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Indian tech startups raised a record $14.5B in 2019




Indian tech startups have never had it so good.

Local tech startups in the nation raised $14.5 billion in 2019, beating their previous best of $10.6 billion last year, according to research firm Tracxn .

Tech startups in India this year participated in 1,185 financing rounds — 459 of those were Series A or later rounds — from 817 investors.

Early-stage startups — those participating in angel or pre-Series A financing round — raised $6.9 billion this year, easily surpassing last year’s $3.3 billion figure, according to a report by venture debt firm InnoVen Capital.

According to InnoVen’s report, early-stage startups that have typically struggled to attract investors saw a 22% year-over-year increase in the number of financing deals they took part in this year. Cumulatively, at $2.6 million, their valuation also increased by 15% from last year.

Overall, there were 81 financing deals of size between $25 million and $100 million, up from 56 last year and 36 the year before, and 27 rounds above $100 million, up from 17 in 2018 and and nine in 2017, Tracxn told TechCrunch.

Also in 2019, 128 startups in India got acquired, four got publicly listed and nine became unicorns. This year, Indian tech startups also attracted a record number of international investors, according to Tracxn.

This year’s fundraise further moves the nation’s burgeoning startup space on a path of steady growth.

Since 2016, when tech startups accumulated just $4.3 billion — down from $7.9 billion the year before — flow of capital has increased significantly in the ecosystem. In 2017, Indian startups raised $10.4 billion, per Tracxn.

“The decade has seen an impressive 25x growth from a tiny $550 million in 2010 to $14.5 billion in 2019 in terms of the total funding raised by the startups,” said Tracxn.

What’s equally promising about Indian startups is the challenges they are beginning to tackle today, said Dev Khare, a partner at VC fund Lightspeed Venture Partners, in a recent interview with TechCrunch.

In 2014 and 2015, startups were largely focused on building e-commerce solutions and replicating ideas that worked in Western markets. But today, they are tackling a wide-range of categories and opportunities and building some solutions that have not been attempted in any other market, he said.

Tracxn’s analysis found that lodging startups raised about $1.7 billion this year — thanks to Oyo alone bagging $1.5 billion, followed by logistics startups such as Elastic Run, Delhivery and Ecom Express that secured $641 million.

Also, 176 horizontal marketplaces, more than 150 education learning apps, over 160 fintech startups, over 120 trucking marketplaces, 82 ride-hailing services, 42 insurance platforms, 33 used car listing providers and 13 startups that are helping businesses and individuals access working capital secured funding this year. Fintech startups alone raised $3.2 billion this year, more than startups operating in any other category, said Tracxn.

The investors

Sequoia Capital, with more than 50 investments — or co-investments — was the most active venture capital fund for Indian tech startups this year. (Rajan Anandan, former executive in charge of Google’s business in India and Southeast Asia, joined Sequoia Capital India as a managing director in April.) Accel, Tiger Global Management, Blume Ventures and Chiratae Ventures were the other top four VCs.

Steadview Capital, with nine investments in startups, including ride-hailing service Ola, education app Unacademy and fintech startup BharatPe, led the way among private equity funds. General Atlantic, which invested in NoBroker and recently turned profitable edtech startup Byju’s, invested in four startups. FMO, Sabre Partners India and CDC Group each invested in three startups.

Venture Catalysts, with more than 40 investments, including in HomeCapital and Blowhorn, was the top accelerator or incubator in India this year. Y Combinator, with over 25 investments, Sequoia Capital’s Surge, Axilor Ventures and Techstars were also very active this year.

Indian tech startups also attracted a number of direct investments from top corporates and banks this year. Goldman Sachs, which earlier this month invested in fintech startup ZestMoney, overall made eight investments this year. Among others, Facebook made its first investment in an Indian startup — social-commerce firm Meesho — and Twitter led a $100 million financing round in local social networking app ShareChat.

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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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