OpenFin raises $17 million for its OS for finance

OpenFin, the company looking to provide the operating system for the financial services industry, has raised $17 million in funding through a Series C round led by Wells Fargo, with participation from Barclays and existing investors including Bain Capital Ventures, J.P. Morgan and Pivot Investment Partners. Previous investors in OpenFin also include DRW Venture Capital, Euclid Opportunities and NYCA Partners.

Likening itself to “the OS of finance”, OpenFin seeks to be the operating layer on which applications used by financial services companies are built and launched, akin to iOS or Android for your smartphone.

OpenFin’s operating system provides three key solutions which, while present on your mobile phone, has previously been absent in the financial services industry: easier deployment of apps to end users, fast security assurances for applications, and interoperability.

Traders, analysts and other financial service employees often find themselves using several separate platforms simultaneously, as they try to source information and quickly execute multiple transactions. Yet historically, the desktop applications used by financial services firms — like trading platforms, data solutions, or risk analytics — haven’t communicated with one another, with functions performed in one application not recognized or reflected in external applications.

“On my phone, I can be in my calendar app and tap an address, which opens up Google Maps. From Google Maps, maybe I book an Uber . From Uber, I’ll share my real-time location on messages with my friends. That’s four different apps working together on my phone,” OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar explained to TechCrunch. That cross-functionality has long been missing in financial services.

As a result, employees can find themselves losing precious time — which in the world of financial services can often mean losing money — as they juggle multiple screens and perform repetitive processes across different applications.

Additionally, major banks, institutional investors and other financial firms have traditionally deployed natively installed applications in lengthy processes that can often take months, going through long vendor packaging and security reviews that ultimately don’t prevent the software from actually accessing the local system.

OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar. Image via OpenFin

As former analysts and traders at major financial institutions, Dar and his co-founder Chuck Doerr (now President & COO of OpenFin) recognized these major pain points and decided to build a common platform that would enable cross-functionality and instant deployment. And since apps on OpenFin are unable to access local file systems, banks can better ensure security and avoid prolonged yet ineffective security review processes.

And the value proposition offered by OpenFin seems to be quite compelling. Openfin boasts an impressive roster of customers using its platform, including over 1,500 major financial firms, almost 40 leading vendors, and 15 out of the world’s 20 largest banks.

Over 1,000 applications have been built on the OS, with OpenFin now deployed on more than 200,000 desktops — a noteworthy milestone given that the ever popular Bloomberg Terminal, which is ubiquitously used across financial institutions and investment firms, is deployed on roughly 300,000 desktops.

Since raising their Series B in February 2017, OpenFin’s deployments have more than doubled. The company’s headcount has also doubled and its European presence has tripled. Earlier this year, OpenFin also launched it’s OpenFin Cloud Services platform, which allows financial firms to launch their own private local app stores for employees and customers without writing a single line of code.

To date, OpenFin has raised a total of $40 million in venture funding and plans to use the capital from its latest round for additional hiring and to expand its footprint onto more desktops around the world. In the long run, OpenFin hopes to become the vital operating infrastructure upon which all developers of financial applications are innovating.

Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems and app stores have enabled more than a million apps that have fundamentally changed how we live,” said Dar. “OpenFin OS and our new app store services enable the next generation of desktop apps that are transforming how we work in financial services.”

Mobile ticketing company TodayTix raises $73M in new funding

TodayTix, a mobile ticketing company that makes it easy and relatively affordable to go to Broadway shows and other live performances, is announcing a new $73 million round of funding led by private equity firm Great Hill Partners.

The company was founded in 2013, and it served initially as the mobile equivalent of New York’s TKTS booths for discounted, last-minute theater tickets. TodayTix says it’s now sold more than 4 million tickets, representing 8 percent of annual Broadway ticket sales and 4 percent for London’s West End.

Beyond that, co-founder and CEO Brian Fenty said that a little over 10 percent of the tickets sold now fall outside “theater and performing arts, narrowly defined,” covering things like comedy shows and experiential theater.

“I think to the consumer, we will be a holistic ecosystem to engage in the city’s art and experiences,” Fenty predicted. “However culture is defined … we want to be their partner in discovering those things.”

To do that, TodayTix will add more cities to its current list of 15 markets. Fenty said this expansion is driven by existing partnerships (like launching in Australia through its partnership with “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”) and by seeing where people are already downloading the TodayTix app. His ultimate goal is to be “geographically agnostic.”

Fenty also said the company will continue investing in the TodayTix Presents program, through which the company puts on its puts on its own shows (albeit at a much smaller scale than a Broadway production).

