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Felix Capital closes $300M fund to double down on DTC, break into fintech and make late-stage deals




To kick off 2020, one of Europe’s newer — and more successful — investment firms has closed a fresh, oversubscribed fund, one sign that VC in the region will continue to run strong in the year ahead after startups across Europe raised between $35 billion and $36 billion in 2019.

Felix Capital, the London VC founded by Frederic Court that was one of the earlier firms to identify and invest in the trend of direct-to-consumer businesses, has raised $300 million, money that it plans to use to continue investing in creative and consumer startups and platform plays as well as begin to tap into a newer area, fintech — specifically startups that are focused on consumer finance. 

Felix up to now has focused mostly on earlier-stage investments — it now has $600 million under management and 32 companies in its portfolio in eight countries — based across both Europe and the U.S. Court said in an interview that a portion of this fund will now also go into later, growth rounds, both for companies that Felix has been backing for some time as well as newer faces.

As with the focus of the investments, the make-up of the fund itself has a strong European current: the majority of the LPs are European, Court noted. Although Asia is something it would like to tackle more in the future both as a market for its current portfolio and as an investment opportunity, he added, the firm has yet to invest into the region or substantially raise money from it.

Felix made its debut in 2015, founded by Court after a strong run at Advent Capital, where he was involved in a number of big exits. While Court had been a strong player in enterprise software, Felix was a step-change for him into more of a primary focus on consumer startups focused on fashion, lifestyle and creative pursuits.

That has over the years included investing in companies like the breakout high-fashion marketplace Farfetch (which he started to back when still at Advent and is now public), Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP, the jewelry startup Mejuri, trend-watching HighSnobiety and fitness startup Peloton (which has also IPO’d).

It’s not an altogether easygoing, vanilla list of cool stuff. Peloton and GOOP have been mightily doused in snarky and sharky sentiments; and sometimes it even seems as if the brands themselves own and cultivate that image. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad press, I guess.

Although it wasn’t something especially articulated in startup land at the time of Felix’s launch, what the firm was homing in on was a rising category of direct-to-consumer startups, essentially all in the area of e-commerce and building brands and businesses that were bypassing traditional retailers and retail channels to develop primary relationships with consumers through newer digital channels such as social media, messaging and email (alongside their own DTC websites). 

This is not Felix’s sole focus, with investments into a range of platform businesses like corporate travel site TravelPerk, Amazon -backed food delivery juggernaut Deliveroo and Moonbug (a platform for children’s entertainment content) and increasingly later-stage rounds (for example it was part of a $104 million round at TravelPerk; a $70 million round for marketplace-building service Mirakl; and $23 million for Mejuri).

Court’s track record prior to Felix, and the success of the current firm to date, are two likely reasons why this latest fund was oversubscribed, and why Court says it wants to further spread its wings into a wider range of areas and investment stages.

The interest in consumer finance is not such a large step away from these areas, when you consider that they are just the other side of the coin from e-commerce: saving money versus spending money.

“We see this as our prism of opportunity,” said Court. “Just as we had the intuition that there was a space for investors looking at [DTC]… we now think there is enough evidence that there is demand from consumers for new ways of dealing with money and personal finance.”

The firm has from the start operated with a board of advisors who also invest money through Felix while also holding down day jobs.

They include the likes of executives from eBay, Facebook and more. David Marcus — who Court backed when he built payments company Zong and eventually sold it to eBay before he went on to become a major mover and shaker at Facebook (and now has the possibly Sisyphean task of building Calibra) — is on the list, but that has not translated into Felix dabbling in cryptocurrency.

“We are watching cryptocurrency, but if you take a Felix stance on the area, it’s only had one amazing brand so far, bitcoin,” said Court. “The rest, for a consumer, is very difficult to understand and access. It’s still really early, but I’ve got no doubt that there will be some things emerging, particularly around the idea of ‘invisible money.’ “

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Major UK Retailers and Business Organizations Commit to Cash-Friendly Pledge from Which?




Thousands of UK supermarkets and other retail outlets have reportedly committed to a “cash-friendly” pledge from Which?, an expert testing, reviewing, and advice service. According to the terms of the pledge, retailers are guaranteeing that they will keep taking physical currency notes and coins as an alternative to virtual payments.

Some of the UK‘s largest retailers, such as Aldi, Asda, Co-op, John Lewis, LloydsPharmacy and Waitrose have pledged to continue to take cash at their store locations.

The supermarkets committing to this initiative are responsible for nearly 4,500 outlets in the United Kingdom, and claim a grocery market share of over 30%.

