Visa takes a swipe in fintech, builds new online marketplace

The relationships between banks and fintechs are multi-faceted.

In some cases, they partner. In many cases, they compete. In other cases, one acquires or invests in the other.

Well, today, an announcement by global payments giant Visa is aimed at helping facilitate banks and fintechs’ ability to work together.

Specifically, Visa said today it has expanded its Visa Fintech Partner Connect, a program designed to help financial institutions quickly connect with a “vetted and curated” set of technology providers. 

I talked with Terry Angelos, senior vice president and global head of fintech at Visa, to understand just exactly what that means.

“Global fintech investment last year was $105 billion,” Angelos said. “There were about 2,861 deals in venture, PE and M&A. So literally over $100 billion is going into fintech, which is more than the combined tech budgets of every bank in the U.S. As a result, a lot of innovation that is occurring in fintech is funded by venture dollars. We’re trying to bring that innovation to our clients, whether they are banks, processors or other fintechs.”

The program initially launched in Europe in November of 2020, and now is available in the U.S., Asia Pacific, Latin American and CEMEA (Central Europe, Middle East and Africa). Visa has worked to identify fintechs that can help banks and financial institutions (that are clients of Visa’s) as well as other fintechs “create digital-first experiences, without the cost and complexity of building the back-end technology in-house.

Local teams will run programs in the respective regions, and vet and manage partners in the following categories: account opening, data aggregation, analytics and security, customer engagement and new cardholder services and operations and compliance.

So far, Visa has identified about 60 partners that offer a range of technologies — from back-office functions to new front-end services, according to Angelos. Those partners include Alloy, Jumio, Argyle, Fidel, FirstSource, TravelBank, Canopy, Hummingbird and Unit21, among others. Twenty-four are located in the U.S.

“So much of fintech focus and coverage is about disrupting existing banks. Everyone is trying to disrupt everyone, including fintechs like PayPal,” Angelos told TechCrunch. “Venture numbers are certainly very large. What we’re realizing is there is a significant opportunity to pair up a lot of venture-backed companies with our existing clients. It runs a little bit against us versus them approach you typically hear about.”

Visa clients can get in touch with program partners via the Visa Partner website and get benefits such as reduced implementation fees and pricing discounts. 

“The Fintech Connect program is about both helping to identify and curate interesting fintech companies and then create a favorable commercial partnership for our clients so they can engage with these Fintech Connect partners,” Angelos said.

So, what does Visa gain from all this?

“Our goal is that all of our clients are in a position to build better digital experiences for their consumers,” he told TechCrunch. “We would love it if every bank had the latest tools in order to onboard clients and build digital experiences.”

One of its partners, for example, is virtual card startup Extend. 

“There are fintechs that provide this today such as TripActions, Ramp and Divvy,” Angelos points out. “But what Visa is doing is looking at ‘How can we enable our banking clients to do something similar?’ So we’re bringing innovation into our ecosystem so that anyone can take advantage.”

It can also help companies such as TripActions, Ramp or Divvy with other complementary technologies for security posture, for example.

“The net beneficiary is to hopefully move more spending onto those rails,” Angelos said. “For example, if you look at B2B spend, there’s about $120 trillion of it annually. We believe about $20 trillion of that is card eligible. Today, Visa captures about $1 trillion of that. So, another $19 trillion is available for Visa to capture through our partners if our banks and fintechs can build these kinds of solutions to enable B2B payments.”

To be clear, Visa also invests in startups from time to time. But this initiative is distinct from those efforts, although a couple of its partners have been recipients of funding from Visa.

#africa, #asia-pacific, #bank, #banking, #central-europe, #europe, #fidel, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech, #jumio, #middle-east, #money, #payment-cards, #payments, #paypal, #ramp, #startup, #startups, #tc, #travelbank, #tripactions, #united-states, #visa

0

WalletsClub wants to be the ‘Visa for e-wallets’ across the world

Digital payments are going mainstream around the world. By the end of 2020, there were more than 300 mobile money providers with over 100,000 active users, according to a report published by GSMA, an industry association for mobile network operators. Altogether, over 300 million mobile money accounts were active every month around the world.

Mobile money providers — more commonly known as e-wallets — are used to transfer money, pay and receive payments through mobile phones without the need for a traditional bank. They are useful so long as they enjoy wide adoption and a strong network effect. But even a popular service like Ant Groups’s Alipay, which has over one billion annual users, is practically unusable outside China due to its low penetration in most countries.

The problem is there is no interoperability between most wallets as there is between traditional banks, suggested Xue Zhixiang, who worked on the basic infrastructure for Alibaba’s cloud unit and Alipay before starting WalletsClub.

Registered in Hong Kong in 2019 with a small operational team in mainland China, WalletsClub sets its sights on becoming the Visa for digital wallets, making money transfers possible between the world’s hundreds of electronic money services.

“We are like a clearinghouse for digital wallets,” said Xue, the company’s CEO.

A clearing system is an intermediary for two parties engaged in a financial transaction. It’s designed to ensure the efficiency and security of a transfer by validating the availability of the funds and logging the transfer between two transacting parties. Payments can be sent and received in real-time using WalletsClub, Xue claimed, and its technology is based on the “ISO 20022” standard, a common language for financial institutions to exchange data across the globe.

In other words, WalletsClub is going after the hundreds of e-wallets around the world rather than individual end-users. Its vision is to let people pay with any mobile wallet anywhere as long as the sender’s service provider or financial institution and the receiver’s equivalent services are members of WalletsClub, similar to how Visa and Mastercard process credit cards issued by different banks that are in their networks. The company plans to monetize by charging a flat fee per transaction.

By adding interoperability to electronic wallets, even small, regional players can thrive because they gain compatibility wherever a clearing system is in place.

Instead of challenging the traditional financial system, WalletsClub wants to provide a way for unbanked individuals to easily move money around through digital wallets, which are easier to obtain than a bank account. A big demand will come from overseas migrant workers who need to send money back to their home countries, such as the millions of Southeast Asian workers abroad.

WalletsClub is potentially encroaching on the territory of a few players. Expatriate workers sending money home currently revert to longstanding remittance services like Western Union or MoneyGram, which have large networks of “agent” locations where users go send or collect money. In 2018, Alipay began allowing users in Hong Kong to send money to GCash accounts in the Philippines, but “the focus of Ant Group is payments rather than remittance,” Xue observed.

In 2019, money sent home from diaspora workers became the largest source of external financing in low- and middle-income countries excluding China, according to World Bank data. The money flows amounted to over $500 billion and surpassed the levels of foreign direct investment in these regions.

The other type of business that a clearinghouse for mobile wallets could threaten is cross-border payment aggregators, which save merchants from having to integrate with various digital payment methods.

The biggest challenge for the nascent startup is to establish trust with clients. At this stage, WalletsClub in talks with electronic money services founded by Chinese entrepreneurs in Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada. Chinese-made wallets are especially plentiful in emerging markets, thanks to these founders’ learning from China’s fintech boom over the decade. Many of them found it hard to compete with behemoths like Tencent and Ant, let alone China’s tightening regulations around fintech.

“If we reach 20 members and have several hundreds of transactions between every pair of members on a daily basis, we are basically profitable,” said Xue, adding that the goal is to onboard a dozen customers by this year.

#alibaba, #alibaba-group, #alipay, #ant-group, #asia, #bank, #canada, #china, #digital-currencies, #digital-wallet, #finance, #mastercard, #mobile-payment, #mobile-phones, #money, #moneygram, #online-payments, #philippines, #singapore, #tc, #visa, #western-union, #world-bank

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Plaid raises $425M Series D from Altimeter as it charts a post-Visa future

Plaid, a unicorn that helps connect consumers’ bank accounts to financial applications, has raised a $425 million Series D, it announced this morning. TechCrunch understands that the new capital infusion, led by Altimeter Capital, values the company at around $13.4 billion.

It is not surprising that Plaid, a former takeover target for consumer credit giant Visa, is raising more capital. After its $5.3 billion sale to the larger company fell through this January, it became clear that Plaid would chart its own future, sans a corporate parent.

When the Visa-Plaid deal did finally grind to a halt in the face of regulatory scrutiny there was chatter amongst startup and venture folks that the sale dying out was a good thing. Why? Because Plaid had had a great 2020 and was generally agreed to be worth far more than what Visa had agreed to pay.

The startup’s Series D valuation confirms the sentiment. And it wasn’t merely Altimeter that was willing to put capital into the company at its new valuation. The group was joined by two more news investors, Silver Lake Partners and Ribbit Capital. Silver Lake is a private equity leviathan with dozens of billions of dollars under management, while Ribbit is known for its myriad fintech bets.

In short, Plaid has picked up a hybrid of investor scale, late-stage guidance, and fintech acumen in a single round. A number of prior investors also put capital into round.

TechCrunch spoke with Plaid CEO Zachary Perret about the deal, who told TechCrunch in a brief phone call that Altimeter was selected as its new lead investor over other options due to shared alignment regarding the future of financial services for consumers. He added that he’s excited to learn from his trio of new backers, which will help the company build for the long-term.

The CEO also made passing mention of a future IPO, though TechCrunch doesn’t expect to see paperwork regarding a potential flotation from Plaid for some time; it was, however, refreshing to hear an executive admit to having future financial goals.

Regarding the amount of capital that it raised, Perret said that it was the “right level” of capital to allow Plaid to invest in scale, both in terms of its team and its product lineup. The CEO also said that the funds will allow his company to be opportunistic.

The last 12 months for Plaid have been busy. Perret mentioned the time period several times during the interview, explaining how rapidly the world evolved regarding the digitization of consumer financial services over the last year.

