Nubank is now worth $4 billion after Tencent’s $180 million investment

Nubank, the Brazilian financial services company, has raised $180 million from the Chinese internet giant, Tencent. Tencent has long been interested in financial services startups, and with its $90 million direct investment and another $90 million investment in the secondary market the company now has access to what is arguably the largest digital banking company in the world. With the $4 billion valuation, it also makes Nubank one of the most highly valued privately held startups in Latin America. News of the investment was first reported by The Information, which included the $4 billion figure. For Nubank cofounders David Velez and Cristina Junqueira, the investment from Tencent means the addition of a strategic partner whose financial services products and transaction platform is unmatched by anything in Western Europe or the U.S. Velez stressed that Nubank, which had raised $150 million in a February financing round led by
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Petal’s no-fee credit card for the credit score-less is now open to the public

Petal, the startup credit card company that’s offering a no-fee credit line to people without a credit history, is now publicly available. Launched earlier this year by co-founders Jason Gross, Andrew Endicott, Andrew Ehrich, and Jake Arenas, Petal has received a $34 million credit facility from Jeffries and Silicon Valley Bank to bring its consumer lending product to the masses. That money will take Petal beyond the few thousand customers that have trialed the company’s credit card in a pre-release to broad distribution for applicants. Petal uses information from a customer’s bank account and payments to develop a credit score for individuals who haven’t had time to build up a financial picture that most banks or credit card companies use to create risk profiles and issue credit. “We use more data than credit history to make credit decisions,” says Jason Gross, Petal’s co-founder and chief executive. “They’re common sense metrics
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Mobile bank Chime picks up credit score improvement service Pinch in all-stock deal

Chime, the no-fees mobile bank valued at $500 million as of its last round, has put some of its funds to use with its first acquisition. The deal is for Pinch, a startup that was focused on helping millennials and other young adults build better credit. It was best known for a service called PinchRent, which allowed users to increase their credit scores over time by reporting on-time rent payments to credit bureaus. Millennials can sometimes struggle to improve their credit, or are uneducated about what their credit scores mean, studies have shown. And like any younger demographic, they may also be afflicted with shorter credit histories, which impacts those scores, too. Many in this age group have said that their low credit scores are holding them back, and millennials prefer debit to credit, Visa has reported. Pinch’s focus was to provide a different way
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With a $10 million round, Nigeria’s Paga plans global expansion

Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for an international expansion with $10 million in funding let by the Global Innovation Fund. 

The company is planning to release its payments product in Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines—CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch at Disrupt San Francisco.

Paga looks to go head to head with regional and global payment players, such as PayPal, Alipay, and Safaricom’s M-Pesa, according to Oviosu.

“We are not only in a position to compete with them, we’re going beyond them,” he  said of Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile money product. “Our goal is to

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Clinc expands to automotive, releases SaaS platform for its voice AI assistant

Clinc co-founder and CEO Jason Mars just announced the company is expanding to a third vertical: Automotive. The company, which started in fintech and recently unveiled a product for drive-thru restaurants, is aiming its voice AI service at the automotive industry. The idea is to give automakers a platform that they can integrate into their vehicles that will allow drivers to control and interact with their vehicles through natural language. Launching alongside the new product, Clinc also revealed a platform to give developers access to the conversational AI. The company says it’s easy enough for developers with little to no experience in machine learning to build with Clinc’s products. Clinc’s conversational AI is fantastic and the company’s products in other verticals show that if it’s used by automakers, the technology could usher in a new wave of user interfaces. This is not Siri.

Crypto market crashes after Goldman reportedly scraps trading plans

The crypto market is down significantly today, practically across the board of all coins, following a report that claims Goldman Sachs has backed down on plans to start a dedicated cryptocurrency trading desk. Bitcoin is down over five percent in the last 24 hours, but ‘altcoins’ have been hit harder. Ethereum (down 14 percent), XRP (down 13 percent), EOS (down 16 percent) and Litecoin (down 11 percent) are seeing bigger drops, according to data from Coinmarketcap.com. Business Insider reported this week that Goldman has backed down on its aspiration to enter crypto trading due to continued uncertainty around regulation. That’s according to sources, although it does appear that the bank is holding off making a full-on commitment to crypto. “At this point, we have not reached a conclusion on the scope of our digital asset offering,” a Goldman spokesperson told Reuters in a statement. Added to that, there may
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Lending startup Portal Finance nabs $200 million for small business loans in Latin America

Latin American small businesses just got a big boost with a new commitment for a $200 million lending joint venture between the Bogota-based startup Portal Finance and Latin America’s largest financial services institution, BTG Pactual. For Portal Finance, the deal with BTG caps a meteoric rise, which has seen the company raise $1.5 million at a $60 million valuation and move from a small $5 million lending pilot to a $200 million deal in the span of two years. “A year ago we were four guys in a closet. Now we’re 70 people,” says Diego Caicedo, the company’s chief executive and co-founder.  The company’s success is a testament to the changing fortunes of many Latin American economies and the role that venture capital is playing. For the last several years Colombia’s economic fortunes have been rising since the successful conclusion of peace talks with the country’s largest
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Xiaomi backs Indian consumer lending startup ZestMoney in $13.4M deal

Xiaomi has continued its investment in India after it led a $13.4 million round for fintech startup ZestMoney. The newly-public Chinese firm previously said it would invest up to $1 billion in India and Indian startups over a five-year period, and this deal follows its maiden India fintech investment in lending platform KrazyBee. The new capital is an extension to ZestMoney’s recently closed $6.5 million Series A, and it takes the company to $22 million raised to date. Existing backers PayU, Ribbit Capital and Omidyar Network joined Xiaomi in this ‘Series A2’ round. ZestMoney was founded in 2015 by British entrepreneur Lizzie Chapman, who moved to India in 2011 to head up payday loan startup Wonga’s division in the country. Wonga — which is reportedly close to shutting down — didn’t ultimately pursue that opportunity. After a spell consulting, Chapman reunited with her former Wonga India colleagues Ashish Anantharaman and
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What happens when hackers steal your SIM? You learn to keep your crypto offline

A year ago I felt a panic that still reverberates in me today. Hackers swapped my T-Mobile SIM card without my approval and methodically shut down access to most of my accounts and began reaching out to my Facebook friends asking to borrow crypto. Their social engineering tactics, to be clear, were laughable but they could have been catastrophic if my friends were less savvy. Flash forward a year and the same thing happened to me again – my LTE coverage winked out at about 9pm and it appeared that my phone was disconnected from the network. Panicked, I rushed to my computer to try to salvage everything I could before more damage occurred. It was a false alarm but my pulse went up and I broke out in a cold sweat. I had dealt with this once before and didn’t want to deal with it again. Sadly, I probably
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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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