The organizers of at least five British awards received emails asking them to transfer prize money to a PayPal account. One of them paid out.
PayPal this morning announced the launch of Checkout with Crypto, a new feature that will allow consumers to check out at millions of online businesses using cryptocurrency. The feature expands on PayPal’s current investments in the cryptocurrency market, which include its partnership with Paxos to power its service that allows customers to buy, sell and hold a range of cryptocurrencies, and more recently, its acquisition of cryptocurrency security startup Curv.
According to PayPal, customers with cryptocurrency holdings in the U.S. will be able to check out using their cryptocurrency at millions of businesses. The company plans to expand the service to reach PayPal’s 29 million global online businesses in months ahead. The feature will also work without any additional integrations or fees required by the businesses themselves.
Essentially, Checkout with Crypto allows the customers to sell their cryptocurrency through PayPal at the time of checkout, then settle the actual transaction in U.S. dollars. For the businesses, that means nothing really changes on their end — they’re still being paid in USD, not cryptocurrency. But PayPal’s feature makes it possible for this transaction to take place within the same checkout flow, making it easier on shoppers to quickly make their purchases using cryptocurrency.
At launch, the service will support Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum and Bitcoin Cash — but only one type of cryptocurrency can be used for each purchase.
If the customer has enough cryptocurrency to pay for their online purchase, then the Checkout with Crypto feature will appear, alongside other traditional payment methods, like the customer’s bank account, PayPal balance, or credit or debit card. Like other payment methods, Checkout with Crypto will also include PayPal’s safety and security benefits, including fraud protection, return shipping and purchase protection on eligible items, PayPal notes.
After the transaction completes, the customer will receive both a record of the cryptocurrency sale, as well as their purchase receipt.
The company had announced its plans to launch support for checkout with cryptocurrency last year, when it first entered the cryptocurrency market. It said that after providing support for buying and selling cryptocurrencies, it would launch a checkout feature in 2021.
Today, PayPal makes makes money by charging transaction fees when customers buy or sell their cryptocurrencies, which is why it’s not placing any fees on their merchants themselves.
PayPal’s launch will help to dramatically expand the number of places where cryptocurrency can be used for real-world purchases, which could help accelerate mainstream adoption of digital currencies.
According to Jim Magats, PayPal SVP, Omni Payments, it’s historically been difficult for businesses to offer cryptocurrency as a payment option due to integration requirements, technical barriers, and general lack of awareness among consumers.
“Checkout with Crypto allows businesses to accept the proceeds from sales of cryptocurrency as a payment type, all within the current PayPal integration, removing the need for any additional action for businesses,” Magats said. “PayPal handles the crypto sale and conversion with the consumer and passes on U.S. dollars to the business for the purchase, streamlining the process for businesses.”
PayPal’s move comes shortly after last week’s announcement from Tesla, which said U.S. customers could now buy a car using bitcoin, and Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten’s news earlier this month where it said users could check out with online merchants in Japan using cryptocurrencies.
“As the use of digital payments and digital currencies accelerates, the introduction of Checkout with Crypto continues our focus on driving mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies, while continuing to offer PayPal customers choice and flexibility in the ways they can pay using the PayPal wallet,” President and CEO Dan Schulman said, in a statement about the launch. “Enabling cryptocurrencies to make purchases at businesses around the world is the next chapter in driving the ubiquity and mass acceptance of digital currencies,” he added.
It is nearly impossible for businesses in some African countries to receive money from PayPal. While the payments giant has not given reasons why this is so, speculation hints at factors like insufficient regulation and poor banking security in said countries.
That might be a thing of the past for some businesses as African payments company Flutterwave today is announcing a collaboration with PayPal to allow PayPal customers globally to pay African merchants through its platform.
Via this partnership, businesses can connect with the more than 377 million PayPal accounts globally and overcome the challenges presented by the highly fragmented and complex payment and banking infrastructure on the continent.
According to CEO Olugbenga ‘GB’ Agboola, this will happen via a Flutterwave integration with PayPal so merchants can add PayPal as a payment option when receiving money outside the continent. The service, which is already available for merchants with registered business accounts on Flutterwave, will be operational across 50 African countries and worldwide, the company claims. Flutterwave hopes to roll out this service to individual merchants on the platform as well.
“In a nutshell, we’re bringing more than 300 million PayPal users to African businesses so they can accept payments across the continent,” he said to TechCrunch. “Our mission at the company has always been to simplify payments for endless possibilities, and from when we started, it has always been about global payments. So despite having the largest payment infrastructure in Africa, we want to have arguably all the important payments systems in the world on our platform.”
A PayPal spokesperson confirmed the Flutterwave collaboration with TechCrunch.
Since the company’s expansion to Africa, it has maintained a one-sided relationship with most countries on the continent, allowing them only to send money. And according to its website, only 12 African countries can send and receive money on the platform, but to varying degrees. They include Algeria, Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa.
Users in countries who are not afforded the luxury to do so have to rely on using the PayPal account of a friend or family, based in countries where payments can be received. Next, they request the funds via bank transfer, leading to more incurred costs or use other cross-border money platforms like WorldRemit.
This is a pain point for these businesses, particularly in Nigeria. PayPal finally arrived Africa’s most populous country in 2014 and a year later, it became the company’s second-biggest market on the continent.
But despite its fast adoption rate and large fintech appetite, merchants cannot still receive payments from other countries on the platform with various sources alluding PayPal’s decision to the country’s history with internet fraud.
Fraud or not, Nigeria’s e-commerce and that of the continent at large continues to grow at a breathtaking pace. In 2017, Africa generated $16.5 billion in revenue, and by 2022, it is expected to reach $29 billion. With numbers like this, it isn’t hard to see why PayPal wants to get in on the action, albeit not completely. Hence, the partnership with Flutterwave.
The company, via its APIs, offer payment services to individuals and businesses across the continent. Since launching in 2019, the African payments company has partnered with Visa to launch Barter; Alipay to offer digital payments between Africa and China; and Worldpay FIS for payments in Africa.
But this one with PayPal is arguably its biggest partnership yet. Now, African businesses have more access to sell to global customers using PayPal to receive and send payments online.
In a way, Flutterwave absorbs most of the risk PayPal thinks it will incur if it makes its platform more open to merchants in these countries. But at the same time, it solidifies Flutterwave’s position in the eyes of multinationals looking to enter the African market.
Like when its partnership with Worldpay FIS coincided with its Series B funding, this announcement is also coming on the back of a raise. Last week, the payments company closed a $170 million Series C led by Avenir Growth Capital and Tiger Global, becoming a billion-dollar company in the process.
In hindsight, the mammoth raise suggests that there are a couple of projects in the company’s pipeline. Going by this partnership, we can expect the majority of them to be global plays.
Yet, these questions remain top of mind — What happens when PayPal automatically allows businesses from these neglected African countries to start receiving payments? Will both services continue to coexist if that happens? We’ve reached out to PayPal for comment.
However that plays out, this is a step forward in the right direction for Flutterwave, which has shown time and time again the length it is willing to go for its 290,000 merchants and the ongoing quest to become a global payments company.
“By working with PayPal, we can further strengthen our commitment to our customers and service users as we will be enabling them to transact and expand their business operations to reach new markets. PayPal’s global reach is unrivalled, and collaborating with them allows our customers to explore new markets where PayPal is embedded,” the CEO said.
Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.
Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace were all here to chat through the week’s biggest tech happenings. Like every week, we had to leave a lot of great stuff on the cutting-room floor. But, we did get to touch on a bunch of news that we feel really matters.
Also we do wind up talking about a few Extra Crunch pieces, which is where our deeper analysis on news items lives. If the paywall is a bother, you can get access while saving 50% with the code “EQUITY.”
Here’s what we got into:
- Crypto-art and the NFT boom continue. Check out what Beeple just did. Danny has an opinion on the matter.
- The Roblox direct-listing does very little actually solve the IPO pricing issue. That said, well done Bloxburg.
- We talked about the Coursera S-1, which gave us the first financial peek into an education company revitalized by the pandemic.
- The numbers needed context, so our follow up coverage gives readers 5 takeaways from the Coursera IPO.
- Language learning has a market, and it’s big. We talked about Preply’s $35 million raise and why tutoring marketplaces make sense.
- Dropbox is buying DocSend, which makes pretty good sense. Even if the exit price won’t matter much for bigger funds. We’re still witnessing Dropbox and Box add more features to their product via acquisitions. Let’s see how it impacts their revenue growth.
- Zapier buys Makerpad. We struggled to pronounce Zapier, but did have some notes on the deal and what it might mean for the no-code space.
- Sticking the acquisition theme, PayPal bought Curv. If you were looking for more evidence that big companies are taking crypto seriously, well, here it is.
- And to close we nerded out about Neeva. Can a Google-competitor take on Google if it was founded by ex-Googlers?
