SpotQA picks up $3.25M seed funding for its automated software testing

SpotQA, a new automated software testing platform that claims to be significantly faster than either manual testing or existing automated QA solutions, has raised $3.25 million in seed funding.

Leading the round is Crane Venture Partners, the newly-outed London venture capital firm focusing on “intelligent” enterprise startups. Also participating is Forward Ventures, Downing Ventures and Acequia Capital.

Founded in 2016 by CEO Adil Mohammed, who sold his previous company to apparel platform Teespring, SpotQA’s flagship product is dubbed Virtuoso. Described as an “Intelligent Quality Assistance Platform” that uses machine learning and robotic process automation, it claims to speed up the testing of web and mobile apps by up to 25x and make QA accessible across an entire company, not just software or QA engineers.

“Over the years working closely with engineering teams, I learned how the QA and testing process, when done inefficiently, can be a big barrier for company growth and productivity,” Mohammed tells me. “The way testing is done today is not fit for purpose. Even automated testing methods are not keeping pace with agile development practices”.

This results in software testing creating a bottleneck that prevents companies deploying as fast as they’d like to, says the SpotQA CEO, which is pain point for all involved, from developers to testers, all the way through to DevOps and production. “It has a real impact on the company’s bottom line,” adds Mohammed.

The incumbent options are either manual testing or traditional automation. Mohammed says manual testing is slow and makes continuous development difficult as there is a constant “disconnect” between QA and other teams. In turn, traditional automation is not very smart and hasn’t seen much innovation in the last decade. “It’s still very code based, relies on expensive automation engineers and it is difficult to setup and maintain,” he argues.

Explorations pages

In contrast, SpotQA claims to have designed Virtuoso so that software quality can be ensured across the entire software development lifecycle, something the company has branded “Quality Assistance”.

“By using machine learning and robotic process automation, Virtuoso is by far the most efficient and effective way to ensure bugs, inconsistencies and errors can be identified and fixed in a fraction of the time taken using manual and traditional automated testing,” says Mohammed.

Meanwhile, the London-based company will use the new injection of capital to scale engineering, sales and marketing, and to expand internationally. Existing Virtuoso customers include Experian, Chemistry, Optionis and DXC Technologies.

HPE Growth backs WeTransfer in €35M secondary funding round

WeTransfer, the Amsterdam-headquartered company that is best know for its file-sharing service, is disclosing a €35 million secondary funding round.

The investment is led by European growth equity firm, HPE Growth, with “significant” participation from existing investor Highland Europe. Being secondary funding — meaning that a number of shareholders have sold all or a portion of their holding — no new money has entered WeTransfer’s balance sheet.

We are also told that Jonne de Leeuw, of HPE, will replace WeTransfer co-founder Nalden on the company’s Supervisory Board. He joins Bas Beerens (founder of WeTransfer), Irena Goldenberg (Highland Europe) and Tony Zappalà (Highland Europe).

The exact financial terms of the secondary funding, including valuation, aren’t being disclosed. However, noteworthy is that WeTransfer says it has been profitable for 6 years.

“The valuation of the company is not public, but what I can tell you is that it’s definitely up significantly since the Series A in 2015,” WeTransfer CEO Gordon Willoughby tells me. “WeTransfer has become a trusted brand in its space with significant scale. Our transfer service has 50 million users a month across 195 countries, sharing over 1.5 billion files each month”.

In addition to the wildly popular WeTransfer file-sharing service, the company operates a number of other apps and services, some it built in-house and others it has acquired. They include content sharing app Collect (claiming 4 million monthly users), sketching tool Paper (which has had 25 million downloads) and collaborative presentation tool Paste (which claims 40,000 active teams).

“We want to help people work more effectively and deliver more impactful results, with tools that collectively remove friction from every stage of the creative process — from sparking ideas, capturing content, developing and aligning, to delivery,” says Willoughby.

