Blend Boosts Valuation to $1.7 Billion After New Funding Round

Mortgagetech has historically been one of the last sectors of fintech to see innovation. However, with digitization en vogue because of COVID-19, there has been an uptick in interest in companies looking to make closing on a home mortgage easier.

As evidence, U.S.-based Blend is gaining attention today for a fresh round of funding and a new valuation. The company landed $75 million in Series F funding, bringing its total raised to $365 million and increasing its valuation to almost $1.7 billion.

The round was led by Canapi Ventures. Existing investors Temasek, General Atlantic, 8VC, Greylock, and Emergence also participated.

“Financial institutions have traditionally taken time to modernize legacy systems, but digital is now table stakes. Shelter in place and social distancing mandates have forced banks and other lenders to accelerate digital transformation plans from years to months,” said Jeffrey Reitman, a partner at Canapi Ventures. “Blend is at the forefront of this innovation, offering flexible digital solutions to help lenders like Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, Truist, M&T Bank, and other key regional banking institutions meet their accelerated timelines and their customers’ changing needs.”

Blend, a banking-as-a-service company that aims to create a “less stressful, more accessible lending experience,” will use the funds to expand its products and broaden its strategy. Specifically, Blend will likely bolster the consumer banking and auto loans offerings it launched late last year.

“Our goal is to deliver software that gives lenders the flexibility to meet the evolving needs of consumers,” said Marc Greenberg, head of finance at Blend. “We’re committed to being the digital layer that enables millions of people to gain access to the capital they need, while helping our customers be there as trusted advisors for every milestone in a consumer’s financial journey.”

Among Blend’s new launches this year are a digital closing solution for mortgages and home equity loans, a mobile app for loan officers, and new reporting tools for lenders. Since the start of 2020, Blend has brought on 130+ new employees and helped its bank clients process more than $771 billion in consumer loans– over $3.5 billion each day.

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Splitit Raises Millions Amid Buy Now Pay Later Fever

If there are any lingering doubts about the power (and popularity) of the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) movement, installment payments platform Splitit has 71.5 million reasons to cast those doubts aside.

The New York-based company, which made its Finovate debut as PayItSimple in 2014, announced that it has raised $71.5 million in a private placement and share purchase plan (SPP). With institutional investors such as Woodson Capital Management, the company plans to use the capital to “accelerate sales and marketing, plus (make) further investments in product and technology” according to a statement. Splitit boasts more than 1,000 ecommerce merchants using its technology, and 300,000+ shoppers with an average order value of $893.

Splitit’s fundraising comes as the company reports record Q2 growth, including processing more than $65 million in merchant sales volume, and growth of 1.76x quarter over quarter and 2.6x year over year. In discussing the company’s success, CEO Brad Paterson credited a new willingness on the part of consumers to “maximize their existing credit to preserve cash flow” while at the same time not incurring additional new debt.

Paterson also noted that while the COVID-19 crisis has helped move digital transformation in ecommerce toward the top of the agenda, it was important for those involved in payments to make it easier for merchants to accommodate their customer’s cash management requirements.

As such, it’s hard not wonder if, once again, crisis is responsible for accelerating innovation. After all, one of the initial innovations in retail, the layaway program, emerged during the Great Depression as a way to maintain at least a minimal level of consumption of non-essential goods during a severe economic retraction. By enabling customers to pay for items in small increments over time and then receive those items once they had been fully paid for, the growing retail economy was able to survive an extended period of historically low demand.

The buy now pay later phenomenon is layaway in reverse, allowing customers to gain the benefits of the purchase immediately and moderating the impact of the cost by paying for that purchase over time. But the goal – to accelerate consumer activity and expand the ability of people to spend – remains the same. The only difference is that layaway tended to disappear once credit cards became ubiquitous, while buy now pay later appears to be rising at a time when we are realizing that affordable consumer financing might not be as ubiquitous as we thought.

For Finovate fans, Klarna has been the pioneer in the Buy Now Pay Later space, with fellow alums like Sezzle also earning recognition for its interest-free buy now pay later option. Founded in 2005 and 2016, respectively, both companies are reminders of how fintechs have been providing consumers with alternative financing options well before the coronavirus hit.