The show is back Monday morning. Stay cool!
Mercado Libre, one of the largest e-commerce and financial services company from Latin America by market cap, has selected the startup and Y Combinator alumni Pachama as its strategic partner in developing projects to restore ecosystems in Latin America.
The selection of Pachama is part of a program initiated by Mercado Libre, Latin America’s answer to Amazon, which is called Regenera America. The $8 million that Mercado Libre is investing will be in two reforestation projects: the “Mantiqueira Conservation Project”, organized under the auspices of The Nature Conservancy and the “Corridors of Live Project”, designed and implemented by the Instituto de Pesquisas Ecologicas.
Both projects will focus on the reforestation of over three thosuand hectares, through natural regeneration and planting over 1 million trees, restoring biodiversity corridors and protecting hydrological basins in the Atlantic Forest region of Brazil, the two companies said in a statement.
Pachama will provide satellite and machine learning technologies to verify and monitor the carbon sequestration produced by the sweeping reforestation efforts in a deal which leapfrogs Mercado Libre ahead of Microsoft as the young startup’s largest customer.
Software tools provided by Pachama will also increase the efficiency and transparency of the actual reforestation efforts on the ground, the companies said in a joint statement.
The deal between the two companies, and Mercado Libre’s big buy was announced earlier today at a press conference in Argentina and the agreement marks the first time Mercado Libre has tapped money from a recently issued $400 million Sustainability Bond that was designed to finance projects of what the e-commerce giant called “triple impact” in the Latin American region. The bond was issued by JP Morgan and BNP Paribas.
“We’re taking our first steps. We have always tried to do things the hard way and go to the core of problems. We have had a very interesting debate internally about when is the right time to start buying carbon offsets and carbon credits but we also realize that the … getting up and running of projects that generate carbon credits in Latin America was potentially even more of a challenging situation and more of a longterm solution,” said Mercado Libre chief financial officer Pedro Arnt.
“This is a building block of a longer term strategy thinking through not just what we can do for the next two or three years,” Arnt said.
The Regenera America project has four pieces, Arnt said: measuring and reporting emissions internally for the company; buying clean energy for the company’s operations; providing electric vehicles for its own fleet and assisting its last mile and logistics partners in electrifying their own transportation; and the development of reforestation efforts across Latin America.
“This is setting up an example for more traditional industries across Latin America,” said Diego Saez-Gil, the co-founder and chief executive of Pachama. MercadoLibre is the largest company by market cap in Latin America and serves as a standard bearer for the forward thinking businesses in the region, he said. “Latin America is one of the biggest holders of biodiversity and carbon stocks in the world, and should be playing a more active role in climate mitigation.”
It’s a big step for Pachama as well. The deal marks the first time the young company has involved itself in project origination and provide a new revenue stream to compliment its existing lines of business.
“We are incredibly excited to start helping new reforestation projects get off the ground that have the capabilities to plant millions of trees and remove millions tons of CO2 from the atmosphere. If we are to solve climate change we need more projects like these to start as soon as possible,” said Saez-Gil in a statement. “We are confident that technologies such as AI and satellite imagery are key to scaling these efforts with high integrity, efficiency and transparency. Partnering with world-class organizations such as Mercado Libre, The Nature Conservancy and IPE for our first projects represents an incredible opportunity for us.”
PayPal acquires a cryptocurrency startup, Apple discontinues the iMac Pro and McAfee sells its enterprise business. This is your Daily Crunch for March 8, 2021.
The big story: PayPal acquires Curv
This deal will grow PayPal’s cryptocurrency team by bringing on Curv, a startup working with exchanges, brokers and over-the-counter desks to help their users store crypto assets securely and access their wallets without requiring additional hardware.
The larger company already supports the buying and selling of cryptocurrencies, and it says it plans to launch new crypto-related products in other countries and in Venmo. Calcalist was the first to report the acquisition, and it said that the deal price was between $200 and $300 million, while another source tells TechCrunch that the price was less than $200 million.
The tech giants
The iMac Pro is being discontinued — Apple will stop selling the all-in-one once the current stock is depleted.
McAfee sells enterprise biz to Symphony Technology Group for $4B — McAfee President and Chief Executive Officer Peter Leav said the company has decided to direct its resources to the consumer side of the business.
Google unveils $25M in grants aimed at empowering women and girls — Google.org’s new Impact Challenge, unveiled on International Women’s Day, is aimed at addressing systemic barriers and inequities.
Startups, funding and venture capital
UK challenger bank Starling raises $376M, now valued at $1.9B — Starling, which competes against incumbent banks, as well as other challengers like Monzo and Revolut, says it’s already profitable.
Cosi raises €20M for its ‘full-stack’ approach to short-term rentals — The company signs long-term leases with property owners, then furnishes those apartments itself to “control” the interior design experience.
Swiss maker of meat alternatives Planted will expand and diversify with $18M Series A — With new kebabs and pulled-style faux meats available and steak-like cuts in the (literal) pipeline, Planted has begun to set its sights outside central Europe.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
From electric charging to supply chain management, InMotion Ventures preps Jaguar for a sustainable future — A look at InMotion Ventures, the independent investment and incubation initiative set up by Jaguar Land Rover.
Olo’s IPO could value the company north of $3B as Toast waits in the wings — Olo, the New York-based fintech startup that provides order processing software to restaurants, shared its initial IPO price range this morning.
White-label voice assistants will win the battle for podcast discovery — Listeners have never had so many choices for smart and compelling podcast content, with new exciting shows emerging daily.
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Announcing the agenda for TC Early Stage — Operations & Fundraising — You’ve got questions. TechCrunch Early Stage will have answers for you on April 1 and 2.
A glimpse inside the minds of tech’s DEI leaders — We spoke with Uber Chief Diversity Officer Bo Young Lee and Netflix VP of Inclusion Strategy for Product Wade Davis about the work that still needs to be done.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
PayPal has announced that it plans to acquire Curv, a cryptocurrency startup based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israeli newspaper Calcalist originally reported the move. And PayPal has now made an official announcement.
Curv is a cryptocurrency custody company, which means that it helps you store your crypto assets securely. The company operates a cloud-based service that lets you access your crypto wallets without any hardware device.
Curv also lets you set up sophisticated policies so that the new intern cannot withdraw crypto assets without some sort of approval chain. Similarly, you can create allow lists so that regular transactions can go through more easily.
Behind the scenes, Curv uses multi-party computation to handle private keys. When you create a wallet, cryptographic secrets are generated on your device and on Curv’s servers. Whenever you’re trying to initiate a transaction, multiple secrets are used to generate a full public and private key.
Secrets are rotated regularly and you can’t do anything with just one secret. If somebody steals an unsecured laptop, a hacker cannot access crypto funds with the information stored on this device alone.
As you can see, Curv isn’t a cryptocurrency wallet for end users. The company offers its services to exchanges, brokers and over-the-counter desks. If you’re running a fund and you plan on buying a large amount of cryptocurrencies, you could also consider using Curv.
Finally, financial institutions that are looking for a solution to store digital assets and diversify their balance sheet could also work with Curv.
PayPal says that the Curv team will join the cryptocurrency group within PayPal. The payment giant has been gradually rolling out cryptocurrency products. It has partnered with Paxos so that users in the U.S. can buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies from their PayPal account.
In the near future, PayPal also plans to let you buy and sell items using cryptocurrencies. During its most recent earnings release, the company also said that it plans to launch cryptocurrency products in other countries and in Venmo, the consumer fintech super app owned by PayPal.
Terms of the deal are undisclosed and the transaction should close at some point during the first half of 2021. Calcalist reported that PayPal was paying between $200 million and $300 million for the acquisition. A person close to the company says that the transaction was under $200 million. I guess we’ll find out what happened exactly in the next earnings release.
In today’s attention economy, platforms are megaphones and audiences are income. Shut off the megaphone and the income goes away. Bad guy go bye-bye. Throughout the last year, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and beyond have reckoned with their social responsibility not to amplify and monetize hate in what has become known as “the great deplatforming.” But what about when the megaphone is off and the cash keeps flowing in?
A WIRED investigation has uncovered dozens of far-right and white supremacist figures who monetize or have monetized through financial services essential to Twitch and YouTube’s full-time gamers: Streamlabs and StreamElements. Booted off traditional streaming sites, these figures have fled to more underground, less-moderated streaming services like DLive, where integrations with Streamlabs and StreamElements let viewers send monetary donations alongside public messages to streamers. Unlike PayPal, which has been cutting off white supremacists since at least 2017, Streamlabs and StreamElements’ role in buoying extremists has flown under the radar.
PayPal is shutting down its domestic business in India, less than four years after the American giant kickstarted local operations in the world’s second largest internet market.
