Super raises $20M to fix the home services and repairs market with its subscription service

Home owners in the US spend upwards of $300 billion annually on home repairs and maintenance — a huge sum that often comes with another, more hidden cost: the stress of finding reliable tradespeople, managing those jobs, and (in the worst-case scenario) picking up the pieces if things go wrong.

Now, a startup called Super has built what it believes is a “fix” for that problem: a subscription service for maintenance and repair services for your property. Today, it’s announcing a Series B of $20 million to continue scaling that business across the US after growing its business 400 percent each year for the past two years.

The funding is being led by Aquiline Technology Growth (ATG), with participation Munich Re Ventures, Liberty Mutual from the insurance industry, Moderne Ventures, Joe Lonsdale’s firm 8VC, the Qatar Investment Authority and Solon Mack Capital. It’s an impressive mix, as it underscores Super’s traction and credibility among those close to its field: Munich Re Ventures and Liberty Mutual are insurance powerhouses; Aquiline and Moderne focus on insurance and real estate startups, QIA has extensive investments in the construction sector, and Solon Mack is the family office of the Mack real estate entrepreneurs.

Jorey Ramer, the founder and CEO of Super, said he came up with the idea for Super after he sold his previous company, Jumptap — an advertising network acquired by Millennial Media (which is now part of Verizon by way of its acquisition of AOL, just like TechCrunch). Having been an apartment renter and dweller for all of his adult life, he found himself buying property when he moved to the Bay Area, and it came with more than a little reluctance because of the headache of taking care of his new home.

“I liked being a renter,” he said in an interview. “You pay a fee, and you know what to expect.” (Indeed, “Super” is double word play meaning “great” but also the nickname for the superintendent that often handles the maintenance and repair in an apartment building.)

Looking at the state of the market, he said he wasn’t very happy with the services that were already out there offering to provide maintenance and care, which he found were too entrenched in their old way of doing things (something that I’d agree with from personal experience as a homeowner in England, by the way).

“These companies have prioritized costs over service,” he said. “Yes, they have built service provider networks, but they are not service providers that you would invite into your own home if you were finding them directly. The whole system creates incentives to do the least amount of work possible, or upsell work that you just don’t need. They are deeply ingrained systems that needed to be reinvented from scratch.”

And that is what Super is aiming to do. Right now, the company provides links through to vetted providers of repair and maintenance services that are priced in tiers of $20, $60 or $90 per month depending on levels of service (for example: appliance, home, premium home; breakdown coverage; expanded coverage, and so on). Today there is a $75 copay on all repairs and other work, but as the company continues to hone its business model and relationships with suppliers — including those who might sell its service to home owners such as the companies selling the actual homes — that is likely to change.

“The long term vision,” Ramer said, “is eventually to cover 100 percent of your repair and maintenance in your home. You will never have to pay for anything because everything will be included in the subscription.”

Super is touching on an emerging but very interesting point here. Just as companies like Uber and Lyft have helped change the conversation about the future of transportation services, companies like Opendoor are changing the dynamics and conventions around how people buy and sell — and potentially own — homes. That’s presenting a big opportunity to rethink every stage of that process, bringing in new players like Super, and old players like Angie’s List that are now taking new approaches; to also reconsider not just what they offer to the market, but what channels they use to find customers. (It’s an area that Amazon, unsurprisingly, is also eyeing up, since the home is the ultimate platform for just about everything else it offers to the market in terms of products and services.)

Ramer said that while Super today is primarily selling directly to homeowners, there are many options open in the future for how its service might be bundled with others, be they buying the property, or buying insurance, or even buying the white goods and other things that will eventually fill those homes.

“Super has developed an effective, convenient platform to provide premium care and repair services for homeowners,” said Max Chee of ATG in a statement. “Super is tackling an industry that is ripe for innovation with a smart, technology-forward approach, and we are excited to work with Jorey and the rest of the team at Super to help continue that exciting trajectory.”

 

Logistics startup Zencargo raises $20M to take on the antiquated business of freight forwarding

Move over, Flexport. There is another player looking to make waves in the huge and messy business of freight logistics. Zencargo — a London startup that has built a platform that uses machine learning and other new technology to rethink how large shipping companies and their customers manage and move cargo, or freight forwarding as it’s known in the industry — has closed a Series A round of funding of about $19 million.