That said, it is clear that COVID-19 has stimulated interest in Buy Now Pay Later options. The Business of Finance reported earlier this week that BNPL had become “fashion’s go-to during the pandemic.” Also this week, American Express announced that it would extend its buy now pay later service to more of its cards. The Wall Street Journal featured Australian Buy Now Pay Later specialist Afterpay at the beginning of this month in the wake of the firm’s announcement that it had signed up more than 1.6 million U.S. users since the onset of the coronavirus in March. And Shopify announced this month that merchants on its platform would have access to BNPL financing from installment payment company Affirm. Affirm looks like it is ready to maximize the Buy Now Pay Later moment with an initial public offering, according to reporting in the Wall Street Journal.

Even the big banks are getting into the Buy Now Pay Later game. Goldman Sachs has introduced a new, installment payment feature called MarcusPay – in partnership with JetBlue Airways – as part of a bigger “build-out” of its Marcus by Goldman Sachs digital banking platform. This week, Citi partnered with Amazon to launch its own BNPL offering Citi Flex Plan.

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Bnext Adds $13 Million to Series A Round

Place another notch in the belt of the challenger banking crowd. This week banking alternative Bnext extended its Series A round by $13.08 million (€11 million), adding to the $26.7 million (€22.5 million) the bank brought in last October.

Bnext’s Series A round now stands at $39.2 million (€33 million) and its total funding is now in excess of $47 million (€40 million). Existing investors DN Capital, Redalpine, Speedinvest, Founders Future, Enern, Digital Horizons, Kreos Capital, and Cometa contributed to this week’s follow-on round.

Bnext will use the funds to further its growth in its home territory of Spain, as well as build its presence in Latin America by focusing on its expansion into Mexico. The bank initially launched in Mexico at the beginning of this year and now has 60,000 users in the region.

“At Bnext we have always had a clear objective: to be a banking alternative that allows our users to end the bad experiences of traditional banks,” said Bnext CEO Guillermo Vicandi. “Since its launch, our growth has been constant both in services and products and in users, and we are proud to have the support of the best investors to design and execute a strategy that allows us to achieve our objective. Our position to change the banking sector in the Spanish-speaking world is unbeatable and we have a duty to take advantage of it.”

The challenger bank has amassed 400,000 clients since it launched in 2018 and currently processes $119 million (€100 million) per month in transactions. Last month Bnext launched its Premium account and added to its Rewards program.

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Circle Lands $25 Million, Partners with Digital Asset Brokerage Firm Genesis

Blockchain-based money transfer platform Circle is making double headlines today. The U.S.-based company not only landed $25 million in funding, it also partnered with Genesis, an institutional trading firm offering two-sided liquidity for digital currency, including bitcoin.

Genesis parent company Digital Currency Group is the investor behind the $25 million. The investment is Circle’s first since August of 2018 and brings the company’s total funding to $271 million.

“Circle has been a pioneer in the digital currency market, building innovative products and services, and has consistently provided our industry with leadership on technology, standards, and regulatory policy,” said Genesis CEO Michael Moro. “With the rapid rise of USDC, we are clearly seeing mainstream momentum for digital currencies, and through this partnership with Circle we believe we can materially advance our shared mission of building a new global financial system.”

Circle will use the new funding to accelerate the adoption of USDC, a digital dollar stablecoin issued by regulated FIs, backed by fully reserved assets, governed by membership-based consortium Centre, and redeemable on a 1:1 basis for U.S. dollars. USDC has been gaining traction this year; earlier this month the cryptocurrency’s market capitalization crossed the $1 billion mark.

The investment will also provide a boost for Circle’s new Business Account and API products that the company launched earlier this year. These new services offer financial services companies a suite of APIs for USDC payments, facilitating the use of USDC in e-commerce, on-demand delivery marketplaces, digital gaming, internet services, P2P digital wallets, exchanges, B2B payments, challenger banks, trade finance, and digital asset lending and yield products.

“The partnership announced today between Circle and Genesis will bring to market solutions for businesses and developers who are seeking to generate strong positive yield from their own or customer USDC holdings, and access to USDC-based credit for businesses and merchants that are using USDC for treasury operations and business payments,” said Circle’s Josh Hawkins in a blog post announcement.

Digital Currency Group, which describes itself as the “epicenter of the bitcoin and blockchain industry,” has made 180 investments since it was founded in 2011. Digital Currency Asset Manager Grayscale and crypto news organization Coindesk are also Digital Currency Group’s subsidiaries.

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Thought Machine Locks in $42 Million in Funding

Cloud banking technology provider Thought Machine has secured another $42 million in funding, boosting its Series B round to a total of $125 million after picking up an $83 million investment this spring. The new infusion of capital was led by Eurazeo Growth and featured participation from new investors British Patient Capital and SEB.