“From 1 April 2021, we will focus all our attention on enabling more international sales for Indian businesses, and shift focus away from our domestic products in India. This means we will no longer offer domestic payment services within India from 1 April,” said a company spokesperson.
In a long statement, PayPal did not say why it was winding down its India business, but a report recently said the company, which has amassed over 360,000 merchants in the country, had failed to make inroads in India.
Indian news outlet The Morning Context reported in December that PayPal was abandoning its local payments business in India, a claim the company had refuted at the time.
Nonetheless, the move comes as a surprise. The company said last year that it was building a payments service powered by India’s UPI railroad, suggesting the level of investments it was making in the country.
PayPal had also partnered with a range of popular Indian businesses such as ticketing services BookMyShow and MakeMyTrip and food delivery platform Swiggy to offer a faster check out experience. At the time of writing, PayPal website in India appears to have removed all such references.
India has emerged as one of the world’s largest battlegrounds for mobile payments firms in recent years. Scores of heavily-backed firms including Paytm, PhonePe, Google, Amazon, and Facebook are competing among one another to increase their share in India, where the market is estimated to be worth $1 trillion by 2023. Several of these firms also offer a range of payments services for merchants.
The company, which says it processed $1.4 billion worth of international sales for merchants in India last year, added that it will continue to invest in “product development that enables Indian businesses to reach nearly 350 million PayPal consumers worldwide, increase their sales internationally, and help the Indian economy return to growth.”
The Venmo mobile payments app is going to look very different in 2021 as it inches closer to neobank territory with expansions into budgeting, saving, and cryptocurrency, said Venmo parent company PayPal, during its fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday. The company also plans to put its $4 billion Honey acquisition to work by integrating its suite of shopping tools into the Venmo app, including merchant offers, deals, price tracking and wish lists.
PayPal already signaled its intentions to bring cryptocurrencies to Venmo. The company entered the crypto market last November by adding support for buying, holding, and selling cryptocurrencies in the U.S. through a partnership with the regulated crypto services provider, Paxos Trust Company. At the time, PayPal noted it would bring a similar feature set to its Venmo app during 2021.
That time frame is still on track, PayPal confirmed during its earnings call with investors.
The company said, in the next few months, Venmo users will gain the ability to buy, hold and sell crypto inside the Venmo mobile app, along with other “investment alternatives.” (This statement refers to PayPal’s work with central banks who are developing their own digital currencies on the blockchain.)
Other changes to Venmo make the app sound as if it’s becoming more of a neobank competitor.
For example, PayPal said it will work with its financial industry partners this year to introduce features like budgeting and saving tools as well as bill pay options inside PayPal — additions that are common to modern-day mobile banking apps.
On Venmo, the forthcoming savings feature will look similar to PayPal’s existing PayPal Cash Plus account, where it partners with financial institutions to provide FDIC pass-through insurance. Today, funds held in the Cash Plus account are eligible for this insurance only if customers also have a PayPal Cash Card debit card, have enrolled in Direct Deposit, or have established Goals in their Cash Plus account. Venmo now has the pieces in place to offer the same.
Another change includes the Honey integration, which PayPal has been promising for some time. Now, the company is offering more details around what those integrations will look like. It said the plan is to integrate Honey’s features into both its PayPal and Venmo platforms in the first half of 2021 — including Honey’s wish list, price monitoring tools, deals, coupons and rewards.
This integration will allow merchants to target specific demographics of PayPal and Venmo customers with personalized offers and discounts, thanks to PayPal’s two-sided marketplace. In other words, the company will attempt to capture the consumer in the earlier stages of the shopping process, when they’re browsing for deals, looking up prices, or searching for specific products. Honey’s shopping tools could point them to a matching deal, and then the customer could complete the checkout process using the Venmo app.
These new tools will arrive at a time when the pandemic has forced more commerce to shift online, as retail stores and other in-person retail opportunities declined due to store closures and government lockdowns. Plus, some people today now just prefer to shop online because they no longer feel safe in physical retail stores where basic safety measures like mask-wearing and social distancing aren’t enforced.
This broader acceleration of e-commerce and “contactless” payments also helped PayPal to add 1.4 million new merchants in the quarter. It now has 29 million merchants across its platform, who interact with now nearly 350 million consumers.
Meanwhile, Venmo’s total payment volume grew 60% year-over-year to $47 billion, and its customer base grew 32%, ending just shy of 70 million accounts. The company expects its revenues will approach $900 million in 2021.
Venmo has been rapidly expanding beyond being just a payments app. In recent months, it has launched its first credit card, which will be 100% rolled out by month-end, as well as QR codes for in-store shopping, business profiles, and cash-checking features that arrived just in time to handle customers’ stimulus checks.
But Venmo doesn’t aim to be a full neobank — at least not yet. Instead, it imagines itself as more of a “digital wallet” of sorts.
“Today’s digital reality is rapidly accelerating the need for a digital wallet that encompasses payments, financial services and shopping,” explained PayPal CEO Dan Schulman, speaking to investors. “This year, our digital wallet will change more than it has ever changed before, significantly increasing its functionality within a single, integrated and beautifully designed app that should meaningfully increase consumer engagement,” he said.
As Venmo’s new features roll out, PayPal expects the app’s usage and payment volume to grow.
“I think we are going to see….a real bend in the historic rate of engagement. And it’s going to be all around that super app functionality in that digital wallet, moving well beyond just payments,” Schulman said.
Correction, 2/4/21, 1 pm et — Schulman’s note about bill pay was referencing a launch inside PayPal’s app in 2021. It was mentioned alongside other forthcoming Venmo features, which led to some confusion. We’ve now corrected this.
Three years ago, we released the first edition of the Matrix Fintech Index. We believed then, as we do now, that fintech represents one of the most exciting major innovation cycles of this decade. In 2020, all the long-term trends forcing change in this sector continued and even accelerated.
The broad movement away from credit toward debit, particularly among younger consumers, represents one such macro shift. However, the pandemic also created new, unforeseen drivers. Among them, millennials decamped from their rentals in crowded cities to accelerate their first home purchase, to the benefit of proptech companies and challenger mortgage players alike.
E-commerce saw an enormous acceleration in growth rates, furthering adoption of online payments platforms. Lastly, low interest rates and looming inflation helped pave the way for the price of Bitcoin to charge toward $30,000. In short, multiple tailwinds combined to produce a blockbuster year for the category.
In this year’s refresh of the Matrix Fintech Index, we’ll divide our attention into three parts. First, a look at the public stocks’ performance. Second, liquidity. Third, we highlight one major trend in the sector: Buy Now Pay Later, or BNPL.
Public fintech stocks rose 97% in 2020
For the fourth straight year, the publicly traded fintechs massively outperformed the incumbent financial services providers as well as every mainstream stock index. While the underlying performance of these companies was strong, the pandemic further bolstered results as consumers avoided appearing in-person for both shopping and banking. Instead, they sought — and found — digital alternatives.
For the fourth straight year, the publicly traded fintechs massively outperformed the incumbent financial services providers as well as every mainstream stock index.
Our own representation of the public fintechs’ performance is the Matrix Fintech Index — a market cap-weighted index that tracks the progress of a portfolio of 25 leading public fintech companies. The Matrix fintech Index rose 97% in 2020, compared to a 14% rise in the S&P 500 and a 10% drop for the incumbent financial service companies over the same time period.
E-commerce undoubtedly stood out as a major driver. As a category, retail e-commerce grew 35% YoY as of Q3, propelling PayPal and Shopify to add over $160 billion of market capitalization over the year. For its part, PayPal in the third quarter signed up 15 million net new active accounts (its highest ever).
Liz Meyerdirk made a name for herself at Uber as the Senior Director & Global Head of Business Development for the company’s Uber Eats business and she’s now turning her attention to women’s health as the new chief executive of The Pill Club.
The move comes at a perilous time for the remote delivery of women’s healthcare as the Supreme Court has taken steps to limit the provision of sexual healthcare to women in recent months.
“Women’s health care has never been more tested than right now,” Meyerdirk noted in a blog post announcing her new role. “COVID-19 has upended access to care; dozens of states have—and continue—to try and limit women’s choice; and last year, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the rollback of the ACA contraceptive mandate decision, a stunning move that could end up impacting as many as 126,000 women who previously received covered contraception through employer-based health insurance.”
A seasoned corporate executive, Meyerdirk is hoping to navigate The Pill Club through these treacherous times. “These events have shown that reliable, safe, and affordable access to women’s health and birth control is
just one more vulnerability in our health care system,” Meyerdirk wrote.
As it faces an uncertain legal environment on some fronts, the company couldn’t be in a better position financially.
The Pill Club, which is profitable and now has a $100 million run rate, is now ready for its closeup with Meyerdirk at the helm.
The company has managed to make its mark in the crowded world of online prescriptions and refill fulfillment by focusing specifically on women’s health and ensuring that those services are available to as many potential patients as possible.
