Picfair gives every photographer on its marketplace their own store

Picfair, the photo marketplace that competes with Getty and Shutterstock by giving photographers a fairer deal, is adding a major update to its offering today. The London-based startup is launching Picfair Stores, giving the 35,000 photographers on its marketplace the ability to create their own free independent online store. Customers who buy from a Picfair Store can choose a licensed digital copy or a physical print.

“We’re moving beyond being just a new generation stock image marketplace,” Picfair founder Benji Lanyado, who used to be a journalist at The Guardian, tells me. “With stores, and prints, and more… we’re becoming a fully featured commercial ecosystem for photographers. At the heart of it all: the principle that anyone should be able to make money from their images, simply and fairly”.

In addition, every image on a photographer’s individual Picfair Store will also be available simultaneously on Picfair’s marketplace, which Lanyado likens to “thousands of local image stores across the globe, with a central Amazon-style megastore they all feed in to”.

He also says it is the first time anyone has combined a marketplace, with the added control of website builders, such as Wix or Squarespace, and the on-demand print functionality of Smugmug or Zenfolio, all built with amateur photographers in mind (although the line to amateur and professional is becoming increasingly blurred).

“Picfair is uniting all of this. The control of a website builder. The commercial structures of an e-commerce platform. The exposure of a marketplace, with added price control and fair royalty splits,” Lanyado says.

Less tech-driven but perhaps equally significant, Picfair has recently launched a photo agency unit, building on top of its bread and butter business of selling image licenses to editorial and marketing companies. It came about slightly accidentally, says Lanyado, after brands and creative agencies started approaching the company asking if it could help them find photographers across the globe.

Initially we just introduced the photographers to the clients directly, like idiots,” he tells me. “Then we started acting like non-idiots and offered our services as a photographer-finder agency, with a very hand black book of 35,000 photographers around the world. We’ve already worked with Google, VisitBritain, Ogilvy and a few other big brands too. The cool bit: all of our leads have come from our community. Most of our photographers aren’t professionals, and their jobs cover the creative gamut: production people in creative agencies, marketing folk etc. The marketplace is generating leads for the agency!”.

Meanwhile, Picfair has just closed a $540,000 equity crowdfunding round. This saw many of its photographers take part, meaning that the company is now part photographer-owned. It adds to a £1.5 million seed round raised a year ago.

Cleo, the ‘digital assistant’ that replaces your banking apps, picks up $10M Series A led by Balderton

When Cleo, the London-based ‘digital assistant’ that wants to replace your banking apps, quietly entered the U.S., the company couldn’t have expected to be an instant hit. Many better funded British startups have failed to ‘break America’. However, just four months later, the fintech upstart counts 350,000 users across the pond — claiming more than 600,000 active users in the U.K., U.S. and Canada in total — and says it is adding 30,000 new signups each week. All of which hasn’t gone unnoticed by investors.

Already backed by some of the biggest VC names in the London tech scene — including Entrepreneur First, Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan White, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Wonga founder Errol Damelin, TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus, and LocalGlobe — Cleo is adding Balderton Capital to the list.

The European venture capital firm, which has previously invested in fintech unicorn Revolut and the well-established GoCardless, has led Cleo’s $10 million Series A round, in which I understand most early backers, including Zennström, also followed on. One source told me the Series A gives the hot London startup a post-money valuation of around £30 million (~$39.7m), although Cleo declined to comment.

In a call with co-founder and CEO Barney Hussey-Yeo, he explained that the new capital will be used to continue scaling the company, with further international expansion the name of the game. Hussey-Yeo says Cleo will be targeting Western Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, aiming to launch in a whopping 22 countries in the next 12 months, as Cleo bids to become the “default interface” for millennials interacting and managing their money.

Primarily accessed via Facebook Messenger, the AI-powered chatbot gives insights into your spending across multiple accounts and credit cards, broken down by transaction, category or merchant. In addition, Cleo lets you take a number of actions based on the financial data it has gleaned. You can choose to put money aside for a rainy day or specific goal, send money to your Facebook Messenger contacts, donate to charity, set spending alerts, and more.

However, in the context of traction and Cleo’s broader global ambitions, it is the decision not to become a bank in its own right, that Hussey-Yeo feels is really beginning to bear fruit. His argument has always been that you don’t need to be a bank to become the primary way users interface with their finances, and that without the regulatory and capital burden that becoming a fully licensed bank brings, you can scale much more quickly. I have a feeling that strategy — and its pros and cons — has a long way to play out just yet.

