Hong Kong-based Aspex Management leads investment in P2P money transfer service
Hong Kong-based equity investor Aspex Management led a $64 million funding round for South Korean fintech startup Viva Republica, the PayPal-backed creator of financial services platform Toss.
Viva Republica said the fresh funds boosted the company’s value to $2.2 billion, with participation from Toss’ existing investors, including Kleiner Perkins, Altos Ventures, Singapore’s GIC, Sequoia Capital China, Goodwater Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners.
The Seoul-based fintech last raised $80 million in a funding round in December, co-led by Korean investors, Kleiner Perkins and Ribbit Capital and backed by many return investors. So far, Viva Republica has raised about $250 million.
Founded in 2013, Viva Republic launched Toss four years ago as a simple and frictionless P2P money transfer service. Toss has evolved into a platform providing a range of financial services in one app, including banking, money transfer, dashboard and credit score management.
To date, Toss has been downloaded more than 30 million times and has over 13 million registered users, over a fifth of South Korea’s population, with more than $42 billion of transactions processed.
“We are truly pleased that Toss has gained further momentum to embark upon the next phase of its journey,” said SG Lee, CEO of Viva Republica.
The lead investor in this round, Aspex Management, is an equity investment firm focused on Asia founded in 2018. It looks to invest in industries and companies exposed to large addressable markets with long-term potential and those undergoing structural changes.
“We like the large addressable market financial services offer and the unique leading position Toss occupies among mobile consumers,” said Hermes Li, founder and chief investment officer of Aspex Management.
Before launching Aspex Management, Li was an executive managing director for Och-Ziff Management, one of the largest alternative asset managers in the world.
Tripalink, a Los Angeles-based real estate startup providing co-living space for students and young professionals, has raised a $10 million Series B at a $100 million valuation.
Founded by University of Southern California-Los Angeles (USC) graduates in 2016, Tripalink has grown rapidly. According to CEO Donghao Li, the company has been profitable since the year it was founded and tripled its revenue in 2018.
The latest financing marks Tripalink’s third funding round in a ten-month period, Li said, bringing its total capital raised to $20 million. Existing investors Calin SJG Fund, China-based K2VC, and Tekton Ventures participated in the round, along with new investor Oriza Ventures.
Tripalink has two product lines. First, it works with small and medium-sized developers to create and manage co-living spaces. Second, it has also become a developer, building out its own co-living projects.
Tripalink helps provide furnished, all utilities-paid co-living spaces in Los Angeles, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Irvine, Austin, and Philadelphia. It claims that its properties are “fully occupied” in most of the cities where it currently operates. The new capital will mostly go toward market expansion with a goal of being in 30 cities by 2020, according to Li. By the end of this year, the company expects it will have developed itself nearly 4,000 beds via master leases or joint ventures.
“Besides building a community, our price per bedroom is much cheaper compared to most luxury apartments,” Li told Crunchbase News. “Purchasing land and then building our own co-living space is our ultimate goal in each market.”
The model is attractive to developer partners because the more bedrooms in a unit, the higher the value of their property, Li said. Tripalink purposely targets centrally located areas that are more likely to see appreciation over time.
Flutterwave is a Nigerian-founded B2B payments service (primarily) for companies in Africa to pay other companies on the continent and abroad.
Alipay is Alibaba’s digital wallet and payments platform. In 2013, Alipay surpassed PayPal in payments volume and currently claims a global network of more than 1 billion active users, per Alibaba’s latest earnings report.
A large portion of Alipay’s network is in China, which makes the Flutterwave integration significant to capturing payments activity around the estimated $200 billion in China-Africa trade.
“This means that all our merchants can accept or install Alipay as a payment type to accept payments from its billion users,” Flutterwave CEO Olugbenga Agboola — aka GB — told TechCrunch.
“There’s a lot of trade between Africa and China and this integration makes it easier for African merchants to accept Chinese customer payments.”
A Flutterwave company release added, “We’ve managed to connect African countries…to each other so it was about time we connected Africa to the world. We started with the U.S. … but you can’t connect Africa to the world without China.”
