Plaid raises $425M Series D from Altimeter as it charts a post-Visa future

Plaid, a unicorn that helps connect consumers’ bank accounts to financial applications, has raised a $425 million Series D, it announced this morning. TechCrunch understands that the new capital infusion, led by Altimeter Capital, values the company at around $13.4 billion.

It is not surprising that Plaid, a former takeover target for consumer credit giant Visa, is raising more capital. After its $5.3 billion sale to the larger company fell through this January, it became clear that Plaid would chart its own future, sans a corporate parent.

When the Visa-Plaid deal did finally grind to a halt in the face of regulatory scrutiny there was chatter amongst startup and venture folks that the sale dying out was a good thing. Why? Because Plaid had had a great 2020 and was generally agreed to be worth far more than what Visa had agreed to pay.

The startup’s Series D valuation confirms the sentiment. And it wasn’t merely Altimeter that was willing to put capital into the company at its new valuation. The group was joined by two more news investors, Silver Lake Partners and Ribbit Capital. Silver Lake is a private equity leviathan with dozens of billions of dollars under management, while Ribbit is known for its myriad fintech bets.

In short, Plaid has picked up a hybrid of investor scale, late-stage guidance, and fintech acumen in a single round. A number of prior investors also put capital into round.

TechCrunch spoke with Plaid CEO Zachary Perret about the deal, who told TechCrunch in a brief phone call that Altimeter was selected as its new lead investor over other options due to shared alignment regarding the future of financial services for consumers. He added that he’s excited to learn from his trio of new backers, which will help the company build for the long-term.

The CEO also made passing mention of a future IPO, though TechCrunch doesn’t expect to see paperwork regarding a potential flotation from Plaid for some time; it was, however, refreshing to hear an executive admit to having future financial goals.

Regarding the amount of capital that it raised, Perret said that it was the “right level” of capital to allow Plaid to invest in scale, both in terms of its team and its product lineup. The CEO also said that the funds will allow his company to be opportunistic.

The last 12 months for Plaid have been busy. Perret mentioned the time period several times during the interview, explaining how rapidly the world evolved regarding the digitization of consumer financial services over the last year.

Finally, what of growth? What was Plaid willing to share on the growth front was light, merely disclosing that it grew its customer count by 60% in 2020. Perret said that the figure represented an acceleration from previous years. With around 650 staffers today, Plaid grew its headcount by around 20% in the first quarter according to its CEO.

Plaid sits in the midst of the fintech boom that TechCrunch has covered extensively over the past several quarters. As far as external signals go, watching the companies that must partially comprise Plaid’s customer base expand is about as close as we can get to other growth metrics. That particular signal bodes well for Plaid.

Let’s see how well the company can fend off domestic and international competition. It certainly now has the funds to do so.

 

Visa supports transaction settlement with USDC stablecoin

Payment card network Visa has announced that transactions can be settled using USD Coin (USDC), a stablecoin powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Crypto.com is the first company to test the new capability with its own Visa-branded cards.

USDC is a stablecoin co-founded by Circle and Coinbase and by managed the Centre consortium. As the name suggests, USDC is a cryptocurrency that follows the value of USD. One USDC is always worth one USD — hence the name stablecoin.

In order to make sure that the value of USDC remains stable, USDC partners keep USD on bank accounts every time they issue new tokens. Those accounts are audited to make sure that there are as many USDC in circulation as there are USD in those accounts.

So why do stablecoins exist even though money is mostly digital these days? Like other crypto assets, stablecoins present some flexibility when it comes to sending, receiving and storing value. You don’t need a bank account and everything can be easily programmable. And you don’t need to support legacy systems, integrate with banks and pay transaction fees to other financial institutions.

While USDC originally started as a token on top of the Ethereum blockchain, USDC also supports two other blockchains — Algorand and Stellar. Visa has chosen to focus on the Ethereum variant of USDC for now.

The payment company already supports 160 currencies across the globe. That’s why you can seamlessly use your Visa card when you travel abroad. You’ll see a card transaction in your home currency on your card statement, but the merchant gets paid in their own local currency.