The Which? initiative has reportedly been backed by major retail associations in the UK that represent thousands of shops. The British Retail Consortium, Association of Convenience Stores and the British Independent Retailers Association have asked their clients to sign up.

The Federation of Small Businesses is backing the initiative as well. The scheme has also received considerable support from the Bank of England.

Chief cashier Sarah John stated:

“The ability to use cash as a way to pay for goods and services, as well as for day to day budgeting, remains vitally important for many people. By signing up to this pledge, businesses are helping to ensure that everyone in the UK is able to use the form of payment that best meets their needs.”

Which? research has revealed that around 34% of UK consumers have said they were not able to make cash payments on at least one occasion when attempting to purchase certain items since the COVID-19 crisis began (or awareness spread around March 2020).

The lobbying group is also asking the UK government to confirm when legislation to protect access to cash will be released. The group expects a lot more clarity regarding these plans.

This may include putting the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in charge or responsible for the cash-friendly scheme, Which? noted.

Anabel Hoult, CEO at Which?, remarked:

“The government announced it would legislate to protect access to cash more than a year ago. Now it must set out when this will be introduced and explain its long-term plan to protect cash for as long as people need it.”

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U.S. Fintech MovoCash Teams Up With Mastercard & Coastal Community Bank to Launch On-Demand Mobile Banking App




MovoCash, a U.S. fintech, announced on Thursday the launch of its on-demand mobile banking app, which was created through the company’s partnership with Mastercard and Coastal Community Bank.

Founded in 2014, Modo describes itself as a next-generation digital bank with “powerful, secure, and fast payment functionality.

MOVO is more than a banking service, a mobile payments wallet or a financial hub. It’s an all in one-digital-financial solution designed for speed and backed by unparalleled security, so you can do more with your digital cash network in real time, right from the app.”

Modo reported that its patented technology, HyperBIN, is built to use digital tokens to manage the convergence of traditional banking solutions with mobile payments, blockchain, distributed ledger, cryptographic, and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. 

HyperBIN® delivers real-time bank accounts and debit cards. This includes instant delivery, issuance, activation, secure and settled banking, merchant payment and P2P transactions redeemable at 45 million merchants and over one million ATMs worldwide.”

Speaking about the app’s launch, Eric Solis, CEO and Founder of MovoCash, Inc, stated:

“Our patented ‘Digital Cash’ Brand Network is what every consumer will expect from this day forward. [The app]  will fundamentally shift the way people act and think about digital transactions.”

 Eric Sprink, President and CEO of Coastal Community Bank, added:
“We’re thrilled to partner with MovoCash, a digital leader that brings a unique solution with top-notch fraud protection and compliance security to the market. MOVO is changing the payments game, we are excited to join them on this journey.”

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Pakistani Fintech SadaPay Shares How they Creatively Designed Payment Cards, Company Appoints New Head of Legal




Pakistani online payments Fintech SadaPay notes that it’s been well over three months now since they began rolling out their numberless debit cards. The SadaPay team points out that the designs “perfectly” fit their vertical debit cards.

The company’s management noted that they wanted to create something that tells their brand story while designing it in a manner that communicates their message in a “sada” (or plain and simple) manner. The cards have also been designed to have a “skater-smooth unboxing experience.”

Omar Qureshi from SadaPay claims that it “wasn’t easy to come up with what’s out there on the shelves right now.” He revealed that it took their team (Brandon Timinsky, Founder and CEO at SadaPay, Omer Salimullah, Asad Amjad and him) more than 3 months to finalize all the packaging.

Qureshi also mentioned that their debit cards and their jackets are the “only two collaterals” that allow them to have a “tangible connection” with the end-users (because they’re supposed to be a neobank).

After a lot of hard (and creative design) work, the SadaPay’s Official Card Packaging was “rendered for the last time, zipped, and sent to our printers across the border via WeTransfer,” the Fintech firm noted in its blog post.

Last month, the SadaPay team also welcomed Zainab Samantash as their Head of Legal. This appointment is “a testament to SadaPay’s emphasis on enlisting top-tier talent to help in achieving its mission to bring modern financial services to millions of Pakistanis,” the announcement noted.

Zainab will be working out of the firm’s Islamabad office and will work closely with the compliance division to develop a solid legal infrastructure for their innovative financial products.

As noted in the update:

“Zainab obtained her LLB Honors from the University of London with a First Class Distinction and later completed her LLM from Harvard Law School. She has since undertaken many notable representations in her legal career. She most recently represented Tencent Corporation, in connection with the ban on PUBG mobile game by Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, which was later overturned.”