An Alipay spokesperson confirmed with TechCrunch the Flutterwave collaboration. Flutterwave will earn revenue from the partnership by charging its standard 3.8% on international transactions. The company currently has more than 60,000 merchants on its platform, according to Agboola.
The Flutterwave-Alipay alliance developed out of Agboola’s acceptance in Alibaba’s Africa eFounders Fellowship.
“Because of that I was in China to do meetings with Jack Ma and the only ask I had from that trip is ‘I want to be the Africa payment infrastructure that plugs directly into Alipay,’ ” Agboola said.
Founded in 2016, Flutterwave allows clients to tap its APIs and work with Flutterwave developers to customize payments applications. Existing customers include Uber, Booking.com and e-commerce unicorn Jumia.com. Flutterwave has processed 100 million transactions worth $2.6 billion since inception, according to company data.
Founded in 2015, Deako sells a modular light switch that can function with either conventional or smart lights, allowing a homeowner to easily swap in high-tech, remotely controlled lighting. Its technology works off a home’s existing wiring and Deako says it lets homebuilders market their projects as smart homes, without a lot of upfront cost.
Deako is piloting its technology with more than a dozen national homebuilders, and the startup has targeted Dallas, Austin, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando and Atlanta as its main markets. Deako’s homebuilder partners construct more than 100,000 homes per year.
“The last 12 months have seen a dramatic shift from builders experimenting with smart technology in their homes to it being a mandated standard in every home built by most of the top national builders.” Deako COO Wes Nicol said in a statement. “This has been driven by changing demographics of homebuyers as well as reduced cost and standardization of major smart home voice control platforms such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.”
The new funding, which brings the company’s lifetime total to $20 million, will enable Deako to up production capacity to meet demand from its homebuilder partners. The company will also deploy the cash infusion to expand sales and marketing efforts and accelerate new product development.
Seattle-based Columbia Pacific Advisors funded the entire round. It has a fund that addresses “financing needs of business borrowers that are not met by traditional lenders or equity capital sources,” according to a Deako press release. The startup chose Columbia Pacific because it was willing to provide funds without significantly diluting Deako shareholder value.
Today Deako has 20 employees, and it plans to hire five to eight more people in the coming months. CEO Derek Richardson was an early employee at BlackBerry and spent 12 years at Cypress Semiconductor. The inspiration to start Deako came from Richardson’s three daughters.
“They’re running around the house turning on lights,” Richardson told GeekWire last year. Before smart lights, that meant roaming room to room each evening, flipping switches. That has changed.
“Every night I hit one button,” he said, “and instantly all the lights are turned off.”
The larger smart home market is growing at a rapid clip as homeowners’ appetite for tech increases. The global market for smart home devices is expected to grow nearly 27 percent in 2019 to 832.7 million shipments, according to an International Data Corp. report in March.
There’s a flood of competitors selling smart light products — Lutron Caseta, Leviton Decora Smart, Wemo, GE Z-Wave, Legrand Adorne by Legrand. Even still, Deako — a Y-Combinator Alumni and GeekWire Summit “Invention We Love” — claims to offer a suite of features that the competition doesn’t match.
Nowports, a developer of software and services to track freight shipments from ports to destinations across Latin America, has aims to become the regional answer to Flexport’s billion-dollar digital shipping business.
Almost 54 million containers are imported and exported from Latin America each year, and nearly half of them are either delayed or lost due to mismanagement.
Nowports is pitching shippers on its digital management software to keep track of each container, and has signed on a number of leading venture capital firms to fulfill its mission.
The Monterrey, Mexico-based company raised $5.3 million in its seed round of financing. The round was led by Base10 and Monashees, with participation from Y Combinator and additional investors like Broadhaven, Soma Capital, Partech, Tekton and Paul Buchheit.
“In Nowports we saw a very strong combination: well prepared and ambitious team using technology to help thousands of customers to improve their importing and exporting processes. By adding efficiency, reliability, and transparency to change a multi-billion dollar industry, Nowports has been able to attract many clients that saw significant improvements in their daily routines by using the solution” said Caio Bolognesi, general partner from Monashees, in a statement.