And of course he wants to improve the app itself, introducing more personalization and curation — Fenty pointed to Netflix and Amazon as models. After all, he said TodayTix is currently offering tickets to 297 shows in New York alone, so it needs to ways to “effectively guide people through that.”

“We’re actually a media company, with our own content and perspective — not on the quality of the shows, but to have a point of view on how users should and could engage with this content,” he said.

He added that those improvements will include more basic things, like the process of purchasing a ticket: “The hardest part is to complete the purchase in 30 seconds or less, as compared to the average ticketing platform, which is somewhere between 3 and 7 minutes … How we continue to squish that conversion?”

Fenty is also hoping to work more closely with show producers, providing them with data about which shows are selling, as well as helping them use data to find the most effective ways to promote themselves.

TodayTix says it’s raised a total of $90 million since it announced its Series B back in February 2016. Fenty told me the new round includes a direct investment in the company, as well as secondary purchases of TodayTix shares from previous investors.

“TodayTix is rapidly changing the way millennials and other consumers connect with live cultural experiences,” said Great Hill Managing Partner Michael Kumin in a statement. “We look forward to working with Brian, [co-founder] Merritt [Baer] and their talented management team to expand the Company’s product and service offerings and accelerate its push into new geographies.”

YouTrip, a challenger bank in Southeast Asia, raises $25M for expansion

Singapore-based startup YouTrip thinks consumers of Southeast Asia deserve a taste of the challenger bank revolution happening in the U.S. and Europe, and it has raised $25 million in new funding to bring its app-and-debit-card service to more parts in the region.

Challenger banks have sprung up in Europe in recent years. Unicorns Monzo, Revolut and N26 are among those that offer their customers a debit card linked to an app and various levels of banking services, including savings and overdrafts. Brex — another billion-dollar-valued startup — is bringing that approach across the pond to the U.S. market.

But what about Southeast Asia?

All the signs indicate this is a region where digital services can thrive. The number of internet users across its six main countries is larger the entire U.S. population, and online spending is tipped to triple to $240 billion by 2025. Already, the region has mega startups including Grab ($14 billion valuation), Tokopedia ($7 billion) and Go-Jek ($9.5 billion) whose investors are betting that these growth signals will translate into reality.

At the more modest end, YouTrip has pulled in this new money to take its model beyond Singapore and into larger countries in Southeast Asia.

YouTrip CEO Caecilia Chu counts Citibank, McKinsey and Chinese fintech giant Lufax among her past employers

Since its commercial launch in August 2018, YouTrip has clocked over 200,000 app downloads and completed over one million transactions for its customers, according to CEO and co-founder Caecilia Chu.

It covers 150 currencies in the app, but the card itself is limited to 10 currencies (including Singapore dollars) with plans to add local options for Southeast Asia.

Chu — who went to Havard with Grab founders Anthony Tan and Hooi Ling Tan, as well as Go-Jek CEO Nadiem Makarim — started the business with co-founder Arthur Mak in 2016 for frequent travelers who are sick of being short-changed when exchanging money for trips, or using overseas ATMs. Over the longer term, she wants to turn the product into a more modern take on banking for Southeast Asian consumers in the style of the aforementioned European flagbearers.

“The objective is to build a trustworthy financial product for the mass consumer with exchange rates that are competitive,” Chu explained in an interview with TechCrunch. “Right now, we’re incredibly focused on travelers.”

“The success [of European challenger banks] has certainly helped in this part of the world where we are the first mover,” she added.

Like Monzo and its ilk, YouTrip offers zero percent transaction fees and no cross-border fees, but there are “competitive” exchange rates and a “small” fee to cover up to SG$2,000 ($1,460) in ATM withdraws per day. (Because, in much of Southeast Asia, cash remains king.)

The plan, further down the line, is to introduce financial products in the future to draw revenue and provide access to services for users, Chu explained. That’s, again, straight out of the European playbook… but there’s nothing wrong with that.

In Singapore, the card — and app — is backed by Mastercard and it includes integration with EZ-Link, the contactless payment option that covers public transport and more in Singapore. Those are the kind of local integrations that the company is eying with its market expansions.

The YouTrip service in Singapore is integrated with Singapore’s EZ-Tap payment system

On that note, Chu, a former banker, is keeping coy on which countries the service will expand to, but she does anticipate that YouTrip will reach one or two new markets over the next six to twelve months. It already has a regional footprint, though. Its team of 70 is located across HQ in Singapore and an engineering office in Hong Kong.

“We’re certainly looking to expand regionally,” she said. “We will hire a local team for each country because the future of fintech is regional and we believe in a localized strategy.”

