TrueLayer nabs $130M at a $1B+ valuation as open banking rises as a viable option to card networks

Open banking — a disruptive technology that seeks to bypass the dominance of card networks and other traditional financial rails by letting banks open their systems directly to developers (and new services) by way of APIs — continues to gain ground in the world of financial services. As a mark of that traction, a startup playing a central role in open banking applications is announcing a big round of funding with a milestone valuation.

TrueLayer, which provides technology for developers to enable a range of open-banking-based services — these currently include payments  payouts, user account information and user verification — has raised $130 million in a funding round that values the London-based startup at over $1 billion.

Tiger Global Management is leading the round, and notably, payments juggernaut Stripe is also participating.

Open Banking is a relatively new area in the world of fintech — the UK was an early adopter in 2018, Europe then signed on, and it looks like we are now seeing more movements that the U.S. may soon also join the party — and TrueLayer is considered a pioneer in the space.

The vast majority of transactions today are still made using card rails or more antiquated banking infrastructure, but the opportunity with open banking is to build a completely new infrastructure that works more efficiently, and might come with less (or no) fees for those using it, with the perennial API promise: all by way of few lines of code.

“We had a vision that finance should be opened up, and we are actively woking to remove the frictions that exist between intermediaries,” said CEO Francesco Simoneschi, who co-founded the company with Luca Martinetti (who is now the CTO), in an interview. “We want a financial system that works for everyone, but that hasn’t been the case up to now. The opportunity emerged five years ago, when open banking came into law in the UK and then elsewhere, to go after the most impressive oligopoly: the card networks and everything that revolves around them. Now, we can easily say that open banking is becoming a viable alternative to that.”

It seems that the world of finance and commerce is slowly catching on, and so the funding is coming on the heels of some strong growth for the company.

The startup says it now has “millions” of consumers making open banking transactions enabled by TrueLayer’s technology, and some 10,000 developers are building services based on open banking standards. TrueLayer so far this year has doubled its customer base, picking up some key customers like Cazoo to enable open-banking based payments for cars; and it has processed “billions” of dollars in payments, with payment volume growing 400%, and payment up 800%.

The plan is to use the funding to invest in building out that business further — specifically to extend its payments network to more regions (and more banks getting integrated into that network), as well as to bring on more customers using open banking services for more regular, recurring transactions.

“The shift to alternative payment methods is accelerating with the global growth of online commerce, and we believe TrueLayer will play a central role in making these payment methods more accessible,” said Alex Cook, partner, Tiger Global, in a statement. “We’re excited to partner with Francesco, Luca and the TrueLayer team as they help customers increase conversion and continue to grow the network.”

Notably, Stripe is not a strategic investor in TrueLayer at the moment, just a financial one. That is to say, it has yet to integrate open banking into its own payments infrastructure.

But you can imagine how it would be interested in it as part of the bigger mix of options for its customers, and potentially also to build its own standalone financial rails that well and truly compete with those provided by the card networks (which are such a close part of what Stripe does that its earliest web design was based on the physical card, and even its name is a reference to the stripe on the back of them.

There are other providers of open banking connectivity in the market today — Plaid out of the U.S. is one notable name — but Simoneschi believes that Stripe and TrueLayer on the same page as companies.

“We share a profound belief that progress comes through the eyes of developers so it’s about delivering the tools they need to use,” he he said. “We are in a very complementary space.”

Billogram, provider of a payments platform specifically for recurring billing, raises $45M

Payments made a huge shift to digital platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic — purchasing moved online for many consumers and businesses; and a large proportion of those continuing to buy and sell in-person went cash-free. Today a startup that has been focusing on one specific aspect of payments — recurring billing — is announcing a round of funding to capitalize on that growth with expansion of its own. Billogram, which has built a platform for third parties to build and handle any kind of recurring payments (not one-off purchases), has closed a round of $45 million.

The funding is coming from a single investor, Partech, and will be used to help the Stockholm-based startup expand from its current base in Sweden to six more markets, Jonas Suijkerbuijk, Billogram’s CEO and founder, said in an interview, to cover more of Germany (where it’s already active now), Norway, Finland, Ireland, France, Spain, and Italy.

The company got its start working with SMBs in 2011 but pivoted some years later to working with larger enterprises, which make up the majority of its business today. Suijkerbuijk said that in 2020, signed deals went up by 300%, and the first half of 2021 grew 50% more on top of that. Its users include utilities like Skanska Energi and broadband company Ownit, and others like remote healthcare company Kry, businesses that take invoice and take monthly payments from their customers.