“We’re now serving hundreds of thousands of women nationwide with 20% on Medicaid,” says Meyerdirk. “We prescribe in 43 states and the District of Columbia.”
For Meyerdirk, the background she had in logistics and fulfillment from her time at Uber Eats made the transition to the pill prescription and delivery service natural.
“There is a heavy logistics element to it,” said Meyerdirk.
As Meyerdirk takes the reins of the company, she said there’s a few areas that The Pill Club will expand into beyond its focus on birth control and contraception. “There are areas that our customers are asking for,” Meyerdirk said.
These areas include, initially, dermatology. Last year the company launched a delivery service for contraceptives and women’s hygiene products like pads and tampons.
As it continues to expand its product suite, it’s also growing its executive staff. The company not only added Meyerdirk, but also David Hsu as chief financial officer and Jeremy Downs as senior vice president of growth. Hsu joins the company from Honey, where led the $4 billion acquisition negotiations with PayPal, and Downs comes from Uber Eats, where he spent five years leading growth.
“We need sustained, long-term access to women’s health care, not just a bridge while the pandemic persists; and we need coverage for essential health services like birth control and prenatal care, regardless of whether or not you’re insured,” Meyerdirk wrote. “Reproductive care has and continues to be an essential part of our business, but there are countless opportunities to serve women in all of their life stages from puberty to menopause.”
A string of recent events in China’s payments industry suggests the duopoly comprising Ant Group and Tencent may be getting a shakeup.
Following the abrupt call-off of Ant’s public sale and a government directive to reform the firm’s business, the Chinese authorities sent another message this week signaling its plan to curb concentration in the flourishing digital payments industry.
The set of draft rules, designed to regulate non-bank payments and released by the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) this week, said any non-bank payments processor with over one-third of the non-bank payments market or two companies with a combined half of the market could be subject to regulatory warnings from the anti-monopoly authority under the State Council.
Meanwhile, a single non-bank payments provider with over one half of the digital payments market or two companies with a combined two-thirds of the market could be investigated for whether they constitute a monopoly.
The difference between the two rules is nuanced here, with the second stipulation focusing on digital payments as opposed to non-bank payments in the first.
Furthermore, the rules did not specify how authorities measure an organization’s market share, say, whether the judgment is based on an entity’s total transaction value, its transaction volume, or other metrics.
Alipay processed over half of China’s third-party payments transactions in the first quarter of 2020, according to market researcher iResearch, while Tencent handled nearly 40% of the payments in the same period.
As China heightens scrutiny over its payments giants, it’s also opening up the financial market to international players. In December, Goldman Sachs moved to take full ownership of its Chinese joint venture. This month, PayPal became the first foreign company with 100% control of a payments business in China after it bought out the remaining stake in its local payments partner Guofubao.
Industry experts told TechCrunch that PayPal won’t likely go after the domestic payments giants but may instead explore opportunities in cross-border payments, a market with established players like XTransfer, which was founded by a team of Ant veterans.
Ant and Tencent also face competition from other Chinese internet firms. Companies ranging from food delivery platform Meituan, e-commerce platforms Pinduoduo and JD.com, to TikTok’s parent firm ByteDance have introduced their own e-wallets, though none of them have posed an imminent threat to Alipay or WeChat Pay.
The comprehensive proposal from PBOC also defines how payments processors handle customer data. Non-bank payments services are to store certain user information and transaction history and cooperate with relevant authorities on data checks. Companies are also required to obtain user consent and make clear to customers how their data are collected and used, a rule that reflects China’s broader effort to clamp down on unscrupulous data collection.
Mobile adoption continued to grow in 2020, in part due to the market forces of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to App Annie’s annual “State of Mobile” industry report, mobile app downloads grew by 7% year-over-year to a record 218 billion in 2020. Meanwhile, consumer spending grew by 20% to also hit a new milestone of $143 billion, led by markets that included China, the United States, Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
Consumers also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone, the report found.
In another shift, app usage in the U.S. surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours on their mobile device.
The increase in time spent is a trend that’s not unique to the U.S., but can be seen across several other countries, including both developing mobile markets like Indonesia, Brazil and India, as well as places like China, Japan, South Korea, the U.K., Germany, France and others.
The trend isn’t isolated to any one demographic, either, but is seen across age groups. In the U.S., for example, Gen Z, millennials and Gen X/Baby Boomers spent 16%, 18% and 30% more time in their most-used apps year-over-year, respectively. However, what those favorite apps looked like was very different.
For Gen Z in the U.S., top apps on Android phones included Snapchat, Twitch, TikTok, Roblox and Spotify.
Millennials favored Discord, LinkedIn, PayPal, Pandora and Amazon Music.
And Gen X/Baby Boomers used Ring, Nextdoor, The Weather Channel, Kindle and ColorNote Notepad Notes.
The pandemic didn’t necessarily change how consumers were using apps in 2020, but rather accelerated mobile adoption by two to three years’ time, the report found.
Investors were also eager to fuel mobile businesses as a result, pouring $73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year. According to Crunchbase data, 26% of total global funding dollars in 2020 went to businesses that included a mobile solution.
From 2016 to 2020, global funding to mobile technology companies more than doubled compared with the previous five years, and was led by financial services, transportation, commerce and shopping.
Mobile gaming adoption also continued to grow in 2020. Casual games dominated the market in terms of downloads (78%), but Core games accounted for 66% of games’ consumer spend and 55% of the time spent.
With many stuck inside due to COVID-19 lockdowns and quarantines, mobile games that offered social interaction boomed. Among Us, for example, became a breakout game in several markets in 2020, including the U.S.
Other app categories saw sizable increases over the past year, as well.
Time spent in Finance apps in 2020 was up 45% worldwide, outside of China, and participation in the stock market grew 55% on mobile, thanks to apps like Robinhood in the U.S. and others worldwide, that democratized investing and trading.
TikTok had a big year, too.
The app saw incredible 325% year-over-year growth, despite a ban in India, and ranked in the top five apps by time spent. The average monthly time spent per user also grew faster than nearly every other app analyzed, including 65% in the U.S. and 80% in the U.K., surpassing Facebook. TikTok is now on track to hit 1.2 billion active users in 2021, App Annie forecasts.
Other video services boomed in 2020, thanks to a combination of new market entrants and a lot of time spent at home. Consumers spent 40% more hours streaming on mobile devices, with time spent in streaming apps peaking in the second quarter in the west as the pandemic forced people inside.
YouTube benefitted from this trend, as it became the No. 1 streaming app by time spent among all markets analyzed except China. The time spent in YouTube is up to 6x that of the next closet app at 38 hours per month.
Of course, another big story for 2020 was the rise of e-commerce amid the pandemic. This made the past year the biggest ever for mobile shopping, with an over 30% increase in time spent in Shopping apps, as measured on Android phones outside of China.
Mobile commerce, however, looked less traditional in 2020.
Social shopping was a big trend, with global downloads of Pinterest and Instagram growing 50% and 20% year-over-year, respectively.
Livestreaming shopping grew, too, led by China. Downloads of live shopping TaoBao Live in China, Grip in South Korea and NTWRK in the U.S. grew 100%, 245% and 85%, respectively. NTWRK doubled in size last year, and now others are entering the space as well — including TikTok, to some extent.
The pandemic also prompted increased usage of mobile ordering apps. In the U.S., Argentina, the U.K., Indonesia and Russia, the app grew by 60%, 65%, 70%, 80% and 105%, respectively, in Q4.
Business apps, like Zoom and Google Meet among others, grew 275% in Q4, for example, as remote work and sometimes school, continued.
The analysis additionally included lists of the top apps by downloads, spending and monthly active users (MAUs).
Although TikTok had been topping year-end charts, Facebook continued to beat it in terms of MAUs. Facebook-owned apps controlled the top charts by MAUs, with Facebook at No. 1 followed by WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram.
TikTok, however, had more downloads than Facebook and ranked No. 2 by consumer spending, behind Tinder.
The full report is available only as an online interactive experience this year, not a download. The report largely uses data from both the iOS App Store and Google Play, except where otherwise noted.
It might be easier at this point to ask which tech platforms President Donald Trump can still use.
That means the president’s campaign website and online fundraising arms will no longer have access to the payment processor’s services, cutting off the Trump campaign from receiving donations.
Sources told the Journal that the reason for the company’s decision was the violation of company policies against encouraging violence.
The move comes as the president has remained largely silent through the official channels at his disposal in the wake of last week’s riot at the Capitol building.
While Trump has been silent, technology companies have been busy repudiating the president’s support by cutting off access to a range of services.
The deplatforming of the president has effectively removed Trump from all social media outlets including Snap, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Spotify and TikTok.
The technology companies that power most financial transactions online have also blocked the president. Shopify and PayPal were the first to take action against the extremists among President Trump supporters who participated in the riot.