That’s where this new money will come into play for YouTrip. The $25 million round included Insignia Ventures Partners — the Singapore firm from Yinglan Tan, formerly with Sequoia India and Southeast Asia — with undisclosed family offices and angels providing the remainder.

That’s somewhat unconventional, but Chu said the family offices “have deep roots in Asia, are really motivated and want to invest in our kind of business.” Likely, they understand the frustration of moving money between borders, or for travel purposes, in Southeast Asia and beyond.

With Revolut continuing to stall on its planned entry to Singapore — which was first announced last November — YouTrip will want to seize the initiative on establishing challenger banking in Southeast Asia.

Online grocery startup Grofers lands $200M led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund

Hot on the heels of Indian delivery startup BigBasket raising $150 million — at a unicorn valuation, no less — so its close rival Grofers has also pulled in capital after it announced a $200 million raise to battle its local competition and international giants Amazon and Walmart.

The round is the largest in India’s online grocery sector to date, and it was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund, which continues to make major bets on the nation’s growing internet economy. KTB, and existing investors Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital also took part.

Five-year-old Grofers works with more than 5,000 stores in 13 cities in India. In an interview with TechCrunch, Albinder Dhindsa, cofounder and CEO of Grofers, said the startup will use the fresh capital to expand to new markets and bring its service to “hundreds of millions of Indian consumers,” although he didn’t specify exact launch cities.

Dhindsa said that Grofers does not want to expand to new cities for the heck of it. Instead the startup focused on entering a city and growing its business profitable there. Grofers is already profitable in Delhi and will soon be profitable in Kolkata, he said. In Southern Indian markets such as Bengaluru, the startup is working to gain foothold.

The startup is rivaled by a number of players, including BigBasket, which raised its round earlier this month from Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund, the U.K.’s CDC Group and Alibaba. The duo also faces competition from hyperlocal player Dunzo, and delivery startup Swiggy, which recently entered this grocery delivery space.

However, more concerning for them is the growing ambitions of Amazon India and Walmart’s Flipkart, both of which are quickly expanding their businesses in India. Amazon’s Pantry and Prime Now services jointly have a presence in more than 100 cities, while Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy has publicly expressed an intention to pilot a fresh foods business in the nation. Dhindsa argued that these players are not really a significant competitor to Grofers yet.

The foods and grocery market is growing in India. According to some estimates, it will reach $869 billion in sales in 2023 with digital-based services seen as an important vector for growth. This is likely only the start now that SoftBank’s Vision Fund has entered the space through this deal with Grofers.

Other investments in India from the near-$100 billion fund include budget hotel startup OYO, which has now ventured into Europe, Flipkart — although the fund exited after the Walmart sale — Paytm, and PolicyBazaar. With reports suggesting the fund will open a dedicated office in India, you can bet that there’s a lot more to come.

Beyond costs, what else can we do to make housing affordable?

This week on Extra Crunch, I am exploring innovations in inclusive housing, looking at how 200+ companies are creating more access and affordability. Yesterday, I focused on startups trying to lower the costs of housing, from property acquisition to management and operations.

Today, I want to focus on innovations that improve housing inclusion more generally, such as efforts to pair housing with transit, small business creation, and mental rehabilitation. These include social impact-focused interventions, interventions that increase income and mobility, and ecosystem-builders in housing innovation.

Nonprofits and social enterprises lead many of these innovations. Yet because these areas are perceived to be not as lucrative, fewer technologists and other professionals have entered them. New business models and technologies have the opportunity to scale many of these alternative institutions — and create tremendous social value. Social impact is increasingly important to millennials, with brands like Patagonia having created loyal fan bases through purpose-driven leadership.

While each of these sections could be their own market map, this overall market map serves as an initial guide to each of these spaces.

Social impact innovations

These innovations address:

D2C underwear brand TomboyX raises $18 million from Craftory

TomboyX, a direct to consumer, gender-neutral underwear brand, has today announced the close of an $18 million Series B funding round led by Craftory. With this deal, Craftory becomes TomboyX’s majority shareholder.

TomboyX develops gender-neutral, size-inclusive underwear at a relatively affordable price point.

The company started when co-founder Fran Dunaway struggled to find herself a Robert Graham-style button-down shirt. Tomboy X originally started selling fun, dress shirts that fit all body types, and eventually transitioned to underwear and swimwear.

The D2C startup offers sizes from XS to 4XL; the classic TomboyX briefs start at $20/pair.

The company raised $4.3 million in Series A financing last year, which brings total funding to more than $25 million.