Twitter’s former Head of People EMEA joins VC firm Atomico as Partner

Atomico, the European venture capital firm founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, is announcing a number of new hires to its investment team, including new Partner Caroline Chayot, who previously led the EMEA HR team at Twitter.

I’m told she’ll be working alongside existing Atomico Partner Dan Hynes, who was formerly the Director of Global Staffing at Skype, with the pair helping meet increased demand from Atomico’s portfolio companies for talent support.

At Twitter, Chayot is said to have supported the leadership team in scaling the social media behemoth from two to six markets, growing the team from 80 based in London to 500 across the region. Prior to that she worked at Google in HR for 9 years.

In addition, Irina Haivas has joined Atomico as Principal. The former surgeon and former surgical fellow at Harvard Medical School (yes, you read that correctly) previously worked at healthcare investor GHO Capital Partners. She’ll focus on sourcing investment opportunities in machine intelligence-enabled businesses, synthetic biology, robotics and other “frontier technologies”.

The other new members of the 30-strong Atomico investment team are:

  • Senior Associate Annalise Dragic, a recent Stanford MBA graduate and who was a member of LinkedIn’s Strategy & Analytics Leadership Program’s inaugural class. She’ll be focusing on the U.K.
  • Associate Luca Eisenstecken, a German native who spent the last two years in San Francisco with Vector Capital. He’ll be covering Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
  • Associate Christina Fa, who grew up in Australia and New Zealand and joins Atomico from Google’s Corporate Finance team in Mountain View. She’ll be focusing on the Nordics and Baltic regions.
  • IR Associate Gunita Bhasin, who joins Atomico from Deutsche Bank and has lived and studied in India, Singapore, Turkey, and the U.K. She’ll support long-time Head of IR Camilla Richards in managing Atomico’s relationships with its global investor base.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Atomico’s new addition to its communications team. Eleanor Warnock, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, has joined the VC firm as Communications Manager. The hack-turned-flack will work alongside Atomico’s Head of Communications Bryce Keane to help raise the profile of the firm’s portfolio companies internationally.

Meanwhile, it’s that time of year again. Atomico has launched its latest State of European Tech survey, where it seeks your help in capturing a data-driven snapshot of the current European tech ecosystem and to confront a number of myths along the way. You can read TC’s analysis of the 2017 report here, and if you’d like to contribute, this year’s survey can be found here.

Tandem CEO will tell you why building a bank is hard at Disrupt Berlin

Challenger banks, neobanks or digital-only banks… Whatever we choose to call them, Europe — and the U.K. in particular — has more than its fair share of bank upstarts battling it out for a slice of the growing fintech pie. One of those is Tandem, co-founded by financial technology veteran Ricky Knox, who we’re excited to announce will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin.

Tandem — or the so-called “Good Bank” — has been on quite a journey this year. Most recently the bank launched a competitive fixed savings product, pitting it against a whole host of incumbent and challenger banks. It followed the launch of the Tandem credit card in February, which competes well on cash-back and FX rates when spending abroad.

Both products are part of a wider strategy where, like many other consumer-facing fintechs, Tandem wants to become your financial control centre and connect you to and offer various financial services. These are either products of its own or through partnerships with other fintech startups and more established providers.

At the heart of this is the Tandem mobile app, which acts as a Personal Finance Manager (PFM), including letting you aggregate your non-Tandem bank account data from other bank accounts or credit cards you might have, in addition to managing any Tandem products you’ve taken out. The company recently acquired fintech startup Pariti to beef up its account aggregation features.

However, what makes Tandem’s recent progress all the more interesting is that it comes after a definite bump in the road last year. This saw the company temporarily lose its banking license and forced to make lay-offs following the partial collapse of a £35 million investment round from department store House of Fraser, due to restrictions on capital leaving China. The remedy was further investment from existing backers and the bold move to acquire Harrods Bank, the banking arm of the U.K.’s most famous luxury department store.

As you can see, there is plenty to talk about. And some. So, why not grab your ticket to Disrupt Berlin to listen to the Tandem story. The conference will take place on November 29-30.

In addition to fireside chats and panels, like this one, new startups will participate in the Startup Battlefield Europe to win the highly coveted Battlefield cup.