Salesforce Ventures made its inaugural investment in Latin America in RunaHR, a payroll automation platform, in a US$3.5m seed round that included Y Combinator, the founder of Gmail, CTO of Dropbox, executives of Rappi, Nubank, Cabify and WeWork Latin America, and HR experts including the CTO of Zenefits, former Head Sales Head of Gusto and former Product Manager of Gusto.
(Press Release) Mexico City, June 5, 2018. Runa, the platform automating payroll in Latin America, cuts the time it takes to manage payroll and HR in half for SMBs. Only 5 months after its launch, the Silicon Valley- and Mexico-based startup is experiencing rapid adoption in Mexico.
The idea was born when Courtney McColgan, founder of Runa, experienced the complexity around people management in Latin America during her previous position as CMO of Cabify. It was difficult for her to obtain key employee information, and ensure her team was being paid on-time and correctly. Even with a dedicated HR department, it was impossible due to the limited solutions available in the market.
The goal was to create a system that was always up to date and that automated everything – payroll, employee information, incidents, contracts and reports. Something would be as easy-to-use as Facebook and as accessible in price as Gmail.
“Existing payroll software in Latin America is not built for the SMB. It is extremely difficult to use, requires a lot of manual processing and is very expensive. Our platform allows users to automate everything and do so with a much more pleasant interface and a much more modern technology,” comments Courtney McColgan, CEO of Runa.
In April, Runa closed a seed round of financing of $3.5 million dollars. Notable investors include Y-Combinator, the founder of Gmail, the CTO of Dropbox, the CTO of Zenefits and the executives of the largest startups in Latin America: Rappi, Nubank, Cabify and WeWork Latin America. It is also the first startup in in all of Latin America in which Salesforce Ventures has invested.
“The Latin America market is gigantic. There are 17.5 million SMBs regionally and 4.5 million in our first market, Mexico, “Courtney said. “Even more important, the market is completely greenfield. Runa is the first business software into SMBs after Gmail and Microsoft Office, so you can imagine the possibilities as we expand our product offering over the next five years. “
Runa officially launched as part of the Y-Combinator Winter 2018 batch in January 2018. During the following 8 weeks, they grew 150% week after week reporting 56 companies and $256K ARR on demo day. Currently, Runa is growing at 50% month-over-month.
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PayJoy, a startup that has developed smartphone technology to facilitate access to credit in emerging markets, has raised $20 million from venture capital firm Greylock Partners, the company said on Thursday.
Union Square Ventures, EchoVC and Core Innovation Capital also participated in the round, PayJoy said. The San Francisco-based startup said it will use the funding to expand, secure more partners and develop new technologies.
PayJoy enables consumers with no bank accounts or formal credit history to purchase smartphones on installment payments and get cash loans. It does so by turning the smartphone into collateral through software that locks the phone when payments have not been made.
It believes that making smartphones more affordable can be a stepping stone toward increasing financial inclusion since more financial services are now being provided digitally.
“We’re building technology to help people carve a path into the financial system,” Mark Heynen, the company’s co-founder and chief business officer, said in an interview.
Globally, 1.7 billion adults do not have a bank account, but two-thirds of them own a mobile phone which could help them access financial services, the World Bank said in a 2018 report.
Josh McFarland, a partner at Greylock, said he believes PayJoy’s technology and distribution network could help emerging markets unlock some of their economic growth.
“Credit is a major piece of the infrastructure needed to help the global middle class better their quality of life,” McFarland said.
PayJoy, which employs around 90 people globally, operates in more than 10 countries including Mexico, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kenya and Guatemala. In most markets the startup does not provide financing itself, but partners with retailers and credit providers. Partners include Telefonica, Vodacom and Orange SA.
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Because this is America and we love cars and convenience, some banks offer drive-throughs, which typically come in one of three forms.
There’s the kind with a window and an actual human bank teller, the kind with an automated teller machine, and this reporter’s personal favorite: the pneumatic tubes. The whoosh of air, the satisfying thump of a capsule coming to a halt, a lollipop that comes with your transaction receipt because you lied and said there was a kid in the car. It’s all a delight.