“Over the past two years, we’ve been investing heavily in our product development and have grown tremendously following the acquisition of the apps Paper and Paste. This strengthened our product set. Our overarching mission is to become the go-to source for beautiful, intuitive tools that facilitate creativity, rather than distract from it. Of course, our transfer service is still a big piece of that — it’s a brilliantly simple tool that more than 50 million people a month love to use”.

Meanwhile, Willoughby describes WeTransfer’s dual revenue model as “pretty unique”. The company offers a premium subscription service called WeTransfer Plus, and sells advertising in the form of “beautiful” full-screen ads called wallpapers on Wetransfer.com.

“Each piece of creative is fully produced in-house by our creative studio with an uncompromising focus on design and user experience,” explains the WeTransfer CEO. “With full-screen advertising, we find that our users don’t feel they’re simply being sold to. This approach to advertising has been incredibly effective, and our ad performance has far outpaced IAB standards. Our advertising inventory is sought out by brands like Apple, Nike, Balenciaga, Adobe, Squarespace, and Saint Laurent”.

Alongside this, WeTransfer says it allocates up to 30% of its advertising inventory and “billions of impressions” to support and spotlight up-and-coming creatives, and causes, such as spearheading campaigns for social issues.

The company has 185 employees in total, with about 150 in Amsterdam and the rest across its U.S. offices in L.A. and New York.

Flatfair, the ‘deposit-free’ renting platform, raises $11M led by Index Ventures

Flatfair, a London-based fintech that lets landlords offer “deposit-free” renting to tenants, has raised $11 million in funding.

The Series A round is led by Index Ventures, with participation from Revolt Ventures, Adevinta, Greg Marsh (founder of Onefinestay), Jeremy Helbsy (former Savills CEO) and Taavet Hinrikus (TransferWise co-founder).

With the new capital, Flatfair says it plans to hire a “significant” number of product engineers, data scientists and business development specialists.

The startup will also invest in building out new features as it looks to expand its platform with “a focus on making renting fairer and more transparent for landlords and tenants.”

“With the average deposit of £1,110 across England and Wales being just shy of the national living wage, tenants struggle to pay expensive deposits when moving into their new home, often paying double deposits in between tenancies,” Flatfair co-founder and CEO Franz Doerr tells me when asked to frame the problem the startup has set out to solve.

“This creates cash flow issues for tenants, in particular for those with families. Some tenants end up financing the deposit through friends and family or even accrue expensive credit card debt. The latter can have a negative impact on the tenant’s credit rating, further restricting important access to credit for things that really matter in a tenant’s life.”

To remedy this, Fatfair’s “insurance-backed” payment technology provides tenants with the option to pay a per-tenancy membership fee instead of a full deposit. They do this by authorising their bank account via debit card with Flatfair, and when it is time to move out, any end-of-tenancy charges are handled via the Flatfair portal, including dispute resolution.

So, for example, rather than having to find a rental deposit equivalent to a month’s rent, which in theory you would get back once you move out sans any end-of-tenancy charges, with Fatfair you pay about a quarter of that as a non-refundable fee.

Of course, there are pros and cons to both, but for tenants that are cashflow restricted, the startup’s model at least offers an alternative financing option.

In addition, tenants registered with Flatfair are given a “trust score” that can go up over time, helping them move tenancy more easily in the future. The company is also trialing the use of Open Banking to help with credit checks by analysing transaction history to verify that you have paid rent regularly and on time in the past.

Landlords are said to like the model. Current Flatfair clients include major property owners and agents, such as Greystar, Places for People and CBRE. “Before Flatfair, deposits were the only form of tenancy security that landlords trusted,” claims Doerr.

In the event of a dispute over end-of-tenancy charges, both landlords and tenants are asked to upload evidence to the Flatfair platform and to try to settle the disagreement amicably. If they can’t, the case is referred by Flatfair to an independent adjudicator via mydeposits, a U.K. government-backed deposit scheme with which the company is partnering.

“In such a case, all the evidence is submitted to mydeposits and they come back with a decision within 24 hours,” explains Doerr. “[If] the adjudicator says that the tenant owes money, we invoice the tenant who then has five days to pay. If the tenant doesn’t pay, we charge their bank account… What’s key here is having the evidence. People are generally happy to pay if the costs are fair and where clear evidence exists, there’s less to argue about.”