Finally, what of growth? What was Plaid willing to share on the growth front was light, merely disclosing that it grew its customer count by 60% in 2020. Perret said that the figure represented an acceleration from previous years. With around 650 staffers today, Plaid grew its headcount by around 20% in the first quarter according to its CEO.

Plaid sits in the midst of the fintech boom that TechCrunch has covered extensively over the past several quarters. As far as external signals go, watching the companies that must partially comprise Plaid’s customer base expand is about as close as we can get to other growth metrics. That particular signal bodes well for Plaid.

Let’s see how well the company can fend off domestic and international competition. It certainly now has the funds to do so.

 

#finservices, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #plaid, #startups, #tc, #visa

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Visa supports transaction settlement with USDC stablecoin

Payment card network Visa has announced that transactions can be settled using USD Coin (USDC), a stablecoin powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Crypto.com is the first company to test the new capability with its own Visa-branded cards.

USDC is a stablecoin co-founded by Circle and Coinbase and managed the Centre consortium. As the name suggests, USDC is a cryptocurrency that follows the value of USD. One USDC is always worth one USD — hence the name stablecoin.

In order to make sure that the value of USDC remains stable, USDC partners keep USD on bank accounts every time they issue new tokens. Those accounts are audited to make sure that there are as many USDC in circulation as there as USD in those accounts.

So why do stablecoins exist even though money is mostly digital these days? Like other crypto assets, stablecoins present some flexibility when it comes to sending, receiving and storing value. You don’t need a bank account and everything can be easily programmable. And you don’t need to support legacy systems, integrate with banks and pay transaction fees to other financial institutions.

While USDC originally started as a token on top of the Ethereum blockchain, USDC also supports two other blockchains — Algorand and Stellar. Visa has chosen to focus on the Ethereum variant of USDC for now.

The payment company already supports 160 currencies across the globe. That’s why you can seamlessly use your Visa card when you travel abroad. You’ll see a card transaction in your home currency on your card statement, but the merchant gets paid in their own local currency.

Thanks to a partnership with Anchorage, Visa is adding support for its first digital currency. Anchorage recently received a federal banking charter and is positioning itself as a digital asset bank. Visa was probably looking for a trustworthy partner for this program. As Anchorage got a thumbs-up from regulators, the partnership makes sense.

For Crypto.com, it means that it can send USDC directly to Visa. For instance, if a Crypto.com customer holds USDC in their wallet and makes a card transaction, Crypto.com doesn’t have to first convert USDC tokens to USD.

It can send USDC to Visa’s Ethereum wallet address at Anchorage to settle the transaction. The merchant then gets paid by Visa in their own currency. Visa says there will be more partners down the road in addition to Crypto.com.

#anchorage, #blockchain, #cryptocurrency, #finance, #usd-coin, #usdc, #visa

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Big banks rush to back Greenwood, Killer Mike’s Atlanta-based digital bank for underrepresented customers

Before even taking its first deposit, Greenwood, the digital banking service targeting Black and Latino individuals and business owners, has raised $40 million — only a few months after its launch.

Coming in to finance the new challenger bank are six of the seven largest U.S. Banks and the payment technology developers Mastercard and Visa.

That’s right, Bank of America, PNC, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Truist, are backing a bank co-founded by a man who declared, “I’m with the revolutionary. I’m with the radical policy,” when stumping for then Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Joining the financial services giants in the round are FIS, a behind-the-scenes financial services tech developer; along with the venture capital firms TTV Capital, SoftBank Group’s SB Opportunity Fund, and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Sports investors Quality Control and All-Pro NFL running back Alvin Kamara also came in to finance the latest round.

Atlanta-based Greenwood was launched last October by a group that included former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and Bounce TV founder, Ryan Glover.

“The net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family and eight times greater than that of a Latino family. This wealth gap is a curable injustice that requires collaboration,” said \ Glover, Chairman and Co-founder of Greenwood, in a statement. “The backing of six of the top seven banks and the two largest payment technology companies is a testament to the contemporary influence of the Black and Latino community. We now are even better positioned to deliver the world-class services our customers deserve.”

Named after the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Okla., which was known as the Black Wall Street before it was destroyed in a 1921 massacre, the digital bank promises to donate the equivalent of five free meals to an organization addressing food insecurity for every person who signs up to the bank. And every time a customer uses a Greenwood debit card, the bank will make a donation to either the United Negro College FundGoodr (an organization that addresses food insecurity) or the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

In addition, each month the bank will provide a $10,000 grant to a Black or Latinx small business owner that uses the company’s financial services.

“Truist Ventures is helping to inspire and build better lives and communities by leading the Series A funding round for Greenwood’s innovative approach to building greater trust in banking within Black and Latino communities,” said Truist Chief Digital and Client Experience Officer Dontá L. Wilson who oversees Truist Ventures, in a statement. “In addition to the opportunity to work with and learn from this distinguished group of founders, our investment in Greenwood is reflective of our purpose and commitment to advancing economic empowerment of minority and underserved communities.”

So far, 500,000 people have signed up for the wait list to bank with Greenwood.

#andrew-young, #atlanta, #bank, #bank-of-america, #banking, #bernie-sanders, #challenger-bank, #companies, #finance, #financial-services, #fis, #greenwood, #jpmorgan-chase, #lightspeed-venture-partners, #mastercard, #mayor, #national-football-league, #nfl, #oklahoma, #softbank-group, #tc, #tulsa, #united-states, #venture-capital-firms, #visa, #wells-fargo

0

Stay gold, ‘Plaid for X’ startups

A failed acquisition usually triggers the same series of questions: What does this mean for early-stage startups in the sector? Will a chilling effect occur and hurt valuations? Will VCs stop funding this category? How will the exit environment look going forward?

This week gave that narrative a bullish twist. Visa and Plaid announced that they have reached a mutual agreement to no longer pursue a merger. The $5.3 billion deal had been under antitrust scrutiny from the DOJ, and eventually ended amid these regulatory challenges.

Fintech VCs and startups alike reacted to the fallen deal with aggressive optimism about Plaid’s future as an independently-owned fintech startup.

The most common arguments?

  • Plaid’s price in this current moment is far beyond $5.3 billion, so now that it is a free bird it will pursue a much larger exit
  • Plaid will go public through SPAC because it is in charge of its own destiny.
  • And my favorite: One day, Plaid will buy Visa.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Plaid CEO Zach Perret wouldn’t give too many details on the future (and whether a SPAC is involved), but he did say he has new ‘clarity’ going forward.

The fact that fintech is bullish on the future of fintech isn’t quite surprising. I will say that while one deal can never make or break a sector, a flopped merger certainly can surface the current temperature in the market. Startups Weekly readers will remember last week’s edition about how P&G’s decision not to acquire Billie could hurt DTC exit opportunities. Fintech seems unbothered and, in fact, celebratory. The only counterargument I got, via Twitter DM, is that it could set a bad precedent on big fintech mergers.

“Or maybe…corporations learn from this and look to make riskier acquisitions earlier in a company’s lifecycle because they know that if they let the company get too big they’ll lose the chance,” Rami Essaid, founder of Finmark, told me.

Only in 2021 could a $5.3 billion break-up and a DOJ investigation be considered a blessing. Rock on, ‘Plaid for X’ startups.

Before we go on, make sure to follow me on Twitter for my bad jokes and early-stage startup coverage. You can also always reach me at natasha.m@techcrunch.com.

Columbus is the new Miami which is new the San Francisco

I hope that sub-hed gave you a headache, because that’s exactly what debates about where the best place to start a company do to me. The rise of Work From Anywhere has emboldened VCs to leave San Francisco for markets such as Miami or Austin in search of the next unsung hero of their portfolios.

For investors, though, the financial benefit of moving to an emerging market might not be apparent within months, but instead years. Venture is a long game (at least most of the time).

Here’s what to know, per Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos: Drive Capital, a venture capital firm based in Columbus, Ohio, and started by two ex-Sequoia investors now has over $1.2 billion in assets. But before it had breakout companies like Root and Olive AI, Drive had to play the unusual role of investing in a region without key investing infrastructure.

Etc: Founding partner Chris Olsen explained how they set up their roots:

“We’ve had to spend a lot of time going into the universities and putting new seed managers in business and helping them fundraise and sort of building all of this infrastructure from scratch so that the next entrepreneur is out here [versus moves away], and it works. In our first year, we had inbound interest from 1,800 [startups], then it went to about 3,000 and now it’s up to about 7,000, which is more than I’ve heard any other venture firms say that they see in California. And I don’t think it’s because we’re great. I think that’s more [a reflection of the] scale of the opportunity that’s here now. One of the things that we would love to see more of is more venture capitalists coming here, because there’s certainly more opportunity than we can invest in.”

Ideal paper world powered with alternative wind and solar energy. environmental concept.

Image Credits: Paula Dani/ABlse (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The CFO Tech Stack

If you want to start a company, go to a startup and look where employees are still using an Excel sheet. The best products are the ones fueled by frustrations, right?

Here’s what to know per managing editor Danny Crichton: For a trio of Palantir alums, 15 collective years at the now-public government tech company showed a huge gap in technology for CFOs. So, they started Mosaic, a techstack to help financial officers better communicate and perform their jobs.

Etc: Co-founder Bijan Moallemi describes the mistake other platforms are making:

“Everyone wants to be strategic, but it’s so tough to do because 80% of your time is pulling data from these disparate systems, cleaning it, mapping it, updating your Excel files, and maybe 20% of [your time] is actually taking a step back and understanding what the data is telling you.”

GettyImages 946391800

Image via Getty Images / alashi

The future of consumer hardware startups beyond Peloton

Are wearables still exciting? Is consumer hardware ever going to get easier to pull off? What was the strategy that made Peloton so successful?

These questions and more are answered in the latest consumer hardware-focused Extra Crunch Survey, which brings together VCs from SOSV, Lux Capital, Shasta Ventures, and more.

