, you still have the same problems that you have in Mexico, but Brazil is a little more developed, especially in fintech, which is light years ahead of Mexico,” he said.

With the Brazilian product heading to the races, García said they already have plans for other regions, though he declined to name them.

“80% of people in emerging markets don’t have access to a car,” García said of the global market size. “We want to go into big markets where customers are facing similar problems and where Kavak can really change their lives,” he added.

#apps, #argentina, #articles, #automotive, #brazil, #colombia, #creditas, #d1-capital-partners, #ecommerce, #finance, #financial-technology, #financing, #founders-fund, #funding, #latin-america, #logistics, #mexico, #nubank, #online-lending, #online-marketplace, #pagseguro, #recent-funding, #series-d, #startups, #transportation, #unicorn, #used-cars

FinanZero, Brazil’s free online credit marketplace, raises $7M

FinanZero, a Brazilian online credit marketplace, announced today that it has closed a $7 million round of funding – its fourth since it launched in 2016 was founded in 2016. It has raised a total of $22.85 million to date.

The real-time online loan broker allows people to apply for a personal loan, a car equity loan, or a home equity loan for free and receive an answer in minutes. A key to FinanZero’s success is that it doesn’t offer the loans itself, but has instead partnered with about 51 banks and fintechs who back the loans.

FinanZero is based in Brazil’s financial capital, Sao Paulo, and has 52 employees.

“From day one we said, ‘We only work with a success fee,’ so we only get paid when the customer signs the loan contract,” said Olle Widen, the company’s co-founder, and CEO. 

Instead of charging the customer, FinanZero gets a commission from one of its partners, and with a growing volume of credit applications – an average of 750,000 applications per month – the company has seen 61% revenue growth from 2019-2020.

Olle Widen, cofounder and CEO of Finanzero

The Brazilian finance and banking market has been ripe for disruption, as it has traditionally favored the rich. 

Those with low incomes – the vast majority of Brazilian citizens – are then left with few options when it comes to financing, and which in turn forces them into compounding debt they’ll likely never escape from. Traditionally, young Brazilians have lived with their families until they got married, and while there is a cultural aspect to it, the bottom line is that mortgages were infinitely hard to get approved for. 

With products like FinanZero and Nubank – Latin America’s largest digital bank – Brazilians are starting to see more economic mobility and independence from the legacy institutions that dictated their lives for so long.

Widen, who is Swedish, moved to Brazil about 10 years ago for personal reasons, and while there, was pitched the idea of FinanZero by Webrok Ventures, an investment company focused on bringing Nordic innovation to Brazil. 

At the time, Swedish startup Lendo – a precursor to FinanZero – was making waves in Sweden, and the team felt that a similar model would succeed in Brazil, a country known for its bureaucracy and red tape, and thus primed for a streamlined and hassle-free approach to loans.

The original idea was to just copy Lendo, Widen said, but as others have discovered, along the way the team needed to “tropicalize” the product and the experience, meaning they had to build a custom solution for the Brazilian market and its people.

“The founder of Lendo was a childhood friend of mine,” said Widen, of his close ties to the Swedish fintech.

To apply for a loan on FinanZero you don’t need to provide your credit score. Instead, all you need is a utility bill (proof of address), proof of income, and your government ID. The process is so simple, Widen said, that 92% of loan applications are initiated from a smartphone.

“Our business model is very based on the bank’s risk appetite and we saw 60% growth from 2019-2020. We are close to 3 million visits per month, about 1.5 are unique and in March of 2021, we had 800K people fill out the entire loan form. We have about a 10% approval rating across all products,” Widen said.

The round was led by the Swedish investors VEF, Dunross & Co, and Atlant Fonder, which are all previous investors in the company. The funding will go toward marketing – most of which will be on T.V. – product development, and talent acquisition.

#banking, #brazil, #economy, #finance, #finanzero, #latin-america, #loans, #money, #online-lending, #personal-finance, #recent-funding, #sao-paulo, #startups

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

With over 1.3 million users, Nigerian-based fintech FairMoney wants to replicate growth in India

There are over 1.7 billion underbanked people globally, the majority of which are from emerging markets. For them, accessing loans can be difficult, which is a problem fintechs try to solve. One way they do this is by promoting financial inclusion by underwriting credit via a proprietary algorithm.

