Microsoft’s new expense tracker Spend hits the App Store

The team behind mileage-tracking app MileIQ, a company Microsoft acquired a few years ago, is out with a new application. This time, the focus isn’t on tracking miles, but rather expenses. The new app, simply called “Spend,” arrived on the App Store on Thursday, offering automatic expense tracking for work reimbursement purposes or for taxes.

Spend doesn’t appear to be a part of some grand Microsoft plan to take on expense tracking industry giants, like Expensify or SAP-owned Concur, for example. At least, not at this time. Instead, the app is a Microsoft Garage project, the App Store clarifies. Microsoft Garage is the company’s internal incubator when employees can test out new ideas to see if they resonate with consumers and business users. Through the program, a number of interesting projects have gotten their start over the years, like the Cortana-based dictation tool, Dictate; mobile
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PayPal and American Express expand partnership, will allow use of points for PayPal purchases

PayPal this week announced an expanded relationship with American Express that will allow cardholders to use their Membership Rewards points when shopping from PayPal merchants, as well as more integrated experience within both PayPal and the Amex apps, among other things.

The deal is similar to those PayPal earlier struck with Visa and MasterCard., and follows a series of partnerships it has made across the industry, including others with Apple, Google, Samsung, and, most recently, Walmart, designed to increase its PayPal’s visibility and adoption. In addition to using points for purchases at PayPal’s millions of online merchants, the new partnership will also allow Amex mobile app users to send money through PayPal or Venmo directly in the app. And they’ll be able to add their American Express cards to their PayPal wallet directly from the app, too. On PayPal’s side, users will be able to
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Twilio shops, Uber and Lyft IPO scuttlebutt, and Instacart raises $600M

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week we had the Three Excellent Friends (Connie Loizos, Danny Chrichton, and Alex Wilhelm) on hand to kick things about with Scale Venture Partner’s own Rory O’Driscoll. As I’ve written the last few weeks, what a pile of news we’ve had recently. And like the last few episodes, we had to pick and choose what to drill into. This week: Twilio-Sendgrid, Palantir, Uber, Lyft, and Tencent Music IPOs, Instacart, and Saudi Arabia. In order, I think? First, we tackled the week’s biggest venture-themed M&A: Twilio buying SendGrid. Keep in mind that they are both recent IPOs; Twilio went out in 2016, and SendGrid in 2017. The $2 billion-ish all-stock transaction is effectively Twilio using its rich market cap (rich in terms of its revenue and profit
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These are the most successful companies to emerge from Y Combinator

Earlier this month, Brex, a credit card provider to startups, announced it had raised $125 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

The round was impressive for a couple of reasons. 1. The founders are a pair of 22-year-olds that had set out to build a virtual reality company before pivoting to payments. And 2. They had only completed Y Combinator, a well-known Silicon Valley startup accelerator, the year prior. Y Combinator is responsible for many successes in the startup world, certainly more than its fellow accelerators, which are all known to provide early-stage companies with a seed investment  — in YC’s case, $150,000 — mentorship and educational resources through a short-term program that culminates in a demo day. Today, YC has released the latest list of its most successful companies since it began backing startups in 2005. Ranked by valuation and/or market cap, Brex, sure enough, is
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Anaplan hits the ground running with strong stock market debut up over 42 percent

You might think that Anaplan CEO, Frank Calderoni would have had a few sleepless nights this week. His company picked a bad week to go public as market instability rocked tech stocks. Still he wasn’t worried, and today the company had by any measure a successful debut with the stock soaring up over 42 percent. As of 4 pm ET, it hit $24.18, up from the IPO price of $17. Not a bad way to launch your company.