Here’s what to know: Everyone is studying the Peloton success recipe. But the big question for consumer hardware startups is if the at-home fitness market’s boom is translating to other use cases.

Etc: Cyril Ebersweiler of SOSV noted that supply chain distribution disruption during COVID-19 has been difficult for category startups, but the need for innovative solutions has never been more clear.

“Everybody is waiting for new and mind-blowing experiences, and I guess we’ve all experienced the shortcomings or the magic of some IoT products over the shelter-in-place [orders]. Spatial and ambient technologies that work well will be in demand (audio or visual), while “holographic Skype” will invade households thanks to Looking Glass.”

Also: In another investor survey, five VCs weighed in on the future of cannabis in 2021.

3D render, visualization of a man holding virtual reality glasses, electronic device, head surrounded by virtual data with neon green grid. Player one ready for the VR game. Virtual experience.

Pop goes the public market

We had yet another noisy week of privately-held startups going public to a Very Warm Wall Street reception. The most opulent story of the week was definitely Affirm’s debut, which doubled its already-increased price when it started to officially trade.

Here’s what to know, per our resident IPO reporter Alex Wilhelm, who writes The Exchange:

Etc:

GettyImages 1155292858

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 11: PayPal Co-Founder & Affirm CEO Max Levchin visits “Countdown To The Closing Bell” at Fox Business Network Studios on June 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch Live is returning in a big way in 2021. We’ll be interviewing VC/founder duos about how their Series A deals went down, and Extra Crunch members will have the chance to get live feedback on their pitch deck. You can check out our plans for ECL in 2021 right here, or hit up this form to submit your pitch deck. Episodes air every Wednesday at 3pm ET/12pm PT starting in February.

And if you’re feeling extra generous, take this survey to help shape the future of TechCrunch

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Glassdoor: Best tech companies to work for in 2021

Signal’s Brian Acton talks about exploding growth, monetization and WhatsApp data-sharing outrage

Two-year-old NUVIA sells to Qualcomm for $1.4 billion

Loop launches out of stealth to make auto insurance more equitable

Nuclear fusion tech developer General Fusion now has Shopify and Amazon founders backing it

Seen on Extra Crunch

Lessons from Top Hat’s acquisition spree

12 ‘flexible VCs’ who operate where equity meets revenue share

Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants?

Equity (and a bonus Equity)

The news keeps coming so we keep recording. This week, the trio chatted about the Plaid-Visa deal, but also about the Palantir mafia‘s next big bet. In early-stage news, I covered a fintech accelerator that pivoted into an edtech accelerator and a new startup coming out of Austin that makes car insurance more equitable. We also debated SPACs for a bit, and Danny was…optimistic?

Listen to our episode, follow the pod on Twitter, and if you so please, tune into our bonus Equity episode that just came out today. It’s an episode dedicated entirely to the barrage of payments and e-commerce funding that came out this week.

Until next week,

Natasha 

#austin, #doj, #early-stage, #fintech, #hardware, #palantir, #peloton, #plaid, #startups, #startups-weekly, #tc, #visa

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The end of Plaid-Visa, and Palantir’s growing startup mafia

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we — Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace — had a lot to get through, as the news volume in early 2021 has been rapid, and serious. Sadly this means that some early-stage rounds missed the cut, though we did make sure to have some Series A material in the show.

So, what did we the assembled crew get to? Here’s your cheat-sheet:

  • As is Talkspace, the tele-therapy startup that you’ve heard of.
  • And then there was SoftBank, of course, which has its own SPAC in the market now, confirming earlier reports. Which makes perfect sense.

There are so many SPACs and bits of IPO news and funding rounds to pick through and cover that we’re already straining the time limits of the show to even cover half of the material. This week that meant that we excised a chunk of the show to a forthcoming Saturday episode that is focused on e-commerce.

So, we will talk to you again soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

#bakkt, #equity-podcast, #loop, #nuvia, #plaid, #qualcomm, #softbank, #supercharger-ventures, #talkspace, #tc, #visa

0

Plaid CEO touts new ‘clarity’ after failed Visa acquisition

Yesterday, we spoke with Plaid CEO and co-founder Zach Perret after news broke that Visa no longer plans to buy his company for $5.3 billion.

The deal was heralded in early 2020 as a sign of the growing importance of fintech startups. Then it failed to close, eventually running into a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice. A few months later, the acquisition was dropped.

Sentiment in the market changed since the transaction was announced. As TechCrunch reported yesterday, there’s a good deal of optimism to be found amongst investors and others that Plaid will eventually be worth more than the price at which the Visa deal valued it.

What follows is a summary of our conversation with Perret, digging into a number of topics we felt most were pressing in the wake of Plaid’s unshackling.

Now what?

First and upfront: it does not appear that Plaid is racing to the public markets via a blank-check company, or SPAC, a question several readers asked on Twitter. Our impression from our chat regarding near-term liquidity via the public markets is that those with their hopes up have them up a few years too early.

TechCrunch asked Perret how it feels to be free from his erstwhile corporate boss.

He said that the last few years have been a “rollercoaster,” adding that when they made the choice to sell, it made sense at the time from mission, and delivery perspectives — Visa wanted to accomplish similar things and could give his company access to a wide network of potential customers.

#banking, #finance, #financial-technology, #fintech, #fundings-exits, #payments, #plaid, #startups, #tc, #visa, #zach-perret

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Minna Technologies, a subscription management tool for banking customers, raises $18.8M

With the proliferation of subscription services, combined with our lives becoming almost 100% digital, there’s a rising need to be able to manage these services. But most banks don’t have much of an answer. Step in Minna Technologies, which sells in its subscription management services into banking apps.

It’s now raised $18.8 million (€15.5m / £14m) in Series B fundraising from Element Ventures, MiddleGame Ventures, Nineyards Equity and Visa, to expand its open banking technology to banks globally.

Founded in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2016, Minna enables customers to manage subscription services via their existing bank’s app. Using Minna, customers can terminate subscriptions just from their banking app, automatically, cutting the data and financial ties between the merchant and customer. The platform can also notify customers when a free trial is about to end and facilitates utilities switching allowing them to find better deals. So far, Minna has partnerships with Lloyds Banking Group, Swedbank and ING.

Minna’s technology reduces the burden on a bank’s call centers, plus banks can also benefit financially from Minna’s role in facilitating utility switching, raising the prospect of banks becoming marketplaces.

The appearance of Minna suggests that the first wave of neo-banks is about to be accompanied by a second wave of overlayed services such as this. The average European is spending £301 (€333) a month on 11 subscriptions, which is predicted to increase to £459 (€508) a month on 17 subscriptions by 2025. IDC predicts that by 2050, 50% of the world’s largest enterprises will focus the majority of their businesses on digitally enhanced products, services, and experiences. Subscriptions are even coming from car makers such as Volvo.

Joakim Sjöblom, CEO and co-founder of Minna Technologies, said: “Over the past four years the subscription economy has exploded from Spotify and Netflix to even iPhones and cars. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to keep track of the payments and harder for banks to handle inquiries to shut them down. Minna’s tech improves the procedure for banks by simplifying the process, as well as providing an in-demand digital product that consumers are starting to expect from their financial institutions.”

Sjöblom told me that by largely working with incumbent banks, Minna is providing them with a way to fight back against challenger banks.

Pascal Bouvier, Managing Partner, MiddleGame Ventures said: “We strongly believe in a vision where banks develop their checking account offerings into “connected and intelligent” platforms and where retail clients are able to interact in many more ways than in the recent past.”

#bank, #banking, #economy, #europe, #finance, #ing, #managing-partner, #middlegame-ventures, #netflix, #open-banking, #spotify, #subscription-services, #sweden, #tc, #up, #visa, #volvo

0

Venture capitalists react to Visa-Plaid deal meltdown

Congratulations, you’re no longer selling your company for billions of dollars!

As strange as it sounds, that’s the leading perspective from venture capitalists concerning Plaid, now that its much-touted sale to Visa has fallen apart.

The $5.3 billion deal would have seen banking API startup Plaid join consumer payments and credit giant Visa. But the American government took a dim view of the deal, and according to Axios reporting, Plaid felt like it could be worth more money in time.

The TechCrunch team has collected views from venture capitalists, analysts and Anshu Sharma, CEO of another API-powered startup and a former VC to get a better view on the perspectives in the market concerning the blockbuster breakup.

From the venture capital side of things, most takes we received were bullish regarding Plaid’s chances now that it’s no longer being taken over by Visa. Amy Cheetham, for example, of Costanoa Ventures, said that the result is “good for the company, ultimately.” She added that Plaid may now see better “talent acquisition,” faster product decisions and a better eventual valuation.

“There is so much left for them to build in fintech infrastructure,” Cheetham said in an email, adding that she sees “Stripe-like scale potential” in Plaid. Stripe is reportedly raising capital at a valuation that could reach $100 billion.

Cheetham is not alone in her bullish perspective. Nico Berandi of Animo Ventures wrote to TechCrunch to say that he “still wishes” that his firm had been “around back then to have invested” in Plaid, adding a smiley face at the end of his missive.

#finance, #fundings-exits, #plaid, #startups, #visa

0

Will startup valuations change given rising antitrust concerns?

The United States has, over the past few decades, been extremely lenient on antitrust enforcement, rarely blocking deals, even with overseas competitors. Yet, there have been inklings that things are changing. Yesterday, we learned that Visa and Plaid called off their combination after the Department of Justice sued to block it in early November. We also learned a week ago that shaving startup Billie would end its proposed acquisition by consumer product goods giant P&G after the Federal Trade Commission sued to block it in December.