As we wrote earlier this week, PayPal has been deactivating the accounts of some groups of Trump supporters who were using the money-transfer fintech to coordinate payments to underwrite the rioters’ actions on Capitol Hill.
The company has actually been actively taking steps against far-right activists for a while. After the Charlottesville protests and subsequent rioting in 2017, the company banned a spate of far-right organizations. These bans have so far not extended directly to the president himself from what TechCrunch can glean.
On Thursday, Shopify announced that it was removing the storefronts for both the Trump campaign and Trump’s personal brand. That’s an evolution on policy for the company, which years ago said that it would not moderate its platform, but in recent years has removed some controversial stores, such as some right-wing shops in 2018.
Now, Stripe has joined the actions against the president, cutting off a lucrative source of income for his political operations.
As the Journal reported, the Trump campaign launched a fundraising blitz to raise money for the slew of lawsuits that the president brought against states around the country. The lawsuits were almost all defeated, but the effort did bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for the Republican party.
After years of placid admonishments, the tech world came out in force against President Trump this past week following the violent assault of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. From Twitter to PayPal, more than a dozen companies have placed unprecedented restrictions or outright banned the current occupant of the White House from using their services, and in some cases, some of his associates and supporters as well.
The news was voluminous and continuous for the past few days, so here’s a recap of who took action when, and what might happen next.
Twitter: a permanent ban and a real-time attempt to shut down all possible account alternatives
Twitter has played a paramount role over the debate about how to moderate President Trump’s communications, given the president’s penchant for the platform and the nearly 90 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account. In the past, Twitter has repeatedly warned the president, added labels related to electron integrity and misinformation, and outright blocked the occasional tweet.
This week, however, Twitter’s patience seemed to have been exhausted. Shortly after the riots at the Capitol on Wednesday, Twitter put in place a large banner warning its users about the president’s related tweet on the matter, blocking retweets of that specific message. A few hours later, the company instituted a 12-hour ban on the president’s personal account.
At first, it looked like the situation would return to normal, with Twitter offering Thursday morning that it would reinstate the president’s account after he removed tweets the company considered against its policies around inciting violence. The president posted a tweet later on Thursday with a video attachment that seemed to be relatively calmer than his recent fiery rhetoric, a video in which he also accepted the country’s election results for the first time.
Enormous pressure externally on its own platform as well as internal demands from employees kept the policy rapidly changing though. Late Friday night, the company announced that it decided to permanently ban the president from its platform, shutting down @realDonaldTrump. The company then played a game of whack-a-mole as it blocked the president’s access to affiliated Twitter handles like @TeamTrump (his official campaign account) as well as the official presidential account @POTUS and deleted individual tweets from the president. The company’s policies state that a blocked user may not attempt to use a different account to evade its ban.
Twitter has also taken other actions against some of the president’s affiliates and broader audience, blocking Michael Flynn, a bunch of other Trump supporters, and a variety of QAnon figures.
With a new president on the horizon, the official @POTUS account will be handed to the new Biden administration, although Twitter has reportedly been intending to reset the account’s followers to zero, unlike its transition of the account in 2016 from Obama to Trump.
As for Trump himself, a permanent ban from his most prominent platform begs the question: where will he take his braggadocio and invective next? So far, we haven’t seen the president move his activities to any social network alternatives, but after the past few years (and on Twitter, the last decade), it seems hard to believe the president will merely return to his golf course and quietly ride out to the horizon.
Snap: a quick lock after dampening the president’s audience for months
Snap locked the president’s account late Wednesday following the events on Capitol Hill, and seemed to be one of the most poised tech companies to rapidly react to the events taking place in DC. Snap’s lock prevents the president from posting new snaps to his followers on the platform, which currently number approximately two million. As far as TechCrunch knows, that lock remains in place, although the president’s official profile is still available to users.
Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the concomitant Black Lives Matter protests, the company had announced back in June that it would remove the president’s account from its curated “Discover” tab, limiting its distribution and discoverability.
The president has never really effectively used the Snap platform, and with an indefinite ban in place, it looks unlikely he will find a home there in the future.
Facebook / Instagram: A short-to-medium ban with open questions on how long “indefinite” means
Facebook, like Twitter, is one of the president’s most popular destinations for his supporters, and the platform is also a locus for many of the political right’s most popular personalities. It’s moderation actions have been heavily scrutinized by the press over the past few years, but the company has mostly avoided taking direct action against the president — until this week.
On Wednesday as rioters walked out of the halls of Congress, Facebook pulled down a video from President Trump that it considered was promoting violence. Later Wednesday evening, that policy eventually extended into a 24-hour ban of the president’s account, which currently has 33 million likes, or followers. The company argued that the president had violated its policies multiple times, automatically triggering the one-day suspension. At the same time, Facebook (and Instagram) took action to block a popular trending hashtag related to the Capitol riots.
On Thursday morning, Mark Zuckerberg, in a personal post on his own platform, announced an “indefinite” suspension for the president, with a minimum duration of two weeks. That timing would neatly extend the suspension through the inauguration of president-elect Biden, who is to assume the presidency at noon on January 20th.
What will happen after the inauguration? Right now, we don’t know. The president’s account is suspended but not deactivated, which means that the president cannot post new material to his page, but that the page remains visible to Facebook users. The company could remove the suspension once the transition of power is complete, or it may continue the ban longer-term. Given the president’s prominence on the platform and the heavy popularity of the social network among his supporters, Facebook is in a much more intense bind between banning content it deems offensive, and retaining users important to its bottom line.
Shopify / PayPal: Ecommerce platforms won’t sell Trump official merchandise for the time being
It’s not just social networks that are blocking the president’s audience — ecommerce giants are also getting into moderating their platforms against the president. On Thursday, Shopify announced that it was removing the storefronts for both the Trump campaign and Trump’s personal brand.
That’s an evolution on policy for the company, which years ago said that it would not moderate its platform, but in recent years has removed some controversial stores, such as some right-wing shops in 2018.
PayPal meanwhile has been deactivating the accounts of some groups of Trump supporters this week, who were using the money-transfer fintech to coordinate payments to underwrite the rioters’ actions on Capitol Hill. PayPal has been increasingly banning some political accounts, banning a far-right activist in 2019 and also banning a spate of far-right organizations in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville in 2017. These bans have so far not extended directly to the president himself from what TechCrunch can glean.
Given the president’s well-known personal brand and penchant for product tie-ins before becoming president, it’s a major open question about how these two platforms and others in ecommerce will respond to Trump once he leaves office in two weeks. Will the president go back to shilling steaks, water and cologne? And will he need an ecommerce venue to sell his wares online? Much will depend on Trump’s next goals and whether he stays focused on politics, or heads back to his more commercial pursuits.
Google removes Parler from the Google Play Store, while Apple mulls a removal as well
For supporters of Trump and others concerned about the moderation actions of Facebook and other platforms, Parler has taken the lead as an alternative social network for this audience. Right now, the app is number one in the App Store in the United States, ahead of encrypted and secure messaging app Signal, which is at number four and got a massive endorsement from Elon Musk this week.
Parler’s opportunism for growth around the riots on Capitol Hill though has run into a very real barrier: the two tech companies which run the two stores for mobile applications in the United States.
Google announced Friday evening that it would be removing the Parler app from its store, citing the social network’s lack of moderation and content filtering capabilities. The app’s page remains down as this article was going to press. That ban means that new users won’t be able to install the app from the Play Store, however, existing users who already have Parler installed will be able to continue using it.
Meanwhile, Buzzfeed reports that Apple has reportedly sent a 24-hour takedown notice to Parler’s developers, saying that it would mirror Google’s actions if the app didn’t immediately filter content that endangers safety. As of now, Parler remains available in the App Store, but if the timing is to be believed, the app could be taken down later this Saturday.
Given the complexities of content moderation, including the need to hire content moderators en masse, it seems highly unlikely that Parler could respond to these requests in any short period of time. What happens to the app and the president’s supporters long-term next is, right now, anyone’s guess.
Discord / Twitch / YouTube / Reddit / TikTok: All the socials don’t want to be social anymore with President Trump
Finally, let’s head over to the rest of the social networking world, where Trump is just as unpopular as he is at Facebook and Twitter HQ these days. Companies widely blocked the president from accessing their sites, and they also took action against affiliated groups.
Google-owned YouTube announced Thursday that it would start handing out “strikes” against channels — including President Trump’s — that post election misinformation. In the past, videos with election misinformation would have a warning label attached, but the channel itself didn’t face any consequences. In December, the company changed that policy to include the outright removal of videos purveying election misinformation.