Ricky Knox

CEO & Co-Founder, Tandem

Ricky is a serial investor and entrepreuner. He has built five technology disruptors in fintech and telecoms, each of which also does a bit of good for the world.

Before Tandem he founded Azimo and Small World, two remittance businesses, and is managing partner of Hexagon Partners, a private equity firm. He built Tandem to be a digital bank that helps improve customers’ lives with money.

Ricky has a first class degree from Bristol University and an MBA from INSEAD.

Crowdcube acquires business reporting software Supdate

In what looks like an undeniably good strategic fit, U.K.-based business reporting software startup Supdate has been acquired by equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although I’m told it was an all-cash acquisition.

I understand that Crowdcube is essentially buying the Supdate user base and tech/IP, and that Supdate founder Duane Jackson is not joining Crowdcube but will be helping on the technical side during the handover. The idea is that Supdate will become part of part of the existing suite of “post-funding benefits” available to businesses that raise on Crowdcube, such as access to Amazon’s Launchpad Programme.

Founded out of Jackson’s own frustration as an angel investor, whereby startups he’d backed didn’t always keep him updated regularly, Supdate offers SaaS for businesses to create and share company news and metrics with shareholders. The premise was that well-designed software could help streamline and to some degree automate these updates, helping investors stay in the loop without a founder using up too much bandwidth writing reports.

Jackson — who previously founded and sold online accounting software company KashFlow — says that partnering with a crowdfunding platform was “an obvious route to market” for Supdate, which is why he approached Crowdcube. Those conversations quickly progressed to the possibility of Crowdcube acquiring Supdate. The timing was good, too, since Jackson has already begun working on a new venture in the accounting space. Here we go again, you might well say.

Adds Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcube: “Crowdcube has funded over 600 companies, averaging 350 investors each and so ensuring businesses can easily connect with their shareholders to keep them updated is really valuable to our investor community. We’ve been fans of Supdate for a long time, and when we recently began talking with Duane in more detail, it quickly became obvious that Supdate would be a natural fit for Crowdcube and our growing Funded Club”.

Meanwhile, Crowdcube is giving its alumni of over 600 funded businesses access to Supdate, as well as providing ongoing access to Supdate’s existing customer base.

Crowdcube acquires business reporting software Supdate

In what looks like an undeniably good strategic fit, U.K.-based business reporting software startup Supdate has been acquired by equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed, although I’m told it was an all-cash acquisition.

I understand that Crowdcube is essentially buying the Supdate user base and tech/IP, and that Supdate founder Duane Jackson is not joining Crowdcube but will be helping on the technical side during the handover. The idea is that Supdate will become part of part of the existing suite of “post-funding benefits” available to businesses that raise on Crowdcube, such as access to Amazon’s Launchpad Programme.

Founded out of Jackson’s own frustration as an angel investor, whereby startups he’d backed didn’t always keep him updated regularly, Supdate offers SaaS for businesses to create and share company news and metrics with shareholders. The premise was that well-designed software could help streamline and to some degree automate these updates, helping investors stay in the loop without a founder using up too much bandwidth writing reports.

Jackson — who previously founded and sold online accounting software company KashFlow — says that partnering with a crowdfunding platform was “an obvious route to market” for Supdate, which is why he approached Crowdcube. Those conversations quickly progressed to the possibility of Crowdcube acquiring Supdate. The timing was good, too, since Jackson has already begun working on a new venture in the accounting space. Here we go again, you might well say.

Adds Darren Westlake, co-founder and CEO of Crowdcube: “Crowdcube has funded over 600 companies, averaging 350 investors each and so ensuring businesses can easily connect with their shareholders to keep them updated is really valuable to our investor community. We’ve been fans of Supdate for a long time, and when we recently began talking with Duane in more detail, it quickly became obvious that Supdate would be a natural fit for Crowdcube and our growing Funded Club”.

Meanwhile, Crowdcube is giving its alumni of over 600 funded businesses access to Supdate, as well as providing ongoing access to Supdate’s existing customer base.

Unmortgage scores £10M seed round to offer ‘part-own, part-rental’ housing

Unmortgage enables everyone to live in the home they want to, that’s our mission,” Unmortgage co-founder and CEO Ray Rafiq-Omar tells me. “We do that by allowing people to buy as little as five percent of a home and rent the rest. So there’s no mortgage involved, hence the name Unmortgage”.