One such company is FairMoney, which describes itself as “the mobile banking revolution for emerging markets.” FairMoney, founded by Laurin Hainy, Matthieu Gendreau and Nicolas Berthozat, is a licensed online lender that provides instant loans and bill payments to underserved consumers in emerging markets.

Three years after launching its mobile lending service in Nigeria, the company set up shop in India, Asia’s second-most populous country in August 2020.

Before expanding, FairMoney experienced exponential growth in Nigeria in terms of loans disbursement. Last year, it disbursed a total loan volume of $93 million, representing a 128% increase from 2019 and a staggering 3,189% growth rate from its first year of operation in 2018. As it stands, the company is projecting a $140 million loan disbursement volume by the end of 2021. 

“I think we’ve been able to disburse 25-30% more than some of our competitors and I think we’re a market leader,” Hainy, the company’s CEO told TechCrunch. But compared with traditional banks, it was the seventh-largest digital financial services provider in that area.

FairMoney has come a long way since its Nigeria launch in 2017. In its first year of operation, the company had little over 100,000 users. Now, it claims to have 1.3 million unique users who have made over 6.5 million loan applications. FairMoney offers loans from ₦1,500 ($3.30) to ₦500,000 ($1,110.00) with its longest loan facility standing at 12 months. Annual percentage rates fall within 30% to 260% — the high APR, Hainy says, is due to higher default rates in Nigeria. That said, FairMoney also claims to have an NPL ratio lower than 10%. 

According to the CEO, data-driven insights was behind the choice to expand to India. The Indian market is quite similar to Nigeria’s. In the Asian country, only 36% of adults have access to credit, leaving an untapped market of about 141 million people microfinance banks do not serve. But unlike Nigeria, India has better unit economics for the lending business and a more friendly regulatory environment.

“If our ambition is to build the leading mobile bank for emerging markets, we need to start with very large markets,” Hainy said. “We tested our products in 10 different markets checking out for things like what the yield economics is like, NPLs, cost of risk, customer acquisition cost, cost of infrastructure and India stood out to us.”

FairMoney Nigeria team

Following its expansion six months ago, FairMoney claims to have processed more than half a million loan applications from over 100,000 unique users. This number trickles down to 5,000-6,000 loan applications per day with APR standing at 12-36%. Hainy says the company has achieved this with zero ad spend or marketing. 

Due to the daunting logistics behind international expansions, it’s challenging for an African-based startup to expand outside the shores of the continent. Although a rarity, there are a couple of startups to have undertaken such a task. Last year, Nigerian fintech Paga with 15 million users and a network of over 24,000 agents acquired Ethiopian software company Apposit to fast-track its expansion into Ethiopia and Mexico. 

FairMoney is on a similar path, as well. And with over 100 staff spread across Nigeria, France, and Latvia, the company hopes to build an engineering and marketing team in India.

Last month, it hired the services of Rohan Khara to become its chief product officer (CPO) and facilitate the expansion. Khara was the former head of product for financial services for Indonesian super app Gojek and held senior roles at Microsoft, Quikr and MobiKwik. Hainy says with Khara’s wealth of experience building consumer products in large emerging markets — India and Indonesia — FairMoney is poised for massive growth in Nigeria and India.

“We both share the vision that financial services in emerging markets need fixing and for us, Rohan brings the expertise to see FairMoney scale from almost a million users to 10 or 20 million users.”

FairMoney French team

Born in Germany to a Nigerian father and German mother, Hainy began his entrepreneurial journey in 2015 by launching a food delivery company in Sweden. Seven months later, he founded Le Studio VC, a Paris-based startup studio and €15 million fund he ran as CEO for three years.

“After those three years, I realised that being an investor wasn’t for me yet. I felt I was too young and I wanted to build something myself,” he said.

Neobanks like Revolut in the UK and N26 in Germany were picking up across Europe. Hainy wanted to create such for Nigeria after noticing how much people lacked access to affordable financial services during a visit.

But despite studying other neobank models, Hainy and his team couldn’t replicate them in a developing market like Nigeria. Credit was still significantly underserved by Nigerian banks because of the strict methodology employed in allocating loans. Sensing an opportunity, they launched FairMoney as a neobank by leveraging a credit-first model. Like Nubank in Brazil, FairMoney started off offering loans to solve the access to credit problem. But its broader vision is not to be just a digital bank but also a commercial bank.