Zencargo’s cofounder and head of growth Richard Fattal said in an interview that the new funds will be used to continue building its software, specifically to develop more tools for the manufacturers and others who use its platform to predict and manage how cargo is moved around the world.

The Series A brings the total raised by Zencargo to $20 million. This latest round was led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures. Tom Stafford, managing partner at DST Global; Pentland Ventures; and previous investors Samos, LocalGlobe and Picus Capital, all also participated in the round.

Zencargo is not disclosing its valuation, nor its current revenues, but Fattal said that in the last 12 months it has seen its growth grow six times over. The company (for now) also does not explicitly name clients but Fattal notes that they include large e-commerce companies, retailers and manufacturers, including several of the largest businesses in Europe. (One of them at least appears to be Amazon: Zencargo provides integrated services to ship goods to Amazon fulfilment centers.)

Shipping — be by land, air or sea — is one of the cornerstones of the global economy. While we are increasingly hearing a mantra to “buy local”, the reality of how the mass-market world of trade works, is that components for things are not often made in the same place where the ultimate item is assembled, and our on-demand digital culture has created an expectation and competitive market for more than what we can source in our backyards.

For companies like Zencargo, that creates a two-fold opportunity: to ship finished goods — be it clothes, food or anything — to meet those consumer demands wherever they are; and to ship components for those goods — be it electronics, textiles or flour — to produce those goods elsewhere, wherever that business happens to be.

Ironically, while we have seen a lot of technology applied to other aspects of the economics equation — we can browse an app anytime and anywhere to buy something, for example — the logistics of getting the basics to the right place are now only just catching up.

Alex Hersham, another of Zencargo’s co-founders who is also the CEO (the third is Jan Riethmayer, the CTO), estimates that there is some $1.1 trillion “left on the table” from all of the inefficiencies in the supply chain related to things not being in stock when needed, or overstocked, and other inventory mistakes.

Fattal notes that a lot of what Zencargo is not only trying to replace things like physical paperwork, faxes, and silos of information variously held by shipping companies and the businesses that use them — but the whole understanding and efficiency (or lack thereof) that underlies how everything moves, and in turn the kinds of businesses that can be built as a result.

“Global trade is an enormous market, one of the last to be disrupted by technology,” Fattal said. “We want not just to be a better freight forwarder but we want people to think differently about commerce. Given a choice, where is it best to situate a supplier? Or how much stock do I order? How do I move this cargo from one place to another? When you have a lot of variability in the supply chain, these are difficult tasks to manage, but by unlocking the data in the supply chain you can really change the whole decision making process.”

Zencargo is just getting started on that. Flexport, one of its biggest startup competitors, in February raised $1 billion at a $3.2 billion valuation led by Softbank to double down on its own freight forwarding business, platform and operations. But as Christian Saller, a partner at HV Holtzbrinck Ventures describes it, there is still a lot of opportunity out there and room for more than one disruptor.

“It’s such a big market that is so broken,” he said. “Right now it’s not about winner-take-all.”

TikTok downloads banned on iOS and Android in India over porn and other illegal content

TikTok, the user-generated video sharing app from Chinese publisher Bytedance that has been a global runaway success, has stumbled hard in one of the world’s biggest mobile markets, India, over illicit content in its app.

Today, the country’s main digital communications regulator, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, ordered both Apple and Google to remove the app from its app stores, per a request from High Court in Madras after the latter investigated and determined that the app — which has hundreds of millions of users, including minors — was encouraging pornography and other illicit content.

This is the second time in two months that TikTok’s content has been dinged by regulators, after the app was fined $5.7 million by the FTC in the US over violating child protection policies.

The order in India does not impact the 120 million users in the country who already have the app downloaded, or those on Android who might download it from a source outside of Google’s official Android store. But it’s a strong strike against TikTok that will impede its growth, harm its reputation, and potentially pave the way for further sanctions or fines against the app in India (and elsewhere taking India’s lead).

TikTok has issued no less than three different statements — each subsequently less aggressive — as it scrambles to respond to the order.

“We welcome the decision of the Madras High Court to appoint Arvind Datar as Amicus Curae (independent counsel) to the court,” the statement from TikTok reads. “We have faith in the Indian judicial system and we are optimistic about an outcome that would be well received by over 120 million monthly active users in India, who continue using TikTok to showcase their creativity and capture moments that matter in their everyday lives.”

