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Q3 outlook forecasts cloudy days ahead for fintech M&A – TechCrunch

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Welcome to The Interchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your vote of confidence. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann

Last week, Paystand — a blockchain-enabled B2B payments startup — announced it had acquired Mexican fintech Yaydoo — creating a new unicorn in the resulting new entity.

Execs from the two startups say the combined company will have processed over $5 billion in payments and built a network of over 500,000 connected businesses by creating B2B DeFi payment networks in both the U.S. and Mexico.

In announcing the deal, they said: “DeFi-enabled B2B payment networks that are on chain can unlock transformative working capital efficiencies, and make financial services more fair and open, especially in developing markets like LATAM.”

Paystand CEO Jeremy Almond told me over email that combined revenues have been growing at over 100% year over year since inception. In particular, he said Paystand has experienced over 700% revenue growth in the last three years. The company has raised over $86 million over its lifetime and counts NewView Capital and SoftBank’s SB Opportunity Fund among its backers.

Meanwhile, Yaydoo has raised over $20 million from investors such as Base10 Partners, monashees, SB Opportunity Fund and Leap Global Partners.

With nearly 400 employees, the combined company will “have a very unique ability to transform entire B2B Payments ecosystems in each country we operate because of our combined scale and access to resources,” wrote Yaydoo CEO Sergio Almaguer in an email.

“Today the U.S. has a legacy, centralized financial infrastructure that needs to be disrupted and re-imagined by fintechs with blockchain technology. However, in emerging markets like LATAM, the basic financial infrastructure for B2B payments is either missing or not accessible by businesses of all sizes,” added Almond, noting that the payments tech ecosystem in LATAM is generally 10–15 years behind that in the U.S. Fintechs like Paystand + Yaydoo have a huge opportunity to build next-gen payments tech infrastructure from the ground up.”

Notably, word on the street is that Payday is now eyeing an IPO.

We haven’t been hearing about too many M&As as of late, so this deal caught our eye. It also is a good lead-in to talk about some recent M&A data we got our hands on.

Unsurprisingly, dealmaking in financial services declined in the second quarter due to macroeconomic headwinds, according to a recent KPMG US report. Aggregate deal volume fell 30.9%, to 1,442 from 2,087 in the first quarter, and deal value dropped 14.8%, to $163 billion from $191 billion.

Bob Ruark, principal and banking and fintech strategy leader for KPMG US, noted that pricing is difficult now given the rapid decline in valuations. As he pointed out, pricing in some fintech categories dropped almost 60% according to Pitchbook, and digital and crypto companies are down over 65%.

“We are starting to see some of the public market valuations impact private market valuations. We have seen several high-profile companies raising new money at much lower valuations, which shows this is starting to happen,” Ruark said. “Klarna recently raised $800 million at a $6.7 billion valuation, which is 85% below its June 2021 raise…As prices and valuations stabilize, we will see deals ramp back up.”

On the bright side, the fact that VCs are more discriminating about where they put their dollars could actually lead to more M&A activity, according to Ruark.

“There is plenty of money available, but investors are looking for stronger performance, profitable performance. That is one reason why a number of VC firms have told their portfolio companies to focus on performance and cut costs,” he told TechCrunch. “Given a large number of startups will not generate a profit near and are cash-flow negative in the near term, they will have to raise more capital in a difficult environment. As a result, they may have to sell.”

What about the acquisitions that are still taking place? Most of those are product buys to drive or accelerate revenue growth with the secondary benefit of getting new talent, Ruark said. And, after crypto, payments companies — as illustrated in the example above — are among the most attractive targets.

Looking ahead, KPMG’s view on the prospects for financial services M&A over the next six to 12 months is mixed. The firm said: “On one hand, the fundamental trends that have been driving activity remain in place. On the other, market sentiment is largely pessimistic and the outlook for interest rates and inflation is challenging.”

Image Credits: Paystand/Yaydoo

Weekly News

Counting 300 U.S.-based companies as customers already, Alloy announced it has now expanded its platform to 40 countries across North America, EMEA, LatAm, and APAC. The startup says it will also continue to grow its local presence and team in EMEA. The goal behind the expansion, a spokesperson told TechCrunch, is to help financial services companies “manage changing global regulatory requirements for their customers, no matter where they are located.”