This week’s latest policy change is an escalation from the company’s previous approach, and would result in lengthier and lengthier temporary suspensions for each additional strike that a channel receives. Those strikes could eventual result in a permanent ban for a YouTube channel if they happen within a set period of time. That’s precisely what happened with Steve Bannon’s channel, which was permanently banned Friday late afternoon for repeated violations of YouTube’s policies. Meanwhile, President Trump’s official channel has less than 3 million followers, and is currently still available for viewing on the platform.
Outside YouTube, Twitch followed a similar policy to Facebook, announcing Thursday morning that it would ban the president “indefinitely” and at least through the inauguration on January 20th. The president has a limited audience of just about 151,000 followers on the popular streaming platform, making it among the least important of the president’s social media accounts.
In terms of the president’s supporters, their groups are also being removed from popular tech platforms. On Friday, Reddit announced that it would ban the subreddit r/DonaldTrump, which had become one of a number of unofficial communities on the platform where the president’s most ardent supporters hung out. The social network had previously removed the controversial subreddit r/The_Donald back in June. Discord on Friday shut down a server related to that banned subreddit, citing the server’s “overt connection to an online forum used to incite violence.”
Lastly, TikTok announced on Thursday that it was limiting the spread of some information related to the Capitol riots, including redirecting hashtags and removing violent content as well as the president’s own video message to supporters. The president does not have a TikTok account, and therefore, most of the company’s actions are focused on his supporters and broader content surrounding the situation on Capitol Hill this week.
Venmo this morning announced it will begin to offer a new check cashing service, “Cash a Check,” in the Venmo mobile app. The feature, which is being rolled out to select users starting today, can be used to cash printed, payroll and U.S. government checks, including the new stimulus checks, the company says. Though typically there will be fees associated with the Cash a Check feature, Venmo says these are being waived on stimulus funds for a limited time.
To be eligible to use Cash a Check, Venmo customers will need to have either Direct Deposit or a Venmo Debit Card enabled on their account, location services turned on, and a verified email address.
Customers who gain access to the feature will then be able take a picture of their endorsed check and send it to the Venmo app to review, much like they would if cashing a check in a mobile banking app. The check will be reviewed in a few seconds, though in special circumstances, the review may take several minutes or even up to an hour before the approval decision is made.
If approved, the money will be immediately transferred to the customer’s Venmo account.
Venmo will temporarily waive fees on stimulus checks rolling out now and over the next couple of weeks, but eventually 1% fees will apply to any government or payroll check cashed in the app with a pre-printed signature, with a minimum fee of $5.00. Other checks, including hand-signed payroll and government checks, will have a 5% check cashing fee, or $5.00 minimum, according to PayPal’s terms.
At launch, the Cash a Check service is provided by partners First Century Bank, N.A. and Ingo Money, Inc. Ingo Money already offers a similar feature to Venmo parent company, PayPal, to allow users to cash checks in the PayPal app.
“We’re always looking for new ways to make it easier for our community to access and manage their money, especially as people continue to experience financial hardships amidst the global pandemic,” said Darrell Esch, Venmo SVP and GM, in a statement about the new service.
“We know that with health and safety top of mind for many, having a safe way to access stimulus payments is essential for many of our customers, especially those who are receiving paper checks and traditionally would have to visit a physical check-cashing location,” he said. “By introducing the Venmo Cash a Check feature, we are not only enabling our customers to access their money quickly and safely from the comfort of their own homes but are also waiving all fees for cashing government issued checks to ensure customers can use their stimulus funds to pay for the things they need most,” he added.
The company’s move into check cashing doesn’t make the peer-to-peer payment app an alternative to online banking, however. Instead, it serves largely as a way for Venmo to benefit from the influx of stimulus payments that are rolling out now to its U.S. users.
Fintech companies have been scrambling to prove their worth to customers by offering faster and easier access to stimulus payments. Banking startups like Current and Chime, for example, began sending out payments to customers ahead of other traditional banking institutions.
In addition, the stimulus funds can help boost Venmo’s bottom line beyond just the fees it charges. As Venmo users gain access to their stimulus payments or payroll in the app, they may then use that money to make transactions with online merchants or with their Venmo debit card. This transactions allow Venmo to make money through transaction fees, as well.
Venmo said the feature is rolling out now to mobile app users on iOS and Android. The company recommends users download the latest version of the app and updated to the latest operating system on their mobile device for the best performance.
ShoppingGives, a Chicago-based startup pitching retailers a service that can integrate non-profit donations into their sales and shopping platforms, has raised an undisclosed amount from Serena Williams’ venture capital firm, Serena Ventures, the company said.
ShoppingGives allows retailers to offer a donation on behalf of a shopper to any of over 1.5 million nonprofits that are on its list — all without leaving the retailer’s website.
The company said that retailers can use the donation data to create a more authentic and personalized engagement with customers based on the causes they support.
“ShoppingGives aligned with my values of investing in businesses and entrepreneurs who are making a difference. By creating opportunities to grow social impact with a seamless approach for retailers and brands, ShoppingGives is charting the course for all businesses to stand forth as agents of change in our society,”said Williams in a statement.
The company’s technology helps retailers manage and report donations and is already recommended by Shopify as one of a collection of apps for merchants setting up their online stores. Its service integrates with ecommerce content management systems and is already a partner for the PayPal giving fund.
ShoppingGives has already donated to over 6,000 non-profit organizations selected by customers, according to the company. Brands like Kenneth Cole, Natori, White + Warren, Margaux, Solstice Sunglasses, Tomboyx, Fresh Clean Tees, Blind Barber, Huron, and Neighborhood Goods use the service already.
The payment companies said they would investigate financial links after The New York Times reported that videos on Pornhub depict child abuse.
The crazy cousin of traditional currencies, which fell below $4,000 in March, passed $19,783. More investors now are buying it for the long term.
Welcome to a special Thanksgiving edition of The Exchange. Today we will be brief. But not silent, as there is much to talk about.
Up top, The Exchange noodled on the Slack-Salesforce deal here, so please catch up if you missed that while eating pie for breakfast yesterday. And, sadly, I have no idea why Palantir is seeing its value skyrocket. Normally we’d discuss it, asking ourselves what its gains could mean for the lower tiers of private SaaS companies. But as its public market movement appears to be an artificial bump in value, we’ll just wait.
Here’s what I want to talk about this fine Saturday: Bloomberg reporting that Stripe is in the market for more money, at a price that could value the company at “more than $70 billion or significantly higher, at as much as $100 billion.”
Hot damn. Stripe would become the first or second most valuable startup in the world at those prices, depending on how you count. Startup is a weird word to use for a company worth that much, but as Stripe is still clinging to the private markets like some sort of liferaft, keeps raising external funds, and is presumably more focused on growth than profitability, it retains the hallmark qualities of a tech startup, so, sure, we can call it one.
Which is odd, because Stripe is a huge concern that could be worth twelve-figures, provided that gets that $100 billion price tag. It’s hard to come up with a good reason for why it’s still private, other than the fact that it can get away with it.
Anyhoo, are those reported, possible prices bonkers? Maybe. But there is some logic to them. Recall that Square and PayPal earnings pointed to strong payments volume in recent quarters, which bodes well for Stripe’s own recent growth. Also note that 14 months ago or so, Stripe was already processing “hundreds of billions of dollars of transactions a year.”
You can do fun math at this juncture. Let’s say Stripe’s processing volume was $200 billion last September, and $400 billion today, thinking of the number as an annualized metric. Stripe charges 2.9% plus $0.30 for a transaction, so let’s call it 3% for the sake of simplicity and being conservative. That math shakes out to a run rate of $12 billion.
Now, the company’s actual numbers could be closer to $100 billion, $150 billion and $4.5 billion, right? And Stripe won’t have the same gross margins as Slack .
But you can start to see why Stripe’s new rumored prices aren’t 100% wild. You can make the multiples work if you are a believer in the company’s growth story. And helping the argument are its public comps. Square’s stock has more than tripled this year. PayPal’s value has more than doubled. Adyen’s shares have almost doubled. That’s the sort of public market pull that can really help a super-late-stage startup looking to raise new capital and secure an aggressive price.
To wrap, Stripe’s possible new valuation could make some sense. The fact that it is still a private company does not.
- Mental health-focused startup Sesh raised money this week from Polaris Partners. The Exchange spent a bit of time on the topic recently, so the funding event caught our eye.
- Here are three more $100 million ARR companies, and a call for startups reaching $50 million ARR.
- Man, what is up at Coinbase?
- Tiger’s investment into Unacadamey also stood out. Why? Mostly because edtech is hotter than the surface of the sun in 2020. Which is wild for a startup genre that previously was a bit more akin to the far apsis of Pluto as recently as last year.