Here’s what co-founders Fran Dunaway and Naomi Gonzalez had to say in a prepared statement:

We are very excited to collaborate with the team at The Craftory as we continue in our mission to design inclusive and gender-neutral underwear for our diverse global audience. We are confident that their expertise in branding and consumer goods will complement our own creativity and disruption of traditional products.

As part of the deal, Craftory directors will join the board of directors alongside Pauline Brown, lead investor for TomboyX’s Series A round.

InnoVen Capital, one of Asia’s most prominent venture debt firms, adds $200M more to its kitty

Founders might not believe it, but managing a venture capital firm isn’t all that dissimilar to a startup. Case in point today: InnoVen Capital, one of Asia’s most prominent venture debt firms, has pulled in $200 million in new money to continue its expansion in the region.

The money comes from InnoVen’s two shareholders — Singapore sovereign fund Temasek and Singapore’s UOB — each of which has added $100 million in additional firepower for the fund, which is popularising debt-based financing within Asia’s startup ecosystems.

The organization came to be in 2015 when Temasek acquired the Indian ‘branch’ of Silicon Valley Bank expressly to offer differentiated financing to startups. The spinout was named InnoVen and it quickly expanded beyond India with the opening of an office in Singapore in 2016 and then an outpost in Beijing in early 2018.

The firm operates without a specific fund size unlike many other investors, but already there are some numbers to indicate its growing role in Asia.

That regional play is still in its early days, but already the business has deployed over $500 million in financing to more than 200 companies, according to Ashish Sharma, the former head of GE Capital India who leads InnoVen’s India business.

The fund operates at Series A and beyond and Sharma told TechCrunch that its investment levels have sped up over the past two to three years, thanks in particular to the addition of offices in Southeast Asia and China.

Recent deals from the fund have included investments in Moglix, Carsome, RedDoorz, Awfis and even a stealthy startup, Indonesia-based logistics venture Kargo which included debt within its first round of funding. Already, the Chinese arm has accrued 30 deals in a little over a year, and some of the biggest names backed across the region include Vision Fund company OYO and Naspers investments Swiggy, which recently raised $1 billion, and Byju’s.

Yet despite InnoVen’s increased profile, there remains confusion on the role of venture debt in Asia. Anecdotally, I’ve heard many misguided opinions from so-called venture capital-focused reporters — and not just in Asia — who see debt-based investment as a ‘last resort’ for companies. Its addition in a round is a tell-tell sign of a struggling business, they claim.

That’s completely wrong, according to InnoVen’s Sharma.

“It doesn’t come in from a position of weakness, that’s a big misconception,” he explained to TechCrunch in an interview. “In fact, venture debt is not available to companies which are in trouble. Most companies that raise venture debt do so from a position of strength.”

“They’ll say ‘We’re raising $100 million, let’s lay in $20 million of venture debt to optimize the dilution,'” Sharma added. “We’ve helped some very large companies use venture debt to get to the next level.”

Ashish Sharma leads InnoVen Capital’s business in India [Image via InnoVen Capital]

Ambitious growth story? Check.

A business that’s misunderstood by many? Check.

Who said running a VC firm isn’t like running a startup?

EV startup Rimac scores $90M investment from Hyundai and Kia

Rimac Automobili, the European EV startup that landed an investment from Porsche last year, has again gained the backing of traditional automakers after Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors jointly invested €80 million, or around $90 million.

Beyond the significant cash infusion, the three parties said the deal includes “a strategic partnership to collaborate on the development of high-performance electric vehicles.” In other words, Hyundai and Kia — both of which fall under the ownership of Hyundai Motor Group — plan to work very closely with Rimac, which is based in Croatia, to bring electric vehicles to market under their brands.

Already we have an idea of what that will look like.

Today’s announcement teased an electric car within Hyundai’s N sports car division and a “high-performance fuel cell electric vehicle,” both of which will include collaboration between the Korean group and Rimac. (It’s worth noting that Rimac is already a supplier for Hyundai Motor Group so the two sides are well acquainted.)

Rimac’s back story is fascinating. The company was founded in 2009 by then-21-year-old Mate Rimac who developed an electric vehicle in his garage. Today, the company is 500 people strong and aside from supplying parts to manufacturers — specifically high-voltage battery technology and electric powertrains — it designs in-car digital interfaces, runs a subsidiary-focused on electrics, and develops impressive electric “hypercars.” Its vehicles include the C Two, pictured at the top of this post at the Geneva International Motor Show.

The startup’s own boilerplate explains neatly why it is teaming up with major names like Porsche and Hyundai.