QED Investors said it has expanded its mental health initiative aimed at tackling addiction among entrepreneurs to its Spanish-language portfolio companies. Last year, TechCrunch published an op-ed from Nigel Morris around mental health stigma in the tech community when the initial program was announced. The firm says the program is focused on eliminating the stigma around talking about substance misuse in the workplace by offering an online program that “delivers critical concepts and facts regarding addiction in just 5 minutes per lesson.” This will now be offered to 22 fintech companies across Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru.

Just one week after closing on its acquisition of Metromile (and laying off about 20% of the latter company’s staff), Lemonade announced on August 4 that it has sold Metromile’s enterprise business solutions unit, a SaaS-based claims automation and fraud detection product, to EIS. Well, that was fast!

According to my colleague Zack, “hackers had access to dashboards used to remotely manage and control thousands of credit card payment terminals manufactured by digital payments giant Wiseasy, a cybersecurity startup told TechCrunch. Wiseasy is a brand you might not have heard of, but it’s a popular Android-based payment terminal maker used in restaurants, hotels, retail outlets and schools across the Asia-Pacific region. Through its Wisecloud cloud service, Wiseeasy can remotely manage, configure and update customer terminals over the internet.”

Attentive, which describes itself as a “conversational commerce platform,” has launched its “text-to-buy” solution with Shop Pay, “enabling consumers to make purchases directly from an SMS conversation with a brand.” Built with Shopify’s Shop Pay checkout flow, Attentive’s new offering is aimed at “turning browsers into buyers with a frictionless checkout flow built for mobile devices.”

Retail investment behemoth Robinhood laid off 23% of its staff — just 3 months after letting go of 9% of its workforce. Besides the fact that the company has shed about 1,000 workers this year alone, we also were struck by the fact that CEO Vlad Tenev took responsibility for Robinhood’s overhiring in the frenzy that was 2021. Whether he was sincere or not (and many of you had wildly different views on that based on a little poll I posted on Twitter), it was still not a typical CEO move and we took notice. You can listen to Alex, Natasha and I share our thoughts on it all on Friday’s episode of Equity Podcast.

Opendoor has agreed to pay $62 million to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission, which says the company’s claims that it helps people make more money by selling their house to the company rather than listing it on the open market were deceptive. For years, the real estate technology company has touted itself as using its pricing technology to provide “more accurate offers and lower costs,” said the FTC. Such “iBuyers” use this method to make quick offers on homes, with enthusiastic claims that sellers would make thousands of dollars more than they would on the open market. But according to the FTC, that wasn’t true.

While extension rounds are popular even beyond fintech today, there are often more startups hunting for the round type than there are checks. So, to better understand the market for fintech extension rounds today, we have a set of answers from a group of fintech venture investors we recently surveyed.

Another day, another Q2 funding report. PitchBook reported that “on the heels of a breakthrough year for fintech investment, VC activity in the sector is simmering down.” Specifically, it said, in Q2 2022, “VC investment in fintech companies fell 17.8% from the previous quarter” to $24.1 billion, “the largest percentage drop since Q3 2018.” Also in the report: “Exits have also stalled as IPO activity grinds to a halt, and analysts expect fintech startups will attract the attention of incumbents looking for M&A opportunities.” Guess we’ll see about that.

Nice scoop from former TCer Katie Roof: “TripActions, a travel startup (that has expanded into general expense management), is close to filing confidentially for an initial public offering, according to people familiar with the matter, as people get back on planes and trains following the easing of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Manish reports that the “State Bank of Pakistan, the South Asian nation’s central bank, has ordered fintech Tag to ‘immediately’ refund all funds to customers, citing violation of regulatory requirements and ‘other concerns,’ posing existential questions on the startup’s future. The regulatory action follows a months-long probe into Tag, which offers banking and financial services to users in Pakistan.”

