Japan’s Freee raises $60M to grow its cloud accounting business

Japan-based accounting software company Freee, one of the country’s most-prominent startups, has raised a $60 million Series E funding round as it bids to expand its services into other areas of management for its customers. Freee was founded six years ago — we wrote about the startup when it raised a Series A in 2013 — which makes it one of the ‘oldest’ startups in Japan, while this round is also a large one for the country, too. Japan’s startup ecosystem has a culture that encourages founders to take their companies’ public earlier than in most parts of the world, to mitigate some risk, but there are signs of alternative approaches that include this round and of course the recent IPO of Mercari, which went public this summer and raised over $1 billion. “Japan is a country that respects precedent a lot,” Freee founder and CEO Daisuke Sasaki told TechCrunch in
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The dramatic rise and fall of online P2P lending in China

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on TechNode, an editorial partner of TechCrunch based in China. When Emily Zhang was interning with a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending firm in the Summer of 2016, her main task was to carry out research on other P2P lending firms. She found the rates of return tempting and some underlying assets reliable, so she decided to invest in the market herself. Until now, none of her investments have matured, but she worries about whether she can actually withdraw her profits, much less get back the principal. Even so, Zhang considers herself lucky that the companies that sold her the assets are still in business while many other P2P companies have collapsed, leaving their investors in despair. Stories have been circulating across Chinese social networks about desperate investors who have lost their life savings. Zhang Xue, for instance, a 47-year old single mother with a
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Oval Money app launches its investment products for millennials

Back in April Oval Money launched with the idea of combining expense tracking, saving, and investing into one app, while also adding a social element by enabling its community of users to share tips and suggestions to one another. The idea is to help users grow their savings in less time by teaching them to monitor spending habits and make saving virtually automatic. The company has raised €1.2M in funding, largely from Italian investors. The startup is launching a raft of investment products for socially-conscious savers. Beginning with three funds – supporting gender diversity in boardrooms, flexible working and the brands that millennials trust – the investments marketplace will be available to customers in the smartphone app this summer. The “Women at the Table” fund will allow investors to support companies that ensure that at least 20% of board members are women, while a “Belong but Work Remote” fund promotes
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YugaByte’s new database software rakes in $16 million so developers can move to any cloud

Looking to expand the footprint of its toolkit giving developers a unified database software that can work for both relational and post-relational databases, YugaByte has raised $16 million in a new round of funding. For company co-founder, Kannan Muthukkaruppan, the new database software liberates developers from the risk of lock-in with any provider of cloud compute as the leading providers at Amazon, Microsoft and Google jockey for the pole position among software developers and reduces programming complexity. “YugaByte DB makes it possible for organizations to standardize on a single, distributed database to support a multitude of workloads requiring both SQL and NoSQL capabilities. This speeds up the development of applications while at the same time reduces operational complexity and licensing costs,” said Kannan Muthukkaruppan, co-founder and chief executive of YugaByte, in a statement.  Muthukkaruppan and his fellow co-founders know their way around database software. Alongside Karthik Ranganathan and Mikhail
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Naspers is in talks to invest in Southeast Asia’s Carousell

Naspers, the South Africa-based firm that famously backed Chinese giant Tencent in its infancy, is in talks to invest in Singapore-based startup Carousell, according to two sources with knowledge of discussions. Carousell offers a mobile app that combines listings with peer-to-peer selling across Southeast Asia, Taiwan and Hong Kong. That makes it well-aligned with Naspers’ portfolio, which features some of the world’s largest classifieds services including OLX, which covers 45 countries, Letgo in the U.S. and Avito in Russia. TechCrunch understands that Naspers is pursuing a deal with Carousell with a view to making it the firm’s key play in Southeast Asia and other parts of the APAC region. Discussions are at a relatively early stage so it isn’t clear what percentage of the company that Naspers is seeking to acquire, although it would be a minority investment that values the Carousell business at over $500 million. The deal
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WorkFusion adds $50 million from strategic investors as it bulks up for acquisitions

WorkFusion, a business process automation software developer, has raised $50 million in a new, strategic round of funding as it prepares to start adding new verticals to its product suite. The company’s new cash came from the large insurance company, Guardian; health care services provider New York-Presbyterian, and the commercial bank, PNC Bank. Venture investor Alpha Intelligence Capital, which specializes in backing artificial intelligence-enabled companies also participated in the new financing. Certainly WorkFusion seems to have come a long way since its days hiring crowdsourced workers to train algorithms how to automate the workflows that used to be done manually. The company has raised a lot of money — roughly $121 million, according to Crunchbase — which is some kind of validation, and in its core markets of financial services and insurance it’s attracted some real fans. “Guardian uses data to better understand and serve customers, and WorkFusion will bring
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Is venture capital ready for companies with no founders?