The burgeoning London startup, which aims to launch next year having just closed a hefty £10 million seed round, calls its model “part-own, part-rent”. However, unlike traditional shared ownership schemes, Unmortgage doesn’t want you to have to take out a mortgage to buy the first portion of your own, and it isn’t targeting new-builds.

Like a number of other fintech/proptech companies, such as Strideup and Proportunity, it is the latest attempt to solve the increasing difficulty first time buyers face trying to get on the housing ladder as rising house prices typically outstrip wages. If people rent, they often cannot save the large deposit required for a mortgage. It is this “vicious circle” that Unmortgage want to break: by helping families that can afford to rent gradually buy a home.

“The way we like to think about it is the security of home ownership with the flexibility of renting,” says Rafiq-Omar. “You find a home. If we like it too, we’ll but it together in partnership. You’ll own your bit and you’ll pay rent on our bit. Then you have the option to buy more of your home from as little as a pound at any time”.

To keeps things fair — Rafiq-Omar stresses that fairness is “our core value” — Unmortgage will revalue the property on a monthly basis so you’ll always have an up-to-date valuation when increasing your stake. And at any point you are free to either buy out Unmortgage with a mortgage or an inheritance or to give the company three month’s notice for it to buy you out so you can take your cash at market price and move on to your next home.

Likewise, the rent you pay on the part of the property you don’t own is pegged to rises to inflation. But in case inflation outpaces market rate rents, Rafiq-Omar says Unmortgage will allow the customer to ask for a rent review. “They have the ability to not have to worry about their rent but if they are worried they can have it reviewed,” he says.

Unmortgage will use institutional funding to finance its part of the homes it purchases, who Rafiq-Omar says would like to own residential property, and the secure income stream it brings, but don’t want to be landlords or end up in the media for behaving like a landlord. “Unmortgage gives them a way to invest in residential property while solving societal need, which is [that] people want to own their own homes and have security over their housing situation”.

Meanwhile, investors in Unmortgage’s seed round are fintech venture capital firms Anthemis Exponential Ventures, and Augmentum Fintech plc. “”We’re grateful to our investors for believing in us and our social mission and excited to be working with them – especially Tee Pruitt [of Anthemis], who was instrumental through much of this process,” adds Rafiq-Omar.

Atomico’s Yann de Vries joins flying taxi company Lilium as VP Corporate Development

Perhaps the one downside to building a venture capital firm filled with operational experience is that you can’t always keep an operator out of the action for too long. Or so it seems, if the latest VC move at London-based Atomico is anything to go by.

Atomico Partner Yann de Vries — who led investments in Teralytics (Switzerland), GoEuro (Berlin) and Jobandtalent (Madrid) — is joining Lilium, the super ambitious Munich-based startup developing an electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) jet and accompanying “air taxi” service.

Specifically, he takes up the position of VP Corporate Development at Lilium, tasked with helping the company with long-term partnership development and investor relations.

De Vries joined Atomico four years ago from Redpoint e.ventures, a leading VC fund in Brazil, where he was a Managing Director and co-founder and led investments in Farfetch and Gympass. Prior to starting RPeV, he was the head of Corporate Development for Cisco in EMEA and Latin America, and spent five years in Silicon Valley working for a startup and in venture capital.

I’m told de Vries — who speaks four languages and holds an MSEE from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and an MBA from Harvard Business School — was already involved with Lilium as part of Atomico having led the company’s Series A round back in 2016.

The VC firm followed on as part of Lilium’s $90 million Series B late last year, and although Atomico (and Skype) co-founder Niklas Zennström led on Atomico’s behalf, he worked closely with de Vries on the investment and is fully supportive of the former Atomico Partner’s latest move.

“Lilium is on a very exciting trajectory, and Yann’s experience makes him a perfect fit to lead their corporate development strategy,” says Zennström in a statement. “As an investor we are very supportive of the transition and have confidence in the impact Yann will have at Lilium. As a board member I look forward to continuing to work with Yann in the next phase of his career”.

Meanwhile, the hiring of de Vries as Lilium’s VP Corporate Development follows a number of other prominent roles being filled in the last 18 months.