Thanks to a partnership with Anchorage, Visa is adding support for its first digital currency. Anchorage recently received a federal banking charter and is positioning itself as a digital asset bank. Visa was probably looking for a trustworthy partner for this program. As Anchorage got a thumbs-up from regulators, the partnership makes sense.

For Crypto.com, it means that it can send USDC directly to Visa. For instance, if a Crypto.com customer holds USDC in their wallet and makes a card transaction, Crypto.com doesn’t have to first convert USDC tokens to USD.

It can send USDC to Visa’s Ethereum wallet address at Anchorage to settle the transaction. The merchant then gets paid by Visa in their own currency. Visa says there will be more partners down the road in addition to Crypto.com.


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Stay gold, ‘Plaid for X’ startups

A failed acquisition usually triggers the same series of questions: What does this mean for early-stage startups in the sector? Will a chilling effect occur and hurt valuations? Will VCs stop funding this category? How will the exit environment look going forward?

This week gave that narrative a bullish twist. Visa and Plaid announced that they have reached a mutual agreement to no longer pursue a merger. The $5.3 billion deal had been under antitrust scrutiny from the DOJ, and eventually ended amid these regulatory challenges.

Fintech VCs and startups alike reacted to the fallen deal with aggressive optimism about Plaid’s future as an independently-owned fintech startup.

The most common arguments?

  • Plaid’s price in this current moment is far beyond $5.3 billion, so now that it is a free bird it will pursue a much larger exit
  • Plaid will go public through SPAC because it is in charge of its own destiny.
  • And my favorite: One day, Plaid will buy Visa.

In an interview with TechCrunch, Plaid CEO Zach Perret wouldn’t give too many details on the future (and whether a SPAC is involved), but he did say he has new ‘clarity’ going forward.

The fact that fintech is bullish on the future of fintech isn’t quite surprising. I will say that while one deal can never make or break a sector, a flopped merger certainly can surface the current temperature in the market. Startups Weekly readers will remember last week’s edition about how P&G’s decision not to acquire Billie could hurt DTC exit opportunities. Fintech seems unbothered and, in fact, celebratory. The only counterargument I got, via Twitter DM, is that it could set a bad precedent on big fintech mergers.

“Or maybe…corporations learn from this and look to make riskier acquisitions earlier in a company’s lifecycle because they know that if they let the company get too big they’ll lose the chance,” Rami Essaid, founder of Finmark, told me.

Only in 2021 could a $5.3 billion break-up and a DOJ investigation be considered a blessing. Rock on, ‘Plaid for X’ startups.

Before we go on, make sure to follow me on Twitter for my bad jokes and early-stage startup coverage. You can also always reach me at [email protected].

Columbus is the new Miami which is new the San Francisco

I hope that sub-hed gave you a headache, because that’s exactly what debates about where the best place to start a company do to me. The rise of Work From Anywhere has emboldened VCs to leave San Francisco for markets such as Miami or Austin in search of the next unsung hero of their portfolios.

For investors, though, the financial benefit of moving to an emerging market might not be apparent within months, but instead years. Venture is a long game (at least most of the time).

Here’s what to know, per Silicon Valley editor Connie Loizos: Drive Capital, a venture capital firm based in Columbus, Ohio, and started by two ex-Sequoia investors now has over $1.2 billion in assets. But before it had breakout companies like Root and Olive AI, Drive had to play the unusual role of investing in a region without key investing infrastructure.

Etc: Founding partner Chris Olsen explained how they set up their roots:

“We’ve had to spend a lot of time going into the universities and putting new seed managers in business and helping them fundraise and sort of building all of this infrastructure from scratch so that the next entrepreneur is out here [versus moves away], and it works. In our first year, we had inbound interest from 1,800 [startups], then it went to about 3,000 and now it’s up to about 7,000, which is more than I’ve heard any other venture firms say that they see in California. And I don’t think it’s because we’re great. I think that’s more [a reflection of the] scale of the opportunity that’s here now. One of the things that we would love to see more of is more venture capitalists coming here, because there’s certainly more opportunity than we can invest in.”