(A previous version of the statement from TikTok was less ‘welcoming’ of the decision and instead highlighted how TikTok was making increased efforts to police its content without outside involvement. It noted that it had removed more than 6 million videos that violated its terms of use and community guidelines, following a review of content generated by users in India. That alone speaks to the actual size of the problem.)

On top of prohibiting downloads, the High Court also directed the regulator to bar media companies from broadcasting any videos — illicit or otherwise — made with or posted on TikTok. Bytedance has been working to try to appeal the orders, but the Supreme Court, where the appeal was heard, upheld it.

This is not the first time that TikTok has faced government backlash over the content that it hosts on its platform. In the US, two months ago, the Federal Trade Commission ruled that the app violated children’s privacy laws and fined it $5.7 million, and through a forced app updated, required all users to verify that they were over 13, or otherwise be redirected to a more restricted experience. Musically, TikTok’s predecessor, had also faced similar regulatory violations.

More generally the problems that TikTok is facing right now are not unfamiliar ones. Social media apps, relying on user-generated content as both the engine of their growth and the fuel for that engine, have long been problematic when it comes to illicit content. The companies that create and run these apps have argued that they are not responsible for what people produce on the platform, as long as it fits within its terms of use, but that has left a large gap where content is not policed as well as it should be. On the other hand, as these platforms rely on growth and scale for their business models, some have argued that this has made them less inclined to proactively police their platforms to bar the illicit content in the first place.

Additional reporting Rita Liao

Facebook is discontinuing P2P payments in Messenger in the UK and France on June 15

Facebook is pulling away from its ambitions to provide peer-to-peer money transfers via Messenger in Europe. Today, the company announced that it would be discontinuing the service — which let individuals send money to each other — in the two countries in the region where it had rolled it out, the UK and France on June 15 of this year. It appears that for now, the service will remain active in the US, where Facebook holds a number of money transmitter licenses.

It’s not shutting down payments altogether in Europe: it will continue to let people make charitable donations through Facebook itself.

“On 15 June 2019, we will discontinue P2P services on Messenger or through Facebook messages for all residents in the UK and France,” the company noted in a short statement on its main help page for the payments service. “While you won’t be able to exchange money with friends and family, you’ll still be able to complete other transactions through Facebook, such as making donations to charitable organisations.”

Facebook has also started sending out notices to those who were using the service in the two countries. It’s never been clear just how many of them there were.

After getting a license at the end of 2016, Facebook made its first foray into P2P payments in Europe for people over the age of 18 in November 2017, taking on the likes of PayPal and others in the remittance world.

The move was long in the making: there had been rumors of Facebook developing social payments, and even acquiring a startup to help make it happen, for years before this as the market for remittances and people using social networks to make financial transactions to each other started to take off.

In particular, in developing markets, where transfer fees for services like Western Union are high and the amount of people holding bank accounts is low, remittances using mobile handsets have become a key way for people to send money to each other, either because they’re supporting family or to pay each other for a service or goods. Mobile — and Facebook’s supremacy in social graphs and messaging with the likes of WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram all a part of the Facebook stable — made it a natural fit for something like this.

But in the end, the launch of P2P payments in France and the UK was a baby step — you could never transfer money to international recipients, and new countries were never added — that never grew up. The company reported in its last quarterly results in January that payments and other services generated just $274 million in the quarter, compared to $16.64 billion in advertising. Europe accounted for a measly $64 million of that.

Facebook does not explain why it decided to pull back on the strategy, but apart from question marks over just how popular the service actually was, there have other developments at the company and the wider payments space in Europe that could potentially have been factors.

Come September 14 of this year, there will be a new payment directive put in place across Europe called Strong Customer Authentication, requiring extra checks to be made for a user’s identity in any online transaction. It’s not clear how and if Facebook was preparing for this change.

Perhaps more interestingly, the company is reportedly working on a cryptocurrency that would allow for people on its messaging networks to send money to each other. If such a product really does get rolled out, it may be that Facebook would use that to become its primary P2P payment mechanism.

We have contacted Facebook and will update this post as we learn more.

Electric car startup Byton loses co-founder and former CEO, reported $500M Series C to close this summer

The race is on for building and shipping more cost-effective electric cars, but today one of more ambitious startups in the field announced some significant changes that underscore some of the challenges in making that a reality. Byton, the Chinese electric car startup, today announced that Carsten Breitfeld, the former BMW executive and Byton co-founder who had been the CEO and was most recently chairman, has left the company “to start a new adventure within the start-up industry.”