Hyperloop is an open-source transportation technology built around that same tube and capsule concept. Except instead of checks and suckers, its capsules are scaled to carry people and freight.
And rather than using air pressure to propel capsules through a tube, Hyperloop’s design requires reducing intra-tube air pressure to a near vacuum. This reduces air resistance, which, in turn, means that capsules can hurtle down the tunnels at phenomenal speed: up to 600 miles per hour.
Virgin Hyperloop One is one of several companies working to commercialize the open-sourced specifications for hyperloop tech, which was originally published by a joint team of Tesla and SpaceX engineers in 2013. Somewhat unsurprisingly, it takes a lot of capital to get a mass transit infrastructure company off the ground, which is why Virgin Hyperloop One appears to be raising additional cash.
According to paperwork filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday, Hyperloop Technologies, Inc. (doing business as “Virgin Hyperloop One”) disclosed its intent to raise nearly $225 million in new equity funding. The filing states that the company has already secured $172.2 million, leaving $52.5 million in the equity offering as-yet unsold. So far, 80 investors contributed to Virgin Hyperloop One’s round.
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Farmers markets have become a staple presence in many US cities, where there is a steady supply of smaller, often organic farmers and other food producers wanting a more direct channel to sell their goods, and a steady demand from foody types who like having the option of bypassing bigger grocery stores to amble around a group of stalls with a wider choice of items to cook and eat. Now, one of the startups that has turned that model into a profitable on-demand delivery business has raised some funding as it continues its expansion in the US, and beyond, en route to an IPO filing, potentially as soon as this year.
GrubMarket, which works with smaller farms and other suppliers to sell and deliver their items by way of its online store both to businesses — such as restaurants and stores of different sizes, as well as the plethora of food startups that prepare food for consumers — and consumers, has raised $25 million in an oversubscribed C1 round of funding (it was originally only going to be $15 million). (May 2019 update: ultimately the round actually closed at $28 million.)
The investment is being led by WI Harper Group and Digital Garage, with participation from other new investors Evolv Ventures, University Growth Fund, Arancia International Inc, CentreGold Capital and existing investors ACE & Company, GGV Capital, Fusion Fund, Bascom Ventures, along with other unnamed participants.
Mike Xu, GrubMarket’s CEO and founder, would not comment on its valuation, but starting from its earliest days as a member of the Winter 2015 cohort of Y Combinator, the startup has raised $89 million. And according to PitchBook figures — which we have confirmed with a close source are largely accurate — the pre-money valuation in this round was $230 million, which would put the post-money at around $255 million.
Xu said the company is currently operating on a $150 million annual run rate — versus $100 million when it raised $32 million nine months ago — and it continues to be profitable. Because of this, Xu said GrubMarket doesn’t need any working capital. It plans to use this $25 million instead to invest in more technology and acquisitions.
Mollybox, a Shanghai, China-based pet food brand run by Xolo (Cayman) Limited, secured a total of $13m in its Series B financing round.
The round was co-led by DCM and Mars backed venture capital Digitalis, with participation from Unity Ventures, Digitalis Ventures, Seek Ventures, FJ Labs, Tekton Ventures, and Long Capital.
Led by Ju Yi, founder and CEO, Mollybox is a subscription-based service providing cat litter and food and sending to owners a “Surprise Box” every month filled with various kinds of cat snacks and nutrition products to explore new products.
The company has a total of 30,000 subscribers who are receiving its products.
A single box, its main product, contains staple food, snacks and toys. Users of the service can purchase monthly, quarterly and annual subscriptions.
In 2016, Mollybox received RMB 2 million in its angel round from Unity Ventures, and in 2017 landed RMB 4.2 million in pre-A round from Unity Ventures, Long Capital and Hexi Capital.
In January 2018, the company completed its Series A financing with $3.8 million investment from DCM, Atom Ventures and Unity Ventures.