Many, many, many other deals of course get through the gauntlet of regulations, but even a few smoke signals is enough to start raising concerns. That new calculus is even before we start to look at the morass of reforms being proposed around antitrust in Washington DC these days, nearly all of which — on a bipartisan basis — would create stricter controls for antitrust, particularly in critical technology industries and information services.

So, what’s the valuation prognosis for startups these days given that one of the most important exit options available is increasingly looking fraught?

#antitrust, #arm-holdings, #billie, #nvidia, #plaid, #qualcomm, #startup-valuations, #tc, #visa

0

Daily Crunch: Visa calls off Plaid acquisition

Regulatory action prompts Visa to back off a fintech acquisition, Uber and Moderna partner and Checkout.com is valued at $15 billion. This is your Daily Crunch for January 12, 2021.

The big story: Visa calls off Plaid acquisition

The deal, valued at $5.3 billion, was first announced just over a year ago. However, the Department of Justice filed suit to block the acquisition in November, arguing that it would “eliminate a nascent competitive threat.”

In today’s announcement, Visa said it could still have made things work, but the threat of “protracted and complex litigation” ultimately prompted it to call things off.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether this might cool financial giants’ interest in acquiring fintech startups and unicorns.

The tech giants

Uber and Moderna partner on COVID-19 vaccine access and information — The only confirmed component involves providing users with credible, factual information about COVID-19 vaccine safety through Uber’s consumer app.

Facebook revamps ‘Access Your Information’ tool to better break down, explain data usage — The new version of the tool has been visually redesigned, and now further breaks down the viewable information across eight categories instead of just two.

GM targets delivery companies with new EV business unit BrightDrop — GM has launched a new business unit to offer commercial customers an ecosystem of electric and connected products.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Checkout.com raises $450M and reaches $15B valuation — Checkout.com wants to build a one-stop shop for all things related to payments.

Cockroach Labs scores $160M Series E on $2B valuation — Co-founder and CEO Spencer Kimball says the company’s revenue more than doubled in 2020 in spite of COVID.

Weber acquires smart cooking startup June — June will continue to operate as its own brand.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

These five VCs have high hopes for cannabis in 2021 — Despite remaining headwinds, the future is looking up for most cannabis businesses.

Is there still room in the cloud-security market? — While the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided for businesses, one of its main legacies is how it ushered in a tidal wave of accelerated digital transformation.

2021: A SPAC odyssey — A closer look at blank-check offerings for Bakkt and SoFi.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Rollables are the new foldables — On day one of CES, both LG and TCL have offered their take on yet another form factor designed to offer more screen real estate.

Nielsen says ‘The Office’ was the most popular streaming series of 2020 — Netflix and Disney+ dominated the rankings.

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.

#finance, #plaid, #policy, #visa

0

Visa will not acquire Plaid after running into regulatory wall

Visa and Plaid called off their agreement this afternoon, ending the consumer credit giant’s takeover of the data-focused fintech API startup.

The deal, valued at $5.3 billion at the time of its announcement, first broke cover on January 13th, 2020, or nearly one year ago to the day. However, the American Department of Justice filed suit to block the deal in November of 2020, arguing that the combination would “eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers.”

At the time Visa argued that the government’s point of view was “flawed.”

However, today the two companies confirmed the deal is officially off. In a release Visa wrote that it could have eventually executed the deal, but that “protracted and complex litigation” would take lots of time to sort out.

It all got too hard, in other words.

Plaid was a bit more upbeat in its own notes, writing that in the last year it has seen “an unprecedented uptick in demand for the services powered by Plaid.” Given the fintech boom that 2020 saw, as consumers flocked to free stock trading apps and neobanks, that Plaid saw growth last year is not surprising; after all, Plaid’s product sits between consumers and fintech companies, so if those parties were executing more transactions, the API startup likely saw more demand for its own offerings.

TechCrunch reached out to Plaid for comment on its plans as an independent company, also asking how quickly it grew during 2020.

While the Visa-Plaid deal was merely a single transaction, its scuttling doesn’t bode well for other fintech startups and unicorns that might have eyed an exit to a wealthy incumbent. The Department of Justice, in other words, may have undercut the chances of M&A exits for a number of fintech-focused startups – or at least created more skittishness around that possible exit path.

If so, expected exit valuations for fintech upstarts could fall. And that could ding both fintech-focused venture capital activity, and the price at which startups in the niche can raise funds. If the Visa-Plaid deal was a huge boon to fintech companies that used it as a signpost to help raise money at new, higher valuations, the inverse may also prove true.

#department-of-justice, #fundings-exits, #plaid, #startups, #tc, #visa

0

African fintech startup Chipper Cash raises $30M backed by Jeff Bezos

African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has raised a $30 million Series B funding round led by Ribbit Capital with participation of Bezos Expeditions — the personal VC fund of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Chipper Cash was founded in San Francisco in 2018 by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled. The company offers mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.

Parallel to its P2P app, the startup also runs Chipper Checkout — a merchant-focused, fee-based payment product that generates the revenue to support Chipper Cash’s free mobile-money business. The company has scaled to 3 million users on its platform and processes an average of 80,000 transactions daily. In June 2020, Chipper Cash reached a monthly payments value of $100 million, according to CEO Ham Serunjogi .

As part of the Series B raise, the startup plans to expand its products and geographic scope. On the product side, that entails offering more business payment solutions, crypto-currency trading options, and investment services.

“We’ll always be a P2P financial transfer platform at our core. But we’ve had demand from our users to offer other value services…like purchasing cryptocurrency assets and making investments in stocks,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch on a call.

Image Credits: Chipper Cash

Chipper Cash has added beta dropdowns on its website and app to buy and sell Bitcoin and invest in U.S. stocks from Africa — the latter through a partnership with U.S. financial services company DriveWealth.

“We’ll launch [the stock product] in Nigeria first so Nigerians have the option to buy fractional stocks — Tesla shares, Apple shares or Amazon shares and others — through our app. We’ll expand into other countries thereafter,” said Serunjogi.

On the business financial services side, the startup plans to offer more API payments solutions. “We’ve been getting a lot of requests from people on our P2P platform, who also have business enterprises, to be able to collect payments for sale of goods,” explained Serunjogi.

Chipper Cash also plans to use its Series B financing for additional country expansion, which the company will announce by the end of 2021.

Jeff Bezos’s backing of Chipper Cash follows a recent string of events that has elevated the visibility of Africa’s startup scene. Over the past decade, the continent’s tech ecosystem has been one of the fastest growing in the world by year year-over-year expansion in venture capital and startup formation, concentrated in countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch/Bryce Durbin

Bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online has factored prominently. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data.

As such, fintech has become Africa’s highest-funded tech sector, receiving the bulk of an estimated $2 billion in VC that went to startups in 2019. Even with the rapid venture funding growth over the last decade, Africa’s tech scene had been performance light, with only one known unicorn (e-commerce venture Jumia) a handful of exits, and no major public share offerings. That changed last year.

In April 2019, Jumia — backed by investors including Goldman Sachs and Mastercard — went public in an NYSE IPO. Later in the year, Nigerian fintech company Interswitch achieved unicorn status after a $200 million investment by Visa.

This year, Network International purchased East African payments startup DPO for $288 million and in August WorldRemit acquired Africa focused remittance company Sendwave for $500 million.

One of the more significant liquidity events in African tech occurred last month, when Stripe acquired Nigerian payment gateway startup Paystack for a reported $200 million.

In an email to TechCrunch, a spokesperson for Bezos Expeditions confirmed the fund’s investment in Chipper Cash, but declined to comment on further plans to back African startups. Per Crunchbase data, the investment would be the first in Africa for the fund. It’s worth noting Bezos Expeditions is not connected to Jeff Bezo’s hallmark business venture, Amazon.

For Chipper Cash, the $30 million Series B raise caps an event-filled two years for the San Francisco-based payments company and founders Ham Serunjogi and Maijid Moujaled. The two came to America for academics, met in Iowa while studying at Grinnell College and ventured out to Silicon Valley for stints in big tech: Facebook for Serunjogi and Flickr and Yahoo! for Moujaled.

Chipper Cash founders Ham Serunjogi (R) and Maijid Moujaled; Image Credits: Chipper Cash

The startup call beckoned and after launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds. The startup expanded into Nigeria and Southern Africa in 2019, entered a payments partnership with Visa in April and raised a $13.8 million Series A in June.

Chipper Cash founder Ham Serunjogi believes the backing of his company by a notable tech figure, such as Jeff Bezos (the world’s richest person), has benefits beyond his venture.

“It’s a big deal when a world class investor like Bezos or Ribbit goes out of their sweet spot to a new area where they previously haven’t done investments,” he said. “Ultimately, the winner of those things happening is the African tech ecosystem overall, as it will bring more investment from firms of that caliber to African startups.”

#500-startups, #africa, #amazon, #america, #apple, #banking, #bezos-expeditions, #chipper-cash, #e-commerce, #facebook, #financial-services, #ghana, #goldman-sachs, #ham-serunjogi, #hsbc, #interswitch, #iowa, #jeff-bezos, #joe-montana, #kenya, #liquid-2-ventures, #maijid-moujaled, #mastercard, #mobile-payments, #nigeria, #online-payments, #p2p, #paystack, #ribbit, #ribbit-capital, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #series-b, #south-africa, #stripe, #tanzania, #tc, #tesla, #uganda, #united-states, #venture-capital, #visa, #worldremit, #yahoo

0

The DOJ has approved Mastercard’s acquisition of Finicity

Federal regulators have approved Mastercard’s acquisition of Salt Lake City-based startup Finicity, which provides open-banking APIs. The deal is expected to go for $825 million.

“We were notified that the Department of Justice completed its review of our planned acquisition of Finicity and has cleared it to move forward,” Mastercard wrote in a statement. “We are pleased to have reached this milestone.”