To offset that news, Byton said that it is currently recruiting for a new CTO, will close its Series C funding — a $500 million round, according to this report from January — this summer, and is on track for production of its M-Byte SUV vehicle for Q4 2019. The company recently said that it is looking towards an IPO, with the business currently valued at around $4 billion and counting 50,000 customers, with half in China and half in the US.

“Thanks to our founding team and all employees we’re well on track and looking forward to delivering the M-Byte this year to customers in China, followed by the US and Europe in 2020,” said Byton co-founder and current CEO Dr. Daniel Kirchert. “Carsten helped build a strong BYTON brand and bring in the right people to take our start-up to the next level. Now we are focusing on our main goal to achieve the on-time-start-of-production of the first BYTON series production model in 2019 with our strong team and partners.” There were no comments about IPOs in today’s statement.

It’s not clear who is overseeing the technical aspects of the business in the meantime — it doesn’t appear that there had been an official CTO at the company previously, but before Byton, Breitfeld had been VP of engineering at BMW. Dick Abendroth, another BMW engineering alum, left Byton in October of last year to become CTO of OEM Continental.

Byton was originally started as Future Mobility Corporation as a joint venture between Harmony Auto, Tencent, and Foxconn, who put Breitfeld and Kirchert, pictured below left and right, in place as co-founders and leaders of the business. It has raised about $700 million to date, with the most recent round of $500 million closing in June 2018.

But there have been reports that the company was running out of money since the end of last year, balancing the capital intensiveness of building new vehicle technology and new vehicles as a startup (no small feat considering that its competitors are some of the biggest companies in the world), with the fact that the company now employs some 1,600 people — a good portion of which were cherry picked from existing automotive companies and are therefore expensive.

Byton is not the only electric car company that swerving to try to avoid unexpected roadblocks in its growth. Tesla earlier this year cut its workforce to streamline its own production, and it has been making many sudden decisions on its retail strategy in an effort to cut costs.

For the new generation of vehicles, it’s not just all-electric technology that is tricky to build in a cost-effective and efficient way, but the fact these investments are being balanced against other major initiatives around vehicle software, and in particular autonomous technology.

Many believe that the industry is heading inevitably towards self-driving vehicles, but nright now we’re far from that and the development of the features poses a lot of safety and other hurdles and a completely picture of how it will look is still a moving target. Byton, for its part, is currently working with a third party, Aurora, for self-driving tech for its vehicles.

We have contacted Byton with questions about who is acting as CTO at the company currently, and if it can provide any more details on the Series C or valuation, and we will update this post as we learn more.

Vimeo has acquired short-form video creation platform Magisto

Vimeo, the IAC -owned platform for hosting, sharing and monetizing streamed video, has made an acquisition to expand into providing more creation and editing tools. The company has acquired Magisto, a startup founded in Israel that currently has over 100 million users that focuses on providing tools to create and edit short-form videos, providing not just editing but sourcing of music, stock photos and other elements as part of the mix.

Vimeo — which itself has 90 million members in over 150 countries — says that the two will work together “to develop entirely new short-form video creation capabilities for the Vimeo platform, with the goal of helping any individual or business tell their stories with professionalism and ease.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed — but we are trying to find out. Magisto had raised around $23 million since 2010 from a mix of financial and strategic investors. The list includes Magma Venture Parnters, Horizons Ventures, Kreos Capital, Qualcomm, SanDisk and the Mail.Ru Group. Notably, it hadn’t raised any funding since 2014, according to Pitchbook data. The deal is set to close in Q2 of this year.

Magisto has around 75 employees in California and Israel, all of which are coming over with the deal.

The deal underscore’s Vimeo’s strategy to position itself as a one-stop shop for companies or individuals that publish videos online — either as part of publicity campaigns or as the basis of a bigger project. The idea is that this will help Vimeo get bigger margins per customer by providing more services.

In an age some of the most popular services online are streaming media sites like YouTube, broadband connectivity is ubiquitous, and people are always on the go, video has become one of the primary ways that people express themselves, and get the word out.

“Social media has sparked an insatiable demand for video – audiences today expect high-quality video content from every business, regardless of size or budget. But we’ve found that most small businesses don’t have the tools, resources or expertise to meet this increased demand,” said Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo, in a statement. “Magisto’s proprietary technology enables cutting edge mobile apps and AI-powered editing tools which, combined with Vimeo’s scale and unmatched creator community, will empower more people to tell compelling stories through video.”

