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Accel closes new $550M fund for India

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Accel, one of the world’s most influential venture capitalist firms, is getting more bullish on India.

The Silicon Valley-headquartered firm, which largely focuses on early-stage investments, said today it has closed $550 million for its sixth venture fund in India.

This is a significant amount of capital for Accel’s efforts in the country, where it began investing 15 years ago and has infused roughly $1 billion through all its previous funds.

Anand Daniel, a partner for Accel in India, told TechCrunch in an interview that the VC fund will continue to focus on identifying and investing in seed and early-stage startups.

But the fund realized it needed more money so it could actively participate in follow-on rounds (later-stage financing rounds) of its portfolio startups. The announcement today follows Accel’s similar recent push in Europe and Israel, where it closed a $575 million fund.

“We also selectively do growth investments for companies that are scaling well, such as Swiggy, UrbanClap, BlackStone and Bounce. We have continued to back them through Series B and Series C rounds,” he said.

Like in many other markets, Accel’s track record in India is quite impressive. It participated in the seed financing round of e-commerce firm Flipkart, which was then valued at $4 million post-money. Walmart bought a majority stake in Flipkart last year for $16 billion. (This helped Accel net more than $1 billion in return from Flipkart.)

Accel, which has nine partners and more than 50 members in total in India, also invested in the seed round of SaaS giant Freshworks, which is now valued at more than $3 billion, food delivery startup Swiggy, also valued at north of $3 billion, and recently turned unicorn BlackBuck. Accel has been the first institutional investor for 85% of startups in its portfolio.

The VC firm says 44 of the 100-odd startups in its India portfolio today are valued at over $100 million each. In total, including Flipkart’s $21 billion market value, Accel’s portfolio firms have created $44 billion in market value.

Some of the investments Accel has made in India

“When we started our first fund in India in 2005, the world was a very different place. Just 1 in 50 Indians had access to the internet and mobile phone ownership was nascent. ​Yet we firmly believed that India was on the cusp of a big change,” the firm said in a statement.

“Today, the opportunity ahead is significantly bigger than when we started in 2005: India can now digitally identify 1.3 billion people, has 600 million internet users and 150 million online transacting customers with a national payments platform that processes $20 billion a month.”

Daniel said moving forward Accel will continue to focus on consumer, business-to-business, fintech, healthcare and global SaaS categories. “We have nine partners with their own areas of interest. They invest from their own conviction and finance seed rounds. If we see a particular sector evolving, then we do a deeper thesis work,” he said.

“We then develop deeper confidence for the space. For example, back in the day we invested in mobility startup TaxiForSure, long before Uber had arrived in India. That helped us understand mobility well. We have used those learnings to invest in several more mobility startups.”

Accel’s growing interest in India comes at a time when several other giants, including SoftBank and Prosus Ventures, have also become more active in the nation — though they tend to finance later-stage rounds.

For Indian startups that are already having their best year, this can only be good news.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/02/accel-india-sixth-fund/

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Lessons from M-Pesa for Africas new VC-rich fintech startups

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In African fintech, the fourth quarter of 2019 brought big money to new entrants.

Chinese investors put $220 million into OPay and PalmPay — two fledgling startups with plans to scale in Nigeria and the broader continent. Several sources told me the big bucks had created anxiety for more than few payments ventures in Nigeria with similar strategies and smaller coffers. They may not need to fret just yet, however: lessons from Africa’s most successful mobile-money case study, M-Pesa, suggest that VC alone won’t buy scale in digital finance.

Startups and fintech in Africa

Over the last decade, Africa has been in the midst of a startup boom accompanied by big growth in VC and improvements in internet and mobile penetration.

Some definitive country centers for company formation, tech hubs and investment have emerged; Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya lead the continent in numbers for all those categories. Additional strong and emerging points for innovation and startups across Africa’s 54 countries and 1.2 billion people include Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Senegal.

The continent surpassed $1 billion in VC to startups in 2018 and per research done by Partech and WeeTracker, fintech is the focus of the bulk of capital and deal-flow.

By several estimates,  Africa is home to the largest share of the world’s unbanked and underbanked population.

This runs parallel to the region’s off-the-grid SME’s and economic activity — on display and in commercial motion through the street traders, roadside kiosks and open-air markets common from Nairobi to Lagos.

IMF estimates have pegged Africa’s informal economy as one of the largest in the world. Thousands of fintech startups have descended onto this large pool of unbanked and underbranked citizens and SMEs looking to grow digital finance products and market share.

In this race, the West African nation of Nigeria — home to Africa’s largest economy and population — is becoming an epicenter for VC. Many fintech-related companies are adopting a strategy of scaling there first before expanding outward.