Finicity allows users to be able to decide how their financial information is shared and who can make money decisions on their behalf through open APIs. The buy will allow Mastercard to offer consumers and businesses more choice in these transactions, without requiring them to do heavy lifting themselves.

Finicity, according to Crunchbase, has raised nearly $80 million in known venture capital as a private company. When closed, it will be one of the largest fintech acquisitions at nearly $1 billion in 2020.

The DOJ approval comes just two weeks after the body filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging Visa’s proposed $5.3 billion buy of Plaid. Plaid, which empowers a large chunk of financial services through its data network, including Venmo and Acorns, is being accused of making Visa a monopoly in online debt services.

Plaid has denied these claims, saying that “Visa intends to defend the transaction vigorously.” The feds are also looking into Intuit’s $7 billion proposed buy of Credit Karma, which was first announced in February 2020.

The approval of the Mastercard-Finicity transaction could be a shot in the arm for fintech startup valuations. After both the Plaid and Credit Karma deals came under increasing regulatory scrutiny, it was an open questions whether big-dollar M&A was going to be an option for fintech unicorns.

If the path was closed due to regulatory concerns, fintech startups would have to either pursue earlier, smaller sales themselves, or wait for an eventual IPO. If that was the case, venture capitalists might shun putting as much capital to work in the sector. However, the Finicity approval makes it clear that not all fintech M&A worth $500 million or more is going to encounter oversight headaches. That should be welcome news for late-stage fintech valuations.

#doj, #exit, #finicity, #fundings-exits, #ma, #mastercard, #mergers-and-acquisitions, #startups, #tc, #visa

0

The volcano method for understanding the fintech revolution

The Department of Justice moved to block the long-impending Visa-Plaid deal today.

The transaction was announced in early 2020, making the decision by the government to try and scuttle its consummation in November a large irritation to both parties. The pair spent nearly the entire year operating in the gray area between having struck a deal and being granted its approval, and may now have endured all that misery for no reason.

But regardless of what happens next with the deal, inside the government’s suit itself was a simply epic piece of art. That’s something you don’t say much about antitrust, sure, but in 2020 everything is possible.

Here’s the drawing, with context:

As you can read from the accompanying text, Plaid is the volcano and, we suppose by analogy, Visa is somewhere else above the water doing business, worried that Plaid may erupt and change the climate in which Visa currently operates. That would work.

A less interesting explanation of the Magic Volcano — a far better conceptual framework than a magic quadrant — is what former Visa Ventures founder Peter Berg said about the doodle:

By Peter’s analogy, the volcano is really more of an iceberg. That would make Visa the Titanic or some similar boat, right?

It would be fun to close by saying “all aboard the S.S. Visatanic,” but it appears the government is trying to ensure that Plaid cannot berth aboard the boat.

Sticking to our nautical riff, if the Volcano-Iceberg Deal is killed, will Plaid raise the Jolly Roger and go hunt some other ships? There’s one in particular that comes to mind.

 

#fundings-exits, #plaid, #startups, #visa

0

DOJ files antitrust lawsuit challenging Visa’s $5.3 billion acquisition of Plaid

The Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit challenging Visa’s proposed $5.3 billion acquisition of Plaid .

News of the DOJ’s investigation first broke last month.

“By acquiring Plaid, Visa would eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers,” the DOJ wrote in its lawsuit.

The deal would violate Section 2 of the Sherman Act “and must be stopped,” the DOJ wrote in its filing, published by Bloomberg Law.

In a statement, Visa said it “strongly disagrees” with the DOJ’s “legally flawed” arguments.

“This action reflects a lack of understanding of Plaid’s business and the highly competitive payments landscape in which Visa operates,” the statement read. “The combination of Visa and Plaid will deliver substantial benefits for consumers seeking access to a broader range of financial-related services, and Visa intends to defend the transaction vigorously.”

“As we explained to the DOJ, Plaid is not a payments company. Visa’s business faces intense competition from a variety of players – but Plaid is not one of them. Plaid is a data network that enables individuals to connect their financial accounts to the apps and services they use to manage their financial lives, and its capabilities complement Visa’s. Together, Visa and Plaid will deliver better digital experiences and more choice for consumers in managing their money and financial data. Visa is confident that this transaction is good for consumers and good for competition,” the statement added.

Plaid co-founders William Hockey and Zach Perret. Image Credit: Plaid

As the Justice Department argues, Visa’s monopoly power in online debit is protected by barriers to entry and expansion. New challengers to Visa need connections with millions of consumers to attract merchants and need connections to thousands of merchants to attract new consumers, the DOJ said.

DOJ lawyers pointed to Mastercard’s inability to seize more than a quarter of the online debit market as a sign of Visa’s continued dominance. “Mastercard has neither gained significant share from Visa nor restrained Visa’s monopoly,” the lawyers wrote.

Visa also set up technical barriers by entering into restrictive agreements with merchants and banks to prevent competitors from growing their share of the online debit market.

“These entry barriers, coupled with Visa’s long-term restrictive contracts with banks, are nearly insurmountable, meaning Visa rarely faces any significant threats to its online debit monopoly. Plaid is such a threat,” according to the DOJ.

Companies like Venmo, Acorns, and Betterment are just some of the big startups that use Plaid to build their services.

“While Plaid’s existing technology does not compete directly with Visa today, Plaid is planning to leverage that technology, combined with its existing relationships with banks and consumers, to facilitate transactions between consumers and merchants in competition with Visa,” according to the DOJ.

And Visa was well aware of Plaid’s potential to disrupt its business. As early as March 2019, nearly nine months before the acquisition was announced, the vice president of corporate development and head of strategic opportunities expressed concerns about Plaid’s business.

“I don’t want to be IBM to their Microsoft,” the executive said, according to the lawsuit filed by DOJ. Visa’s chief executive also clearly acknowledged that Plaid was a threat.

The company estimated that Plaid could cost Visa’s debit business between $300 million and $500 million by 2024 if it were to continue operating as an independent company. It was, in the words of Visa’s executives an “[e]xistential risk” to its U.S. debit business and it could have forced Visa to accept lower margins — something that would be a boon to businesses and consumers.

#credit-cards, #debit-cards, #department-of-justice, #finance, #merchant-services, #payment-cards, #plaid, #tc, #united-states, #visa, #zach-perret

0

The DOJ investigating Visa’s $5.3 billion bid for Plaid on antitrust grounds

It’s not just big tech that’s getting the antitrust treatment from the Department of Justice.

Late Monday afternoon, the Department of Justice tipped its hand that it was investigating Visa’s proposed $5.3 billion acquisition of the venture-backed Plaid, which allows applications to connect with a users’ bank account.

It’s a tool that powers a good chunk of the new fintech offerings from a whole slew of products and the Justice Department has apparently spent the past year looking into how the deal would effect the broader market for new financial services offerings coming from a number of tech startups.

The revelation that the DOJ was taking a closer look at the Plaid acquisition came from a petition filed in the U.S. Court for the District of Massachusetts to compel Bain & Co., the consulting firm that worked on Visa’s bid for Plaid, to comply with the agency’s civil investigative demand.

The DOJ is alleging that Bain has withheld documents demanded under the CID by asserting that it had some privilege over the documents — effectively stalling the DOJ’s investigation.

“American consumers rely on the Antitrust Division to investigate mergers promptly and thoroughly,”  said Assistant Attorney for the Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim, in a statement.  “Collecting relevant third-party documents and data is essential to the division’s ability to analyze these transactions.  Too often, third parties seek to flout these requirements, hoping the division will lose interest and focus its enforcement efforts elsewhere.”

DOJ first asked Bain for documents related to Visa’s pricing strategy and competition against other debit card networks in June. The feds intended to use that information to analyze the effects of Visa’s attempted acquisition on the broader financial services market. Bain refused to produce the documents by claiming that the information was privileged.

Visa’s bid for Plaid isn’t the only big fintech acquisition that’s in the DOJ’s sights, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Federal regulators are also looking at MasterCard’s $1 billion bid for the fintech startup Finicity, and Intuit’s $7 billion pitch to acquire the credit advisory and lending marketplace, Credit Karma Inc.

“The division’s petition against Bain is aimed at securing relevant documents and making clear that the division will hold third parties to the deadlines and specifications in the CIDs we issue,” Delrahim said. “Third parties, like Bain, must comply fully and expeditiously with our civil investigative demands and provide the documents and data we need to discharge our duties and serve the American people.”

#att, #bain-co, #companies, #credit-cards, #department-of-justice, #finance, #intuit, #massachusetts, #mastercard, #merchant-services, #payment-cards, #plaid, #tc, #the-wall-street-journal, #visa

0

Interswitch to revive its Africa venture fund, CEO confirms

Pan-African fintech company Interswitch plans to fire up its corporate venture arm again—according to CEO Mitchell Elegbe—who spoke at TechCrunch Disrupt on Wednesday.

The Nigerian founder didn’t offer much new on the Lagos-based firm’s expected IPO, but he did reveal Interswitch will revive investments in African startups.

Founded by Elegbe in 2002, Interswitch pioneered the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s then predominantly cash-based economy. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system that serves Africa’s largest economy and population of 200 million people. Interswitch has expanded to offer personal and business payment products in 23 Africa countries.

The fintech firm achieved unicorn status in 2019 after a $200 million equity investment by Visa gave it a $1 billion valuation.

Reviving venture investing

Interswitch, which is well beyond startup phase, launched a $10 million venture arm in 2015 that has been dormant since 2016, after it acquired Vanso—a Nigerian fintech security company.

But Interswitch will soon be back in the business of making startup bets and acquisitions, according to Elegbe. “We’ve just certified a team and the plan is to begin to make those kinds of investments again.”