Ideal paper world powered with alternative wind and solar energy. environmental concept.

Image Credits: Paula Dani/ABlse (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The CFO Tech Stack

If you want to start a company, go to a startup and look where employees are still using an Excel sheet. The best products are the ones fueled by frustrations, right?

Here’s what to know per managing editor Danny Crichton: For a trio of Palantir alums, 15 collective years at the now-public government tech company showed a huge gap in technology for CFOs. So, they started Mosaic, a techstack to help financial officers better communicate and perform their jobs.

Etc: Co-founder Bijan Moallemi describes the mistake other platforms are making:

“Everyone wants to be strategic, but it’s so tough to do because 80% of your time is pulling data from these disparate systems, cleaning it, mapping it, updating your Excel files, and maybe 20% of [your time] is actually taking a step back and understanding what the data is telling you.”

GettyImages 946391800

Image via Getty Images / alashi

The future of consumer hardware startups beyond Peloton

Are wearables still exciting? Is consumer hardware ever going to get easier to pull off? What was the strategy that made Peloton so successful?

These questions and more are answered in the latest consumer hardware-focused Extra Crunch Survey, which brings together VCs from SOSV, Lux Capital, Shasta Ventures, and more.

Here’s what to know: Everyone is studying the Peloton success recipe. But the big question for consumer hardware startups is if the at-home fitness market’s boom is translating to other use cases.

Etc: Cyril Ebersweiler of SOSV noted that supply chain distribution disruption during COVID-19 has been difficult for category startups, but the need for innovative solutions has never been more clear.

“Everybody is waiting for new and mind-blowing experiences, and I guess we’ve all experienced the shortcomings or the magic of some IoT products over the shelter-in-place [orders]. Spatial and ambient technologies that work well will be in demand (audio or visual), while “holographic Skype” will invade households thanks to Looking Glass.”

Also: In another investor survey, five VCs weighed in on the future of cannabis in 2021.

3D render, visualization of a man holding virtual reality glasses, electronic device, head surrounded by virtual data with neon green grid. Player one ready for the VR game. Virtual experience.

Pop goes the public market

We had yet another noisy week of privately-held startups going public to a Very Warm Wall Street reception. The most opulent story of the week was definitely Affirm’s debut, which doubled its already-increased price when it started to officially trade.

Here’s what to know, per our resident IPO reporter Alex Wilhelm, who writes The Exchange:

Etc:

GettyImages 1155292858

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 11: PayPal Co-Founder & Affirm CEO Max Levchin visits “Countdown To The Closing Bell” at Fox Business Network Studios on June 11, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images)

Around TechCrunch

Extra Crunch Live is returning in a big way in 2021. We’ll be interviewing VC/founder duos about how their Series A deals went down, and Extra Crunch members will have the chance to get live feedback on their pitch deck. You can check out our plans for ECL in 2021 right here, or hit up this form to submit your pitch deck. Episodes air every Wednesday at 3pm ET/12pm PT starting in February.

And if you’re feeling extra generous, take this survey to help shape the future of TechCrunch

Across the week

Seen on TechCrunch

Glassdoor: Best tech companies to work for in 2021

Signal’s Brian Acton talks about exploding growth, monetization and WhatsApp data-sharing outrage

Two-year-old NUVIA sells to Qualcomm for $1.4 billion

Loop launches out of stealth to make auto insurance more equitable

Nuclear fusion tech developer General Fusion now has Shopify and Amazon founders backing it

Seen on Extra Crunch

Lessons from Top Hat’s acquisition spree

12 ‘flexible VCs’ who operate where equity meets revenue share

Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants?

Equity (and a bonus Equity)

The news keeps coming so we keep recording. This week, the trio chatted about the Plaid-Visa deal, but also about the Palantir mafia‘s next big bet. In early-stage news, I covered a fintech accelerator that pivoted into an edtech accelerator and a new startup coming out of Austin that makes car insurance more equitable. We also debated SPACs for a bit, and Danny was…optimistic?