More broadly, Doerr says there’s significant scope for digitisation across the buy-to-let sector and that the big vision for Flatfair is to create an “operating system” for rentals.

“The fundamental idea is to streamline processes around the tenancy to create revenue and savings opportunities for landlords and agents, whilst promoting a better customer experience, affordability and fairness for tenants,” he says.

“We’re working on a host of exciting new features that we’ll be able to talk about in the coming months, but we see opportunities to automate more functions within the life cycle of a tenancy and think there are a number of big efficiency savings to be made by unifying old systems, dumping old paper systems and streamlining cumbersome admin. Offering a scoring system for tenants is a great way of encouraging better behaviour and, given housing represents most people’s biggest expense, it’s only right renters should be able to build up their credit score and benefit from paying on time.”

Business management startup vCita acquires email marketing tool WiseStamp

Just a couple of months after disclosing a $15 million round of funding, vCita, the business management SaaS for SMEs, has made an acquisition: It’s acquiring WiseStamp, a veteran of the Israeli startup scene that launched its email marketing tool a decade ago.

Unsurprisingly, terms of the deal remain undisclosed. However, I understand that vCita has acquired WiseStamp as a company, including all assets, employees, customer base, technology and other IP. In addition, WiseStamp’s two remaining founders will join vCita along with the rest of the 20 person team.

WiseStamp hadn’t taken much capital in its relatively long history, having raised around $400,000 from angel investors.

Founded in 2009 by Orly Izhaki, Tom Piamenta, Tzvika Avnery and Sasha Gimelshtein, WiseStamp offers a email signature solution for self-employed professionals. The company claims over 50,000 paying customers, who it says use the platform to increase social media engagement, expand business reach, and generate more sales.

Meanwhile, the much younger vCita says it has over 100,000 paying users worldwide who use its SaaS to manage their schedule, track invoices, collect payments, and organize client data via the vCita app.

““We’re thrilled to have WiseStamp join our team. Both companies share the same vision: Empowering small business owners to deliver their services at a level comparable to that of a large company, at a fraction of the cost,” says says vCita co-founder and CEO Itzik Levy in a statement.

Adds Orly Izhaki, WiseStamp’s CEO and co-founder: “Over the years, WiseStamp created advanced solutions that enable hundreds of thousands of small enterprises to grow their business online. We are excited about the merger, which will establish us as one of the most dominant players in the SMB market”.

Rocket Internet’s Caterwings acquires German business catering marketplace Lemoncat

Caterwings, the Rocket Internet-founded corporate catering marketplace that operates in 8 countries, has acquired German competitor Lemoncat.

Terms remain undisclosed, although I understand from a source close to the company that it was an “8-digit all stock” deal and sees investors, which include Lukasz Gadowski, Target Global, Point 9, and Northzone, pick up shares in Caterwings’ parent company B2B Food Group.

Noteworthy, Rocket Internet was also an investor in Lemoncat, despite founding Caterwings, as it is prone to do.

Meanwhile, the two combined companies are disclosing the completion of another financing round to bolster the newly rolled up venture. The sees a further €5 million invested into B2B Food Group, bringing total investment to €13 million in the last 9 months.

I’m told Lemoncat’s legacy investors participated, signalling that they remain bullish on the corporate catering market, essentially doubling down on their investment in the space rather than seeking an exit.

“The market in Europe is clearly there and the question is not whether it will be digitalized, but only when,” says Lemoncat founder and CEO Doreen Huber. “Hence I am thrilled to be part of the further expansion of the international market leadership of the B2B Food Group”.

The merger of the two companies also comes shortly after takeout food behemoth Just Eat acquired City Pantry, a rival to Caterwings in the U.K., for £16 million.

“It proves to us that also the big consumer food platforms see how great the B2B market is,” Huber tells me. “The baskets are much higher and therefore a business customer is more attractive”.