The company is working towards getting a microfinance bank license to operate as the former in Nigeria. However, according to the CEO, the commercial bank license will take longer maybe five to ten years. 

“In the next five to ten years, I’d like to think two out of the five largest commercial banks in Nigeria will be neobanks. We want FairMoney to be one of them,” he said.

The Lagos and Paris-based company raised $11 million Series A in 2019. Between now and the time it will get a commercial bank license, Hainy says the company would’ve raised its Series B round to position itself for that task.

After India, which emerging market will FairMoney expand to next? There’s none in sight at the moment, the CEO says. The company plans to move from a credit-led value proposition to a full financial service provider, deepen its verticals, and replicate Nigeria’s growth in India for now.

#africa, #asia, #fairmoney, #finance, #online-lending, #startups, #tc

India’s BharatPe valued at $900 million in new $108 million fundraise

India may soon have another fintech unicorn. BharatPe said on Thursday it has raised $108 million in a financing round that valued the New Delhi-based financial services startup at $900 million.

Coatue Management led the three-year-old startup’s Series D round. Other six existing institutional investors — Ribbit Capital, Insight Partners, Steadview Capital, Beenext, Amplo and Sequoia Capital — also participated in the round, which brings BharatPe’s total to-date raise to $233 million in equity and $35 million in debt.

The startup said as part of the new financing round it returned $17.17 million to its angel investors and employees with stock option.

“With the balance sheet well capitalized (more than US$ 200M in bank), we are now going to keep our heads down and deliver US$30B TPV and build a loan book of US$ 700mn with small merchants by March 2023,” said Ashneer Grover, co-founder and chief executive of BharatPe.

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.

Scores of giants and startups are attempting to serve neighborhood stores in India.

The startup 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.

“This growth reiterates the trust that the small merchants and kirana store owners have showed in us. This is just the beginning of our journey and we are committed to build India’s largest B2B financial services company that can serve as one-stop destination for small merchants. For BharatPe, merchants will always be at the core of everything we build,” he said.

BharatPe’s growth is impressive especially because it was not the first startup to help merchants. In a recent report to clients, analysts at Bank of America said BharatPe has proven that fintech is not the winner takes all market.

“BharatPe perhaps has the late mover advantages in the space. It was one of the first companies to act as a universal consolidator of QR codes on UPI, giving the merchant the advantage to have one QR code (eventually others like Paytm followed). Unlike its Fintech peers, BharatPe is not educating the merchants but instead following its larger peers who have already educated the merchants,” they wrote in the report, reviewed by TechCrunch.

The startup, which has presence in 75 cities today, plans to further expand its network in the nation with the new fund.

#amplo, #apps, #asia, #beenext, #bharatpe, #coatue-management, #finance, #funding, #india, #insight-partners, #online-lending, #paytm, #ribbit-capital, #sequoia-capital, #steadview-capital

OptioLend launches new marketplace to become ‘the LendingTree of commercial real estate’

The commercial real estate industry is facing its share of challenges, considering the fact that so many people are working from home (and not in offices) and retail is riding a slippery slope as more people shop online.

But from downturns, opportunity emerges.

Enter OptioLend, a new startup that wants to help individual investors take advantage of opportunities in commercial real estate by connecting them with “the best possible” lenders. The Columbus, Ohio-based company launched its marketplace Tuesday after months of operating in private beta.

The new platform uses an AI-powered algorithm and a database of more than 9,500 capital sources to help prospective real estate borrowers in search of debt financing find lenders “with the best terms.” In other words, the company’s self-proclaimed mission is to become the “LendingTree for commercial real estate.” (For the unacquainted, Charlotte, North Carolina-based LendingTree is an online marketplace that provides consumers multiple offers from several lenders for things like mortgage, student and personal loans.)

In fact, Joel Lowery, a former LendingTree executive who built the back end of that company’s platform, helped build out the OptioLend portal serving in a technical advisor capacity along with former data scientists at IBM.

Once an investor applies for a loan, OptioLend identifies up to 20 lenders best suited for that application based on recent lending history and other criteria. Borrowers and brokers can negotiate and close deals from within the company’s platform via the mostly automated process, the company claims. But it’s also launching “with a concierge service of experienced capital advisors” to help guide users who need help during the loan procurement process.

To get off the ground, OptioLend last year raised about $1 million in seed funding led by the Schottenstein Family Office with participation from Loud Capital and MLG Ventures. For context, the Schottenstein family is one of the largest private real estate owners in the country.