While there has been a lot of attention around how companies like Apple and Google are handling subscriptions and payments in apps, what Billogram focuses on is a different beast, and much more complex: it’s more integrated into the business providing services, and it may involve different services, and the fees can vary over every billing period. It’s for this reason that, in fact, even big companies in the realm of digital payments, like Stripe, which might even already have products that can help manage subscriptions on their platforms, partner with companies like Billogram to build the experiences to manage their more involved kinds of payment services.

I should point out here that Suijkerbuijk told me that Stripe recently became a partner of Billograms, which is very interesting… but he also added that a number of the big payments companies have talked to Billogram. He also confirmed that currently Stripe is not an investor in the company. “We have a very good relationship,” he said.

It’s not surprising to see Stripe and others wanting to more in the area of more complex, recurring billing services. Researchers estimate that the market size (revenues and services) for subscription and recurring billing will be close to $6 billion this year, with that number ballooning to well over $10 billion by 2025. And indeed, the effort to make a payment or any kind of transaction will continue to be a point of friction in the world of commerce, so any kinds of systems that bring technology to bear to make that easier and something that consumers or businesses will do without thinking about it, will be valuable, and will likely grow in dominance. (It’s why the more basic subscription services, such as Prime membership or a Netflix subscription, or a cloud storage account, are such winners.)

Within that very big pie, Suijkerbuijk noted that rather than the Apples and Googles of the world, the kinds of businesses that Billogram currently competes against are those that are addressing the same thornier end of the payments spectrum that Billogram is. These include a wide swathe of incumbent companies that do a lot of their business in areas like debt collection, and other specialists like Scaleworks-backed Chargify — which itself got a big investment injection earlier this year from Battery Ventures, which put $150 million into both it and another billing provider, SaaSOptics, in April.

The former group of competitors are not currently a threat to Billogram, he added.

“Debt collecting agencies are big on invoicing, but no one — not their customers, nor their customers’ customers — loves them, so they are great competitors to have,” Suijkerbuijk joked.

This also means that Billogram is not likely to move into debt collection itself as it continues to expand. Instead, he said, the focus will be on building out more tools to make the invoicing and payments experience better and less painful to customers. That will likely include more moves into customer service and generally improving the overall billing experience — something we have seen become a bigger area also during the pandemic, as companies realized that they needed to address non-payments in a different way from how their used to, given world events and the impact they were having on individuals.

“We are excited to partner with Jonas and the team at Billogram.” says Omri Benayoun, General Partner at Partech, in a statement. “Having spotted a gap in the market, they have quietly built the most advanced platform for large B2C enterprises looking to integrate billing, payment, and collection in one single solution. In our discussion with leading utilities, telecom, e-health, and all other clients across Europe, we realized how valuable Billogram was for them in order to engage with their end-users through a top-notch billing and payment experience. The outstanding commercial traction demonstrated by Billogram has further cemented our conviction, and we can’t wait to support the team in bringing their solution to many more customers in Europe and beyond!”

Nuula raises $120M to build out a financial services ‘superapp’ aimed at SMBs

A Canadian startup called Nuula that is aiming to build a superapp to provide a range of financial services to small and medium businesses has closed $120 million of funding, money that it will use to fuel the launch of its app and first product, a line of credit for its users.

The money is coming in the form of $20 million in equity from Edison Partners, and a $100 million credit facility from funds managed by the Credit Group of Ares Management Corporation.

The Nuula app has been in a limited beta since June of this year. The plan is to open it up to general availability soon, while also gradually bringing in more services, some built directly by Nuula itself and but many others following an embedded finance strategy: business banking, for example, will be a service provided by a third party and integrated closely into the Nuula app to be launched early in 2022; and alongside that, the startup will also be making liberal use of APIs to bring in other white-label services such as B2B and customer-focused payment services, starting first in the U.S. and then expanding to Canada and the U.K. before further countries across Europe.

Current products include cash flow forecasting, personal and business credit score monitoring, and customer sentiment tracking; and monitoring of other critical metrics including financial, payments and eCommerce data are all on the roadmap.

“We’re building tools to work in a complementary fashion in the app,” CEO Mark Ruddock said in an interview. “Today, businesses can project if they are likely to run out of money, and monitor their credit scores. We keep an eye on customers and what they are saying in real time. We think it’s necessary to surface for SMBs the metrics that they might have needed to get from multiple apps, all in one place.”