The investment will help the company to continue its international expansion – including the addition of new hires in the APAC region, the U.S., and in Australia. The company also plans to use the funding to fuel development of new products and functionalities, including a new payments solution.

“The prospect of transitioning to cloud native technology is now at the forefront of every major bank’s roadmap,” ThoughtMachine CEO Paul Taylor said. “Plans have been hastened in the wake of regulatory pressure, economic uncertainty, and the need to manage cost-income ratios.”

Thought Machine’s signature offering, Vault, is a modern, cloud-native core banking system designed for financial institutions burdened with legacy technology. Demonstrated at the company’s Finovate debut at FinovateEurope in 2018, Vault provides a secure, fast, and reliable end-to-end banking system that manages users, accounts, savings, loans, mortgages, smart contracts, and other financial products and services. By leveraging APIs and a microservice architecture, Vault is able to provide financial institutions with all the functionality necessary for bank operations. Currently geared toward retail and small business banking, the company plans to add both commercial banking and private wealth services “in the future.”

Named to the Tech Nation Future Fifty in March, and joining the Mastercard Start Path Programme in May, Thought Machine announced in June that its Vault platform was compatible with all major cloud infrastructure providers including Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and IBM Cloud. Founded in 2014 and headquartered in London, Thought Machine includes Atom Bank and Lloyds Banking Group among its partners.

Revolut Adds $80 Million to Series D; Valuation Remains at $5.5 Billion

The only thing better than receiving a $500 million investment in February may be getting another $80 million in funding five months later.

Alternative bank Revolut announced late last week that TSG Consumer Partners is the latest investor to join its Series D round. The $80 million investment from the VC firm takes the London, U.K.-based company’s total for the current round to $580 million. Revolut noted that its estimated $5.5 billion valuation in February remains the same.

Company founder and CEO Nikolay Storonsky told Silicon Republic that the additional funding was an instance of TSG Consumer Partners making an offer the company could not refuse. He said that Revolut was not seeking additional funding when the opportunity from TSG developed. “TSG approached us with an exciting proposition to work together,” Storonsky said, adding that the VC firm’s track record of working with “some of the most successful and innovative consumer companies in recent years” was a major plus for the partnership. TSG Consumer Partners has funded companies like BrewDog, Smashbox Cosmetics, and Vitamin Water.

With more than 12 million customers around the world, Revolut offers consumers a variety of banking and personal financial services including a digital bank account with PFM tools, P2P payments, and interbank exchange rate currency exchange. The accounts also come with a prepaid debit card, early payday for direct deposit customers, and stock trading tools.

Founded in 2015 and making its Finovate debut that same year, Revolut launched in the U.S. this spring and has since opened operations in Lithuania, added to its leadership team in Singapore, and reached a milestone of one million customers in Ireland. More recently, the company has expanded its cryptocurrency service to its U.S.-based customers, and partnered with TrueLayer to bring the benefits of open banking technology to its million-plus customers in France.

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Scalable Capital Lands $460 Million Valuation with New $58 Million Funding Round

Scalable Capital landed $58 million (€50 million) for its roboadvisory platform this week. The new funds come courtesy of BlackRock, HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, and Tengelmann Ventures.

Today’s round brings Scalable Capital’s total funding to $133 million (€116 million) and boosts the Germany-based company’s valuation to $460 million. Scalable Capital will use the investment to grow in the wealth management and brokerage spaces, and invest in the B2B side of its business.

“In times of COVID-19, our funding round is a powerful signal; it shows that our focused, digital business model is convincing the investors,” said company Co-founder and Co-CEO, Erik Podzuweit. “We will use the additional capital to expand our position as the market leader in digital wealth management and to reach new customer segments with the broker.”

With 80,000 customers across Germany, Austria, the U.K., and Switzerland, Scalable Capital has $2 billion in assets under management. The company offers personalized, fully managed investment portfolios.

Using its risk management technology, Scalable Capital’s B2C offering aims to make investing accessible for everyone by charging simple, transparent fees.

“We established Scalable Capital to make investing easier and better through technology,” said Scalable Capital Co-founder and Co-CEO Florian Prucker. “Not only has our B2C business grown strongly over the last few years, but Scalable Capital’s technology is also used by more and more B2B partners; most recently we launched our partnership with Barclays. With this funding round, we also want to expand our team of currently 130 employees in order to drive our expansion and the further development of our platform.”