Stock Chart: Yahoo Finance

“I feel good because it really shows the quality of the company, the business model that we have and how we’ve been able to build a growing successful business, and I think it provides us with a tremendous amount of opportunity going forward,” Calderoni told TechCrunch. Calderoni joined the company a couple of years ago, and seemed to emerge from Silicon Valley central casting as former CFO
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SpankChain spanked

SpankChain, a cryptocurrency aimed at decentralized sex cams, has announced that a hacker stole about $38,000 from their payment channel thanks to a broken smart contract. They wrote:

At 6pm PST Saturday, an unknown attacker drained 165.38 ETH (~$38,000) from our payment channel smart contract which also resulted in $4,000 worth of BOOTY on the contract becoming immobilized. Of the stolen/immobilized ETH/BOOTY, 34.99 ETH (~$8,000) and 1271.88 BOOTY belongs to users (~$9,300 total), and the rest belonged to SpankChain. Our immediate priority has been to provide complete reimbursements to all users who lost funds. We are preparing an ETH airdrop to cover all $9,300 worth of ETH and BOOTY that belonged to users. Funds will be sent directly to users’ SpankPay accounts, and will be available as soon as we reboot Spank.Live.
The hacker used a ‘reentrancy’ bug in which the user calls the same
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Walmart will now allow shoppers to access PayPal cash in stores

Walmart and PayPal this morning announced a partnership that will see the two collaborating on financial services and products, including new PayPal cash in and cash out services at Walmart stores, as well as the ability for PayPal Cash MasterCard customers to access their cash balance in-store at service desks, ATMs and cash registers.

The PayPal cash in and cash out money services will cost customers a $3 service fee, the companies say, as will the ability to pull cash out from MasterCard while in store. The companies declined to say how that fee is being shared. Customers are also able to load cash into their PayPal balance while at Walmart, but this is not a new service as of today, we’re told. The deal marks the first time that PayPal mobile app users will be able to take cash out from their PayPal balance while in a brick-and-mortar environment,
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Zuora partners with Amazon Pay to expand subscription billing options

Zuora, the SaaS company helping organizations manage payments for subscription businesses, announced today that it had been selected as a Premier Partner in the Amazon Pay Global Partner Program. 

The “Premier Partner” distinction means businesses using Zuora’s billing platform can now easily integrate Amazon’s digital payment system as an option during checkout or recurring payment processes. 

The strategic rationale for Zuora is clear, as the partnership expands the company’s product offering to prospective and existing customers.  The ability to support a wide array of payment methodologies is a key value proposition for subscription businesses that enables them to service a larger customer base and provide a more seamless customer experience.

It also doesn’t hurt to have a deep-pocketed ally like Amazon in a fairly early-stage industry.  With omnipotent tech titans waging war over digital payment dominance, Amazon has reportedly doubled down on efforts to spread Amazon

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The Hack Fund will use crypto to give startups early liquidity

Now that “utility” tokens have become a popular and international way to fund major blockchain projects, a pair of investors are creating a new way to turn tokens into true equities. The investors, Jonathan Nelson and Laura Nelson, have created Hack Fund, an early stage investment vehicle that allows startups to launch what amounts to “blockchain stock certificates,” according to Jonathan.

“Our previous business model exchanged equity from startup companies for services, and wrapped that equity into funds that we then sold to investors. These fund investors have included family offices, institutions, and high net worth individuals,” said Jonathan. “However, Hack Fund represents a new business model. Because Hack Fund leverages the blockchain, investors all over the world at all levels can participate in startup investing by trading blockchain stock certificates. Also, its SEC compliant structure means that it is also available to a limited number of accredited investors
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Robinhood cuts trading fees, grows profits with in-house clearing

As zero-commission stock trading app Robinhood starts preparing to IPO, an engineering investment two years in the making could accelerate its quest for profitability. Most stock broker services have to pay an external clearing house to reconcile trades between buyers and sellers. Now with 6 million accounts, that added up to a huge cost for Robinhood since it doesn’t demand a trading fee like the $7 to $10 that incumbent competitors E*Trade and Scottrade charge. Relying on outside clearing also introduced bottlenecks around its innovation and user sign ups, limiting onboarding to business hours.