Nuula was originally a side-project at BFS, a company that focused on small business lending, where the company started to look at the idea of how to better leverage data to build out a wider set of services addressing the same segment of the market. BFS grew to be a substantial business in its own right (and it had raised its own money to that end, to the tune of $184 million from Edison and Honeywell).  Over time, it became apparent to management that the data aspect, and this concept of a super app, would be key to how to grow the business, and so it pivoted and rebranded earlier this year, launching the beta of the app after that.

Nuula’s ambitions fall within a bigger trend in the market. Small and medium enterprises have shaped up to be a huge business opportunity in the world of fintech in the last several years. Long ignored in favor of building solutions either for the giant consumer market, or the lucrative large enterprise sector, SMBs have proven that they want and are willing to invest in better and newer technology to run their businesses, and that’s leading to a rush of startups and bigger tech companies bringing services to the market to cater to that.

Super apps are also a big area of interest in the world of fintech, although up to now a lot of what we’ve heard about in that area has been aimed at consumers — just the kind of innovation rut that Nuula is trying to get moving.

“Despite the growth in services addressing the SMB sector, overall it still lacks innovation compared to consumer or enterprise services,” Ruddock said. “We thought there was some opportunity to bring new thinking to the space. We see this as the app that SMBs will want to use everyday, because we’ll provide useful tools, insights and capital to power their businesses.”

Nuula’s priority to build the data services that connect all of this together is very much in keeping with how a lot of neobanks are also developing services and investing in what they see as their unique selling point. The theory goes like this: banking services are, at the end of the day, the same everywhere you go, and therefore commoditized, and so the more unique value-added for companies will come from innovating with more interesting algorithms and other data-based insights and analytics to give more power to their users to make the best use of what they have at their disposal.

It will not be alone in addressing that market. Others building fintech for SMBs include Selina, ANNA, Amex’s Kabbage (an early mover in using big data to help loan money to SMBs and build other financial services for them), Novo, Atom Bank, Xepelin, and Liberis, biggies like Stripe, Square and PayPal, and many others.

The credit product that Nuula has built so far is a taster of how it hopes to be a useful tool for SMBs, not just another place to get money or manage it. It’s not a direct loaning service, but rather something that is closely linked to monitoring a customers’ incomings and outgoings and only prompts a credit line (which directly links into the users’ account, wherever it is) when it appears that it might be needed.

“Innovations in financial technology have largely democratized who can become the next big player in small business finance,” added Gary Golding, General Partner, Edison Partners. “By combining critical financial performance tools and insights into a single interface, Nuula represents a new class of financial services technology for small business, and we are excited by the potential of the firm.”

“We are excited to be working with Nuula as they build a unique financial services resource for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” said Jeffrey Kramer, Partner and Head of ABS in the Alternative Credit strategy of the Ares Credit Group, in a statement. “The evolution of financial technology continues to open opportunities for innovation and the emergence of new industry participants. We look forward to seeing Nuula’s experienced team of technologists, data scientists and financial service veterans bring a new generation of small business financial services solutions to market.”

Sequoia’s Pat Grady: A ‘fog has descended’ and it isn’t clear startups “should be accelerating” right now

Earlier today, we joined  friend and former colleague Jon Fortt of CNBC in interviewing partner Pat Grady of Sequoia Capital, and it proved a wide-ranging conversation (we wound up blabbing for an hour, which was not always the plan). You can check out the video below but we thought there were some highlights worth pulling out for some of you, including as it pertains to the current market, which has never felt frothier.

It’s more than anecdotal. According to a recent Wilson Sonsini report that we referenced during this chat, during the first quarter of this year, the median pre-money valuation for Series C and later financings hit a record $675 million — more than double the full year 2020 median of $315 million. Meanwhile, senior liquidation preferences in so-called up rounds dropped from appearing in 35% of related deals in 2017 to 20% in the first quarter — a trend that suggests that investors are removing terms in order to win deals. In some cases, founder are feeling so empowered that they are calling out investor behavior that makes them uncomfortable, which is something you didn’t see until more recently.

But Grady said not all is what it seems to those of us on the sidelines. Indeed, he said that while Sequoia’s advice to founders as recently as March of this year was to hit the gas, things have changed more recently. Specifically, he said, “In the last couple of months, a rollout of the vaccines has kind of kind of tapered, so I would say that fog has descended onto the road [and] it’s not so clear the company should be accelerating anymore.”

