For workers in the gig economy, getting paid as quickly as possible is a critical way to manage – to say nothing of survive on – an often-irregular source of income. And with the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, even those working in the traditional, 9-to-5 economy are feeling new levels of financial anxiety.
Responding to this challenge is Clair, a New York-based startup founded last year by Nico Simko (CEO), Erich Nussbaumer (CPO), and Alex Kostecki (COO). The social-impact fintech believes that workers should have access to their wages, without any additional fee or charge, at the end of the work session rather than at some arbitrary point in the future. This week, the company announced a $4.5 million seed fundraising that will help it fulfill its mission of enabling workers to “freely access money they’ve already earned,” said Simko in a statement.
“There are more payday lenders than McDonald’s in the U.S. that charge on average more than 300% annual interest on loans,” he said. “So we have one simple vision: it’s time for change.”
The round was led by Upfront Ventures and featured participation from Founder Collective and Walkabout Ventures. Also involved in the investment were Michael Vaughan, former COO of Venmo, and Paul Appelbaum, founder of Seamless. Combined with $55,000 in pre-seed funding the company picked up in the fall of last year, Clair’s total capital adds up to over $5 million.
Clair combines digital banking functionality – complete with savings account and debit card – with an Instant Pay Access feature that mitigates the temptation workers may feel to resort to high-interest payday lenders. Workers at participating businesses sign up for the service as they would for direct deposit. Once onboarded, they can request free advances on a portion of their earned income via the Clair app (or a partnering app). The advance is loaded onto a Clair debit card and the amount is deducted from the worker’s account on the subsequent payday.
According to Clair, Instant Pay Access provides a reduced reliance on payday loans and more income security in the event of emergency for workers, and turnover reduction and lower check printing costs for businesses. Upfront Ventures partner Aditi Maliwal, who sits on the Clair board of directors, praised the company’s business strategy of avoiding high customer acquisition costs by “creating a product embedded in other services that workers already use.” Simko echoed this point, highlighting not just Clair’s value to SME payroll operations, but also the value that fintechs bring to small businesses more generally.
“With small business employees making up nearly 50% of the country’s workforce, employers often don’t have enough scale to offer better benefits on their own, so they look towards their software providers,” Simko said. “By enabling these providers, we are bridging a gap and empowering them with functionalities their users want.”
HSBC leans into APIs to expand Cash Flow Forecasting tool
HSBC is expanding its Cash Flow Forecasting tool across its global footprint, and leveraging APIs to do so with minimal impact to existing systems. Cash Flow Forecasting is an API-enabled tool that gives businesses an accurate picture of their future finances to manage liquidity. It launched in London in June, and is slated to roll […]
Canada Partners with Swiss, U.S. Fintechs; Neobank Raises Millions in Mexico
When it comes to taking advantage of the best that the world’s fintech has to offer, you won’t find financial services companies in Canada sleeping on the job. This week in the country’s payments space, Toronto, Ontario-based Versapay announced its acquisition of Solupay, a contactless payments company based in Ohio. We also learned that FinovateEurope alum unblu, which offers a digital conversational platform for FIs from its headquarters in Basel Switzerland, had teamed up with Calgary, Alberta-based digital technology solutions provider Celero.
By the end of the week, Canada’s largest credit education company, Borrowell, announced that it was partnering with multiple Finovate Best of Show winner MX. Borrowell, the first company in Canada to offer free credit scores via its partnership with Equifax, has launched a new bill tracking feature called Boost on its app. The company will use MX’s data cleansing technology to improve Boost’s analysis of user spending behavior to help users make better financial planning decisions.
“With MX, Borrowell is giving its customers greater clarity into how they can become more financially strong as a means to increasing credit strength,” MX Chief Customer Officer Nate Gardner said. “It is exactly this kind of innovation, partnership and money experience that MX loves to enable through our powerful data platform.”
Last week we featured an extended Q&A with Eric Rosenthal, Vice President and Managing Director for the Americas with Rapyd. If you’re interested in learning more about the fintech ecosystem in one of the most overlooked regions of the world, our conversation with Eric Rosenthal is a great place to start.
With that in mind, congratulations to Mexican challenger bank Klar, which raised $15 million in Series A funding in a round led by Prosus Ventures this week. Founded in 2019, Klar now has approximately $72 million in total debt and equity financing, and noted that the new capital will help the company build its engineering capabilities in its hubs in Berlin and Mexico.
“Klar is making credit accessible to all Mexicans, including those with no credit history,” Klar co-founder and Chief Financial Officer Daniel Autrique said. “We help people build credit by looking at how and where they spend their money, instead of being stuck with traditional credit scores that are backward looking and obsolete.” The company said that, since inception, it has issued more than 25,000 lines of credit among its 200,000 customers.
Here is our look at fintech around the world.
- Stripe makes inroads in Africa with acquisition of Paystack.
- A partnership between Standard Bank, Mastercard, and Google will help SMEs in Africa offer their services online as well as accept digital payments.
- Trading Technologies teams up with Cape Town-based Applied Derivatives, which will distribute the TT platform from South Africa.
Central and Eastern Europe
- PayRay, a factoring company based in Lithuania, receives banking license and begins banking operations in its home country.
- Lithuanian online payments firm Interpaylink partners with iDenfy to provide remote user identification.
- Advapay, a digital core banking platform provider based in Estonia, teams up with U.K.-based identity verification platform Sumsub.
Middle East and Northern Africa
- Cairo, Egypt-based financial wellness platform NowPay raises $2.1 million in seed funding.
- Central Bank of Bahrain launches the region’s first digital fintech lab, FinHub 973.
- Commercial Bank of Dubai introduces cards and accounts for low-income consumers courtesy of partnership with Now Money.
Central and Southern Asia
- Indian payments processor Razorpay secures $100 million in Series D funding, earning a valuation just over one billion.
- Mastercard announces partnership with Indian regtech Signzy to bring the company’s video KYC technology to its banking customers.
- Indian fintech Open partners with Equitas Small Finance Bank and Visa to offer business debit card.
Latin America and the Caribbean
- Brazilian payment solutions provider Ebanx announces expansion of operations into five countries in Central and South America.
- Venio, a mobile app that provides financing to the unbanked, goes live in Mexico.
- Chile’s third largest bank, Banco de Crédito e Inversiones (BCI), partners with Temenos to launch new corporate bank in Peru.
- The People’s Bank of China holds lottery to distribute millions in digital yuan valued at $1.5 million.
- Vietnamese online payment portal AppotaPay scores payment intermediary license from State Bank of Vietnam.
- PayMaya, a mobile payments platform based in the Philippines, launches new mobile payment device PayMaya One Lite, that enables acceptance of a range of digital payment types.
Ditching the branch is a mistake, Forrester predicts
Banks that go fully digital as a result of COVID-19 could regret the move. “Banks shouldn’t abandon the branch but instead refocus it to drive customer and employee engagement,” according to Forrester’s “Predictions 2021: Banking” report. “They can reduce branch costs by being smarter about their footprint and technology as well as shifting to paperless […]
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