Various and Sundry
Hugs and let’s both go do some cardio,
JoomPay, a startup with a similar product to PayPayl-owned Venmo in the US, is set to launch in Europe shortly after being granted a Luxembourg Electronic Money Institution (EMI) license. The app allows people to send and receive money with anyone, instantly and for free. “Venmo me” has become a common phrase in the US, where people use it to split bills in restaurants or similar. Venmo is in common use in the US, but it’s not available in Europe, although dozens of other innovative mobile peer to peer transfer options exist, such as Revolut, N26, Monese and Monzo. The waitlist for the app’s beta is open now.
Europe leads the world’s instant payments industry, with $18 trillion in worldwide volume predicted by 2025 up from $3 trillion in 2020 – a growth of over 500%. Western Europe – and COVID-19 – is now driving that innovation and will account for 38% of instant payment transaction value by 2025. While Europe lacks simple peer-to-peer payments solutions such as Venmo or Square Cash App in the US, challenger banks have stepped up to provide similar kinds of services. JoomPay’s opportunity lies in being able to be a middle-man between these various banking systems.
Shopping app Joom, which has been downloaded 150M times in Europe, has spun-off JoomPay to solve this problem. The app allows users to send and receive money from any person, regardless of whether they use JoomPay or not – and you only need to know their email or the phone number. JoomPay connects to any existing debit/credit card or a bank account. It also provides its users with a European IBAN and an optional free JoomPay card with cashback and bonuses.
Yuri Alekseev, CEO and co-founder of JoomPay, said: “Since COVID-19 started, we’ve seen a significant decline in cash usage. People can’t meet as easily as before but still need to send money, and we offer a viable alternative.”
JoomPay may have an uphill struggle. Its main competitors in Europe are the huge TransferWise, Paysend, and of course PayPal itself.
Cashfree, an Indian startup that offers a wide-range of payments services to businesses, has raised $35.3 million in a new financing round as the profitable firm looks to broaden its offering.
The Bangalore-based startup’s Series B was led by London-headquartered private equity firm Apis Partners (which invested through its Growth Fund II), with participation from existing investors Y Combinator and Smilegate Investments. The new round brings the startup’s to-date raise to $42 million.
Cashfree kickstarted its journey in 2015 as a solution for restaurants in Bangalore that needed an efficient way for their delivery personnel to collect cash from customers.
Akash Sinha and Reeju Datta, the founders of Cashfree, did not have any prior experience with payments. When their merchants asked if they could build a service to accept payments online, the founders quickly realized that Cashfree could serve a wider purpose.
In the early days, Cashfree also struggled to court investors, many of whom did not think a payments processing firm could grow big — and do so fast enough. But the startup’s fate changed after Y Combinator accepted its application, even though the founders had missed the deadline and couldn’t arrive to join the batch on time. Y Combinator later financed Cashfree’s seed round.
Fast-forward five years, Cashfree today offers more than a dozen products and services and helps over 55,000 businesses disburse salary to employees, accept payments online, set up recurring payments and settle marketplace commissions.
Some of its customers include financial services startup Cred, online grocer BigBasket, food delivery platform Zomato, insurers HDFC Ergo and Acko and travel ticketing service provider Ixigo. The startup works with several banks and also offers integrations with platforms such as Shopify, PayPal and Amazon Pay.
Based on its offerings, Cashfree today competes with scores of startups, but it has an edge — if not many. Cashfree has been profitable for the past three years, Sinha, who serves as the startup’s chief executive, told TechCrunch in an interview.
“Cashfree has maintained a leadership position in this space and is now going through a period of rapid growth fuelled by the development of unique and innovative products that serve the needs of its customers,” Udayan Goyal, co-founder and a managing partner at Apis, said in a statement.
The startup processed over $12 billion in payments volumes in the financial year that ended in March. Sinha said part of the fresh fund will be deployed in R&D so that Cashfree can scale its technology stack and build more services, including those that can digitize more offline payments for its clients.
Cashfree is also working on building cross-border payments solutions to explore opportunities in emerging markets, he said.
“We still see payments as an evolving industry with its own challenges and we would be investing in next-gen payments as well as banking tech to make payments processing easier and more reliable. With the solid foundation of in-house technologies, tech-driven processes and in-depth industry knowledge, we are confident of growing Cashfree to be the leader in the payments space in India and internationally,” he said.
PayPal is expanding its fundraising efforts with today’s launch of the Generosity Network. Unlike the PayPal Giving Fund, which helps people support charities through online donations, the new Generosity Network lets people raise money for themselves, other individuals in need, or organizations like a small business or a charity. This puts the network more directly in competition with other crowdsourced fundraising platforms, like GoFundMe or Facebook Fundraisers, for example.
At launch, the Generosity Network will be open to PayPal customers in the U.S. only and will allow them to create fundraising campaigns of up to $20,000 over a 30-day period.
The company says it was motivated to create the new service after seeing the growth in the peer-to-peer fundraising market following the coronavirus outbreak. It also noted the pandemic has made it difficult for traditional charitable organizations to raise as they had before. More than half of charities in the U.S. now expect to raise less money than in 2019 as a result of the economic hardships driven by the pandemic, PayPal said, citing a survey (PDF) by the Association of Fundraising Professionals.
In addition, over 65 million Americans filed for unemployment at some point over the course of the pandemic, PayPal says, which often led to them turning to family, friends and their community for extra support.
This isn’t the first product PayPal has developed that focused on social fundraisers. A few years ago, it launched Money Pools, which would let friends and family donate towards a shared expense — like a surprise party, group gift, travel fund, and more. The Generosity Network is an expansion on that earlier effort.
The new Generosity Network fundraisers can be created directly from PayPal’s website and donations are deposited directly into the organizer’s account for them to distribute as needed. The campaigns are also more broadly shared on the Generosity Network platform, which allows them to reach millions of more people than the organizer may have been able to reach through their own posts and shares across social media and the web.
Already, PayPal users are raising funds for disaster relief, funeral expenses, medical expenses, community efforts, and other organizations.
Like other fundraising platforms, PayPal’s Generosity Network will include fees. But, at launch, the website says it’s waiving those fees for donations made through credit and debit cards for a limited time. Cross-border fees and currency conversions fees will still apply, however.
For comparison, Facebook doesn’t charge fees for donations to charitable organizations, but does for personal fundraisers. (In the U.S., it’s 2.60% + $0.30). GoFundMe’s U.S. transaction fees are $2.9% + $0.30.
We’ve asked PayPal to disclose its fees schedule for the new platform and will update if one is provided. (The website offers no information about fees, in fact — its FAQ even links to the Money Pools FAQ, which seems to imply this Generosity Network is not yet a fully-fleshed out product.)
PayPal is likely hoping to acquire users during the increased fundraising that generally occurs over the holiday season, and believes that a platform that waives fees will give it an edge against the established competition.
“From collecting money for grocery deliveries to high-risk populations to fundraising campaigns in support of teachers and frontline workers, we’ve seen an outpouring of generosity from the PayPal community using our platform to help one another during this unprecedented year,” said PayPal VP of Giving, Oktay Dogramaci, in a statement. “The Generosity Network was designed to provide an accessible, easy and secure way for our customers to raise money on behalf of causes, and connect them with millions of PayPal customers who can offer their support this holiday season and beyond,” he said.
PayPal announced this morning that its customers can now use either PayPal or Venmo QR codes when checking out at over 8,200 CVS retail stores across the U.S. This is the first national retailer to integrate PayPal’s QR code checkout technology at point-of-sale, the company noted. The additional checkout option will also expand the number of ways customers can pay “touch-free” at CVS — a way to transact that’s become increasingly popular as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread across the country.
CVS and PayPal announced their plans to cooperate on a point-of-sale solution back in July. At the time, they pegged the timeframe for the rollout as sometime in Q4 2020.
The QR code checkout process itself will pull the funds needed for the purchase from the customer’s existing PayPal or Venmo account balance, bank account, or from a debit or credit card, just as it would if the transaction was taking place online. Venmo users will additionally have the option to utilize their Venmo Rewards.
The transaction does not include any fees, PayPal says. Plus, CVS’ ExtraCare Rewards Program members will still be able to redeem and apply savings using their ExtraCare account when using PayPal’s QR code checkout.
The entire transaction can be touch-free, as it involves QR code scanning as opposed to using a card that has to be swiped or inserted into a terminal or numbers punched into a keypad.
The new option arrives at a time when CVS says it’s seeing increased demand for contactless payments.
Since January, CVS has seen a 43% increase in touch-free transactions, according to data from Forrester. In addition, 11% of the U.S. population says they’re now using a digital payment method for the first time as a result of the pandemic, PayPal noted. The company’s own research also indicated that 57% of consumers said merchants’ digital payment offerings impacted their decisions to shop in their stores.
To use the new QR code checkout option, customers will first launch either their PayPal or Venmo app, click the “Scan” button, then select the “show to pay” option.
The new checkout experience was made possible through PayPal’s partnership with payments technology provider InComm, which distributed the PayPal QR code technology through its cloud-based software updates to make the feature available at point-of-sale.