CEO Richard Geisenfeld said there’s a plethora of lenders that can lend at that price point, whereas there is “a relatively small pool of capital sources” that focus on deals above $10 million.

“Capital markets are experiencing a 50% surge in refis and new loans as the markets start to rebound from COVID,” he said. “And as existing loans start coming due, we think we’re in a perfect timing to roll out. Properties are going to be repurposed, and are already starting to be.”

And while OptioLend can work with institutions and individual investors, it’s more focused on the latter.

Institutions have a lot of choices,” Geisenfeld said. “Individual investors do not.

Geisenfeld said he comes from a family of developers and himself has closed about $1.7 billion worth of transactions in 44 states as founder of Capital Commercial Partners. He’d been representing the Schottenstein family for nearly 20 years before the concept behind OptioLend emerged.

As an experiment prior to the formation of OptioLend, the family office had reached out to more than 50 lenders in an effort to finance the purchase of a small single tenant, triple net portfolio. They were surprised to discover that the interest rates varied as much as a full percentage point.

“Every time we did a deal with them, we’d hear anecdotally there were better [loan] rates out there and they agreed that we needed to create some kind of efficiency and automation,” Geisenfeld told TechCrunch. “So I went to one of my colleagues and asked ‘how do we change the paradigm from the traditional methodology?’ And that’s the problem we’re out to solve — by increasing an investor’s access to capital by 10 times in 10 minutes.”

The startup says it not only helps investors with new loan applications, but it can also help them refinance existing assets. Its sweet spot is on transactions in the middle market — in the $1 million to $10 million range.

OptioLend will work with commercial real estate and mortgage brokers alike either by allowing them to use the platform directly or to refer property owners to it. Their incentive for referrals is earning up to 50% of the original fees.

David Schottenstein, principal of Schottenstein Family Office, noted in a written statement that in today’s market, borrowers with limited access to capital sources sometimes sign onto loan terms with interest rates “as much as 100 basis points higher than they have to.” 

“OptioLend’s ability to get deals in front of multiple lenders quickly helps ensure that borrowers are getting the best terms possible,” he added.

#economy, #finance, #financial-technology, #lendingtree, #loans, #ohio, #online-lending, #online-marketplace, #optiolend, #real-estate, #schottenstein-family-office, #startups

Will Carbon and Shahry usher in a wave of buy now, pay later services in Africa?

Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, Quadpay. These are some of the big global players in the buy now, pay later (BNPL) movement. They allow shoppers to purchase products online and pay in installments with nominal or no fees, and have become more prominent due to how the pandemic accelerated e-commerce market growth around the world.

Credit card companies have filled in this gap for a long time. But the problem is credit cards rely on exorbitant fees, leading people to debt in the long run. While the pandemic left many jobless, it taught millennials and Gen Zers — a growing demographic with more than $200 billion in spending power — the hard way of sorting out their debt issues. In turn, a number of them have become debt-averse and increased their demand for better financing options. 

A 2020 poll carried out by Motley Fool surveyed 1,800+ people on why U.S. consumers use BNPL services. From the survey, 39% of the respondents said they used BNPL services to avoid paying credit card interest rates, while 16.3% said they don’t like to use credit cards and 14% said their credit cards were maxed out.

To millennials, there’s no incentive to own a credit card these days. A shift of preference to buy products on credit at the point-of-sale is on the rise; $680 billion will be spent by global consumers using online POS finance or BNPL over e-commerce channels by 2025.

Yet, as established players continue to have thousands of merchants and millions of users on their platforms, BNPL services are just picking up in Africa.

In a continent where debit cards (not credit) are prevalent, the upcoming players are primarily lending companies who have found a way to assess their customers’ credit risk via technology. Gathering data from partnerships with merchants, they use consumers’ shopping habits and purchasing power to drive their BNPL ambitions.

How these platforms assess credit risk

Last week, Nigerian digital bank Carbon introduced Carbon Zero, a product that lets customers purchase electronics and gadgets while paying in small installments at a 0% interest rate. However, before a purchase is made, a percentage of the total cost is paid upfront. After that, customers can pay the remaining price over six months. 

There are different reasons why such services hardly exist on the continent. For one, the country’s credit infrastructure is still a work in progress, and most of its citizens have limited purchasing power. So how does Carbon plan to assess risk? 