He offered a glimpse into the new fund’s focus. “This time around we want to make financial investments and also leverage the network that Interswitch has and put that at the disposal of these companies,” Elegbe told TechCrunch.

“We’ll be very selective in the companies we invest in. They should be companies that Interswitch clearly as an entity can add value to. They should be companies that help accelerate growth by the virtue of what we do and the customers that we have,” he said.

Recent venture events in African tech have likely pressed Interswitch to get back in the investing arena. As an ecosystem, VC on the continent has increased (roughly) by a factor of four over last five years, to around $2 billion in 2019. But most of that has come from single-entity investment funds, while corporate venture funding (and tech M&A activity) has remained light. That’s shifted over the last several months and the entire uptick has occurred in African fintech around entities that could be viewed as Interswitch competitors.

In July, Dubai’s Network International acquired Kenya -based payment mobile payment processing company DPO for $288 million. Shortly after the acquisition, DPO’s CEO Eran Feinstein said the company would pursue more African acquisitions on its own. In June, another mobile-money payment processor, MFS Africa, acquired digital finance company Beyonic. And in August, South Africa’s Standard Bank—Africa’s largest by assets and lending—acquired a stake in fintech security firm TradeSafe.

Since the rise of Safaricom’s dominant M-Pesa mobile money product in Kenya, fintech in Africa has become infinitely larger and more competitive. The sector has hundreds of startups and now receives nearly 50% of all VC investment on the continent.

The opportunity investors and founders are chasing is bringing Africa’s large unbanked population and underbanked consumers and SMEs online. Roughly 66% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 1 billion people don’t have a bank account, according to World Bank data, and mobile-based finance platforms have presented the best use-cases to shift that across the region.

Interswitch has established itself as a leader in the Africa’s digital finance race. But it’s hard to envision how it can maintain or extend that role without an active venture arm that invests in and acquires innovative, young fintech startups.

No news on IPO

Elegbe had less to offer on Interswitch’s long-anticipated IPO. Asked if the company still planned to list publicly, he offered up a non-answer answer. “At this point in time we’re focused on growing the business and creating value for our customers and that is the our primary focus.”

When pressed “yes or no” on whether an IPO was still a possibility Elegbe confirmed it was. “We have private equity investors and at some point in the life of the business they want exits.” he said. “When it is time for them to exit there are various options on the table and an IPO is an option.”

There’s been talk of an Interswitch IPO for years. In 2016, Elegbe told TechCrunch a dual-listing on the Lagos and London Stock Exchanges was possible. Then word came through other Interswitch channels that it was delayed due to recession and currency volatility in Nigeria in 2017. In November 2019, a source with knowledge of the situation told TechCrunch on background, “an IPO is still very much in the cards; likely sometime in the first half of 2020.” Then came the Covid-19 crisis and the accompanying global economic slump, which may have delayed Interswitch’s IPO plans yet again.

If and when the company goes public, it would be a major event for Nigerian and African fintech. No VC backed fintech firm on the continent has listed globally. Exits for Interswitch’s investors would likely attract to Nigeria and broader Africa more VC from major funds—many of whom remain on the fence about startup opportunities on the continent.

Focus on Africa

On global product expansion, Interswitch plans to maintain an African focus for now, Elegbe explained. “There are enough opportunities for Interswitch on the continent. We’d like to be in as many African countries as possible…and position Interswitch as the (financial) gateway to the continent,” he said.

Elegbe explained the company would continue to work through alliances with major financial services firms to open up global financial access for its African client base. In August 2019, Interswitch launched a partnership that allows its Verve cardholders to make payments on Discover’s global network.

CEO Mitchell Elegbe concluded his Disrupt session with some perspective on balancing the stigmas and possibilities of doing business in Nigeria. Over recent years the country has shifted to become an unofficial hub for big tech expansion, VC investment, and startup formation in Africa. But Nigeria continues to have a difficult operating environment with regard to infrastructure and is often associated with political corruption and instability in its Northeast region due to the Boko Haram insurgency.

“Nigeria has a very large population and a very large market. We have lots of challenges that need to be solved, but it makes sense to me that lots of money is finding its way to Nigeria because the opportunity is there,” he said.

Elegbe’s advice to tech investors considering the country, “Don’t take a short-termist view. There are good people on the ground doing fantastic work—honest people who want to make impact. You need to  seek those people out.”

#africa, #african-tech, #ceo, #corporate-finance, #dubai, #economy, #finance, #financial-technology, #interswitch, #kenya, #lagos, #m-pesa, #mitchell-elegbe, #money, #nigeria, #safaricom, #south-africa, #tc, #tech-in-africa, #venture-capital, #visa, #world-bank

0

Dear Sophie: How can I get my 2-year foreign residency requirement for my J-1 waived?

Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.

“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”

“Dear Sophie” columns are accessible for Extra Crunch subscribers; use promo code ALCORN to purchase a one- or two-year subscription for 50% off.


Dear Sophie:

I’m entering my second year in the U.S. under a five-year J-1 research visa from Italy. When we came we thought it would be temporary, but our plans have changed and now we want to try to stay in the U.S. My husband started his own company here on his J-2 visa work permit, and our daughter was born here. However, we’re supposed to return to Italy for two years. How can we get a 212(e) waiver?

—Positive in Palo Alto

Dear Positive:

Congrats on your accomplishments — the birth of your daughter, your research position and your husband’s startup. Happy to share about the J-1 visa, the two-year home residency requirement (a section of the law called “212(e)”) and obtaining a waiver so you can seek a green card or another type of visa. For more background, check out my podcast on the two-year foreign residency requirement and filing a waiver and last weeks’ Dear Sophie column with an overview of the types of J-1 visas. The earlier you begin preparing your waiver application, the better.

The J-1 Educational and Cultural Exchange Visa is intended for people from around the globe to work or study in the U.S. and then take their newly acquired knowledge and skills back to their home country. Given that, it is not a direct path if you decide after your arrival to remain longer term in the U.S. I recommend working with an experienced immigration lawyer to devise a strategy for reaching your goals beyond getting a waiver. I also recommend talking with your employer to assess whether they can later sponsor you for a green card.

#column, #diversity, #government, #green-card, #immigration-law, #italy, #j-1-visa, #lawyers, #policy, #sophie-alcorn, #startups, #tc, #verified-experts, #visa

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PayPal, Visa expand Instant Transfers for fast payouts globally on all PayPal’s networks

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to put huge stress on people’s and businesses’ finances, and in an effort to meet some of the crunch, today PayPal and Visa announced an expansion of a service to get cash into people’s hands faster. Instant Transfer — a service where PayPal lets people and businesses quickly access transferred funds by moving them to bank accounts (cutting down waiting time from days to seconds) — is expanding globally to both domestic and cross-border payments in international markets.

This will mean that consumers and businesses globally that send or receive money by PayPal, Venmo or Xoom, or via Braintree, Hyperwallet and iZettle product solutions (all of which are part of PayPal), will now be able to opt for the Instant Transfer option to get electronic funds faster. PayPal’s services use Visa Direct for making the payouts.

The service is a progression and expansion of Instant Transfers, which PayPal launched in March 2019, initially in the US.

The likes of Stripe and Square, as well as payments providers in other regions like Europe, have also launched products over the years to cut down the waiting time it typically takes for transferred funds to become usable by recipients over their platforms.

But in recent months that kind of feature has taken on an increased urgency. Businesses and individuals are living in leaner times, with many out of work and commerce gripped in general with a slowdown in buying and selling (despite the fact that some businesses, especially larger ones, have in fact seen a boost). All of that means that the turnaround time of needing to use the money that you receive from a contact has shortened, and more simply become significantly more necessary.

PayPal said that a recent survey it conducted found that 76% of small businesses in the US have reported that they are struggling with cash flow shortages, and 91% said the having real-time settlement could help with some of that.

There is another reason why PayPal is rolling this out globally and that is for more competitive edge in what is now a very crowded payments market. E-commerce, as we have pointed out before, is a very localised affair, with consumers and businesses in each country converging around their own preferred methods for making and receiving payments, which may or may not be the same as those in other markets (and that’s before you consider the the places where money gets spent also vary massively country by country).

That is something that PayPal has tried to address both through the launch of its own services, as well as via investments in other interesting startups. By offering Instant Transfers within its own products, it’s one way of bringing more people to using and transacting on its own platforms — which gives PayPal better returns even as it works on making PayPal a more flexible service that can be integrated and used with a number of other services, even those that seemingly compete with it.

“Sending money to loved ones or giving small businesses real-time access to earnings is critical during these challenging times,” said Jack Forestell, CPO, Visa, in a statement. “By partnering with PayPal on a global scale, we are bringing together two trusted brands to provide hundreds of millions of consumers and small businesses globally with quick and secure payment options that can help them maintain financial stability.”

Visa Direct has had a big boost in business already this year, Visa said, growing by some 80% in Q3 — underscoring the need for faster access to funds that are being sent virtually. Speeding up settlement is an important thing to get right for e-commerce businesses that are hoping to present themselves as a viable replacement or proxy for doing transactions the old fashioned way, in person, regardless of how the pandemic or social distancing measures play out in the longer term.

“Digital is quickly becoming the preferred way for people and businesses to move money,” said Jim Magats, SVP Omni Payments, PayPal, in a statement.  “While the global pandemic has dramatically accelerated the shift to digital, we see this move to digital as a long-term change that will outlast the pandemic. We’re excited to expand our partnership with Visa to help more customers around the world get faster access to their funds, which is all the more critical during these challenging times.”

#ecommerce, #instant-payouts, #instant-transfers, #paypal, #visa

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With Robinhood’s UK launch delayed, eToro to bring out UK debit card following acquisition

Investment app eToro is to launch a debit card, following its acquisition of Marq Millions Ltd, the UK based e-money business. Marq Millions will now trade as eToro Money and will be the issuer for eToro’s card. The acquisition was for an undisclosed amount, and the Marq Millions management team stays on.