Enter PalmPay and OPay

That includes new entrants OPay and PalmPay, which raised so much capital in fourth quarter 2019. It’s notable that both were founded in 2019 and largely incubated by Chinese actors.

PalmPay, a consumer-oriented payments product, went live in November with a $40 million seed-round (one of the largest in Africa in 2019) led by Africa’s biggest mobile-phones seller — China’s Transsion. The startup was upfront about its ambitions, stating its goals to become “Africa’s largest financial services platform,” in a company statement.

To that end, PalmPay conveniently entered a strategic partnership with its lead investor. The startup’s payment app will come pre-installed on Transsion’s mobile device brands, such as Tecno, in Africa — for an estimated reach of 20 million phones in 2020.

PalmPay also launched in Ghana in November and its U.K. and Africa-based CEO, Greg Reeve, confirmed plans to expand to additional African countries in 2020.

If PalmPay’s $40 million seed round got founders’ attention, OPay’s $120 million Series B created shock-waves, coming just months after the mobile-based fintech venture raised $50 million — making OPay’s $170 million capital haul equivalent to roughly a fifth of all VC raised in Africa in 2018.

Opera’s Africa fintech startup OPay gains $120M from Chinese investors

Founded by Chinese owned consumer internet company Opera — and backed by 9 Chinese investors — OPay is the payment utility for a suite of Opera -developed internet based commercial products in Nigeria that include ride-hail apps ORide and OCar and food delivery service OFood.

With its latest Series A, OPay announced it would expand in Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana.

In Nigeria, OPay’s $170 million Series A and B announced in the span of months dwarfs just about anything raised by new and existing fintech players, with the exception of Interswitch.

The homegrown payments processing company — which pioneered much of Nigeria’s digital finance infrastructure — reached unicorn status in November when Visa took a reported $200 million minority stake in the venture.

A sampling of more common funding amounts for payments ventures in Nigeria includes established fintech company Paga’s $10 million Series B. Recent market entrant Chipper Cash’s May 2019 seed-round was $2.4 million.

There is a large disparity between fintech startups in Nigeria with capital raises in ones and tens of millions vs. OPay and PalmPay’s $40 and $120 million rounds. Conventional wisdom could be that the big-capital, big spending firms have an unmistakable advantage in scaling digital payments in Nigeria and other markets.

A look at Kenya’s M-Pesa may prove otherwise.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/04/lessons-from-m-pesa-for-africas-new-vc-rich-fintech-startups/

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Disrupt Berlin 2019 opens in just one week

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Synchronize your watches, dust off your passports and pack your bags, startuppers. Disrupt Berlin 2019 kicks off in just seven short days. Thousands of you — representing more than 50 countries — will arrive in Berlin ready to learn, exhibit, compete and network for two action-packed days.

Good news for professional procrastinators and last-minute decisions makers. Buy a late registration pass to Disrupt Berlin now, and you can still save up to €200 over the onsite ticket price.

There’s so much to do in just two days — how will you spend your time at Disrupt?

Hear from the leading names, minds, makers and shakers of the early-stage startup community. These are the folks who’ve dreamed, launched, pivoted, scaled and succeeded. And they’ll be on hand to share how they did it. Here are just two of the presentations we have on tap for you. You’ll find the complete schedule of events and presentations in the Disrupt Berlin ’19 agenda.

How to Fit Blockchain into Your Startup Strategy: Chances are, you keep hearing about this “blockchain” thing — and maybe you’re ignoring it but deep down, you know you should probably think about how it could help your startup. To help you with that and maybe demystify blockchain a bit, too, we’ll be joined by Justin Drake (Ethereum Foundation), Ash Egan (Accomplice VC) and Ashley Tyson (Web3 Foundation) — all of whom have deep roots in the blockchain community.

From Startup Battlefield to IPO: In 2010, Cloudflare participated in one of the very first Disrupt Battlefields and a few months ago, the company made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange. In this conversation with Co-founder and CEO Matthew Prince, we’ll talk about Cloudflare’s path to an IPO, the unique challenges it faced, and what’s next for the company.

And speaking of Startup Battlefield, don’t miss this epic throwdown as a cadre of the very best startups takes the Main Stage to launch to the world. They’ll pitch to an expert panel of judges and vie for the Disrupt Cup, $50,000 and potentially life-altering investor and media attention.

Enjoy watching startuppers compete? Get this — we’re holding the TC Hackathon finals on the Extra Crunch Stage. The 10 finalists chose from a range of sponsored challenges — each with its own cash prize. Then they endured a grueling, sleep-deprived 24 hours to create and code a working product that solves a real-world problem.

Be there as they power through a two-minute pitch to a panel of expert judges. And stick around to see who earns the title of best over-all hack — along with $5,000 — from the TechCrunch editors.