The company started in 2012 as a digital lender. But it has since grown to become one of the country’s few digital banks providing different financial services to its more than 659,000 customers. With extensive experience and a track record of providing loans to Nigerians (in 2020, its loan disbursement volume was $63 million), Carbon has found itself in pole position to enter the buy now, pay later market with Carbon Zero.

“We do not believe that a firm without a track record of lending can provide a similar service, except they have a significant amount of capital to burn. Carbon has been lending in Nigeria for nearly 10 years, so we have a lot of credit history of our customers, and we believe we can assess new customers very well,” Chijioke Dozie, the company’s CEO, told TechCrunch. 

Dozie says Carbon Zero hopes to be the embodiment of the promise made to its customers years ago to embed finance in their everyday purchase. But there’s a benchmark to who these customers are. According to the company, Carbon Zero can only be accessed by customers who earn at least ₦200,000 ($500) monthly, representing a small amount of the population.

The case of finding a market need and product-market fit was slightly different for Egyptian digital lending platform Shahry. In 2019, co-founders Sherif ElRakabawy and Mohamed Ewis, while running Yaoota — Egypt’s largest shopping engine and price comparison website — noticed that one of the most frequent requests they got from users was the option to buy products and pay for them later. Simultaneously, the Egyptian pound was experiencing devaluation against the dollar, thereby causing inflation.

The founders launched Shahry targeting the underbanked part of its young population to pay for products in installments, going head to head with the banks that offered similar services, albeit via credit cards.

“We’re currently the only buy now, pay later app in Egypt that offers a fully online service with no physical friction or paperwork from signing up to product home delivery,” the CEO ElRakabawy told TechCrunch.  

While Shahry’s model does not require a down payment, it does require that users apply for virtual credit through their mobile app, which they use to buy products from Arab e-commerce giant Souq. The company determines creditworthiness using algorithms and a credit risk review based on customer data. The company is also working on an AI model for fully automated instant decisions.

Partnering with merchants and raising capital to compete

Depending on the vertical, BNPL helps merchants drive sales, increase conversion rates and improve transaction sizes at decent percentages.

On how it makes money, Shahry takes interests and commission fees from merchants — a method Carbon Zero adopts. Via Souq, Shahry has Amazon as an online partner, and ElRakabawy says the company plans to onboard hundreds of brick and mortar, and online, merchants later this year.  

On the other hand, Carbon Zero launched with merchants that are top distributors of authentic electronics and gadgets in Nigeria. Although these merchants sell competing products, Dozie says Carbon doesn’t control the prices. The company is only concerned with financing the products as other necessities like product pricing, fulfilment and logistics is between the merchant and the customer.

“We have told merchants it’s in their best interest to provide the best pricing as we will not favour any merchant over the other. Customers can choose which Zero merchant they want to use, and they will vote with their wallet,” he said. 

To embark on a BNPL journey, a company must have a functioning credit system and a large war chest. This is why the likes of Affirm and Klarna have raised billions, and Afterpay millions, of dollars in investments. While Shahry and Carbon don’t have those amounts to burn, they will make do with what they have, as is usual with most African startups — case in point, despite raising just $650,000 in pre-seed investment last year, Shahry claims to have been experiencing double-digit month-on-month growth.

But ElRakabawy reckons that financing these transactions have put a strain on the business even though the company is yet to scratch the surface of what could be achieved in the Egyptian market.

“The market is huge and still mostly underserved,” he said. “The demand is so big that we’re currently only capped by the amount of loan capital we can disburse.” In the coming months, the company plans to close a second round of funding from new and existing investors to meet the growing demand for its service.

Carbon might be looking to do the same as the company gears up for a Series B in the foreseeable future. However, what is top of mind for Dozie is not fundraising; it is how to tailor the buy now, pay later service, which has become a global phenomenon, to a harsh market like Nigeria.

“We see a lot of potential in the Nigerian market for Carbon Zero. We do not believe we can blindly copy other BNPL players like Affirm or Klarna because they operate in markets that have an established offline and online retail market,” he said. “Carbon Zero will not only adapt to its environment to offer payment experience in the retail space but also in other areas where customers need to spread payments — in travel, education, and healthcare.”

#africa, #bnpl, #carbon, #carbon-zero, #ecommerce, #finance, #online-lending, #online-shopping, #startups, #tc