Listen to our episode, follow the pod on Twitter, and if you so please, tune into our bonus Equity episode that just came out today. It’s an episode dedicated entirely to the barrage of payments and e-commerce funding that came out this week.

Until next week,

Natasha 

The end of Plaid-Visa, and Palantir’s growing startup mafia

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture-capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week we — Natasha and Danny and Alex and Grace — had a lot to get through, as the news volume in early 2021 has been rapid and serious. Sadly this means that some early-stage rounds missed the cut, though we did make sure to have some Series A material in the show.

So, what did the assembled crew get to? Here’s your cheat sheet:

  • As is Talkspace, the tele-therapy startup that you’ve heard of.
  • Then there was SoftBank, of course, which has its own SPAC in the market now, confirming earlier reports. Which makes perfect sense.

There are so many SPACs and bits of IPO news and funding rounds to pick through and cover that we’re already straining the time limits of the show to even cover half of the material. This week that meant that we excised a chunk of the show to a forthcoming Saturday episode that is focused on e-commerce.

So, we will talk to you again soon!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PST and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Minna Technologies, a subscription management tool for banking customers, raises $18.8M

With the proliferation of subscription services, combined with our lives becoming almost 100% digital, there’s a rising need to be able to manage these services. But most banks don’t have much of an answer. Step in Minna Technologies, which sells in its subscription management services into banking apps.

It’s now raised $18.8 million (€15.5m / £14m) in Series B fundraising from Element Ventures, MiddleGame Ventures, Nineyards Equity and Visa, to expand its open banking technology to banks globally.

Founded in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2016, Minna enables customers to manage subscription services via their existing bank’s app. Using Minna, customers can terminate subscriptions just from their banking app, automatically, cutting the data and financial ties between the merchant and customer. The platform can also notify customers when a free trial is about to end and facilitates utilities switching allowing them to find better deals. So far, Minna has partnerships with Lloyds Banking Group, Swedbank and ING.

Minna’s technology reduces the burden on a bank’s call centers, plus banks can also benefit financially from Minna’s role in facilitating utility switching, raising the prospect of banks becoming marketplaces.

The appearance of Minna suggests that the first wave of neo-banks is about to be accompanied by a second wave of overlayed services such as this. The average European is spending £301 (€333) a month on 11 subscriptions, which is predicted to increase to £459 (€508) a month on 17 subscriptions by 2025. IDC predicts that by 2050, 50% of the world’s largest enterprises will focus the majority of their businesses on digitally enhanced products, services, and experiences. Subscriptions are even coming from car makers such as Volvo.

Joakim Sjöblom, CEO and co-founder of Minna Technologies, said: “Over the past four years the subscription economy has exploded from Spotify and Netflix to even iPhones and cars. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for consumers to keep track of the payments and harder for banks to handle inquiries to shut them down. Minna’s tech improves the procedure for banks by simplifying the process, as well as providing an in-demand digital product that consumers are starting to expect from their financial institutions.”

Sjöblom told me that by largely working with incumbent banks, Minna is providing them with a way to fight back against challenger banks.

Pascal Bouvier, Managing Partner, MiddleGame Ventures said: “We strongly believe in a vision where banks develop their checking account offerings into “connected and intelligent” platforms and where retail clients are able to interact in many more ways than in the recent past.”

Venture capitalists react to Visa-Plaid deal meltdown

Congratulations, you’re no longer selling your company for billions of dollars!

As strange as it sounds, that’s the leading perspective from venture capitalists concerning Plaid, now that its much-touted sale to Visa has fallen apart.

The $5.3 billion deal would have seen banking API startup Plaid join consumer payments and credit giant Visa. But the American government took a dim view of the deal, and according to Axios reporting, Plaid felt like it could be worth more money in time.

The TechCrunch team has collected views from venture capitalists, analysts and Anshu Sharma, CEO of another API-powered startup and a former VC to get a better view on the perspectives in the market concerning the blockbuster breakup.

