Welcome to The Exchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your trust. If you read this as a post on our site, please subscribe here so that you can receive it directly in the future. Each week we look at the latest fintech news from the past week. This includes everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s our job to stay on top of it – and understand it – so you stay informed. — Mary Ann And Christine
Busy busy busy
It’s been a busy week in startup and venture countries, and the fintech space was no exception.
In the venture world, I reported on the departure of Peter Ackerson Finnish capital earlier this year and the fact that he has since started a new venture called Older capital. Circumstances surrounding his departure remain vague, but one source speculated that tension arose last year between Ackerson and Fin founder Logan Allin over some of the goings-on at alternative finance startup Pipe. More details here.
We also wrote about Tellus, a startup that raised $16 million last year in an Andreessen Horowitz-led funding round that is now under scrutiny by the US government. When I interviewed the company’s co-founder Rocky Lee last year, I admitted I was a little skeptical of any company that would bet on people agreeing to high mortgage rates to upgrade their homes (think 9% !) customer savings deposits to fund such loans. When I asked Lee if this was risky, he admitted it was, but he insisted that Tellus used “very strict underwriting criteria” and had not yet seen any defaults “because the majority of its borrowers will soon be refinancing their loans on more favorable terms.” Last week, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, wrote a letter to FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg who expressed concern about Tellus’ claims. In that letter, Brown urged the FDIC to review Tellus’ business practices “to ensure customers are protected from financial fraud and abuse.” In a twist I found out that Lee was married to a16z general partner Connie Chan (not sure if he still is). Neither he nor the venture firm commented on the senator’s concerns, but Tellus CEO/CTO Jeromee Johnson did provide me with a statement via email. Read more here.
Infrastructure remains resilient even in times of downturn. This week alone, I wrote about two payment infrastructure companies making strides, and my colleague Ingrid Lunden wrote about Stripe’s latest customer win. To begin with, I discussed Finix officially becoming a payment processor – actually a natural evolution for a company that is slowly expanding its offerings. In case you forgot, Finix is a startup that Sequoia came back to invest in after Stripe (an existing portfolio company) raised concerns about being too competitive. (However, Finix should keep its $21 million!) Now that it connects directly to all major U.S. card networks — American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa — and no longer depends on an external processor, Finix says it is able to “immediate onboarding, improved economics and opportunities to reduce interchange fees.” I talked to CEO and co-founder Richie Serna about it, and why he thinks what Finix built is different than what legacy players and Stripe have on the market. I also wrote about Liquido, a Mountain View, California-based startup aiming to become the “Stripe of Latin America,” and more. Index Ventures’ Mark Fiorentino led two rounds of funding totaling $26 million into the company in 2021. Interestingly, prior to joining Index, Fiorentino helped establish and lead the business strategy and finances at Stripe from 2015 to 2019. And Ingrid wrote about Stripe launching Uber as a customer, which was a bit unexpected given that rival Lyft has been a big customer of the company for a long time.
And, last but not least, corporate card and expense management startup Brex last week announced a global expansion of its Empower product into new markets, so that companies that are now clients of its can “spend globally and operate locally” in countries as Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa and the Philippines, as well as in 36 European countries. In an interview with TechCrunch, Henrique Dubugras, co-founder and co-CEO of Brex, said the company believes the move will “really open up TAM” for Brex since so many existing and prospective U.S. customers have “kind of global operations.” .
“One of the big problems companies have when they operate globally is that they actually have to open an account in all those different countries where they might have employees. It becomes very complicated to set up all your financial systems by country,” he added. “Now when you use Brex, you can actually operate as if you were a local business with a local map.”
In other words, companies that use Brex and have employees who work in other countries give those employees the option to freely use a business card in their home country, while also giving the company the option to pay the statements in local currency at the local bank.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to do for a while,” added Dubugras, noting that insurtech Lemonade is a customer. — Maria-Ann
Other weekly news
Christine, Mary Ann, and Natasha Mascarenhas teamed up to write about the collapse of Bank of the First Republic, talking to tech founders and investors who had money in the bank about what happens next. We also spoke to an FRB competitor about what all these startup bank collapses mean for business. More here.