Network among hundreds of outstanding startups in Startup Alley, our exhibition hall. That’s also where you’ll find the TC Top Picks. TechCrunch editors chose these companies — fine startups one and all — to represent the best in these tech categories: AI/Machine Learning, Biotech/Healthtech, Blockchain, Fintech, Mobility, Privacy/Security, Retail/E-commerce, Robotics/IoT/Hardware, and CRM/Enterprise.

You have just seven days before all glorious heck breaks loose in the form of Disrupt Berlin 2019. Don’t miss out on the opportunity, the fun, the connection and the community. Buy your pass today and save up to €200. We’ll see you in Berlin!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt Berlin 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/04/disrupt-berlin-2019-opens-in-just-one-week/

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Rapyd, which offers fintech-as-a-service via a single API, adds $20M more to its coffers at a $1.2B valuation

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One of the biggest trends in the world of financial technology has been an ongoing push towards consolidation, where larger fish are snapping up smaller fish (including a proliferation of interesting startups) to get improved economies of scale in a business model where every transaction brings incremental returns. But today, a startup that has built the concept of consolidation into its basic DNA has raised another round of funding to continue doubling down on its business.

Rapyd — a London-based startup that has built an API that lets customers tap into a range of financial services spanning payments, checkout, funds collection, fund disbursements, compliance as a service, foreign exchange, card issuing and soon logistics across a wide range of geographies — has picked up an additional $20 million. Rapyd’s valuation with the funding is now at $1.2 billion (up from just under $1 billion in October).

The $20 million comes from new investment firm Durable Capital Partners.

Notably, it was only in October that Rapyd announced a $100 million raise. CEO and co-founder and Arik Shtilman said that Rapyd has now raised $180 million in total, with previous investors in the startup including Oak HC/FT Tiger Global, Coatue, General Catalyst, Target Global, Stripe and Entrée Capital. (Stripe, itself a fast-growing fintech upstart, remains only a financial investor in the company, Shtilman confirmed.)

Durable is the firm founded by Henry Ellenbogen, formerly a star investor at T. Rowe Price, in what Rapyd said was the firm’s first investment. (Note: Durable was also announced earlier as an investor in Convoy’s $400 million round, some clear signs that it’s open for business now.)

With Rapyd only recently raising a round, Shtilman said that the reason for the — err — rapid follow up was because the company is gearing up to make some acquisitions, as it too moves in on the consolidation trend by adding in more tools into its “Swiss Army Knife” of services.

“We’ve started to look at two acquisitions that were bigger than what we originally planned, with prices more in the range of $100 million,” he said. Up to now, Rapyd has largely built its technology from the ground up, but this will be about “getting at new business very quickly,” he added. Both deals are in progress now and are likely to close in February / March. One is of a card issuing platform (a la Marqeta), and the other is of a company based in Asia Pacific that is a significant player in payments in the region. 

The focus on Asia Pacific both for testing out new services and acquisitions is in part because this, along with Latin America, have shaped up to be important geographies for the company. In the last three months, Rapyd has signed on 20 additional large-scale companies, Shtilman said, with several of them based out of, or serving, customers out of the two regions.

In fact, Rapyd doesn’t talk much about actual customers, but they include e-commerce merchants, gig-economy platforms — including Uber — financial institutions, and technology providers. The basic pitch is that financial services are complex, and providing one like payments often means having to offer others. Building these from scratch if this is not your core competency can be time-consuming and costly, and so that is where a company like Rapyd steps in with its API.

This is what attracted its newest investor, too. “Durable Capital Partners LP has a vision to identify and invest in promising early stage growth companies and invest in teams that have bold ideas but can also execute at a world-class level and build much larger companies,” said Ellenbogen in a statement. “I believe the Fintech-as-a-Service category has tremendous potential as companies seek to embed financial services as an integral part of the next generation technology stack. I believe Rapyd is very well positioned to drive this trend and I believe Arik’s track record in scaling cloud-based businesses will deliver success in this sector.”

When we last talked with Rapyd in October, we asked Shtilman about whether the company would ever move into logistics as part of its range of tools. After all, when you think about the complexities of procuring, storing and moving goods, it’s clear that logistics is one of the cornerstones you need to get right in an online business.

He said that this was on the company’s roadmap, and now Rapyd is in a pilot in Indonesia — an interesting test bed, considering that the country’s is spread across thousands of islands — where it has integrated a logistics service and given access to a single merchant as stage one of its closed beta. It’s also in discussions with other companies about how it can incorporate their services into the Rapyd platform to provide further “logistics as a service” to customers. He also confirmed the Durable has been a help here, by making an introduction to Convoy as part of that wider strategy.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/03/rapyd-which-offers-fintech-as-a-service-via-a-single-api-adds-20m-more-to-its-coffers-at-a-1-2b-valuation/

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