The card will initially be available to eToro Club members in the UK, then Europe, and will later be extended to non-eToro users. eToro has over 14 million registered users and expects take-up of the card to be strong.

A spokesperson said the card could now provide instant ‘cash-out and cash-in’ functionality to customers, a feature which their user-base has been requesting for a while.

The debit cards won’t launch immediately but will launch first in the UK, followed by other markets. eToro Money has a Principal Membership with VISA and an EMI License permission from the Financial Conduct Authority . This means they are likely to hit the ground running, subject to approval from the FCA.

Commenting on the acquisition, co-founder and CEO of eToro, Yoni Assia, said in a statement: “The launch of a debit card is a natural next step for eToro as we broaden the range of services that we provide to our users… The debit card will provide instant cash-out and cash-in functionality, greatly improving the user experience. We expect to see a strong take-up of the card – initially from our client base.”

eToro allows customers to invest in stocks and commodities, as well as crypto assets like Bitcoin. It claims to have 14 million registered users, all of whom share their investment strategies, similar to a social network. It’s regulated in Europe by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, by the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK and by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Mahmood Kamran, former COO of Marq Millions and now Managing Director of eToro Money, commented: “We are incredibly excited to become part of the eToro Group. The backing of this leading global fintech, will allow us to issue a debit card which we are confident will become a market leader globally.”

The context to this is that eToro is racing to build up it’s UK user-base ahead of a potential launch by competitor Robinhood . The US-based investment platform , which has made waves in the US, has had to delay its UK launch “indefinitely” after one of its customers killed himself in the US, with the consequent regulatory interest in its activities.

Robinhood previously said it had a waiting list of more than 250,000 people in the UK ahead of a launch planned for this year, showing that there will likely be strong demand for eToro’s services, given it now has a ‘head start’.

eToro has had over 256,000 new registrations in the UK since it launched zero commission stocks in May last year, (over 3 million globally), and says it can afford to offer zero commission as it is multi-asset and global.

#coo, #debit-cards, #e-money, #etoro, #europe, #finance, #financial-conduct-authority, #financial-services, #market-leader, #robinhood, #social-network, #spokesperson, #tc, #united-kingdom, #united-states, #visa, #yoni-assia

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Uber Africa launches Uber Cash with Flutterwave and explores EVs

Uber is launching its Uber Cash digital wallet feature in Sub-Saharan Africa through a partnership with San Francisco based — Nigerian founded — fintech firm Flutterwave.

The arrangement will allow riders to top up Uber wallets using the dozens of remittance partners active on Flutterwave’s Pan-African network.

Flutterwave operates as a B2B payments gateway network that allows clients to tap its APIs and customize payments applications.

Uber Cash will go live this week and next for Uber’s ride-hail operations in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana, Ivory Coast and Tanzania, according to Alon Lits — Uber’s General Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Depending on the country, you’ve got different top up methods available. For example in Nigeria you can use your Verve Card or mobile money. In Kenya, you can use M-Pesa and EFT and in South Africa you can top up with EFT,” said Lits.

Uber Cash in Africa will also accept transfers from Flutterwave’s Barter payment app, launched with Visa in 2019.

The move could increase Uber’s ride traffic in Africa by boosting the volume of funds sent to digital wallets and reducing friction in the payment process.

Uber still accepts cash on the continent — which has one of the world’s largest unbanked populations — but has made strides on financial inclusion through mobile money.

Update on Uber Africa

Uber has been in Africa since 2015 and continued to adapt to local market dynamics, including global and local competition and more recently, COVID-19. The company’s GM Alon Lits spoke to TechCrunch on updates — including EV possibilities — and weathering the coronavirus outbreak in Africa.

Uber in Sub-Saharan Africa continued to run through the pandemic, with a couple exceptions. “The only places we ceased operations was where there were government directives,” Lits said. That included Uganda and Lagos, Nigeria.

Though he couldn’t share data, Lits acknowledged there had been a significant reduction in Uber’s Africa business through the pandemic, in line with the 70% drop in global ride volume Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi disclosed in March.

“You can imagine in markets where we were not allowed to operate revenues obviously go to zero,” said Lits.

Like Africa’s broader tech ecosystem, Uber has adapted its business to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Africa, which hit hardest in March and April and led to lockdowns in key economies, such as Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa

On how to make people feel safe about ride-hailing in a coronavirus world, Lits highlighted some specific practices. In line with Uber’s global policy, it’s mandatory in Africa for riders and drivers to wear masks.

“We’re actually leveraging facial recognition technology to check that drivers are wearing masks before they go,” said Lits. Uber Africa is also experimenting with impact safe, plastic dividers for its cars in Kenya and Nigeria.

Uber Africa Nairobi

Image Credits: Uber

In Africa, Uber has continued to expand its services and experiment with things the company doesn’t do in in any major markets. The first was allowing cash payments in 2016 — something Uber hopes the introduction of Uber Cash will help reduce.

Along with rival Bolt, Uber connected ride-hail products to Africa’s motorcycle and three-wheeled tuk-tuk taxi markets in 2018.

Uber moved into delivery in Africa, with Uber Eats, and recently started transporting medical supplies in South Africa through a partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Mobility Africa

In addition to global competitors, such as Bolt, Uber faces local competition as Africa’s mobility sector becomes a hotspot for VC and startups.

A couple trends worth tracking will be Uber’s potential expansion to Ethiopia and moves toward EV development in Africa.

On Ethiopia, the country has a nascent tech scene with the strongest demographic and economic thesis — Africa’s second largest population and seventh biggest economy — to become the continent’s next digital hotspot.

Ethiopia also has a burgeoning ride-hail industry, with local mobility ventures Ride and Zayride. Uber hasn’t mentioned (that we know of) any intent to move into the East African country. But if it does, that would serve as a strong indicator of the company’s commitment to remaining a mobility player in Africa.

Ampersand Africa e motorcycle

Ampersand in Rwanda, Image Credits: Ampersand

With regards to electric, there’s been movement on the continent over the last year toward developing EVs for ride-hail and delivery use.

In 2019, Nigerian mobility startup MAX.ng raised a $7 million Series A round backed by Yamaha, a portion of which was dedicated to pilot e-motorcycles powered by renewable energy.

Last year the government of Rwanda established a national plan to phase out gas motorcycle taxis for e-motos, working in partnership with EV startup Ampersand.

And in May, Vaya Africa — a ride-hail mobility venture founded by mogul Strive Masiyiwa — launched an electric taxi service and solar charging network in Zimbabwe. Vaya plans to expand the program across the continent and is exploring e-moto passenger and delivery products.

On Uber’s moves toward electric in Africa, it could begin with two or three wheeled transit.

“That’s something we’ve been looking at in South Africa…nothing that we’ve launched yet, but it is a conversation that’s ongoing,” said Uber’s Sub-Saharan Africa GM Alon Lits.

He noted one of the challenges of such an electric model on the continent is lack of a robust charging infrastructure.

Even so, if Uber enters that space — with Vaya and others — emissions free ride-hail and delivery EVs buzzing around African cities could soon be a reality.

#africa, #african-tech, #business, #ceo, #dara-khosrowshahi, #e-motorcycles, #energy, #ethiopia, #evs, #flutterwave, #ghana, #kenya, #lagos, #nigeria, #player, #rwanda, #san-francisco, #south-africa, #tanzania, #tc, #transport, #uber, #uganda, #vaya-africa, #visa, #yamaha, #zimbabwe

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Belvo scores $10M from Founders Fund and Kaszek to scale its API for financial services

Belvo, a Latin American fintech startup which launched just 12 months ago, has already snagged funding from two of the biggest names in North and South American venture capital.

The company is aiming to expand the reach of its service that connects mobile applications in Mexico and Colombia to a customer’s banking information and now has some deep-pocketed investors to support its efforts. 

If the business model sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Belvo is borrowing a page from the Plaid playbook. It’s a strategy that ultimately netted the U.S. startup and its investors $5.3 billion when it was acquired by Visa in January of this year.

Belvo and its backers, who funneled $10 million into the year-old company, want to replicate Plaid’s success and open up an entire new range of financial services companies in Latin America.  

The round was co-led by Silicon Valley’s Founders Fund and Argentina’s Kaszek. With the new arsenal of capital complimented by the Founders Fund’s network and Kaszek’s deep knowledge of the Latin American market, Belvo hopes to triple its current team of 25 that is spread across operations in Mexico City and Barcelona. 

Since its initial establishment in May 2019, the company has raised a total of $13 million from Y Combinator (W20) along with some of the biggest players in Latin America’s startup scene. Those investors include David Velez, the co-founder of Brazil’s multi-billion dollar lending startup, Nubank; MAYA Capital and Venture Friends. 

The company’s co-founders, Pablo Viguera and Oriol Tintoré are no stranger to startups themselves. Viguera served as COO at European payments app Verse, and is a former general manager of one of the big European neo-banks, Revolut. Tintoré is a former NASA aerospace engineer, and while working for his Stanford MBA, founded Capella Space, an information collection startup that went on to raise over $50 million. 

The company said it aims to work with leading fintechs in Latin America, spanning across verticals like the neobanks, credit providers and personal finance products Latin Americans use every day.

Belvo has built a developer-first API platform that can be used to access and interpret end-user financial data to build better, more efficient and more inclusive financial products in Latin America. Developers of popular neobank apps, credit providers and personal finance tools use Belvo’s API to connect bank accounts to their apps to unlock the power of open banking.

Viguera says the capital will be used to open a new office in Sao Paulo, and invest in new product and business development hires. Notably, Belvo is only one year old, having launched in January 2020 and operative in Mexico and Colombia. 