The company’s flagship offering is a B2B approach that brings its roboadvisory technology to help banks offer their clients a different flavor of investing. Scalable Capital recently added three additional partners to its roster and now boasts partnerships with firms including Barclays, Gerd Kommer Capital, Raiffeisen Banking Group Austria, ING Deutschland, Siemens Private Finance, Openbank, Targobank, Oskar, and Baader Bank, and others.

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Goldman and Mastercard Back Bond to Help Banks Forge Tech Partnerships

Bond, a company that specializes in helping banks make the most out of their collaborations with technology partners has raised $32 million in Series A funding.

The round was led by Coatue, and featured participation from both Goldman Sachs and Mastercard. Canaan, B Capital, XYZ Ventures, and angel investors including former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack were also involved in the round.

“The ongoing global pandemic and renewed focus on societal inequities make Bond’s mission of driving financial innovation and inclusion more important now than ever before,” Bond CEO and co-founder Roy Ng said in a statement. “Opportunity starts with access. We look to lead the industry in enabling banks and innovators across industries to level the playing field for consumers and small business.”

Bond offers banks a suite of developer-focused APIs and SDKs that remove friction from many of the critical processes involved in bank-brand partnerships, such as onboarding, technical integration, and product monitoring. Bond’s AI-enabled technology centralizes and streamlines these processes, and uses automation to provide oversight and ensure compliance.

“Today, more than ever, speed to market with a proven, reliable product is a competitive advantage,” explained Sherri Haymond, EVP, Digital Partnerships, Mastercard. “Bond provides an entirely new approach to help its fintech and bank partners deliver for the end user. We look forward to working with them as they move to this next stage.”

In a blog post discussing the announcement, Ng articulated the challenge facing smaller regional banks and community lenders when they try to forge partnerships with technology companies. He blamed a wide variety of factors – from compliance to operational constraints – for making it difficult for these partnerships to even “get off the ground.” This, Ng said, is where Bond comes in. “Rather than have every app and every bank recreate the wheel for each new partnership, Bond now does the hard work in the middle so banks and brands can each concentrate on what they do best,” he said.

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Taulia Garners $60 from J.P. Morgan Chase and Ping An

Sometimes the story in a funding announcement isn’t necessarily the funding itself, but rather the investors. That’s the case with today’s news of supply chain finance provider Taulia’s $60 million funding round.

The strategic round, which brings Taulia’s total funding to $177 million, was led by China-based Ping An Global Voyager Fund. J.P. Morgan and Prosperity7 Ventures also participated, along with existing investors including Zouk Capital.

With today’s funding, The Wall Street Journal estimates Taulia’s valuation at $400 million.

The strategic relationship tied with this funding round signals international expansion for California-based Taulia, which already has a global customer base. “Ping An, J.P. Morgan and Prosperity7 Ventures bring a wealth of knowledge that we will leverage to further solve liquidity needs of businesses and contribute to economic growth,” said Taulia CEO Cedric Bru.

“Taulia is at the forefront of supply chain finance technology, with a global footprint that spans over two million SME suppliers and a suite of solutions that dramatically improves SMEs’ ability to manage cash,” said Managing Director and COO of the Ping An Global Voyager Fund, Donald Lacey. “We are excited to partner with Cedric and his team to build out their capabilities in China.”

The investment further deepens Taulia’s ties with JP Morgan. The two initiated a relationship earlier this year that aimed to help J.P. Morgan build a trade finance solution for its clients. “We’re committed to bringing the best solutions in the market to our customers and our strategic alliance with Taulia has been well received by clients,” said J.P. Morgan’s Global Head of Trade, Stuart Roberts. “The investment component is another step in our relationship as we look to better serve clients and their supply chains within our Global Trade franchise.”

Founded in 2009, Taulia helps businesses improve their supply chains by providing financing options with flexible payment terms. Their tools help businesses accelerate payments and free up working capital. A network of two million businesses use Taulia’s technology. The company processes over $500 billion every year. Taulia’s clients include Airbus, AstraZeneca, Nissan and Vodafone.

Canadian Data Aggregator Flinks Raises $11 Million in Funding

Flinks, a startup based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, that specializes in data aggregation for financial services, has secured $11 million in Series A funding. The investment was led by NAventures, the VC arm of National Bank of Canada, which also provided $5.2 million in debt financing. Also participating in the round were Intact Ventures, Luge Capital, and Panache Ventures.

Flinks CEO Yves-Gabriel Leboeuf called the investment “timely” adding that the company was “well on track” to meet the goals it has previously set and was now ready to “face new, bigger challenges.” In a Q&A announcement at the company blog, Lebouef explained that, having focused on retail banking up to this moment, the company will look to expand into what he referred to as “wealth data.”