Zainab also represented the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan in connection with the “unauthorized access and breach of internal corporate databases,” the SadaPay team noted.

Zainab has also advised Google LLC, a former White House advisor, and has “worked as part of the legal teams representing various high-profile government officials.”

Abdul Qadir Sultan, Chief Compliance and Risk Officer, stated:

“We are excited to have Zainab Samantash join SadaPay. She has a great personality, skillset, and experience. We believe every fintech needs to be well within the boundaries of the law and Zainab is the best person to help us out with our legal needs. Her attention to detail and understanding of the local laws on the fintech circuit in Pakistan impressed us all. We wish her all the best and look forward to working with her.”

In her new role, Zainab is expected to manage all legal affairs related to the structure of the firms including providing guidance on corporate governance and regulatory compliance.

Zainab will also be “overseeing the negotiation and drafting of contracts, risk management, and the development of plans and policies.” Her strategic thinking and deep knowledge of legal frameworks “solidify her ability to lead SadaPay’s legal wing as we continue to challenge the status quo and push the boundaries of what is possible in the financial landscape of Pakistan,” the announcement noted.

As previously reported, SadaPay aims to bring modern financial services to Pakistan in “partnership with MasterCard.” By removing the “high costs of managing the physical infrastructure of traditional banks from the equation,” SadaPay claims it is able to “pass those savings onto the customer to provide free financial services.”

The company’s mission is to “eliminate the complexity of banking and make money so simple that any other way would become unthinkable.”

As reported in March 2021, SadaPay secured $7.2 million in capital through a seed funding round led by Recharge Capital.

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Fintech Wealthfront Appoints Entrepreneur Jaleh Bisharat to its Board of Directors




California-based Fintech company Wealthfront revealed on Wednesday (May 12, 2021) that marketing executive and entrepreneur Jaleh Bisharat has joined the firm’s Board of Directors.

According to a release shared with CI, Bisharat has over 30 years of experience working as a marketing executive at major consumer brands such as Amazon, Eventbrite, OpenTable and Upwork. Bisharat is the Co-founder and CEO of NakedPoppy, a clean beauty firm, and she also serves on the boards of Novi and Skillshare.

Bisharat joins an experienced board to help Wealthfront expand its operations – which mainly focus on assisting “responsible” investors. She “believes strongly in Wealthfront’s technology-driven approach and is excited about supporting the company in their continued growth,” the announcement noted.

Bisharat stated:

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to join Wealthfront’s Board of Directors to give more people the peace of mind that comes from knowing their finances are in good hands. Wealthfront has an exciting opportunity to not just be the best in their category but to become a brand people can’t live without.”

Bisharat has been a “transformative force” for consumer brands during her professional career. Notably, she oversaw the rebranding of Amazon that “led to the iconic Amazon smile logo, helped OpenTable leapfrog over the competition by prioritizing core markets, and was a key player in Upwork’s revolution of the freelancing industry,” the release added.

Wealthfront CEO and co-founder Andy Rachleff remarked:

“I’ve been fortunate to see Jaleh’s tremendous impact many times throughout my career, so having her expertise on our board is truly exciting. Her experience advising and growing innovative consumer companies that have transformed their industries will be a huge value add to our business.”

Bisharat joins Wealthfront at a time when the Fintech firm recently announced a key update to its investment products – which lets customers create a portfolio from scratch. Additionally, Wealthfront introduced the final set of features that “make up their Self-Driving Money™ vision.”

Unlike other Fintech apps, Wealthfront claims it is “helping clients invest responsibly, and Bisharat’s experience will be instrumental in bringing this different approach to a wider audience,” the announcement noted.

As previously reported, Wealthfront integrates banking and investing to “make it delightfully easy to grow your wealth.”

They offer “all of the financial services you need like interest checking that offers an ATM/debit card as well as low-cost investment management, one-click loans and free financial planning tools.”

Wealthfront has also “delivered on its Self-Driving Money™ vision to automate your savings plan so you don’t need to worry about monitoring accounts and moving money around.” The Fintech firm was “named best account for cash management by NerdWallet and best robo-advisor by both NerdWallet (2019) and Investopedia (2020).” .

Wealthfront has teamed up with Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC, in order to bring checking features to its clients. Checking features for the Cash Account are “subject to identity verification by Green Dot Bank,” the release noted.

Debit Card is “optional and must be requested.” Wealthfront Cash Account Visa® Debit Card is “issued by Green Dot Bank, Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.”

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