Initial coin offerings (ICOs) — a funding mechanism based on the technology behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin — are a hot new way to launch a startup and they’re forcing investors to look at the startup process anew.

Venture firms like mine understand that ICOs can reinvent how entrepreneurs bring innovations to life, but no one is quite sure how this will play out.

The tech community is so perplexed by the swelling interest in ICOs, notable firms that traditionally compete to invest in the early stages of a company are trying to figure it out together, and often end up co-investing in the ICOs.

Until recently, investors in Silicon Valley were obsessed with finding founders who have a great sense of purpose and a vision for a

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Polish bank begins using a blockchain-based document management system

A blockchain company called Coinfirm has announced a partnership with PKO BP, a major Polish bank, to provide blockchain-based document verification using a tool called Trudatum. The project is a an actual implementation of one of the primary benefits of blockchain-based tools, namely its ability to permanently and immutably store data. This announcement brings blockchain implementations out of the realm of proof-of-concept and into the real world. “Every document recorded in the blockchain (e.g. proof of a transaction, or bank’s terms and conditions for a given product) will be issued in the form of irreversible abbreviation or hash signed with the bank’s private key. This will allow a client to verify remotely if the files he received from a business partner or from the bank are true, or if a modification of the document was attempted,” wrote the Coinfirm team. Coinfirm founders Paweł Kuskowski, Pawel Aleksander, and Maciej Ziółkowski
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Revolut adds direct debits in Europe

Fintech startup Revolut is slowly making traditional bank accounts irrelevant. The company is adding direct debits in EUR to make it easier to pay for utilities and subscription services. While Revolut is currently applying for a banking license, the company has already been adding everything you need to replace your bank account with a Revolut account. The company started with an e-wallet in multiple currencies combined with a MasterCard . This way, you can upload money to your Revolut account in your local currency and then send and spend money in multiple currencies. But when it comes to spending money, Revolut users have been limited to card payments so far. And yet, many countries ask you to pay your electricity or phone bill using direct debits. Back in July 2017, Revolut gave you a personal IBAN in EUR and GBP. And now, you can hand your banking details to any
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SoFi held acquisition talks with Charles Schwab

 SoFi, the online lending giant, held conversations with Charles Schwab about a potential acquisition by the brokerage firm, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. The M&A talks were first reported by the Financial Times and were said to take place earlier this year. In addition to Charles Schwab, the FT reported that there were discussions with several other unnamed… Read More

Albert raises $2.5 million for its finance app that helps you save money

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-10-20-31-am Everyone knows the basics of how to improve their financial health: put money into savings, track your spending, reduce your debt, look for ways to save on your monthly bills, and make smart investments. Where people struggle is translating that knowledge into specific actions you can take today. That’s where an application called Albert steps into help. The startup, which has now closed… Read More

NSF may shut down West Virginia’s Green Bank Telescope and people aren’t happy

green-bank-telescope Tight budgets have forced the National Science Foundation to consider shutting down and deconstructing the Green Bank Telescope, the largest steerable telescope in the world. This consideration has caused controversy among astronomers and members of the general public alike. Located in Green Bank, West Virginia, the GBT was opened in 2001 and is a state-of-the-art radio telescope primarily used… Read More

N26 announces a premium Black card with Allianz travel insurance

n26-black-card What’s missing from N26? The company has been slowly but surely building a new bank account from the ground up. This time, the company is trying to recreate the insurance product that you typically get with a Visa Premier or MasterCard Gold. So N26 is launching the N26 Black card. The startup has been working with an insurance company directly and is now able to provide the same kind… Read More

Number26 is now a true bank as it now has a full banking license

Valentin Stalf, Maximilian Tayenthal, Matthias Oetken, Christian Rebernik, Markus Gunter (v.l.) Berlin-based startup Number26 is trying to reinvent the bank. This might sound crazy, and that's why the startup has processed step by step. After partnering with Wirecard for the banking back end, attracting 200,000 users and raising tens of millions of dollars, the company now has a full banking license to operate in Europe. Read More

Blackmoon launches in the US to match investors with balance-sheet lenders

Detail of document with ballpoint pen, studio shot It was only a matter of time before Tinder for balance sheet lenders and debt investors became a thing. Financial matchmaking platform Blackmoon launched this week in the United States. The platform is designed to help institutional investors access non-bank balance sheet loans. The Russian marketplace lending as a service platform is also adding a New York office to its international… Read More

Why Bitcoin Can’t Help The Poorest – Yet

a9329ebf6090afb969b7a98195460892 The term “financial inclusion” is a new buzzword in the fintech space. With the rise of services like Abra and MPesa, we are convinced that bitcoin is the solution to the problems of the unbanked. With bitcoin, we say, the house cleaner in Dubai can get her money home and the refugee can get his money over the border into a safer place. I’m even known to wax poetic about… Read More