Reports Carly Page: “Hackers have published a trove of sensitive data stolen from the payment software company AvidXchange after the company fell victim to ransomware for the second time this year. AvidXchange offers cloud-based software that helps organizations automate invoice processing and payment management processes. A ransomware group called RansomHouse has claimed responsibility for the recent cyber attack on AvidXchange.” More here.
Christine wrote about the launch of former Bolt CEO Ryan Breslow’s new company, Love, a wellness marketplace initially featuring 200 curated products such as supplements, health testing kits, and essential oils, including categories such as stress reduction and gut health. All products on the site go through a series of compliance processes and assessments developed in conjunction with Radicle Science, a clinical trial company, which Breslow says is unique to the company. More here.
British Neobank revolution launched in Brazil, the first country in Latin America, offers customers a global bank account and crypto investments, Silicon Republic reported. The company already had a presence in the country after hiring Glauber Mota as CEO of its Brazilian operations in March 2022. Alex Wilhelm and Anna Heim reported in April that Revolut “saw its appreciation drop of about 46% in the eyes of one of the lenders.” More here.
Tage Kene-Okafor reported Fingo, a YC-backed Kenyan fintech, which launched a neobank — the first of its kind in the East African country, according to the company — in partnership with pan-African financial institution Ecobank Kenya. “It has taken a while for Fingo to get here since CEO Kiiru Muhoya and his co-founders James da Costa, Ian Njuguna and Gitari Tirima founded the Kenyan outfit in January 2021 to provide financial services that appeal to a burgeoning African youth population who happen to be the youngest in the world, but the most financially marginalized. After a $200,000 pre-seed round, Fingo stepped into YC S21 and raised $4 million in seed funding by the end of that year. More here.
Manish Singh reported that paym, India’s leading mobile payments company, reported a revenue increase of 13.2% to $285.7 million in the quarter ended March and trimmed losses by 57% to $20.5 million “in a sharp turnaround for the company that continues to trying to become more profitable after a quivering year and a half since its public debut.” More here.
Apple and fintechs like Robinhood prey on yield-hungry savers as Fed rate hikes continue. Likewise, Arta Finance, a company that provides access to alternative assets, debuted Harvest Treasuries AI-Managed Portfoliowhich offers an APY of 4.62% (annual percentage return) and Wealthfront’s cash account now offers 4.55% for all customers and 5.05% APY for customers who refer a friend.
Fintech is expected to become a $1.5 trillion industry by 2030according to a new report from Boston Consulting Group and QED Investors
Beating opendoor tech revenue at $0.77, revenue beats estimates
Everee joins Visa’s Fintech Fast Track program with the launch of the Everee Visa® debit card
Financing and Mergers and Acquisitions
Seen on TechCrunch
African payment service provider Nomba raises $30 million backed by Base10 Partners and Shopify
Bend takes on Brex and Ramp with a green spin and a $2.5 million seed round
Digital wallet for insurance Marble bags $ 4.2 million. Speaking of TechCrunch’s increase, CEO Stuart Winchester said via email, “U.S. households are under great financial strain right now, and insurance costs are no small part of that. We will continue to release features that make it easier to not only save money and maximize value, but also reduce the mental strain of managing multiple insurance policies. We expect the insurance industry at large to adopt more of the customer-friendly features we helped pioneer.”
Insurtech startup Novidea raises $50 million Series C
Exclusive: Former COO of Venmo raises $20 million for Vera Equity
Tarabut Gateway raises $32 million to expand Saudi open banking
Music financing startup Duetti raises $32 million to buy old songs
Billing platform Inbox Health raises $22.5 million and more for digital healthcare
Google’s VC firm just led a $12 million Series A investment in Range, a startup training AI to provide financial advice
OpenEnvoy raises $15 million to grow AP automation solution
Miami-based startup Kiddie Kredit raises $1.4M with backing from Dwyane Wade and Baron Davis
Black-owned technology company Greenwood acquires digital banking rival. TechCrunch reported Greenwood’s last raise in March 2021 here.
Join us at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023 in San Francisco this September as we explore the impact of fintech on our world today. New this year, we will be dedicating a full day to all things fintech with some of today’s leading fintech figures. Save up to $800 when you buy your pass now through May 15, and save 15% on top of that with promo code INTERCHANGE. Learn more.
We’re done for this week and that’s a good thing because we’re TIRED too! See you next week – same time, same place. Until then, take care! xoxo, Mary Ann and Christine