Personnel

Corporate spend startup Brex has named Doug Adamic as its chief revenue officer. According to a company spokesperson, Adamic will lead revenue and growth strategy for Brex as the company expands into financial software with Brex Empower and aims to grow its global offerings for venture-backed startups, midmarket companies, and larger enterprises. Adamic most recently served as SAP Concur’s chief revenue officer.

Saving and investing app Acorns announced that Brent Callinicos — who most recently served as CFO of Uber — has joined Acorns’ board of directors; Marissa Dulaney has been named as the company’s first chief experience officer; Denise Chisholm has been tapped to serve as the new chief compliance officer; and Brent Williams is now the company’s head of banking. In a written statement, Acorns CEO Noah Kerner said: “We’re building a generational company from the inside out with our customers at the center.”

Plaid announced that financial services industry veteran Meghan Welch has joined the 1,200-plus-person company as its first chief people officer. A spokesperson told me: “Meghan’s more than 20 years of experience at Capital One, most recently as the Executive Vice President, Head of Enterprise HR and Chief Diversity Officer, will be a great asset to Plaid as we scale to support the millions of people who rely on Plaid to connect to fintech apps and services.” Welch will report to CEO Zach Perret.

Image Credits: Plaid/Chief People Officer Meghan Welch

Fundings and M&A

Seen on TechCrunch

Savana raises a fresh round of capital to digitize banks’ services

Kenyan insurtech Lami raises $3.7M seed extension led by Harlem Capital

Apple alum’s finance operations startup Bluecopa raises funds to expand globally

Argentinian fintech infrastructure startup Geopagos leaves the bootstraps behind with $35M funding round

Mudafy raises $10M in Founders Fund–led Series A to fix LatAm’s “broken” real estate process

And elsewhere

Robinhood veterans’ fintech, Parafin, raises $60 million funding round 

Online credit Marketplace FinanZero raises $4 million in a new round led by Swedish investors to further expand in Brazil 

Rapidly scaling, Kansas City–based PayIt raises another $90 million amid “long-overdue transformation” of govtech 

NG.CASH, which describes itself as “the financial hub for Brazil’s Generation Z,” closed on a $10 million seed funding round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and monashees. Founded in February of 2021 and launching that August, the startup says it has over 900,000 users. Its founding team is made up of young (under 25) repeat founders who say they are responsible for building one of Brazil’s largest YouTube channels (with over 8 million subscribers), along with another fintech, Trampolin, that was later sold to Stone (Brazil’s version of Stripe).

Remote payroll provider Deel announced it has acquired Legalpad, which aims to streamline “the hard-to-navigate US work visa process, making it faster and more efficient for companies.”  Since its founding in 2018, Legalpad says it has helped thousands of workers relocate to the U.S., and a Deel spokesperson told me the company’s next move will be to integrate the tech and expand visa capability to additional countries. Canada will come first, followed by others. The spokesperson added: “As US visas have become harder to secure, the move ensures more talent can be matched to opportunities, while helping companies hire. And actually, Legalpad helped Alex get the O-1 visa he needed to start Deel.” Recently, Deel has been making moves to broaden its products with a public offer to acquire PayGroup, a partnership with the UAE unveiled to help foreign workers secure visas, and launching Global Payroll.

Weltio, a Mexico City–based wealth management startup targeting Spanish-speaking LatAm, says it has raised $1.2 million in pre-seed funding from Y Combinator, as well as from Wealthsimple founder Brett Huneycutt, Mercado Bitcoin founder Reinaldo Rabelo, and Rhombuz VC, among others. The company says it provides the ability for Latin Americans to open an account in USD (fully regulated/protected by U.S. relevant bodies) and offers the ability to trade over 10,000 financial products and over 20 crypto coins. As the company evolves, the founders aim to offer a full suite of banking services.

That’s all for this week. Once again, thank you for joining me on this crazy fintech ride. See you next time! xoxoxo Mary Ann

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Cymulate snaps up $70M to help cybersecurity teams stress test their networks with attack simulations – TechCrunch

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The cost of cybercrime has been growing at an alarming rate of 15% per year, projected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. To cope with the challenges that this poses, organizations are turning to a growing range of AI-powered tools to supplement their existing security software and the work of their security teams. Today, a startup called Cymulate — which has built a platform to help those teams automatically and continuously stress test their networks against potential attacks with simulations, and provide guidance on how to improve their systems to ward off real attacks — is announcing a significant round of growth funding after seeing strong demand for its tools.