We also talked about whether companies can forever stay distributed, Tiger Global, and why one of Sequoia’s biggest portfolio companies, the payments giant Stripe, isn’t a public company yet (though it has reportedly hired a law firm to help with preparations). You can find that in the video if you’re so inclined.

On how COVID has impacted Sequoia’s outlook compared with the financial crisis of 2008, when Sequoia famously published its now-famous “RIP: Good Times” memo:

PG: If you go back to that RIP memo, I’d been at Sequoia for a year or so. It was the first major disruption that I had seen —  it was the first major disruption that a lot of our founders had seen. So the question we were getting was, ‘What does this mean for us?’ It was the same sort of thing that happened in March of 2020 that caused us to put out the ‘Black Swan‘ memo [when] what we said was, ‘Hey, you need to brake when you’re going into the curve, so slow down [and] make sure you kind of have your bearings.’

In March of this year what we said was, ‘Okay, now that we’re coming out of the curve, go and accelerate.’ Unfortunately, in the last couple of months, a rollout of the vaccines has kind of kind of tapered and. so I would say that fog has descended onto the road [and] it’s not so clear the company should be accelerating anymore. We’re probably in the midst of more indecision now than we were a few months ago or even a year ago . . .we’re kind of stuck in the middle. And so what we’ve been telling companies today is focus on the basics.

On the signals that suggest a slight slowdown to Sequoia, when fundraising all around continues at a record clip:

We don’t pay that much attention to the fundraising numbers, but we do pay attention to employees and we do pay attention to customers, and if you look across not just our portfolio but also public companies in the market at large, attrition has spiked dramatically. There are a lot of people who said, ‘Hey, I hunkered down, I worked hard, I put in my time, but now that the world is starting to open up a little bit again, I’m going to take some time off. I’m going to travel on the see family. I’m going to find a new job. I’m going to start a company.’ And so attrition numbers are actually spiking across the board.

If we look at the customer side of things –and this is not a number that you can get out of public companies because of the way they report [but it’s a number] you can see in private companies — a lot of companies added less revenue in the second quarter than they added in the first. So we actually have seen a little bit of a pullback on the customer side of things [and] that hasn’t necessarily shown up in the fundraising numbers.

On whether that pullback is good, bad, or neutral for founders and investors:

The good news is the whole reason startups exist is to solve important problems in the world, and never have we had a broader array of important problems to be solved than we do right now, because both consumer behavior and the way that businesses operate has changed so dramatically in the last 12 or 18 months. So if what I just said sounds like bad news, we actually think that on balance, it’s great news, because we see these jobs opening up in the world that founders are rushing to fill. I think that’s probably why the fundraising numbers are what they are, because everybody sees all those opportunities and they’re eager to jump in.

On what happens when some of these many new opportunities invariably start to converge — given the current pace of startup funding —  and portfolio companies begin to collide, as happened to Sequoia in March of last year:

We have always had a policy that we do not invest in direct competitors. What defines a direct competitor? Two companies who are going after the same customers in the same market at the same moment in time. Now, if we have a company here in the U.S. going out to the US market, and our partners in India or China or Southeast Asia have a company in their market that does something similar for their market, that’s okay, and maybe someday, down the road, they all end up targeting the same sort of customers. But as long as they’re distinct markets at time zero and they don’t look like they’re converging, that’s okay.

When we’ve ended up in companies that had conflicts, either we’ve done the right thing as in the situation you referenced, or when two companies have kind of converged over time, we’ve set up information barriers and done our best to act in good faith.

So conflicts, it is tough.

There are two products in this market. There’s a product that is faster and cheaper money. And then there’s a product that is unfair advantage. The unfair advantage could be nothing more than that Sequoia doesn’t invest in a lot of companies. We don’t invest in a new company every day. We might partner with 15 to 20 new founders in any given year, and there’s some information value in the fact that Sequoia has gotten into business with a company. So if your unfair advantage is nothing more than the fact that Sequoia chose you, so to speak, that’s still a pretty good advantage when it comes to landing customers [and] landing employees. If your product is money, feel free to give it to competitive companies, because they’re going to get money from somewhere anyway.

Balance raises $25M in a Ribbit Capital-led Series A to grow its ‘consumer-like B2B checkout platform’

Balance, a payments platform aimed at B2B merchants and marketplaces, has raised $25 million in a Series A funding round led by Ribbit Capital.