In addition to developing new tools, Vimeo said that Magisto will be getting a Vimeo integration in order to publish and monetize videos that they create on Magisto currently. 

The two already have a lot of synergy as they both tap the same customer base: smaller customers that are turning to video and online tools to create it to get the word out about themselves, without the big budgets and other pricey resources that larger businesses might have.

“Magisto guides entrepreneurs and small business owners through the video storytelling process, helping them use video effectively to grow their business and engage with audiences,” said Oren Boiman, founder and CEO of Magisto. “We level the playing field so that any business can move fast and compete in today’s video-first world. We’re thrilled to join Vimeo’s industry-leading platform, and to power their vision to make professional quality video creation accessible to all.”

 

 

Vimeo has acquired short-form video creation platform Magisto

Vimeo, the IAC -owned platform for hosting, sharing and monetizing streamed video, has made an acquisition to expand into providing more creation and editing tools. The company has acquired Magisto, a startup founded in Israel that currently has over 100 million users that focuses on providing tools to create and edit short-form videos, providing not just editing but sourcing of music, stock photos and other elements as part of the mix.

Vimeo — which itself has 90 million members in over 150 countries — says that the two will work together “to develop entirely new short-form video creation capabilities for the Vimeo platform, with the goal of helping any individual or business tell their stories with professionalism and ease.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed — but we are trying to find out. Magisto had raised around $23 million since 2010 from a mix of financial and strategic investors. The list includes Magma Venture Parnters, Horizons Ventures, Kreos Capital, Qualcomm, SanDisk and the Mail.Ru Group. Notably, it hadn’t raised any funding since 2014, according to Pitchbook data. The deal is set to close in Q2 of this year.

Magisto has around 75 employees in California and Israel, all of which are coming over with the deal.

The deal underscore’s Vimeo’s strategy to position itself as a one-stop shop for companies or individuals that publish videos online — either as part of publicity campaigns or as the basis of a bigger project. The idea is that this will help Vimeo get bigger margins per customer by providing more services.

In an age some of the most popular services online are streaming media sites like YouTube, broadband connectivity is ubiquitous, and people are always on the go, video has become one of the primary ways that people express themselves, and get the word out.

“Social media has sparked an insatiable demand for video – audiences today expect high-quality video content from every business, regardless of size or budget. But we’ve found that most small businesses don’t have the tools, resources or expertise to meet this increased demand,” said Anjali Sud, CEO of Vimeo, in a statement. “Magisto’s proprietary technology enables cutting edge mobile apps and AI-powered editing tools which, combined with Vimeo’s scale and unmatched creator community, will empower more people to tell compelling stories through video.”

In addition to developing new tools, Vimeo said that Magisto will be getting a Vimeo integration in order to publish and monetize videos that they create on Magisto currently. 

The two already have a lot of synergy as they both tap the same customer base: smaller customers that are turning to video and online tools to create it to get the word out about themselves, without the big budgets and other pricey resources that larger businesses might have.

“Magisto guides entrepreneurs and small business owners through the video storytelling process, helping them use video effectively to grow their business and engage with audiences,” said Oren Boiman, founder and CEO of Magisto. “We level the playing field so that any business can move fast and compete in today’s video-first world. We’re thrilled to join Vimeo’s industry-leading platform, and to power their vision to make professional quality video creation accessible to all.”

 

 

Microsoft: Hackers compromised support agent’s credentials to access customer email accounts

On the heels of a trove of 773 million emails, and tens of millions of passwords, from a variety of domains getting leaked in January, Microsoft has faced another breach affecting its web-based email services.

Microsoft has confirmed to TechCrunch that a certain “limited” number of people who use web email services managed by Microsoft — which cover services like @msn.com and @hotmail.com — had their accounts compromised.

According to an email Microsoft has sent out to affected users (the reader who tipped us off got his late Friday evening), malicious hackers were potentially able to access an affected user’s e-mail address, folder names, the subject lines of e-mails, and the names of other e-mail addresses the user communicates with — “but not the content of any e-mails or attachments,” nor — it seems — login credentials like passwords.

Microsoft is still recommending that affected users change their passwords regardless.

The breach occurred between January 1 and March 28, Microsoft’s letter to users said. 