The startup — founded in Tel Aviv, with a second base in New York — has raised $70 million, a Series D that it will be using to continue expanding globally and investing in expanding its technology (both organically and potentially through acquisitions).

Today, Cymulate’s platform covers both on-premise and cloud networks, providing breach and attack simulations for endpoints, email and web gateways and more; automated “red teaming”; and a “purple teaming” facility to create and launch different security breach scenarios for organizations that lack the resources to dedicate people to a live red team — in all, a “holistic” solution for companies looking to make sure they are getting the most out of the network security architecture that they already have in place, in the worlds of Eyal Wachsman, Cymulate’s CEO.

“We are providing our customers with a different approach for how to do cybersecurity and get insights [on]  all the products already implemented in a network,” he said in an interview. The resulting platform has found particular traction in the current market climate. Although companies continue to invest in their security architecture, security teams are also feeling the market squeeze, which is impacting IT budgets, and sometimes headcount in an industry that was already facing a shortage of expertise. (Cymulate cites figures from the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology that estimate a shortfall of 2.72 million security professionals in the workforce globally.)

The idea with Cymulate is that it’s built something that helps organizations get the most out of what they already have. “And at the end, we provide our customers the ability to prioritize where they need to invest, in terms of closing gaps in their environment,” Wachsman said.

The round is being led by One Peak, with Susquehanna Growth Equity (SGE), Vertex Ventures Israel, Vertex Growth and strategic backer Dell Technologies Capital also participating. (All five also backed Cymulate in its $45 million Series C last year.) Relatively speaking, this is a big round for Cymulate, doubling its total raised to $141 million, and while the startup is not disclosing its valuation, I understand from sources that it is around the $500 million mark.

Wachsman noted that the funding is coming on the heels of a big year for the startup (the irony being that the constantly escalating issue of cybersecurity and growing threat landscape spells good news for companies built to combat that). Revenues have doubled, although it’s not disclosing any numbers today, and the company is now at over 200 employees and works with some 500 paying customers across the enterprise and mid-market, including NTT, Telit, and Euronext, up from 300 customers a year ago.

Wachsman, who co-founded the company with Avihai Ben-Yossef and Eyal Gruner, said he first thought of the idea of building a platform to continuously test an organization’s threat posture in 2016, after years of working in cybersecurity consulting for other companies. He found that no matter how much effort his customers and outside consultants put into architecting security solutions annually or semi-annually, those gains were potentially lost each time a malicious hacker made an unexpected move.

“If the bad guys decided to penetrate the organization, they could, so we needed to find a different approach,” he said. He looked to AI and machine learning for the solution, a complement to everything already in the organization, to build “a machine that allows you to test your security controls and security posture, continuously and on demand, and to get the results immediately… one step before the hackers.”

Last year, Wachsman described Cymulate’s approach to me as “the largest cybersecurity consulting firm without consultants,” but in reality the company does have its own large in-house team of cybersecurity researchers, white-hat hackers who are trying to find new holes — new bugs, zero days and other vulnerabilities — to develop the intelligence that powers Cymulate’s platform.

These insights are then combined with other assets, for example the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a knowledge base of threats, tactics and techniques used by a number of other cybersecurity services, including others building continuous validation services that compete with Cymulate. (Competitors include the likes of FireEye, Palo Alto Networks, Randori, AttackIQ and many more.)

Cymulate’s work comes in the form of network maps that detail a company’s threat profile, with technical recommendations for remediation and mitigations, as well as an executive summary that can be presented to financial teams and management who might be auditing security spend. It also has built tools for running security checks when integrating any services or IT with third parties, for instance in the event of an M&A process or when working in a supply chain.

Today the company focuses on network security, which is big enough in itself but also leaves the door open for Cymulate to acquire companies in other areas like application security — or to build that for itself. “This is something on our roadmap,” said Wachsman.

If potential M&A leads to more fundraising for Cymulate, it helps that the startup is in one of the handful of categories that are going to continue to see a lot of attention from investors.