Stock trading app Robinhood gets UK broker license

Robinhood, the Silicon Valley-based stock trading app that was recently valued by investors at $7.6 billion, has received regulatory approval in the U.K., breaking cover on its plans to set up shop in London (as reported exclusively by TechCrunch 7 months ago).

Specifically, Robinhood International Ltd., a Robinhood subsidiary, has been authorised to operate as a broker (with some restrictions) in the U.K. by the Financial Conduct Authority, which regulates U.K. financial services. This gears Robinhood up for a U.K. launch, although the company is staying tightlipped on when exactly that will be.

In addition, Robinhood is disclosing that it has appointed Wander Rutgers as President of Robinhood International. He joins from London fintech Plum, where he headed up the startup’s investing and savings product, and prior to that is said to have led product, compliance and operations teams at TransferWise.

At Robinhood, Rutgers will lead the U.K. business and oversee the company’s new London office, which has already begun staffing up. Sources told me in April that Robinhood was busy hiring for multiple U.K. positions, including recruitment, operations, marketing/PR, customer support, compliance and product.

The company tells me it is also building out a London-based user research team so it can better find product-market fit here. Crudely building a localised version of Robinhood obviously won’t cut it.

Meanwhile, news that Robinhood is ramping its planned U.K. launch is interesting in the context of local fintech startups that have launched their own fee-free trading offerings.

First out of the gate was London-based Freetrade, which chose very early on to build a bona-fide “challenger broker,” including obtaining the required license from the FCA, rather than simply partnering with an established broker. The app lets you invest in stocks and ETFs. Trades are “fee-free” if you are happy for your buy or sell trades to execute at the close of business each day. If you want to execute immediately, the startup charges a low £1 per trade.

And just last week, Revolut finally launched its fee-free stock trading feature, albeit tentatively. For now, the feature is limited to some Revolut customers with a premium Metal card (which itself entails a monthly subscription fee) and covers 300 U.S.-listed stocks. The company says that it plans to expand to U.K. and European stocks as well as Exchange Traded Funds in the future. Noteworthy, my understanding is that Revolut doesn’t have its own broker license but is partnering with US broker DriveWealth for part of its tech and the required regulatory authorisation (it also explains why, for now, Revolut is offering access to U.S. stocks only).

In contrast, Freetrade has long argued that to innovate within trading, you need to build and own the full brokerage stack. It was the first mover in this regard amongst the new crop of “fee-free” trading apps in the U.K., though others, including Netherlands-based Bux and now Robinhood, have since taken the same path. Only time will tell if Revolut will be forced to do the same.

Another tidbit is that Revolut and Robinhood share investors, namely Index and DST. That makes for an interesting subplot as the two unicorns encroach on each other’s lawn. No conflict, no interest.

Brolly launches ‘Brolly Contents’ to tackle the antiquated home contents insurance market

Brolly, the U.K. insurance app that lets you keep track of your various policies so that you are correctly and competitively covered, is launching a new product to plug what it sees as a gap in home contents insurance.

Dubbed “Brolly Contents,” the new offering promises “flexible” monthly cover for all or a subset of the items you own, transparently priced and delivered in a more convenient way via Brolly’s mobile app. Features of Brolly Contents include the ability to insure up to £40,000 worth of belongings, suitable for renters or property owners, and no fees for updates to your cover.

In addition, there’s a promised loyalty discount of up to 25% that increases each month you stay with Brolly and haven’t made a claim. That’s the antithesis to incumbent providers who offer large discounts for new customers, which are then clawed back the following years on the premise that you are too lazy or time poor to bother switching.

Brolly founder and CEO Phoebe Hugh tells me her aim is to rid customers of what she calls the “loyalty tax,” while simultaneously upgrading contents insurance for the digital age.

“For the majority of consumers, contents insurance is the first voluntary insurance product they will come across,” says Hugh. “A digital native generation are approaching this for the first time and are confused and unhappy with what is currently available. 9 out of 10 households headed by someone between 65-75 have contents insurance, versus just 4 out of 10 of under 30’s. This newer customer has become accustomed to digital delivery of everything, from banking to food delivery, and cannot find an insurance product that suits them. Brolly Contents is the first Brolly product to address these problems head on”.