From the venture capital side of things, most takes we received were bullish regarding Plaid’s chances now that it’s no longer being taken over by Visa. Amy Cheetham, for example, of Costanoa Ventures, said that the result is “good for the company, ultimately.” She added that Plaid may now see better “talent acquisition,” faster product decisions and a better eventual valuation.

“There is so much left for them to build in fintech infrastructure,” Cheetham said in an email, adding that she sees “Stripe-like scale potential” in Plaid. Stripe is reportedly raising capital at a valuation that could reach $100 billion.

Cheetham is not alone in her bullish perspective. Nico Berandi of Animo Ventures wrote to TechCrunch to say that he “still wishes” that his firm had been “around back then to have invested” in Plaid, adding a smiley face at the end of his missive.

Venture capitalists react to Visa-Plaid deal meltdown

Congratulations, you’re no longer selling your company for billions of dollars!

As strange as it sounds, that’s the leading perspective from venture capitalists concerning Plaid, now that its much-touted sale to Visa has fallen apart.

The $5.3 billion deal would have seen banking API startup Plaid join consumer payments and credit giant Visa. But the American government took a dim view of the deal, and according to Axios reporting, Plaid felt like it could be worth more money in time.

The TechCrunch team has collected views from venture capitalists, analysts and Anshu Sharma, CEO of another API-powered startup and a former VC to get a better view on the perspectives in the market concerning the blockbuster breakup.

From the venture capital side of things, most takes we received were bullish regarding Plaid’s chances now that it’s no longer being taken over by Visa. Amy Cheetham, for example, of Costanoa Ventures, said that the result is “good for the company, ultimately.” She added that Plaid may now see better “talent acquisition,” faster product decisions and a better eventual valuation.

“There is so much left for them to build in fintech infrastructure,” Cheetham said in an email, adding that she sees “Stripe-like scale potential” in Plaid. Stripe is reportedly raising capital at a valuation that could reach $100 billion.

Cheetham is not alone in her bullish perspective. Nico Berandi of Animo Ventures wrote to TechCrunch to say that he “still wishes” that his firm had been “around back then to have invested” in Plaid, adding a smiley face at the end of his missive.

Daily Crunch: Visa calls off Plaid acquisition

Regulatory action prompts Visa to back off a fintech acquisition, Uber and Moderna partner and Checkout.com is valued at $15 billion. This is your Daily Crunch for January 12, 2021.

The big story: Visa calls off Plaid acquisition

The deal, valued at $5.3 billion, was first announced just over a year ago. However, the Department of Justice filed suit to block the acquisition in November, arguing that it would “eliminate a nascent competitive threat.”

In today’s announcement, Visa said it could still have made things work, but the threat of “protracted and complex litigation” ultimately prompted it to call things off.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether this might cool financial giants’ interest in acquiring fintech startups and unicorns.

The tech giants

Uber and Moderna partner on COVID-19 vaccine access and information — The only confirmed component involves providing users with credible, factual information about COVID-19 vaccine safety through Uber’s consumer app.

Facebook revamps ‘Access Your Information’ tool to better break down, explain data usage — The new version of the tool has been visually redesigned, and now further breaks down the viewable information across eight categories instead of just two.

GM targets delivery companies with new EV business unit BrightDrop — GM has launched a new business unit to offer commercial customers an ecosystem of electric and connected products.

Startups, funding and venture capital

Checkout.com raises $450M and reaches $15B valuation — Checkout.com wants to build a one-stop shop for all things related to payments.

Cockroach Labs scores $160M Series E on $2B valuation — Co-founder and CEO Spencer Kimball says the company’s revenue more than doubled in 2020 in spite of COVID.

Weber acquires smart cooking startup June — June will continue to operate as its own brand.

Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch

These five VCs have high hopes for cannabis in 2021 — Despite remaining headwinds, the future is looking up for most cannabis businesses.

Is there still room in the cloud-security market? — While the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided for businesses, one of its main legacies is how it ushered in a tidal wave of accelerated digital transformation.

