German consumer loans marketplace Finanzcheck closes €33M Series C

Geschäftsführung Finanzcheck In Europe, London tends to grab most of the fintech limelight but other tech hubs in the continent are producing their fair share of fintech companies with comparative success, not least in Germany. Enter Hamburg-based Finanzcheck, the consumer loans marketplace, which today is disclosing it has closed €33 million in Series C funding. The round was led by growth-investor HarbourVest,… Read More

Atom is the first of the new UK challenger banks out the gate — sort of

Atom bank Atom Bank, which is backed by Spanish banking giant BBVA, has become the first of the four so-called UK ‘challenger’ banks out the gate — sort of. Having secured a much-coveted banking license late last year, the mobile-first bank has made its iOS app available to users who pre-registered their interest. However, this is still a very limited launch, restricted to a single… Read More

Germany’s Raisin expands to create first European-wide savings marketplace


Berlin-based Raisin announced today that it launched an ambitious expansion that will make its online savings service available across Europe.

Launched in 2013, the company has been available only in Germany until now where it has attracted 35,000 customers. The company offers users a choice of saving options with banking institutions across Europe so they can find the highest possible savings rates.

The expansion is notable because Europe has a fractured financial and digital set of rules governing each country that often slows the expansion of startups. While the European Union is considering proposals to reform those rules and create a Digital Single Market, Raisin still had to overcome huge hurdles to launch this expansion.

“Even on the Internet, it’s very difficult and very, very tedious,” said Tamaz Georgadze, CEO and co-founder of Raisin. “It’s not integrated at all.”

The company was originally called Savings Global. And Georgadze said while the company still has ambitions of expanding around the world one day, the process of launching across Europe has made it clear that will remain a long-term goal for now.

Raisin is backed by Index Ventures, Ribbit Capital, and Yuri Milner of DST.

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European tech funding was almost flat in Q1 2016

Europe Funding

The first quarter of 2016 has come to a close: European and Israeli startups raised €4.4 billion across 769 deals in Q1, including Spotify’s recent $1 billion debt round.

European and Israeli tech startups have raised €4.4 billion (about $5.01 billion) in funding in the first quarter of 2016, across 769 deals.

In both cases, these figures represent a 31% increase compared to Q4 2015, and a 46% and 66% year-on-year uplift, respectively.

That is, if you take into account Spotify’s recently announced – and massive – $1 billion debt round.

Have a look at the following two charts:

eu tech funding q12016

When you don’t count Spotify, the landscape changes significantly:

eu tech funding q1 2016

That’s right. Excluding Spotify’s latest, pre-IPO financing round, startups in the old continent raised a combined €3.5 billion, almost exactly the same amount as in the previous quarter (€3.4 billion), despite there being 183 more funding deals.

This means that the average size of European and Israeli tech funding deals has gone down in Q1 2016. Sans Spotify, the average deal in Europe in the first quarter of 2016 was only €4.6 million, compared to €5.8 million in Q4 2015 and €6.6 million in Q1 2015.

eu tech funding q1 2016

The reason behind this? An impressive increase in early-stage deals.

eu tech funding q12016

In Q1 2016, there were 534 deals smaller than €10 million (vs. just 379 in the previous quarter), proving that there’s plenty of early-stage capital across Europe. Growth and late-stage rounds didn’t see significant changes, with very similar levels compared to prior periods.

Leading the pack? France, with 134 deals (+123% QoQ, +306% YoY).

Note: the above analysis doesn’t include biotech and cleantech companies.

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Orange and Bouygues $11.4 billion French telecoms deal collapses

Company logos for French telecom operator Orange, on a tablet screen, and Bouygues Telecom, on a mobile phone screen, are seen in this illustration photo taken in Nice, France, April 1, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

(By Mathieu Rosemain, Gwénaëlle Barzic, & Sophie Sassard, Reuters) – Talks between Orange and Bouygues on a deal to create a dominant French telecoms operator collapsed on Friday, ending an attempt to ease a price war that has ravaged operators’ margins.

The failure of the proposed 10 billion euro ($11.4 billion) cash-and-share deal involving Bouygues Telecom is a blow to the two companies and the French government, which was heavily involved as it has a stake of around 23 percent in Orange.

The proposed tie-up was widely seen as a make-or-break chance to reduce the number of telecoms groups to three from four and prop up profits, which have been depressed since the arrival of low-cost operator Iliad.

But a stand-off between Martin Bouygues and French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron about the clout the billionaire would have gained in the former state monopoly had weighed on the talks, sources had told Reuters earlier.

“The two main reasons explaining the failure of these talks are execution risks and the general attitude of the French state,” a source close to the matter told Reuters.

The risks included the break-up fees involved and the conditions under which each party involved would have been able to withdraw from the deal, the source added.

Orange’s position as the No. 1 French telecoms operator meant that an acquisition of Bouygues Telecom would have required selling some of its assets to rivals Iliad <ILD.PA> and SFR <NUME.PA>, with which Orange held parallel negotiations.

This added to the complexity of getting a deal done, sources said, as apart from Bouygues himself, the talks involved two other influential billionaires, Iliad’s founder Xavier Niel and SFR’s owner Patrick Drahi.

“It would have been a miracle if they had come to terms,” a source close to the matter said.

Going it alone

The failure to reach a deal, which was confirmed by both parties, leaves Bouygues Telecom to go it alone.

“In a market where the possibility of consolidation is now ruled out for the long term, Bouygues Telecom will continue its standalone strategy,” Bouygues, the construction-to-media conglomerate said in a statement.

That could prove difficult for them, Francois Mallet, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, said.

“They will all be kicking themselves,” Mallet said on BFM Business, adding: “The state has a big responsibility in this. The big loser is Bouygues, let’s not kid ourselves.”