Avid Ventures participated in the financing, in addition to existing backers Lightspeed Ventures, Stripe, Y Combinator Continuity Fund, SciFi VC and UpWest. Other individual investors that put money in the round include early employees and executives from Plaid, Coinbase, Square, Stripe and PayPal, such as Jaqueline Reses, formerly head of Square Capital. The financing comes just over six months after Balance announced a $5.5 million seed round.

The motivation for starting the company was simple, said CEO and co-founder Bar Geron: “We wanted to create an online B2B experience that doesn’t suck.” He and Yoni Shuster, both former PayPal employees, started the company in early 2020.

B2B payments, he said, have historically differed from B2C primarily in that they have not taken place at the moment of purchase (or at the point of sale) but rather within 30 days and with an invoice. This is not an efficient process for merchants or vendors alike, the company maintains.

Meanwhile, most businesses have avoided paying for their supply with credit cards, because cards can quickly max out, Geron said.

“The only element that keeps many merchants offline is payments,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s a process that is stuck in the flow of those marketplaces and keeping them from scaling. We got fascinated with the problem.”

After starting out at Y Combinator, Balance has developed what it describes as a “consumer-like B2B checkout platform for merchants and marketplaces,” or a “self-serve digital checkout experience company for B2B businesses.”

What that means is that Balance has built a B2B payments platform that allows merchants to offer a variety of payment methods, including ACH, cards, checks and bank wires, as well as a variety of terms, including payment on delivery, net payment terms and payment by milestone. Behind the scenes, Balance underwrites the terms of those transactions requiring financing by evaluating the risk of the customer, the merchant and the specific payment terms selected. Balance is built on top of Stripe and offers all of Stripe’s credit card payment options, but then extends far beyond them.

Balance, according to Geron, invested “a lot” in APIs for marketplaces.

“We have a very robust API platform so that these businesses can manage the entire payment flow without being exposed to the risk and regulation of payments,” he told TechCrunch. “And this is all happening without them even touching the funds.”

The plus for merchants is the ability to get immediate payout that is always reconciled like credits. Marketplaces are equipped with automated vendor disbursement, a full compliance umbrella and reconciliation management, Balance says.

“We want to make the online payments experience for businesses as seamless as it is for consumer payments, and we want to do it globally,” Geron told TechCrunch.

The startup has already partnered with e-commerce giants such as BigCommerce and Magento and will soon also work with Salesforce, according to Geron. Its customers range from startups to publicly traded marketplaces to e-commerce enterprises across a variety of industries such as steel, freight, hardware, food ordering, medical supply and apparel. They include Bryzos, Choco, Zilingo and Bay Supply, among others.

It’s early days yet, but Balance has seen growth of about 500% to 600% since the time of its last raise in February, Geron said. The company, which has offices in Tel Aviv and New York, has about 30 employees.

Jordan Angelos, a general partner at Ribbit and former head of M&A and investment at Stripe, believes the fact that Balance has built its platform specifically for “rapidly scaling” B2B marketplaces and merchants is reflective of a “well-placed” focus.

“B2B marketplaces, for example, have a very particular set of payments and capital markets-related needs that can be much more holistically and elegantly solved with Balance’s flexible toolkit than alternatives,” he wrote via email. “Payments and checkout are two sides of the same coin, and Balance’s products allow users to address them together to better serve their customers as well as their own margins.”

Ramp and Brex draw diverging market plans with M&A strategies

Earlier today, spend management startup Ramp said it has raised a $300 million Series C that valued it $3.9 billion. It also said it was acquiring Buyer, a “negotiation-as-a-service” platform that it believes will help customers save money on purchases and SaaS products.

The round and deal were announced just a week after competitor Brex shared news of its own acquisition — the $50 million purchase of Israeli fintech startup Weav. That deal was made after Brex’s founders invested in Weav, which offers a “universal API for commerce platforms”.

From a high level, all of the recent deal-making in corporate cards and spend management shows that it’s not enough to just help companies track what employees are expensing these days. As the market matures and feature sets begin to converge, the players are seeking to differentiate themselves from the competition.

But the point of interest here is these deals can tell us where both companies think they can provide and extract the most value from the market.

These differences come atop another layer of divergence between the two companies: While Brex has instituted a paid software tier of its service, Ramp has not.

Earning more by spending less

Let’s start with Ramp. Launched in 2019, the company is a relative newcomer in the spend management category. But by all accounts, it’s producing some impressive growth numbers. As our colleague Mary Ann Azevedo wrote this morning:

Since the beginning of 2021, the company says it has seen its number of cardholders on its platform increase by 5x, with more than 2,000 businesses currently using Ramp as their “primary spend management solution.” The transaction volume on its corporate cards has tripled since April, when its last raise was announced. And, impressively, Ramp has seen its transaction volume increase year over year by 1,000%, according to CEO and co-founder Eric Glyman.