“Cybersecurity is clearly an area that we think will benefit from the current macroeconomic environment, versus maybe some of the more capital-intensive businesses like consumer internet or food delivery,” said David Klein, a managing partner at One Peak. Within that, he added, “The best companies [are those] that are mission critical for their customers… Those will continue to attract very good multiples.”

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Open-source password manager Bitwarden raises $100M – TechCrunch

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Bitwarden, an open-source password manager for enterprises and consumers, has raised $100 million in a round of funding led by PSG, with participation form Battery Ventures.

Founded initially back in 2015, Santa Barbara, California-based Bitwarden operates in a space that includes well-known incumbents including 1Password, which recently hit a $6.8 billion valuation off the back of a $620 million fundraise, and Lastpass, which was recently spun out as an independent company again two years after landing in the hands of private equity firms.

In a nutshell, Bitwarden and its ilk make it easier for people to generate secure passwords automatically, and store all their unique passwords and sensitive information such as credit card data in a secure digital vault, saving them from reusing the same insecure password across all their online accounts.

Bitwarden’s big differentiator, of course, lies in the fact that it’s built atop an open-source codebase, which for super security-conscious individuals and businesses is a good thing — they can fully inspect the inner-workings of the platform. Moreover, people can contribute back to the codebase and expedite development of new features.

On top of a basic free service, Bitwarden ships a bunch of paid-for premium features and services, including advanced enterprise features like single sign-on (SSO) integrations and identity management.

Bitwarden

It’s worth noting that today’s “minority growth investment” represents Bitwarden’s first substantial external funding in its seven year history, though we’re told that it did raise a small undisclosed series A round back in 2019. Its latest cash injection is indicative of how the world has changed in the intervening years. The rise of remote work, with people increasingly meshing personal and work accounts on the same devices, means the same password is used across different services. And such poor password and credential hygiene puts businesses at great risk.

Additionally, growing competition and investments in the management space means that Bitwarden can’t rest on its laurels — it needs to expand, and that is what its funds will be used for. Indeed, Bitwarden has confirmed plans to extend its offering into several aligned security and privacy verticals, including secrets management — something that 1Password expanded into last year via its SecretHub acquisition.

“The timing of the investment is ideal, as we expand into opportunities in developer secrets, passwordless technologies, and authentication,” Bitwarden CEO Michael Crandell noted in a press release. “Most importantly, we aim to continue to serve all Bitwarden users for the long haul.”

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downgrade the ‘middle-men’ resellers – TechCrunch

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As well as the traditional carbon offset resellers and exchanges such as Climate Partner or Climate Impact X the tech space has also produced a few, including Patch (US-based, raised $26.5M) and Lune (UK-based, raised $4M).

Now, Ceezer, a B2B marketplace for carbon credits, has closed a €4.2M round, led by Carbon Removal Partners with participation of impact-VC Norrsken VC and with existing investor Picus Capital. 

Ceezer ’s pitch is that companies have to deal with a lot of complexity when considering how they address carbon removal and reduction associated with their businesses. Whie they can buy offsetting credits, the market remains pretty ‘wild-west’, and has multiple competing standards running in parallel. For instance, the price range of $5 to $500 per ton is clearly all over the place, and sometimes carbon offset resellers make buyers pay high prices for low-quality carbon credits, pulling in extra revenues from a very opaque market.

The startup’s offering is for corporates to integrate both carbon removal and avoidance credits in one package. It does this by mining the offsetting market for lots of data points, enabling carbon offset sellers to reach buyers without having to use these middle-men resellers.

The startup claims that sellers no longer waste time and money on bespoke contracts with corporates but instead use Ceezer’s legal framework for all transactions. Simultaneously, buyers can access credits at a primary market level, maximizing the effect of the dollars they spend on carbon offsets.

Ceezer says it now has over 50 corporate customers and has 200,000 tons of carbon credits to sell across a variety of categories.
 and will use the funds to expand its impact and sourcing team, the idea being to make carbon removal technologies more accessible to corporate buyers, plus widen the product offering for credit sellers and buyers.

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