While CVS is the first national retailer to rollout PayPal’s QR code checkout, PayPal said it has 10 other major retailers signed up for a similar rollout, including Nike, Tumi, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Samsonite, among others. It’s in discussions with well over 100 large retailers about the technology, as well.
“The launch of PayPal and Venmo QR codes in CVS Pharmacy stores will not only provide health-conscious customers with a touch-free way to pay at checkout, but also brings the safety and security of PayPal and Venmo transactions into the store with shoppers,” said Jeremy Jonker, PayPal Senior Vice President Head of Consumer In-Store and Digital Commerce, in a statement. “We are thrilled that PayPal and Venmo QR codes will help to maintain the safety of CVS customers and employees, especially in the essential pharmacy retail environment as we go into the winter months.”
One of my favorite series of Monty Python sketches is built around the concept of surprise:
Chapman: I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.
[Three cardinals burst in]
Cardinal Ximénez: NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!
I was reminded of this today when I needed to reschedule a few stories so we could cover DoorDash’s S-1 filing from multiple angles. First, Managing Editor Danny Crichton looked at how well the company’s co-founders and many investors stand to make out. Alex Wilhelm covered the IPO announcement in depth on TechCrunch before writing an Extra Crunch column that studied the role the COVID-19 pandemic played in the home-delivery platform’s recent growth.
Our all-hands-on-deck coverage of DoorDash’s S-1 is a good illustration of Extra Crunch’s mission: timely analysis of current and future technology trends that serves founders and investors. We have a talented team, and as today’s coverage shows, they’re just as good as they are fast.
The stories that follow are an overview of Extra Crunch from the last five days. The full articles are only available to members, but you can use discount code ECFriday to save 20% off a one or two-year subscription. Details here.
Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch this week. I hope you have a great weekend!
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
What I wish I’d known about venture capital when I was a founder
Why I left edtech and got into gaming
We frequently run posts by guest contributors, but two stories we published this week were written in the first person, which is a bit of a departure.
In Why I left edtech and got into gaming, Darshan Somashekar brought us inside his decision to pivot away from a sector that’s been growing hotter in 2020.
His post is a unique take on two oft-discussed categories, but it also examines one founder/investor’s thought process when it comes to evaluating new opportunities.
Andy Areitio, a partner at early-stage fund TheVentureCity, wrote What I wish I’d known about venture capital when I was a founder, a reflection on the “classic mistakes” founders tend to make when it’s time to fundraise.
“Error number one (and two) is to raise the wrong amount of money and to do it at the wrong time,” he says. “They can also put all their eggs in one basket too early. I made that mistake.”
You can find business writing that explores best practices anywhere, which is why we hunt down stories that are firmly rooted in data or personal experience (which includes success and failure).
How COVID-19 accelerated DoorDash’s business
The coronavirus pandemic looms large in DoorDash’s S-1 filing.
According to the food-delivery platform, “58% of all adults and 70% of millennials say that they are more likely to have restaurant food delivered than they were two years ago,” and “the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated these trends.”
As in other sectors, the pandemic didn’t wave a magic wand — instead, it hastened trends that were already in play: consumers love convenience, which means DoorDash’s gross order volume and revenue were tracking well before the virus started to shape our lives.
“It’s your call on how to balance the factors and decide whether or not to buy into the IPO, but this one is going to be big,” writes Alex Wilhelm in a supplemental edition of today’s The Exchange.
The VC and founder winners of DoorDash’s IPO
None of us knew DoorDash would release its S-1 filing today, but Danny Crichton jumped on the story “so we can see who is raking in the returns on the country’s delivery startup champion.”
After estimating the value of the respective ownership stakes held by DoorDash’s four co-founders, he turned to the investors who participated in rounds seed through Series H.
Some growth funds are about to look very good after this IPO, and each founder is looking at hundreds of millions, he found.
But even so, their diminished haul of about $1.3 billion is “a sign of just how much dilution the co-founders took given the sheer amount of capital the company fundraised over its life.”
Fintech VC keeps getting later, larger and more expensive
Investors sent stacks of cash to late-stage fintech companies in Q3 2020, but these sizable rounds may also point to shrinking opportunities for early-stage firms, reports Alex Wilhelm in this morning’s edition of The Exchange.
2020 could be a record year for fintech VC in Europe and North America, but are these “huge late-stage dollars” actually “a dampener for new fintech startups trying to get off the ground?”
Accelerators embrace change forced by pandemic
Devin Coldewey interviewed the leaders of three startup accelerators to learn more about the adaptations they’ve made in recent months:
- David Brown, founder and CEO, Techstars
- Cyril Ebersweiler, founder HAX, venture partner at SOSV
- Daniela Fernandez, founder, Ocean Solutions Accelerator
Due to travel bans, shelter-in-place orders and other unknowns, they’ve all shifted to virtual. But accelerators are intensive programs designed to indoctrinate founders and elicit brutally honest feedback in real time.
Despite the sudden shift, that boot-camp mindset is still in effect, Devin reports.
“Cutting out the commute time in a busy city leaves founders with more time for workshops, mentor matchmaking, pitch practice and other important sessions,” said Fernandez. “Everybody just has more flexibility and tranquility.”
Said Ebersweiler: “People are for some reason more participative and have more feedback than physically — it’s pretty strange.”
Greylock’s Asheem Chandna on ‘shifting left’ in cybersecurity and the future of enterprise startups
In a recent interview with Greylock partner Asheem Chandna, Managing Editor Danny Crichton asked him about the buzz around no-code platforms and what’s happening in early-stage enterprise startups before segueing into a discussion about “shift left” security:
“Every organization today wants to bring software to market faster, but they also want to make software more secure,” said Chandna.
“There is a genuine interest today in making the software more secure, so there’s this concept of shift left — bake security into the software.”
Square and PayPal earnings bring good (and bad) news for fintech startups
If you missed Wednesday’s The Exchange, Alex scoured earnings reports from PayPal and Square to see what the near future might hold for several fintech startups currently waiting in the wings.
Using Square and PayPal’s recent numbers for stock purchases, card usage and consumer payment activity as a proxy, he attempts to “see what we can learn, and to which unicorns it might apply.”
Conflicts in California’s trade secret laws on customer lists create uncertainty
In California, non-competition agreements can’t be enforced and a court has ruled that customer contact lists aren’t trade secrets.
That doesn’t mean salespeople who switch jobs can start soliciting their former customers on their first day at the new gig, however.
Before you jump ship — or hire a salesperson who already has — read this overview of California’s trade secret laws.
“Even without litigation, a former employer can significantly hamper a departing salesperson’s career,” says Nick Saenz, a partner at Lewis & Llewellyn LLP, who focuses on employment and trade secret issues.
As public investors reprice edtech bets, what’s ahead for the hot startup sector?
News of a highly effective COVID-19 vaccine appeared to drive down prices of the three best-known publicly traded edtech companies: 2U, Chegg and Kahoot saw declines of about 20%, 10% and 9%, respectively after the report.
Are COVID-19 tailwinds dissipating, or did the market make a correction because “edtech has been categorically overhyped in recent months?”
Dear Sophie: What does a Biden win for tech immigration?
What does President-elect Biden’s victory mean for U.S. immigration and immigration reform?
I’m in tech in SF and have a lot of friends who are immigrant founders, along with many international teammates at my tech company. What can we look forward to?
— Anticipation in Albany
PayPal announced today it’s dropping the waitlist to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency in the U.S. With the move, all customers in the U.S. will be able to purchase cryptocurrency directly from within their PayPal accounts. U.S. customers will also be alerted to the new feature through both an email and a push notification in the coming days, the company says.
The feature was already partially available in the U.S. before today, but PayPal had been onboarding interested customers via a waitlist.
With the update, users will no longer have to wait for a spot to open,
In addition, PayPal says that due to initial demand from its customers, it’s increasing its weekly cryptocurrency purchase limit from $10K per week to $20K per week.
In October, PayPal had first announced its plans to enter the cryptocurrency market by way of a partnership with cryptocurrency company Paxos. This partner helps to power the new service for PayPal, enabling its customers to buy, sell and hold a range of cryptocurrencies — initially including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash and Litecoin.
By next year, PayPal plans to allow users to make PayPal purchases with cryptocurrencies as well, the company has said..
In terms of exchange rates, PayPal will charge $0.50 USD on transactions up to $24.99 USD, 2.3% on transactions from $25 to $100 USD; 2.0% on transactions from $100.01 to $200 USD; $1.80% on transactions of $200.01 to $1,000 USD; and 1.5% on transactions over $1,000 USD.
PayPal notes there are no fees for holding crypto in your account. And, to get things started, PayPal is waiving fees until 2021.
The company somewhat quietly disclosed the news today via an update to last month’s press release. It says users can download the PayPal app or log in to their PayPal account to learn more.