“Flinks will enable connections to data sources in the wealth management space, through a new aggregation service,” Lebouef said. “This is something we’re going to pull off in the near future – in fact, we’re already well into the beta phase.”

Founded in 2016, Flinks helps businesses provide users with the financial services they want. The company’s technology enables companies to connect their customer’s bank accounts, and to leverage data insights to build better, more personalized financial products. Lebouef noted that “roughly 1 in 3 Canadians” have connected their bank accounts with his company, which has processed 300+ million connections.

The investment will help Flinks expand to new markets and take advantage of the opportunities of open banking. Managing Director, Venture Capital, NAventures Philippe Daoust said, “We see great alignment between Flinks’ mission and our own focus on helping our clients manage their finances by providing them with innovative and reliable digital solutions.”

Flinks, which signed its first client in the spring of 2017 and its 100th client a year later, began 2020 by adding Clayton Feick as its new Chief Revenue Officer. Feick is a veteran of Quandl and Thomson Reuters, where he was vice president and global head of sales and business development and global lead, respectively.

Chainalysis Raises $13 Million for Crypto Intelligence

Blockchain analysis company Chainalysis is on a mission to promote trust and transparency for cryptocurrencies. Aiding that undertaking today is an additional $13 million in funding to add to its Series B round.

The new investment comes from Ribbit Capital and Sound Ventures and brings Chainalysis’ Series B round to $49 million. The New York-based company’s total funding now stands at almost $67 million.

Chainalysis was founded in 2014 and was recently valued at $266 million, according to Pitchbook. Among its offerings are automated cryptocurrency transaction monitoring software, investigation software for tracing the flow of funds across blockchains, and profiles of cryptocurrency businesses.

As a part of the deal, Chainalysis has gained former Treasury Department official and current Ribbit Capital General Partner Sigal Mandelker as an advisor.

Mandelker and the new funds both play a key role as Chainalysis invests more into the government side of its business. While Chainalysis offers solutions for private sector businesses and financial institutions, the company also works with a handful of U.S. government agencies, including the IRS, the DEA, ICE, and the SEC.

In an interview with blockchain publication The Block, Chainalysis CEO and Co-founder Michael Gronager said, “We extended our Series B in order to meet demand for our services, primarily from government customers. Government agencies understand that visibility into cryptocurrency is important to national security and that crypto crime does not let up during a pandemic. Importantly, this also has long-term benefits to the cryptocurrency industry.”

As transactions move to the digital realm and more countries begin considering CBDCs, Chainalysis is making a smart move in pouring more resources into its government-focused services. Mandelker said she is “excited to work with the Chainalysis team to help develop public-private partnerships, enhance ground-breaking technologies in financial services, and root out illicit networks.”

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Zeller Raises $4.4 Million to Change the World of Business Banking

Business banking services provider Zeller launched earlier this year to offer businesses in Australia a new way to bank. Heading up the new company is ex-Square duo Ben Pfisterer and Dominic Yap, which just revealed a round of funding Zeller landed earlier this year.

The investment, which closed before the emergence of the coronavirus, totaled $4.4 million (AU$6.3 million). The seed round was led by Square Peg and saw contributions from Apex Capital Partners.

Taking aim at the lack of alternative business banking services in Australia, Zeller seeks to compete with traditional banks by better serving the small business banking market.

“First and foremost [businesses] need to get paid, then they need somewhere to put that money and then need a way to deploy it, to pay their bills and staff and invest further,” Pfisterer told Business Insider Australia. “What we wanted to do was create a solution that did all three for them on one system.”

Specifically, Zeller is targeting the historically underserved category of mid-market businesses, a group Pfisterer estimates at 1.5 million. While the company hasn’t yet launched its services, once it does it will offer payment acceptance technology, business financial management tools, an instant deposit account, and a fee-free debit card.

“You see neobanks popping up everywhere, but they’re all consumer-focused. There’s no sort of neobank focused on all these other business needs. It’s quite complicated but we think we have something completely unique.” said Pfisterer of the Australian market.

Worldwide, there have been a flood of new consumer-focused challenger banks in the past year. However, we’ve seen rising competition in challenger banks working in the businesses banking arena. Among the new entrants are Arival Bank, which was founded in 2018 and recently unveiled its business bank account. Digital payments company Square also announced plans to launch a small business bank next year.

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