Developed in partnership with specialist insurer Hiscox, Brolly Contents promises to be more flexible than similar products after Hugh and her team concluded that the current market wasn’t meeting existing Brolly customers’ needs, let alone expanding the market for contents insurance as a whole.

Contents insurance is typically sold as blanket cover but with lots of caveats, and/or requires tedious form filling and is still opaque at best. This leaves many not bothering to take out cover at all or discovering that the cover they have falls short when it’s time to make a claim.

In contrast, Brolly Contents claims to be more transparent, with a much simpler to understand product and an on-boarding experience delivered via in-app chat that walks you through how much cover you require and the amount of excess you wish to pay should you make a claim.

“With Brolly Contents, you can choose how much you want to insure and it doesn’t need to be everything in your home,” says Hugh. “You can get insured from as little as £4.50 a month, if you only want to protect a few things. There are no add-ons, and you can add valuables for no additional cost. Many businesses in this space, particularly some of the newer ones, are offering a branded product to customers which, in the background, consists of multiple underwriters with policies stitched together. As soon as you add some valuables and accidental damage, the price skyrockets. It’s pretty tricky to keep pricing competitive if this is how you operate”.

Brolly Contents

Meanwhile, Hugh — who before starting Brolly was an underwriter at Aviva — says that despite the insurtech hype, the insurance industry remains a “pre-disrupted market”. Incumbents are focused on where the profit currently is, and therefore the uninsured or beginner insurance customers aren’t well served. In the meantime, insurtech startups typically have to work with those same incumbents.

“A new business gaining traction in insurance is challenging; it’s unlikely you can underwrite yourself at the outset so you have to take a patient approach,” she says. “We found a world-class underwriting partner in Hiscox who shared our vision to simplify insurance, and who wanted to challenge the status quo, but are also trusted to pay out on claims. We’ve been working on Brolly Contents for over a year to deliver something genuinely new”.

Adds Matt Churchill, Head of Hiscox Futures: “Consumer expectations of insurance are changing. We identified early on that Brolly were leading the charge in exploring new ways of engaging customers. Together, we’ve designed a simple insurance product and brought it to life on Brolly’s proven technology driven platform. We hope it brings positive benefits to consumers looking for simplicity and flexibility from a home contents policy”.

Spaceflow, the ‘tenant experience platform’, scores $1.8M investment

Spaceflow, a startup founded out of Prague that offers a “tenant experience platform” to help landlords provide a better service, has raised $1.8 million in funding.

Leading the round is Credo Ventures, with participation from Day One Capital, and UP21. The company, which also has an office in Sillicon Valley, says it will use the new capital to hire additional members of its product development team, and to meet its U.S. and U.K. growth goals.

Describing itself as a “plug & play” tenant experience and community engagement platform sold to landlords and operators of co-living spaces, the Spaceflow mobile app connects space users to amenities, services, and “community life”.

The claimed upside is that by enabling landlords and building operators to offer a “space-as-a-service” to tenants and guests, the startup helps improve tenant satisfaction and, in turn, attract and retain good tenants in order to increase profits.

“Once you download the Spaceflow app as an occupant, you can locate your building via QR code/GPS (in most cases the profile is not public so there is also an access code),” explains Spaceflow co-founder and CEO Lukas Balik. “Once you reach the building profile, most of the content is tailored specifically to the building”.

Balik says the Spaceflow app is akin to a “remote control” for your building so that you have access to bookings and reservations for common spaces, bikes, and parking etc. There’s also a “digital concierge” aspect for things like dry cleaning, room cleaning, food delivery, or local yoga classes.

In addition, the news feed provides the latest updates from the property owner. The app houses a reporting tool for maintenance and other issues too, and an online community for the building.