Co-founders Pablo Viguera and Oriol Tintoré are a former Revolut GM and former NASA aerospace engineer.

 

Belvo’s latest funding also marks another instance of a U.S.-Latin America investment teamup for a Latin American company.

Nuvocargo, a logistics startup that wants to bolster the Mexico – U.S. trade lane with its freight transportation technology, also recently raised a round co-led by Mexico’s ALLVP and Silicon Valley-based NFX. American investors may be starting to take note of the co-investment opportunity of putting capital into startups serving the Latin American market in partnership with successful new wave domestic funds like Mexico’s ALLVP and Argentina’s Kaszek.  

#aerospace, #api, #argentina, #banking, #barcelona, #belvo, #brazil, #capella-space, #co-founder, #colombia, #companies, #coo, #david-velez, #economy, #engineer, #finance, #fintech-startup, #founders-fund, #latin-america, #mexico, #mexico-city, #nubank, #nuvocargo, #revolut, #sao-paulo, #startup-company, #tc, #the-founders-fund, #united-states, #venture-capital, #visa, #y-combinator

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Novastar Ventures becomes $200M African VC fund after $108M raise

African startups have another $100 million in VC to pitch for after Novastar Ventures’ latest raise.

The Nairobi and Lagos based investment group announced it has closed $108 million in new commitments to launch its Africa Fund II, which brings Novastar’s total capital to $200 million.

With the additional resources, the firm plans to make 12 to 14 investments across the continent, according to Managing Director Steve Beck. He spoke to TechCrunch on Novastar Ventures’ plans for the new fund.

A notable update to Novastar’s VC focus is geographic scope. The firm was originally co-founded in Kenya by Beck and British investor Andrew Carruthers and built its first portfolio largely around companies based in East Africa. Novastar Ventures made 15 investments with its first fund, including companies such as Uganda and Kenya focused energy startup SolarNow and agtech venture M-Farm.

“The second fund is basically the same strategy as the first, but…the biggest difference is that we opened up a second front in West Africa — more particularly to be in and around the entrepreneurial system in Lagos,” Beck told TechCrunch on a call.

Before closing its Africa Fund II, Novastar Ventures had already made several investments in West Africa, including leading a round in Nigerian on demand motorcycle transit startup Max.ng and backing Ghanaian health company, MPharma. Novastar opened an office Lagos in 2019.

On the types of startups Novastar will target with its new fund, the focus is more on mission than industry silos, according to co-founder Steve Beck. “We’re sector agnostic. I would describe us more as a segment fund than a sector fund,” he said.

“We really try to look for businesses called breakthrough businesses, [those] that are addressing the biggest problems in the largest markets.”

That has led Novastar Ventures to invest in digital companies in education, information access, agtech, mobility and off-grid energy.

“Essentially what we’re doing is looking for those businesses that are addressing the basic needs, basic goods and services across the true mass markets of the continent,” said Beck.

On whether the firm is a dedicated impact fund, Beck said, “The way we characterize ourselves is we’re a commercial venture fund with an impact screen.”

On investment amounts and types, Novastar Ventures is fairly flexible on ticket size, from seed to later stage.

“We’re gonna…have some portfolio companies where we put to work a million dollars or less or were going to have some where we put $8 or $9 million dollars in through capital rounds. That’s…the deployment strategy,” Beck said.

Novastar Ventures works closely with its portfolio companies, according to its co-founder.

“We’re very active investors and always take a board seat to be close to the entrepreneurs. We often are the first institutional investor that they have.”

Africa Top VC Markets 2019

Image Credits: TechCrunch

Startups who want to pitch to the company can reach out to the fund’s founders and directors via the website or LinkedIn, according to Beck. He added that Novastar Ventures is recruiting to add another member to its investor team in 2020.

The firm’s latest raise and $200 million capital amount creates another high value fund focused on African startups.

On the high end of estimates, the continent’s tech ecosystem reached $2 billion in VC to startups in 2019, compared to less than half a billion dollar five years ago.

Other large Africa focused VC shops include TLcom Capital — which closed a $71 million fund in February —  and Partech, which doubled its Africa fund to $143 million in 2019. The venture arms of major global companies have also become more active in African tech recently, including that of Goldman Sachs and Visa.

#africa, #articles, #co-founder, #companies, #east-africa, #economy, #entrepreneurship, #goldman-sachs, #investment, #kenya, #lagos, #max-ng, #nairobi, #nigeria, #novastar-ventures, #partech, #private-equity, #startup-company, #tc, #techcrunch, #tlcom-capital, #uganda, #visa, #west-africa

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Why COVID-19 could delay Interswitch, Africa’s next big IPO

The economic effects of COVID-19 could delay Africa’s next big IPO — that of Nigerian fintech unicorn Interswitch.

If so, it wouldn’t be the first time the Lagos-based payments company’s plans for going public were postponed; the tech world has been anticipating Interswitch’s stock market debut since 2016.

For the continent’s innovation ecosystem, there’s a lot riding on the digital finance company’s IPO. After e-commerce venture Jumia, it would become only the second listing of a VC-backed African tech company on a major exchange. And Interswitch’s stock market debut — when it occurs — could bring more investor attention and less controversy to the region’s startup scene.

What is Interswitch?

TechCrunch reached out to Interswitch on the window for listing, but the company declined to comment. The tech firm’s path from startup to IPO aspirant traces back to the vision of founder Mitchell Elegbe, a Nigerian electrical engineering graduate whose entire career has pretty much been Interswitch.

Africa’s tech scene is still fairly young, but it does have a timeline with several definitive points. An early one would be the success of mobile money in East Africa, with the launch of Safaricom’s M-Pesa in 2007. Another is the notable wave of VC-backed startups and founders that launched around 2010.

Interswitch CEO Mitchell Elegbe (Photo Credits: Interswitch)

With Interswtich, Elegbe pre-dated both by a number of years, founding his fintech company back in 2002 to connect Nigeria’s largely disconnected banking system. The firm became a pioneer of the infrastructure to digitize Nigeria’s economy.

Interswitch created the first electronic switch whereby Nigerian financial institutions could communicate and thereby operate ATMs and point of sales operations. The company now provides much of the rails for Nigeria’s online banking system.

#africa, #banking, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #e-commerce, #east-africa, #extra-crunch, #finance, #financial-technology, #helios-investment-partners, #interswitch, #jumia, #kenya, #lagos, #market-analysis, #mitchell-elegbe, #nigeria, #online-lending, #payments, #safaricom, #startup-company, #startups, #tc, #uganda, #venture-capital, #verve, #visa

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Africa Roundup: Visa connects to M-Pesa, Flutterwave enters e-commerce

It seems the demand for Safaricom’s M-Pesa payment product never eases. Since its 2007 launch in Kenya, the fintech app has commanded over 70% of the mobile money market in that country. When COVID-19 hit the East African nation of 53 million in March, the Kenyan Central Bank turned to M-Pesa as a public health tool to reduce use of cash.

And last month, one of the world’s financial services giants — Visa — connected M-Pesa to its global network.

Visa and Safaricom — which is Kenya’s largest telecom and operator of M-Pesa — announced a partnership on payments and tech.

The arrangement opens up M-Pesa’s own extensive financial services network in East Africa to Visa’s global merchant and card network across 200 countries.

The companies will also collaborate “on development of products that will support digital payments for M-Pesa customers.” The partnership is still subject to regulatory approval.

The details remain vague, but the payment providers also said they will use the collaboration to facilitate e-commerce.

Images Credits: Getty Images

On a continent that is still home to the largest share of the world’s unbanked population, Kenya has one of the highest mobile-money penetration rates in the world. This is largely due to the dominance of M-Pesa in the country, which has 24.5 million customers and a network of 176,000 agents.

As we detailed in ExtraCrunch, Visa has been on a VC and partnership spree with African fintech companies. The global financial services giant has named working with the continent’s payments startups as core to its Africa expansion strategy.

One of those fintech ventures Visa has teamed up with, Flutterwave, launched an e-commerce product in April. The San Francisco and Lagos-based B2B payments company announced Flutterwave Store, a portal for African merchants to create digital shops to sell online.

The product is less Amazon  and more eBay — with no inventory or warehouse requirements. Flutterwave insists the move doesn’t represent any shift away from its core payments business.

The company accelerated the development of Flutterwave Store in response to COVID-19, which has brought restrictive measures to SMEs and traders operating in Africa’s largest economies.

After creating a profile, users can showcase inventory and link up to a payment option. For pickup and delivery, Flutterwave Store operates through existing third party logistics providers, such as Sendy in Kenya and Sendbox in Nigeria.

The service will start in 15 African countries and the only fees Flutterwave will charge (for now) are on payments. Otherwise, it’s free for SMEs to create an online storefront and for buyers and sellers to transact goods.

While the initiative is born out of the spread of coronavirus cases in Africa, it will continue beyond the pandemic. And Flutterwave’s CEO Olugbenga Agboola — aka GB — is adamant Flutterwave Store is not a pivot for the Y-Cominator backed fintech company.

“It’s not a direction change. We’re still a B2B payment infrastructure company. We are not moving into becoming an online retailer, and no we’re not looking to become Jumia,” he told TechCrunch .

In early stage startup activity, a relatively new company — Okra — has created a unique platform that allows it to generate revenue on both sides of the fintech aisle.

Founded in June 2019 by Nigerians Fara Ashiru Jituboh and David Peterside, the company refers to itself as a “super-connector API” with a platform that links bank accounts to third party applications.

Okra’s clients include fintech startups and large financial institutions in Nigeria. The company got the attention of TLcom Capital — a $71 million Africa focused VC firm —that backed Okra with $1 million in pre-seed funding. The Nigerian startup is using the funds to hire and expand to new markets in Africa, most likely