A source at the French Economy Ministry said that the main hurdle had been the risks involved in getting a deal across the line, with competition concerns a factor.

“It was an extremely complex deal and there was the question of the competition authority hanging,” the source told Reuters.

The tie-up would have made Bouygues the second-biggest shareholder of Orange after the French state, whose stake would have been diluted.

The French Economy Ministry had asked Bouygues to accept capping its potential stake in Orange for seven years, under a so-called standstill clause.

It had also asked it to accept giving up for 10 years the double-voting rights Bouygues would get as a long-term investor in Orange, another source said.

(Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain, Gwenaelle Barzic, Michel Rose and Sophie Sassard; Editing by David Evans and Alexander Smith)

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Uber rolls back into Spain with UberX licensed cab service in Madrid and a fresh attitude


More than a year after receiving a ban in Spain, Uber returns to the country today with its official Madrid launch and a new tactic under its belt: compliance.

Uber was forced out of Madrid back in late 2014 following pressure and protests from local taxi groups — a familiar story for Uber around the world. But rather than carrying on regardless, and paying fines on behalf of its drivers which it has done elsewhere, Uber has officially remained absent from Spain in the intervening months. Until today.

However, Uber isn’t going in gung-ho with its full suite of services such as the controversial UberPop that lets anyone who owns a car become a driver. No, Madrid’s tourists and residents will only be able to use professional, licensed drivers through UberX for now.

It’s a notable move by Uber given that Madrid is among Europe’s biggest cities, but the move is also indicative of Uber’s growing willingness to work with local authorities. In the past, Uber has often gone against the grain and operated services despite local authorities’ insistence that they pull out — for example in Australia and France Uber has operated anyway and reportedly paid fines on behalf of the drivers. The general idea behind working in that way was to gain sufficient traction and mindshare so that the will of the public sat firmly on its side.

But as we saw with the Moscow green light this month, Uber is taking a more “softly softly” approach through complying with legislation — the e-taxi company will only use registered taxi drivers in the Russian capital. But compliance is only a small part of the story here — Uber recognizes that its best way to gain inroads is to keep the law firmly on its side and work its way into the public consciousness one small step at a time. So that means no ridesharing services for now in some markets.

With the UberX Madrid launch, the Californian company’s presence in the Spanish capital will be limited — after all, there are only so many licenses allowed in the marketplace. And this is what Uber refers to as an “artificial cap” that “prevent both people who want to be drivers from doing so and congestion-cutting options like uberPool, which require a certain scale, from being viable,” the company stated in a blog post. It continued:

“We understand that technology can be disruptive, especially when changes are happening as quickly as they are today. At the same time, the status quo is clearly not serving the interests of passengers, drivers or their cities in Spain or in many other places around the world. That’s why we have a duty to work in partnership with the countries where we operate. Together we can ensure that Uber and the on-demand economy increase transportation choices, deliver new opportunities for drivers, and improve the lives of people in cities everywhere.”

Despite its frustrations, Uber is seemingly more willing to play ball than it has been at times in the past — after the violent protests that rocked France, leading to the arrest of two Uber executives, Uber doesn’t need any more bad PR. And that’s why it recognizes the duty to “work in partnership” with the countries where it operates. That’s not to say it won’t stop lobbying for change, of course, but it seems more willing to await such changes to be rubberstamped before pushing more buttons.

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The 10 biggest European tech stories this week

European Union

This week, tracked 47 funding deals and 13 M&A transactions in Europe and Israel.

Like every week, we listed every single one of them in our free weekly newsletter, along with interesting news regarding fledgling European startups, tech investors old and new, a number of good reads published elsewhere, government and policy news, as well as an overview of interesting lists, facts and figures from a wide variety of sources.

You can subscribe to our newsletter below to receive all this information in your inbox every Friday afternoon for free, but here’s an overview of the 10 biggest European tech news items for this week:

1) Another big week for fintech funding in Europe, with GoCardless (UK) raising $13 million, CurrencyFair (Ireland) scoring €8 million, insurtech company Friendsurance (Germany) securing $15 million, Kreditech (Germany) receiving €10 million in funding and London-based blockchain intelligence firm Elliptic closing a $5 million Series A round

2) Two major M&A deals involving UK-based companies, with enterprise software company Micro Focus buying Serena Software for $540 million and financial services firm Markit joining forces with IHS in a $13 billion ‘merger of equals’

3) Google was fined $112,000 on Thursday by France’s data protection watchdog for failing to comply with demands to extend a European privacy ruling across its global domains, including in the US

4) Apple, Google and Facebook published a long list of problems with the UK’s proposed ‘Snoopers’ Charter’

5) China’s Youzu has acquired German online and mobile games developer Bigpoint for (only) €80 million

6) Zalando has outlined its ‘platform strategy’ last week in Berlin and it’s well worth a thorough analysis

7) The UK’s Dyson is to invest £1 billion in battery technology, and is reportedly developing an electric car with aid from the British government

8) Cisco is going to pour millions into Berlin to turn the German capital into a smart city

9) Spotify has 30 million paid subscribers, CEO Daniel Ek announced

10) Atomico is raising a $750 million fourth fund, and co-founder Mattias Ljungman is bullish about Europe

Bonus link: check out this slide deck: “Understanding VCs” by Boris Golden, a Principal at Partech Ventures

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2020 is set to be the biggest year yet for Mars exploration

mars 2020 2020 is set to be a good year for Mars exploration. The United States, China, the United Arab Emirates, Europe, and Russia all have planned Mars missions that are scheduled to launch, or likely to launch, in that year. There have been over 40 missions to Mars throughout history. Some of these missions were failures, while others completed their goals and are no longer operational. Today, there… Read More