But today Robinhood will start migrating accounts to its new in-house clearing service over the next few months. That will save it from paying clearing fees on stock, option, ETF, and cryptocurrency trades. In turn, Robinhood is eliminating or reducing some of its edge case fees. $10 broker assisted trades, $10 restricted accounts, $50 voluntary

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Venture capital investment in US companies to hit $100B in 2018

So many new unicorns valued at $1 billion-plus, countless $100 million venture financings, an explosion of giant funds — it’s no surprise 2018 is shaping up to be a banner year for venture capital investment in U.S.-based companies.

There are more than 2.5 months remaining in 2018 and already U.S. companies have raised $84.1 billion — more than all of 2017 — across 6,583 VC deals as of Sept. 30, 2018, according to data from PitchBook’s 3Q Venture Monitor. Last year, companies raised $82 billion across more than 9,000 deals in what was similarly an impressive year for the industry. Many questioned whether the trend would — or could — continue this year, and oh, boy has it. VC investment has sprinted past decade-highs and shows no signs of slowing down. Why the uptick? Fewer companies are raising money, but round sizes are swelling. Unicorns,
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Humbition is a new fund led by the Indiegogo’s Slava Rubin

Zocdoc founder Cyrus Massoumi and Indiegogo founder Slava Rubin have created a new $30 million fund called Humbition aimed at early stage, founder-led companies in New York. “The fund is focused on connecting startups with investors and advisors experienced in building and growing successful businesses,” said Rubin. “W are seeking to fill a void in NYC, where the vast majority of early stage investors have no significant experience building and scaling businesses,” he said. “The fund’s main areas of investment include marketplaces, consumer and health tech. But the primary criteria for investments is high quality founders. The fund is also seeking out mission-driven businesses because the companies that are socially responsible will be the most successful in the coming decades.” The fund has has brought on ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, Warby Parker founder Neil Blumenthal, Charity: Water CEO and founder Scott Harrison, and Casper founder and CEO Philip Krim
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Recent departures hint at turmoil at Quartet Health, a mental health startup backed by GV

Backed with nearly $87 million in venture capital funding from GV, Oak HC/FT and F-Prime Capital, Quartet Health was founded in 2014 by Arun Gupta, Steve Shulman and David Wennberg to improve access to behavioral healthcare. Its mission: “enable every person in our society to thrive by building a collaborative behavioral and physical health ecosystem.” Recent shakeups within the New York-based company’s c-suite and a perusal of its Glassdoor profile suggest Quartet’s culture is not fully in line with its own philosophy.   In the last few weeks, chief product officer Rajesh Midha has left the company and president and chief operating officer David Liu is on his way out, TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with Quartet. Founding chief executive officer Arun Gupta, meanwhile, has stepped into the executive chairman role, relinquishing responsibility of the company’s day-to-day operations to former chief science officer David Wennberg, who’s
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How the 22-year-old founders of Brex built a billion-dollar business in less than 2 years

When Brazilian-born Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi met at 16 years old, they bonded over a love of coding and mutual frustrations with their strict mothers, who didn’t understand their Mark Zuckerberg-esque ambitions.  To be fair, their moms’ fear of their hacking habits only escalated after their pre-teen sons received legal notices of patent infringements in the mail. A legal threat from Apple, which Franceschi received after discovering the first jailbreak to the iPhone, is enough to warrant a grounding, at the very least. Their parents implored them to quit the hacking and stop messing around online. They didn’t listen. Today, the now 22-year-olds are announcing a $125 million Series C for their second successful payments business, called Brex, at a $1.1 billion valuation. Greenoaks Capital, DST Global and IVP led the round, which brings their total raised to date to about $200 million. San Francisco-based Brex
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Study says the US is quickly losing its entrepreneurial edge

Photographer: Daro Sulakauri/Bloomberg

According to a new study conducted by the Center for American Entrepreneurship and NYU’s Shack Institute of Real Estate, the US may be losing its competitive advantage as the dominant nucleus of the startup and venture capital universe. 