The hackers got into the system by compromising a customer support agent’s credentials, according to the letter. Once identified, those credentials were disabled. Microsoft told users that it didn’t know what data was viewed by the hackers or why, but cautioned that users might as a result see more phishing or spam emails as a result. “You should be careful when receiving any e-mails from any misleading domain name, any e-mail that requests personal information or payment, or any unsolicited request from an untrusted source.”

We are printing the full text of the email below, but a separate email sent to us, from Microsoft’s Information Protection and Governance team, confirmed some of the basic details, adding that it has increased detection and monitoring on those accounts affected.

Microsoft recently became aware of an issue involving unauthorized access to some customers’ web-based email accounts by cybercriminals. We addressed this scheme by disabling the compromised credentials to the limited set of targeted accounts, while also blocking the perpetrators’ access. A limited number of consumer accounts were impacted, and we have notified all impacted customers. Out of an abundance of caution, we also increased detection and monitoring to further protect affected accounts. 

No enterprise customers are affected, TechCrunch understands.

Right now, a lot of question marks remain. It’s unclear exactly how people people or accounts were affected, nor in which territories they are located — but it seems that at least some were in the European Union, since Microsoft also provides information for contacting Microsoft’s data protection officer in the region.

We also don’t know how the agent’s credentials were compromised, or if the agent was a Microsoft employee, or if the person worked for a third party providing support services. And Microsoft has not explained how it discovered the breach.

We have asked Microsoft all of the above and will update this post as we learn more.

In this age where cybersecurity breaches get revealed on a daily basis, email is one of the most commonly leaked pieces of personal information. There’s even been a site created dedicated to helping people figure out if they are among those who have been hacked. Have I Been Pwned, as the site is called, now has over 7.8 billion email addresses in its database.

We’ll update this post as we learn more. The letter from Microsoft to affected users follows.

Dear Customer

Microsoft is committed to providing our customers with transparency. As part of maintaining this trust and commitment to you, we are informing you of a recent event that affected your Microsoft-managed email account.

We have identified that a Microsoft support agent’s credentials were compromised, enabling individuals outside Microsoft to access information within your Microsoft email account. This unauthorized access could have allowed unauthorized parties to access and/or view information related to your email account (such as your e-mail address, folder names, the subject lines of e-mails, and the names of other e-mail addresses you communicate with), but not the content of any e-mails or attachments, between January 1st 2019 and March 28th 2019.

Upon awareness of this issue, Microsoft immediately disabled the compromised credentials, prohibiting their use for any further unauthorized access. Our data indicates that account-related information (but not the content of any e-mails) could have been viewed, but Microsoft has no indication why that information was viewed or how it may have been used. As a result, you may receive phishing emails or other spam mails. You should be careful when receiving any e-mails from any misleading domain name, any e-mail that requests personal information or payment, or any unsolicited request from an untrusted source (you can read more about phishing attacks at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/security/threat-protection/intelligence/phishing).

It is important to note that your email login credentials were not directly impacted by this incident. However, out of caution, you should reset your password for your account.

If you require further assistance, or have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to our Incident Response Team at [email protected]. If you are a citizen of European Union, you may also contact Microsoft’s Data Protection Officer at:

EU Data Protection Officer
Microsoft Ireland Operations Ltd
One Microsoft Place,
South County Business Park,
Leopardstown, Dublin 18, Ireland
[email protected]

Microsoft regrets any inconvenience caused by this issue. Please be assured that Microsoft takes data protection very seriously and has engaged its internal security and privacy teams in the investigation and resolution of the issue, as well as additional hardening of systems and processes to prevent such recurrence.

Naspers-owned PayU doubles down on India with $70M deal to buy Wibmo

PayU, the Naspers-owned payments company that competes with the likes of PayPal but focuses mainly on emerging markets, has made an acquisition to expand its business in India. It has acquired Wibmo, a startup based out of the US (Cupertino, to exact) that mostly operates in India. PayU is paying $70 million for the startup, bringing the total its invested in building its business to $500 million in the last two months.

Wibmo offers a range of payment processing services that cover security, risk and fraud, authentication, SME disbursements, mobile payments, QR codes and prepaid cards. It works with banks, merchants and offers consumer-facing services, too. The appeal to PayU appears to be an opportunity to own touchpoints across the payment process, a bridge to develop its own ecosystem, although Wibmo will keep its branding and run as a wholly-owned subsidiary.