“Every landlord gets an access to the admin console where they can set up their whole portfolio,” adds Balik. “Also every client gets an on-boarding session with one of our community managers and our subscription plans offer three different plans based on the level of ongoing support”.

Since being founded in 2016, Spaceflow says it currently operates in 9 country markets, with a footprint on both sides of the pond.

Penta, the German business banking startup, raises €8M additional funding

Penta, the business banking provider for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that was recently acquired by fintech company builder Finleap, has raised “over” €8 million in new funding.

The round is led by HV Holtzbrinck Ventures. Also participating is Finleap, alongside Fabrick, the Italian platform for open banking and fintech services, which is another of Penta’s existing shareholders. The startup raised a €7 million Series A round in late 2018, and is thought to have had over €18 million investment since being founded in 2016.

Meanwhile, today’s new injection of capital comes shortly after Penta was acquired by Finleap, the German company builder that co-founded and also owns a stake in banking platform solarisBank, of which Penta is a customer. Shortly after the deal went through, it was confirmed that Marko Wenthin, who previously co-founded solarisBank, had become Penta’s new CEO, replacing outgoing CEO and Penta co-founder Lav Odorović.

With a team of over 50, Penta now operates from three offices located in Berlin, Belgrade, and Milan. The latter follows a recent merger with Beesy, the Italian micro-business banking startup. Penta CEO Wenthin says internationalisation will be one of the focuses following HV Holtzbrinck Ventures’ backing.

“Penta has shown an incredible amount of passion for the market, the customers, and the product: it is amazing to see what the team has built since their inception,” he says in a statement. “This funding will allow us to further invest into our product and partnerships to become the financial platform of choice for small and medium sized companies. Additionally, we will push the internationalisation of Penta, starting with Italy this year”.

Monzo says it wasn’t storing ‘some’ customer PINs correctly, but has now fixed the bug

Monzo, the fast-growing challenger U.K. challenger bank that recently soft-launched in the U.S., is disclosing a potential, albeit relatively limited, security oversight that saw customer PINs stored incorrectly within the company’s internal systems.

Discovered on Friday, the “bug” has now been squashed after being spotted by one of Monzo’s security engineers, co-founder and CEO Tom Blomfield told me on a call just a few moments ago. He said that even though an audit hasn’t surfaced any fraud as a result, the upstart bank was emailing affected customers to inform them what had happened and to advise that they change their PIN, because being totally transparent “is the right thing to do”.

In a blog post just published, Monzo provides the following context for the bug, including who could access customer app PINs as a result:

We ask for your PIN whenever you want to make a payment, or do anything else that’s sensitive on your Monzo account.

And as your bank, we keep a record of your PIN so we can check you’ve entered it correctly. We store them in a particularly secure part of our systems, and tightly control who at Monzo can access them.

On Friday 2nd August, we discovered that we’d also been recording some people’s PINs in a different part of our internal systems (in encrypted log files). Engineers at Monzo have access to these log files as part of their job.

Monzo says it has since deleted the PIN information that was stored in this way, and that by 5:25am on Saturday morning, it had released updates to the Monzo apps. “Over the weekend, we then worked to delete the information that we’d stored incorrectly, which we finished on Monday morning,” writes the bank.

Next step: emailing the half a million customers affected, less than a fifth of U.K. Monzo customers.

“If we’ve contacted you to tell you that you’ve been affected, you should head to a cash machine to change your PIN to a new number as a precaution,” advises Monzo. “You can do this by putting your Monzo card into the cash machine, entering your old PIN and choosing ‘PIN services’. Then choose ‘Select a new PIN’ and change it to a new number”.

If goes without saying that if you are a Monzo user and spot anything unusual on your account, you should get in touch with Monzo immediately via in-app chat or by calling the phone number listed on your Monzo debit card.

Meanwhile, the security disclosure comes about a month after Monzo announced £113 million (~$144m) in additional funding. Confirming TechCrunch’s scoop in April, the Series F round was led by Y Combinator’s “Continuity” growth fund, and gave the company a new £2 billion (~$2.5b) post-money valuation.