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By Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul
Memebox, a Korean online beauty marketplace startup, has closed a $35-million Series D round led by new strategic investor JJDC Inc, according to the company’s announcement last Thursday. This round marks the Korean startup’s first strategic investment and brings its total funding to $190 million. Memebox said that it will work with JJDC, the venture capital arm of Johnson & Johnson, to access the global market. “We want to build the next generation of personal care brands by leveraging Korean technology across beauty categories… We will leverage JJDC’s global capabilities and scientific expertise which will enable us to take a big step forward in our focus on innovation, R&D, and ultimately, reaching a global audience,” said Memebox founder and CEO Hyungseok Dino Ha.
Mumbai-based ecommerce platform for buying and selling used cars, Truebil, has raised INR 100 Cr ($14 Mn) in a mix of equity and debt Series B funding round led by Japanese investor Joe Hirao, as the company plans to foray across five other Indian cities and strengthen its technology-based stack.
In the startup’s latest funding round, Kalaari Capital, Inventus Capital, Kae, Shunwei Capital, and Tekton had also participated, with Merisis Advisors as an investment banker.
With the latest funding, Paix Technology-owned Truebil has announced its total funding to have reached INR 160 Cr ($22.4 Mn). The company had announced revenue of INR 50 Cr ($7 Mn) for the FY 2017-18, and aims to generate 5x growth in revenue for the current fiscal.
Truebil was founded in March 2015 by Suraj Kalwani, Himanshu Singhal, Rakesh Raman, Ravi Chirania, Ritesh Pandey, Shanu Vivek, and Shubh Bansal. It offers an ample choice for its customers, providing a detailed report of each car to help them make informed purchase decisions.
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Outdoorsy is building for the road ahead. The three-year-old company, which connects customers with underused RVs and other trucks big enough to camp in overnight, just raised $50 million in Series C funding led by Greenspring Associates, with participation from earlier backers Aviva Ventures, Altos Ventures, AutoTech Ventures and Tandem Capital. That puts its total funding, in less than a year’s time, at $75 million. (We’d separately reported on its $25 million Series B round last February. It has now raised $81.5 million altogether.) It’s easy to understand why investors are excited about Outdoorsy, which moved its headquarters from the Bay Area to Austin six months ago, partly to get closer to its base of customers, as well as to take advantage of attractive tax incentives. The company is capitalizing on a global trend of millennials who want to stay overnight at places other than hotels, which can be pricey and based in commercial districts that can’t provide the same experience of staying in a neighborhood. Yet Outdoorsy is taking things a step further, so to speak. As co-founder and CEO Jeff Cavins notes, even with Airbnbs seemingly everywhere, there remain plenty of places where it makes even more sense to rent an RV and set up a grill, including at a beach, beside a lake or right outside events like musical festivals and car races. That’s saying nothing of traditional camping spots, like Yosemite and Yellowstone Valley. It’s easier than ever thanks largely to Outdoorsy, too, says Cavins. Earlier on, the company logged serious time with outfits like Aviva, a British insurance company that is not only an Outdoorsy investor at this point but which was convinced by Outdoorsy to create an insurance product expressly to cover RVs as distinct from more accident-prone vehicles with which they’ve long been lumped, like dune buggies.
LemonBox, a Chinese e-commerce startup that imports vitamins and health products from the U.S., has raised $2 million to develop its business.
The company graduated from Y Combinator’s most recent program in the U.S. and, fueled by the demo day, has pulled in the new capital from 10 investors, which include Partech, Tekton Ventures, Cathexis Ventures, Scrum Ventures and 122 West Ventures.
LemonBox started when co-founder and CEO Derek Weng, a former employee at Walmart in the U.S., saw an opportunity to organize the common practice of bringing health products back in China. Any Mainland Chinese person who has lived in, or even just visited, the U.S. will be familiar with such requests from family and friends, and LemonBox aims to make it possible for anyone in China to get U.S.-quality products without relying on a mule.