The deal had previously been reported by Economic Times last month, and it speaks to ongoing consolidation.

“This is a strategic acquisition for PayU that combines our merchant network and Wibmo’s leadership in digital security,” Aakash Moondhra, Chief Financial Officer at PayU Global, told TechCrunch in an interview. “PayU is very bullish on India as a market.”

A Citi report issued late last year valued PayU’s India unit at $2.5 billion, and that’s no accident given the level of investment that the company has made.

PayU acquired Citrus for $130 million in 2016, and it has also made investments in Indian fintech startups that include PaySense and Zest Money. Elsewhere in the world, its deal-making has included investments in Creditas in Brazil, Germany’s Kreditech, U.S-based Remitly — which operates remittance worldwide — and Zooz in Israel.

Another key area for the business in India has been a move away from a wallet-based approach to financial services. PayU shuttered one of its wallet apps in India at the beginning of last year, and instead went after services that include credit and deferred payment options, via its LazyPay service. The business also has its core payment gateway service, which will be boosted by the addition of Wibmo.

Naspers itself is doubling down on India, where it has backed unicorns Swiggy, food delivery service that recently raised a $1 billion round, and education service Byju’s, which pulled in $540 million, with major deals announced in recent months.

The company, which is still best known for its early investment in Tencent, has reportedly set aside $1 billion for fintech-related M&A in India, according to a Bloomberg report published last month.

GoFundMe rebrands the Direct Impact Fund as GoFundMe.org for wider charitable giving

GoFundMe.com has made a name for itself as a wildly successful platform for people to raise awareness virally and collect money for their personal causes, with $5 billion coming from 50 million donors since launching in 2010. More recently, it has been building out a wider presence working with charities.

It is making the latter more official today, with the launch of GoFundMe.org. And alongside this, it’s debuting a new way to donate to larger fundraising efforts by way of GoFundMe.org Causes, which lets people make donations that might go to one of many charities working to support a variety of general causes, initially covering six “evergreen” areas like animal rescue, K-12 classrooms and mental health.

GoFundMe says that the tax-deductible donations that people make on GoFundMe.org will be disbursed to hundreds of verified fundraisers and charities related to the cause.

“Together with GoFundMe, we are expanding the benefits of social fundraising and continuing to support some of the most impactful needs within our community with tax-deductible donations,” said Yoshi Inoue, CEO of GoFundMe.org. Inoue had previously been legal counsel at GoFundMe, and previous to that had worked at The Life You Can Save, another organization that helps recommend charities for those who want to give but are not sure of what steps to take next.

GoFundMe.org is not exactly new: it is the new name for the Direct Impact Fund, which has been working with GoFundMe since 2017 — and before that, it was working with Crowdrise, which GoFundMe acquired that year — to help pool funding for mass events like natural or man-made disasters, where it helped distribute what got raised to charities helping to address individuals’ needs. It’s an independent, registered 501(c)(3) public charity.

YouCaring, another acquisition GoFundMe has made in its consolidation push in the causes and charitable giving space, had also been a leading platform for larger charitable efforts. At one point, it had the distinction of running the largest fundraising campaign of any kind, on any platform, with the JJ Watt’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund ($37 million raised). Having one platform for GoFundMe to collect for wider causes like this, which in itself is a charity, is a smart move.

The renaming and launch of the Causes element underscores two areas of development for GoFundMe.

First, it’s creating a more formal way for those who want to donate money to charity, but unaware of the best way to go about doing this, to have a more obvious channel for doing this, distinct from the personal causes that are on GoFundMe.

Second, it’s underscoring GoFundMe’s own hope that people do not associate it just with personal fundraising (sometimes with very questionable ends) but also with a wider spirit of giving, and giving back. That is something it has been working on for a while, for example when it partnered with former First Lady Michelle Obama on the Global Girls Alliance.

This is, therefore, more to the spirit of how people sometimes come to platforms like GoFundMe, even if it’s not always what they find there (since the majority of campaigns will be for individuals). That is something that Facebook had capitalised on with its own launch of fundraising options for non-profits on its platform several years ago.

“We’re dedicated to bringing more people together to support causes they care about,” says Raquel Rozas, GoFundMe chief marketing officer. “By working with our non-profit arm, GoFundMe.org, we’re providing people the opportunity to give to one topic they’re passionate about rather than having to pick just one fundraiser to support.”