Ramp’s focus has always been on helping its customers save money: It touts a 1.5% cashback reward for all purchases made through its cards, and says its dashboard helps businesses identify duplicitous subscriptions and license redundancies. Ramp also alerts customers when they can save money on annual vs. monthly subscriptions, which it says has led many customers to do away with established T&E platforms like Concur or Expensify.

All told, the company claims that the average customer saves 3.3% per year on expenses after switching to its platform — and all that is before it brings Buyer into the fold.

API platform Postman valued at $5.6 billion in $225 million fundraise

San Francisco-based Postman, which operates a collaborative platform for developers to help them build, design, test and iterate their APIs, said on Wednesday it has raised $225 million in a new financing round that values it at $5.6 billion, up from $2 billion a year ago.

The startup’s new financing round — a Series D — was led by existing investor New York-headquartered Insight Partners. New investors including Coatue, Battery Ventures, and BOND also participated in the new round, which brings total raise across rounds to over $430 million. Existing investors Nexus Venture Partners and CRV also participated in the new round.

APIs provide a way for developers to connect their applications to other internal and external applications. But it’s a space that until the past decade not many firms have attempted to streamline. (Developers relied on — and many continue to do so — open source CLI tools such as curl and HTTPie. That said, Postman now has a number of competitors including Stoplight, and A16z and Tiger Global-backed Kong.)

Abhinav Asthana, a former intern at Yahoo, faced this frustration first hand and built a Chrome extension for himself and friends.

Little did he know just how many developers and firms needed it, too.

The six-year-old startup’s product, which began its journey in India, is today used by over 17 million developers and over 500,000 organizations including Microsoft, Salesforce, Stripe, Shopify, Cisco, and PayPal.

The list is big: Postman co-founder and chief executive Asthana told TechCrunch that 98% of the Fortune 500 companies are customers of Postman.

“We are solving a fundamental problem for the technology landscape. Big companies tend to be slower as they have many other things on their plate,” he told me two years ago.

Postman API Platform’s offerings

“Every company in every industry in the world today uses APIs and needs an API platform. This trend is only growing with the move to cloud and digital experiences,” he said in an interview with TechCrunch Tuesday.

The startup today leads the market and doesn’t compete with many players. Which would explain the investors’ excitement. The startup, which declined to share its revenue, raised the new round at over 100 multiple of its revenue, according to an investor with knowledge of the matter.

Postman’s platform is crucial for developers, but it was only recently that the startup expanded to create a public marketplace for developers and firms to find ready-made APIs to use.

“The Postman Public API Network connects millions of developers around the world and provides them with a space dedicated to discovering, exploring, and sharing of APIs. This was ultimately driven by our creation of public workspaces, which allows users to connect across different organizations,” Asthana said.

“With the emergence of APIs, we believe that this will usher in the next generation of no-code and ‘citizen developers.’ We encourage a world filled with innovation for everyone with different backgrounds and varying levels of technical experience. More and more, we’re seeing people in sales, marketing, and finance become more comfortable with APIs and become the champions of this technology,” he said.

The startup, which employs over 425 people, plans to deploy the fresh funding to hire more employees across sales, marketing, product, and engineering divisions.

Postman will also “heavily” invest in broadening its product roadmap. “We are expanding the Postman platform across areas that technical users need along with supporting the needs of business users. At a high level, we are investing in supporting workflows for all kinds of APIs — whether they are private APIs, partner APIs, or public APIs,” he said.

Some upcoming items on the roadmap include a new version of the Postman API, support for protocols like gRPC, ProtoBuf, and more extensive capabilities for GraphQL. “We are also focusing heavily on integrations with other vendors in the software development lifecycle like AWS, Git hosting providers like GitHub and GitLab. We are also releasing our Flow Runner tool, a no-code API composition tool to enable anyone to build API driven programs.”

The startup also plans to invest in supporting students through API literacy programs and contribute toward open source projects.

“APIs have quickly become the fundamental building blocks of software used by developers in every industry, in every country across the globe—and Postman has firmly established itself as the preferred platform for developers,” said Insight Partners Managing Director Jeff Horing in a statement.

“Postman has the opportunity to become a key pillar of how enterprises build, deliver products, and seamlessly enable partnerships across the ecosystem. Their continued, rapid expansion and strong management team point to a future for Postman with virtually unlimited possibilities.”