The service is primarily a WeChat app — which taps into China’s ubiquitous messaging platform — and a website, although Weng told TechCrunch in an interview this week that the company is contemplating a standalone app of its own. The benefit of that, beyond a potentially more engaging customer experience, could be to broaden LemonBox’s product selection and use data to offer a more customized selection of products. Related to that, LemonBox said it hopes to work with health and fitness-related services in the future to gather data, with permission, to help refine the personal approach.
BTJ Logistics Pvt. Ltd, which runs tech-enabled logistics startup Freightwalla, has raised an undisclosed sum from venture capital firms Kae Capital and San Francisco-based Tekton Ventures, a company statement said.
The startup said it will use the capital to push sales, improve operations and to further develop its technology platform, the statement added.
Freightwalla was founded in 2016 by Sanjay Bhatia, a former PwC executive, Bharat Thanvi, a supply chain management executive, and Punit Java, a former Amazon and Microsoft executive.
The company offers enterprises a technology-based platform to plan, book and manage their international freight shipments online.
“By offering our services as a technology-enabled forwarder, we are able to transform the experience for our customers at every step of the process, from planning shipments, to automating document workflows and providing key insights into their operations. We have been able to cut down the time involved in planning shipments by up to 80% whilst saving an average of 20% on the cost of a shipment to our clients,” said Bhatia in the statement.
South Korea has its fourth unicorn startup after Viva Republica, the company beyond popular payment app Toss, announced it has raised an $80 million round at a valuation of $1.2 billion.
This new round is led by U.S. firms Kleiner Perkins and Ribbit Capital, both of which cut their first checks for Korea with this deal. Others participating include existing investors Altos Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, Goodwater Capital, KTB Network, Novel, PayPal and Qualcomm Ventures. The deal comes just six months after Viva Republica raised $40 million to accelerate growth, and it takes the company to nearly $200 million raised from investors to date.
Toss was started in 2015 by former dentist SG Lee who grew frustrated by the cumbersome way online payments worked in Korea. Despite the fact that the country has one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world and is a top user of credit cards, the process required more than a dozen steps and came with limits.
“Before Toss, users required five passwords and around 37 clicks to transfer $10. With Toss users need just one password and three steps to transfer up to KRW 500,000 ($430),” Lee said in a past statement.
Since its launch, it has made over 1,500 business loans to help MSMEs in farming, hospitality, logistics, retail, real estate, technology, and health get the capital they need to grow their operations.
Having raised US$1.25 million in funding in March of last year, Lidya has now secured a US$6.9 million round led by Omidyar Network, the Silicon Valley impact investment firm established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. New investors Alitheia Capital (via the Umunthu Fund), Bamboo Capital Partners, and Tekton Ventures, also joined the round, which included existing investors Accion Venture Lab and Newid Capital.
by Connie Loizos (@cookie)
According to serial entrepreneur Jeff Cavins, more than 35 million people each year look to rent an RV — 38 percent of them so-called millennials. Yet they often walk away from the experience empty-handed. The reason, he says: There are fewer than 100,000 commercially owned vehicles available from traditional rental services.
Cavins says that his San Francisco-based company, Outdoorsy, is beginning to address this issue by enabling owners of the 14 million privately owned RVs in the United States to rent them to users, à la Airbnb.
The vehicles are mostly sitting around collecting dust anyway, says Cavins, who co-founded the company in late 2014 after heading up seven previous companies — two of which were publicly traded.
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The financial services industry is facing a wave of digital disruption that is starting to reshape the sector. The Fintech 100 celebrates the top companies this bold new space: the 50 leading established players creating change within financial services, and 50 of the emerging fintech stars of tomorrow. The Fintech 100 offers an in-depth view of the most exciting startups and organisations taking advantage of technology to revolutionise the industry. The report is a collaborative effort between H2 Ventures and KPMG.
Love Bitcoin or hate it, Wall Street’s establishment increasingly wants to trade it.
On Tuesday, CME Group
Later this quarter, CME will begin trading Bitcoin futures by way of a cash-settled contract based on its CME CF Bitcoin Reference Rate. The once-a-day rate will set the price of bitcoin futures and will be based on pricing seen on crypto exchanges such as Bitstamp, DGAX, itBit and Kraken.