“The next challenge ahead is to grow from a low volume manufacturer of complex high-end electrification components, to an established Tier-1 supplier for the industry,” it reads.

Decades of automotive know-how from its investors with experience is sure to help there.

[Left to right] Mate Rimac, founder and CEO of Rimac Automobili, and Euisun Chung, Executive Vice Chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, seal the deal

As for Hyundai Motor Group, the Korean firm has embarked on a series of deals as it looks to tap into tech to grow its business. That’s included investments in companies like Grab in Southeast Asia ($250 million), car infotainment startup Audioburst and, in India, car rental service Revv and Uber rival Ola, in a deal related to its EV unit.

On the partnership side, Hyundai is working with Russia’s Yandex on self-driving tech, Amazon on virtual showrooms and more.

Seed investor Gree Ventures makes first close of new $130M fund — and rebrands to Strive

There’s big news for one of India and Southeast Asia’s longest-running early-stage investors after Gree Ventures, the fund attached to Japanese gaming firm Gree, announced the first close of its third fund, which is targeted at $130 million.

Gree has been a fixture in Southeast Asia since 2012, but now the firm is rebranding to Strive (or “STRIVE” to quote the press release) for the new fund. Rebrandings often seem token, but, in this case, it makes a lot of sense to stop being called Gree (“GREE”) because the company is just one LP of many.

“People often confuse us as a single LP fund,” Nikhil Kapur — who has been promoted to partner — told TechCrunch in an interview. “But we’re quite independent from Gree, plus we’re not a corporate fund and we’re not investing in gaming.”

Indeed, in this case, the fund is talking to non-Japan-based LPs for the first time over potential participation. Confirmed LPs include past backers SME Support JAPAN — which is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan — Gree itself and members of the Mizuho Financial Group. Opening the doors to prospective LPs in Southeast Asia is about adding “more local networks in these markets,” Kapur explained.

Those details, it is very much business as usual for Strive, which is putting the focus on B2B. Kapur said that 60-70 percent of past investments have tended to be on B2B deals, but now fund three is — for the first time — almost entirely dedicated to that segment.

Southeast Asia has seen some seed investors move further down the chain — Jungle Ventures’ new fund is targeting a $230 million final close, while Golden Gate Ventures’ third fund is $150 million while it also has a ‘growth fund’ aimed at $200 million — but Strive is sticking to early stage.

As seed funds go, $130 million is a lot but there’s plenty of nuance to that figure — it won’t all go to early-stage checks.

The fund is split across India, Southeast Asia and Japan — with around half of that allocation estimated for deals outside of Japan. That leaves around $25 million for ‘first checks.’ Kapur said that the outlined goal is to find 20 startups to back, and then double down on them with that follow-on capital. Interestingly, he said that there’s no hard allocation between the three focus regions and follow-on capital is allocated freely to those companies which are performing well and ready to grow, irrespective of geography.

The Strive team

Looking more closely at India and Southeast Asia, Kapur and investment manager Ajith Isaac pointed to increased synergies between the two regions. Indeed, large Southeast Asian players like Grab and Go-Jek have tapped India’s talent pool and located their R&D centers and engineering teams in the country, while Indian startups area increasingly foraying into Southeast Asia for market expansion.

“We see these regions not remaining separate in the near future… [and] becoming very intertwined,” Kapur said, pointing out that in venture capital firms like Accel and Lightspeed and following Sequoia India and investing directly in startups in Southeast Asia.

“The region will become very much interlocked and there’s a gap in people who can bridge it… that’s where we see a differentiated value-add on our side,” he added.

Southeast Asia itself has matured immensely since the Gree fund’s early days, but Kapur and Isaac — investment manager Samir Chaibi is the third member on the non-Japan side of the fund — maintain that there’s still “a gap in terms of institutional capital on seed stage” in some verticals where angel investors are helping new ventures get off the ground with first checks and early backing. That’s where the new Strive fund is keen to make its mark.

The fund, which has traditionally been very lean in terms of personnel, will also bulk up its own numbers. Kapur said he is hiring local teams in India and Indonesia with a viewing to growing the non-Japanese headcount to six people by the end of the year.

Market map: the 200+ innovative startups transforming affordable housing

In this section of my exploration into innovation in inclusive housing, I am digging into the 200+ companies impacting the key phases of developing and managing housing.

Innovations have reduced costs in the most expensive phases of the housing development and management process. I explore innovations in each of these phases, including construction, land, regulatory, financing, and operational costs.

Reducing Construction Costs

This is one of the top three challenges developers face, exacerbated by rising building material costs and labor shortages.