Paystand banks $50M to make B2B payments cashless and with no fees

It’s pretty easy for individuals to send money back and forth, and there are lots of cash apps from which to choose. On the commercial side, however, one business trying to send $100,000 the same way is not as easy.

Paystand wants to change that. The Scotts Valley, California-based company is using cloud technology and the Ethereum blockchain as the engine for its Paystand Bank Network that enables business-to-business payments with zero fees.

The company raised $50 million Series C funding led by NewView Capital, with participation from SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund and King River Capital. This brings the company’s total funding to $85 million, Paystand co-founder and CEO Jeremy Almond told TechCrunch.

During the 2008 economic downturn, Almond’s family lost their home. He decided to go back to graduate school and did his thesis on how commercial banking could be better and how digital transformation would be the answer. Gleaning his company vision from the enterprise side, Almond said what Venmo does for consumers, Paystand does for commercial transactions between mid-market and enterprise customers.

“Revenue is the lifeblood of a business, and money has become software, yet everything is in the cloud except for revenue,” he added.

He estimates that almost half of enterprise payments still involve a paper check, while fintech bets heavily on cards that come with 2% to 3% transaction fees, which Almond said is untenable when a business is routinely sending $100,000 invoices. Paystand is charging a flat monthly rate rather than a fee per transaction.

Paystand’s platform. Image Credits: Paystand

On the consumer side, companies like Square and Stripe were among the first wave of companies predominantly focused on accounts payable and then building business process software on top of an existing infrastructure.

Paystand’s view of the world is that the accounts receivables side is harder and why there aren’t many competitors. This is why Paystand is surfing the next wave of fintech, driven by blockchain and decentralized finance, to transform the $125 trillion B2B payment industry by offering an autonomous, cashless and feeless payment network that will be an alternative to cards, Almond said.

Customers using Paystand over a three-year period are able to yield average benefits like 50% savings on the cost of receivables and $850,000 savings on transaction fees. The company is seeing a 200% increase in monthly network payment value and customers grew two-fold in the past year.

The company said it will use the new funding to continue to grow the business by investing in open infrastructure. Specifically, Almond would like to reboot digital finance, starting with B2B payments, and reimagine the entire CFO stack.

“I’ve wanted something like this to exist for 20 years,” Almond said. “Sometimes it is the unsexy areas that can have the biggest impacts.”

As part of the investment, Jazmin Medina, principal at NewView Capital, will join Paystand’s board. She told TechCrunch that while the venture firm is a generalist, it is rooted in fintech and fintech infrastructure.

She also agrees with Almond that the B2B payments space is lagging in terms of innovation and has “strong conviction” in what Almond is doing to help mid-market companies proactively manage their cash needs.

“There is a wide blue ocean of the payment industry, and all of these companies have to be entirely digital to stay competitive,” Medina added. “There is a glaring hole if your revenue is holding you back because you are not digital. That is why the time is now.”

 

WhenThen’s no-code payments platform attracts $6M from European VCs Stride and Cavalry

The payments space — amazingly — remains up for grabs for startups. Yes, dear reader, despite the success of Stripe, there seems to be a new payments startup virtually every other day. It’s a mess out there! The accelerated growth of e-commerce due to the pandemic means payments are now a booming space. And here comes another one, with a twist.

WhenThen has built a no-code payment operations platform that, they claim, streamlines the payment processes “of merchants of any kind”.  It says its platform can autonomously orchestrate, monitor, improve and manage all customer payments and payments ops.

The startup’s opportunity has arisen because service providers across different verticals increasingly want to get into open banking and provide their own payment solutions and financial services.

Founded six months ago, WhenThen has now raised $6 million, backed by European VCs Stride and Cavalry.

The founders, Kirk Donohoe, Eamon Doyle and Dave Brown, are three former Mastercard Payment veterans.

Based out of Dublin, CEO Donohoe told me: “We see traditional businesses embracing e-comm, and e-comm merchants now operating multiple business models such as trade supply, marketplace, subscription, and more. There is no platform that makes it easy for such businesses to create and operate multiple payment flows to support multiple business models in one place — that’s where we step in.”

He added: “WhenThen is helping e-commerce digital platforms build advanced payment flows and payment automation, in minutes as opposed to months. When you start to integrate different payment methods, different payment gateways, how you want the payment to move from collection through to payout gets very, very complex. I’ve been doing this for over a decade now, as an entrepreneur building different businesses that had to accept, collect and pay payments.”