The analysis, led by senior Brookings Institute fellow Ian Hathaway and “Rise of the Creative Class” author Richard Florida, examines the flow of venture capital over 100,000 deals from 2005 to 2017 and details how the historically US-centric practice of venture capital has become a global phenomenon.

While the US still appears to produce the largest amount of venture activity in the world, America’s share of the global pie is falling dramatically and doing so quickly.

In the mid-90s, the US accounted for more than 95% of global venture capital investment.  By 2012, this number had fallen to 70%. At the end of

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African financial technology startups move beyond payment services

If mobile money was the first phase in the development of digital finance in Africa, the next phase of digital financial services on the continent will focus on lending, insurance and wealth management

In “Beyond Payments: The Next Generation of Fintech Startups in Sub-Saharan Africa,” the venture capital firm Village Global, and their reporting partner, PayPal, tip their hat to M-Pesa and mobile money in Africa, but say that there’s a wave of innovation still to come.

The investment firm identified f 12 companies it determined were “building solutions in fintech subsectors outside of payments.”

In partnership with PayPal, Village Capital

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Square sellers can now offer their customers payment plans

Square today launched a new service that will allow its small business sellers to offer financing to their customers. Square Installments, as the service is called, will be available at launch to sellers in 22 U.S. states for purchases between $250 and $10,000. Customers can apply to pay for their purchase over 3, 6, or 12 months’ time. Interest rates for the purchases will range between 0 and 24%, Square says, and decisions on approvals will be made in real-time. The company designed the process to be quick and transparent, only requiring a brief application process that can be done at any time – including either in the store or at home. When approved, Square also spells out what the total cost will be, and displays the monthly payment options available. Square says it came to the decision to move into consumer lending services because of customer demand. A
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Tencent backs fintech firm Voyager to set up battle with Alibaba in the Philippines

China’s internet battle is rapidly reproducing itself in Southeast Asia. One new hotspot is the Philippines, where Tencent just agreed to invest in Voyager, a fintech business started by telecom firm PLDT. The deal would bring Tencent into direct competition with arch-rival Alibaba, which entered the Philippines 18 months ago when its fintech affiliate Ant Financial invested in Mynt, a financial venture from Globe Telecom which is a competitor to Voyager. Following a week of speculation, PLDT announced a deal today that sees Tencent and KKR pay up to $175 million for a minority stake in the Voyager business. There have been reports that PLDT is looking to sell its majority stake, for now that has been retained but the firm did say that it has options to add other investors via the creation of new shares that would reduce its total holdings to less than 50 percent.
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Former Uber exec Andrew Chapin takes the wraps off his stealth mental health startup

One can only imagine what it was like to work at Uber in the years leading up to Susan Fowler’s infamous blog post. Many of the company’s leaders were said to be overly-competitive, sexist and inappropriate — “brilliant jerks,” as Arianna Huffington once said, — and its over-arching “move fast and break things” mentality hardly left room for employees to take a step back and reflect on how the company’s culture was impacting their mental health. Andrew Chapin joined Uber in 2011 as one of its first hires in New York. He worked his way up to head of vehicle solutions and established Uber’s vehicle finance program, which helps drivers obtain and pay off car leases. He says the struggles within the company gave him severe anxiety, something he was all too familiar with from his stint as a commodities trader at Goldman Sachs. “There were days when I was walking
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Africa Roundup: Paga goes global and 4 startups raise $99M in VC

Nigerian digital payments startup Paga is gearing up for international expansion with a $10 million round led by the Global Innovation Fund. The company is exploring the release of its payments product in Ethiopia, Mexico, and the Philippines—CEO Tayo Oviosu told TechCrunch.

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

“We are not only in a position to compete with them, we’re going beyond them,” he  said of Kenya’s  href="https://crunchbase.com/organization/m-pesa" data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://crunchbase.com/organization/m-pesa&source=gmail&ust=1538690131434000&usg=AFQjCNFh9TKfy2mvIHjw_XVc1R63-ggIJg">M-Pesa  mobile money product. “Our goal is to build a global payment ecosystem across many
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