2021: A SPAC odyssey — A closer look at blank-check offerings for Bakkt and SoFi.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)

Everything else

Rollables are the new foldables — On day one of CES, both LG and TCL have offered their take on yet another form factor designed to offer more screen real estate.

Nielsen says ‘The Office’ was the most popular streaming series of 2020 — Netflix and Disney+ dominated the rankings.

The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.

Visa will not acquire Plaid after running into regulatory wall

Visa and Plaid called off their agreement this afternoon, ending the consumer credit giant’s takeover of the data-focused fintech API startup.

The deal, valued at $5.3 billion at the time of its announcement, first broke cover on January 13th, 2020, or nearly one year ago to the day. However, the American Department of Justice filed suit to block the deal in November of 2020, arguing that the combination would “eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers.”

At the time Visa argued that the government’s point of view was “flawed.”

However, today the two companies confirmed the deal is officially off. In a release Visa wrote that it could have eventually executed the deal, but that “protracted and complex litigation” would take lots of time to sort out.

It all got too hard, in other words.

Plaid was a bit more upbeat in its own notes, writing that in the last year it has seen “an unprecedented uptick in demand for the services powered by Plaid.” Given the fintech boom that 2020 saw, as consumers flocked to free stock trading apps and neobanks, that Plaid saw growth last year is not surprising; after all, Plaid’s product sits between consumers and fintech companies, so if those parties were executing more transactions, the API startup likely saw more demand for its own offerings.

TechCrunch reached out to Plaid for comment on its plans as an independent company, also asking how quickly it grew during 2020.

While the Visa-Plaid deal was merely a single transaction, its scuttling doesn’t bode well for other fintech startups and unicorns that might have eyed an exit to a wealthy incumbent. The Department of Justice, in other words, may have undercut the chances of M&A exits for a number of fintech-focused startups – or at least created more skittishness around that possible exit path.

If so, expected exit valuations for fintech upstarts could fall. And that could ding both fintech-focused venture capital activity, and the price at which startups in the niche can raise funds. If the Visa-Plaid deal was a huge boon to fintech companies that used it as a signpost to help raise money at new, higher valuations, the inverse may also prove true.

Visa will not acquire Plaid after running into regulatory wall

Visa and Plaid called off their agreement this afternoon, ending the consumer credit giant’s takeover of the data-focused fintech API startup.

The deal, valued at $5.3 billion at the time of its announcement, first broke cover on January 13th, 2020, or nearly one year ago to the day. However, the American Department of Justice filed suit to block the deal in November of 2020, arguing that the combination would “eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers.”

At the time Visa argued that the government’s point of view was “flawed.”

However, today the two companies confirmed the deal is officially off. In a release Visa wrote that it could have eventually executed the deal, but that “protracted and complex litigation” would take lots of time to sort out.

It all got too hard, in other words.

Plaid was a bit more upbeat in its own notes, writing that in the last year it has seen “an unprecedented uptick in demand for the services powered by Plaid.” Given the fintech boom that 2020 saw, as consumers flocked to free stock trading apps and neobanks, that Plaid saw growth last year is not surprising; after all, Plaid’s product sits between consumers and fintech companies, so if those parties were executing more transactions, the API startup likely saw more demand for its own offerings.

TechCrunch reached out to Plaid for comment on its plans as an independent company, also asking how quickly it grew during 2020.

While the Visa-Plaid deal was merely a single transaction, its scuttling doesn’t bode well for other fintech startups and unicorns that might have eyed an exit to a wealthy incumbent. The Department of Justice, in other words, may have undercut the chances of M&A exits for a number of fintech-focused startups – or at least created more skittishness around that possible exit path.

If so, expected exit valuations for fintech upstarts could fall. And that could ding both fintech-focused venture capital activity, and the price at which startups in the niche can raise funds. If the Visa-Plaid deal was a huge boon to fintech companies that used it as a signpost to help raise money at new, higher valuations, the inverse may also prove true.