They include Dr. Remo Gerber, former MD for Western Europe at Gett, who joined Lilium as chief commercial officer; Dirk Gebser, VP of Production and previously holding manufacturing executive roles at Airbus and Rolls Royce; and Meggy Sailer, Head of Recruitment, who was formerly Tesla’s Head of Talent EMEA.

Most recently, the German flying taxi company recruited car design veteran Frank Stephenson, who has previously worked for Ferrari, Maserati and Mini, to name but a few. I caught up with Stephenson for an extensive Q&A in April where he described joining Lilium as a “match made in heaven”.

European banking app Monese scores $60M Series B led by Kinnevik

The large amounts of cash that is being invested in challenger banks in the U.K., whether that be startups with a fully fledged banking license or those using the less burdensome e-money regulations, shows no signs of abating. The latest banking fintech to raise a substantial new round is Monese.

The London and Tallinn-based company, which provides a mobile-only current account targeting customers with a ‘thin’ credit file or who are newly arrived in a country, has secured $60 million in Series B funding. Leading the round is Kinnevik, with participation from PayPal, European investor Augmentum Fintech, and International Airlines Group via its loyalty and data business Avios Group Ltd. Existing investors, including Investec’s INVC Fund, also followed on.

Launched in 2015 and claiming nearly 600,000 sign ups in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, Monese consists of a mobile-based current account and accompanying debit card. It offers most of the things you’d expect of a current account, such as account number and cash deposits and withdrawals. In addition, international money transfer and direct debits are supported.

It offers a free tier, with charges for some transactions, as a way of testing the water. Two monthly paid plans, starting from £4.99 per month, offer reduced or free transactions and a number of other perks.

The headline sell is that a Monese account can be opened in as little as 2 minutes, with technology driving the necessary background checks and KYC procedures. This also makes it attractive to recent migrants or other customers that don’t have a full financial history and therefore may find it more cumbersome to apply for an account with a high street bank.

In fact, as explained in a call with Monese founder Norris Koppel late yesterday afternoon, Monese wants to be the default current account option for customers with a thin credit file, from which it can offer a range of best-in-class financial services in partnership with other financial institutions, including incumbent banks and other fintechs.

That’s similar to other challenger banks and fintechs that want to become your financial control centre or hub, although in this instance Koppel is keen to stress that Monese “isn’t trying to kill banks” but wants to work with them.

Koppel also says that because the majority of Monese customers use the banking app as a primary account, including receiving salaries and paying rent, the company will be able to leverage this transaction data to help them better access credit and other financial services without solely relying on traditional credit score companies, such as Experian, which don’t have anything like the full picture.

Meanwhile, with monthly new customers tripling since the end of 2017, and Monese available in 20 European countries, Koppel tells me the watch word for this new round of funding is scale. He says the bigger vision is to have Monese the first banking option in any country a new or existing Monese customer lands in, with local account numbers instantly available.

Related, the company plans to hire an additional 100 employees across its existing U.K. and Estonian offices as well as a third new office in Portugal by the end of the year.

Planday raises €35M Series C for its shift-based work collaboration platform

Planday, the workforce collaboration platform for shift workers, has raised €35 million in new funding. The Series C round is led by SEB Private Equity, with participation from previous backers, including Creandum and Idinvest.

The Danish startup plans to use the additional investment to further develop the cloud-based software and to expand into new markets across Europe and North America. This will also include establishing a U.K.-based technology development hub — which represents a major market for Planday — as well as to grow sales and customer support teams in its London office.

Founded in 2013, Planday has developed a flexible rota scheduling platform that is used by businesses to help manage shift workers. The cloud software enables “real-time, contextual communication” between employees, managers and co-workers in shift-based industries that have been traditionally underserved by tech.

Specifically, employees can communicate with each other, swap shifts and clock in and out. Managers can also create ‘smart’ schedule templates, measure their target revenue compared to wage costs and track hours worked.

Planday is also arguably a platform in the true sense of the word, in terms of integrating with integrating with various third-party software offerings that are used by shift-based businesses. This includes payroll/accounting software from from Intuit and Sage, and EPOS software from Lightspeed and iZettle.

“Our mission is to deliver fully integrated solutions that provide a seamless experience for our customers,” says John Coldicutt, Chief Commercial Officer at Planday.

Meanwhile, Planday says its customer base spans 39 countries, and in the U.K., where it is estimated that 26 percent of all work is shift-based, the startup is growing 250 percent annually, although it doesn’t break out actual numbers.