He said his founding team “had to build very complex payment flows for large merchants, airlines, hotels, issuers, and we just found it was ridiculous that you have to continue to do the same thing over and over again. So we decided to come up with WhenThen as a better way to be able to help you build those flows in minutes.”

Claude Ritter, managing partner at Cavalry, said: “Basic payment orchestration platforms have been around for some time, focusing mostly on maximizing payment acceptance by optimizing routing. WhenThen provides the first end-to-end payment flow platform to equip businesses with the opportunity to control every stage of the payment flow from payment intent to payout.”

WhenThen supports a wide range of popular payment providers such as Stripe, Braintree, Adyen, Authorize.net, Checkout.com, etc., and a variety of alternative and locally preferred payment methods such as Klarna Affirm, PayPal and BitPay.

“For brave merchants considering global reach and operating multiple business models concurrently, I believe choosing the right payment ops platform will become as important as choosing the right e-commerce platform. Building your entire e-comm experience tightly coupled to a single payment processor is a hard correction to make down the line — you need a payment flow platform like WhenThen”, added Fred Destin, founder of Stride.VC.

Shopify expands its one-click checkout, Shop Pay, to any merchant on Facebook or Google

E-commerce platform Shopify announced this morning its one-click checkout service known as Shop Pay will become available to any U.S. merchant that sells on Facebook or Google — even if they don’t use Shopify’s software to power their online stores. That makes Shop Pay the first Shopify product offered to non-Shopify merchants, the company notes.

First introduced at its developer conference in 2017, Shop Pay is similar to other instant checkout solutions that offer an easier way to pay online by reducing the number of fields a customer has to fill out during the checkout process. The service remembers and encrypts the customer’s information, so consumers can check out with just a tap when shopping online and, as of recently, even pay for purchase in installments, thanks to a partnership with Affirm.

Shopify in February had expanded Shop Pay to Facebook and Instagram, in partnership with Facebook, but it only worked for existing Shopify merchants selling on those social platforms at the time. In May, Google announced at its I/O developer conference it was partnering with Shopify on an online shopping expansion that would give Shopify’s more than 1.7 million merchants the ability to reach customers through Google Search and other “shopping journeys” that began through other Google properties like Search, Maps, Images, Lens, and YouTube.

The company declined to share how many of its 1.7 million merchants are already available on Facebook or Google today, but said they are two of the most popular channels.

Following today’s announcement, other merchants will also have the option to adopt Shop Pay for their own Facebook or Google stores. While how many will actually do so is yet unknown, Shopify notes that every day 1.8 billion people log onto Facebook and a billion shopping sessions take place across Google.

The company also touted Shop Pay’s advantages, including its 70% faster checkout than a typical checkout offers, with a 1.72x higher conversion rate — meaning fewer abandoned charts.

For consumers, the advantage of using Shop Pay over a traditional checkout, beyond the speed, is its integration with Shopify’s mobile app, Shop, which organizes and tracks your online orders across merchants, including Amazon,  so you can see when orders are arriving or quickly ask questions and manage returns.

To date, the Shop app has tracked over 430 million orders, the company says.

Over time, the Shop app can also customize a feed including users’ favorite stores to point to other recommendations, including those from local merchants. Shopify confirmed that the Shop app will be able to track the Shop Pay-enabled orders from the non-Shopify merchants.

“Since launching, Shop Pay has set the standard for checkout experiences, facilitating more than $24 billion in orders,” noted Shopify VP, Carl Rivera, who heads Product for Shop. “According to studies, cart abandonment averages 70%, with nearly 20% occurring because of a complicated checkout process. Shop Pay makes that process fast and simple, and the expansion to all merchants selling on Facebook and Google is a mission-critical step in bringing a best-in-class checkout to every consumer, every merchant, every platform, and every device,” he added.

The expansion could be a notable challenge to other payment mechanisms, including PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay, and those offered by the platforms themselves, thanks to Shopify’s growing traction with merchants — one analysis gives its platform a 23% market share in the U.S — combined with the popularity of the Shop app, now the No. 3 Shopping app on the App Store.

The news follows yesterday’s confirmation that Shopify has taken a significant stake in payments giant Stripe, the backbone of the Shop Pay service, as well as Shopify’s partner on merchant services, including bank accounts and debit cards.

Shopify says the Shop Pay service will be enabled for all U.S. merchants selling on Facebook in the “coming months,” and will roll out to all merchants on Google by late 2021.