Drip Capital helps exporters access working capital

Drip Capital is raising a $20 million funding round from Accel, Wing VC and Sequoia India. The company is helping small exporters in emerging markets access working capital in order to finance big orders. The startup also participated in Y Combinator back in 2015. Many small companies in emerging markets have to turn down orders because they can’t finance big orders. Even if you found a client in the U.S. or Europe, chances are companies will end up paying for your order a month or two after signing a contract. If you’re an importer or an exporter, capital is arguably your most valuable resource. You know where to source your products and how to ship many goods. But you still need to buy goods yourself. And in many emerging markets, you have to pay right away. It creates a sort of capital gap. At the same time, local banks
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Grove just raised $8 million to make traditional financial planning affordable to pretty much everyone

Financial advisors aren’t cheap to use. They aren’t always seen as trustworthy, either, with many advisors receiving — or perceived as receiving — incentives for recommending certain products over others. Grove, a two-year-old, San Francisco-based startup, is taking on both of these issues through software that makes it easier to its own financial advisors – who are paid a straight salary — to help greater numbers of people, and more cost-effectively. Specifically, for $600 a year, a customer can talk with or email his or her financial advisor about all kinds of big and small decisions, from which index funds are worth considering, to whether a particular house is within reach given that person’s retirement goals. So far, the company has just 12 employees, half of whom are financial advisors and the other half of whom are working on the product itself. Cofounder and CEO Chris Hutchins won’t reveal
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PitchBook now offers users suggested companies when they search

This one’s for all the due diligence fiends and competitive landscape mapping mavens out there. PitchBook, the data and analytics service for private equity and public markets, is rolling out an automated suggestions feature for premium users when they’re doing searches on companies for market intelligence. The new service is based on machine learning technology that scours PitchBook’s financially focused information and data set. Each word in a description is represented in 300 dimensional space using the global vectors for word representation software lifted from researchers at Google and Stanford, and those vectors are then applied to companies to determine their various relationships. “The differentiator for why the output of this is going to be high quality. When we look up a company is because we have this proprietary set of financial related news and information,” says Tyler Martinez, the director of software engineering and data science at PitchBook.
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Personal finance startup SmartAsset raises $28M

I first wrote about SmartAsset nearly six years ago, when it launched its first product, a tool allowing prospective homebuyers to analyze the rent vs. buy decision and to see what kind of home they could actually afford. According to co-founder and CEO Michael Carvin, “On the consumer side, our strategy has never really changed. Our mission is to help people make the best personal finance decisions and to build the web’s best resource for personal finance decision-making.” Of course, some aspects of the company have evolved. For one thing, SmartAsset now offers tools, calculators and content in a number of categories, including taxes, retirement and banking. For another, it’s announcing today that it has raised $28 million in Series C funding, bringing its total raised to more than $51 million. The new round comes from Focus Financial Partners (a firm backed by Stone Point Capital and KKR),
smartasset
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Investment advisory software developer SigFig raises $50 million

SigFig, the developer of an automated wealth management toolkit, has raised $50 million in a new round of funding.

The company said the new money would be used to continue its research and development.

The new funding was led by General Atlantic and included participation from existing investors like Bain Capital Ventures, DCM Ventures, Eaton Vance, New York Live, Nyca Partners, UBS and Union Square Ventures.

Unlike other tech-enabled advisory services firms like Betterment and WealthFront, which have primarily taken a direct to consumer approach, SigFig sells its tools primarily to financial services firms like Wells Fargo, UBS, and Citizens Bank.

SigFig also has a small direct to consumer business, which the company uses to test new products and services before bringing them to their main, business, customers.

SigFig’s chief executive and co-founder, Mike Sha, says that the blended approach of working with wealth managers actually allows his company

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Toss, Korea’s top payment app, raises $40M from Sequoia China and Singapore’s GIC

The largest payment app in South Korea, Toss, has pulled in $40 million in fresh investment from Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and Sequoia China. The deal for Viva Republica, Toss’s parent company, comes just over a year after it raised $48 million from payment giant PayPal and others. There’s no valuation for this newest round, but we do know that it is a ‘bridge’ intended to bring new investors in and help accelerate the business for a large raise further down the line. (It is also the first Korean investment for both GIC and Sequoia China.) Not that the business seems to need much more impetus for acceleration, growth is already strong. Viva Republica says that Toss’s registered user base has doubled over the past year to each eight million consumers, while it claims the app is processing $10 billion in transaction volume per month. The company forecasts
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Venmo is discontinuing web support for payments and more

PayPal-owned, peer-to-peer payments app Venmo is ending web support for its service, the company announced in an email to users. The changes, which are beginning to roll out now, will see the Venmo.com website phasing out support for making payments and charging users. In time, users will see even less functionality on the website, the company says. The message to users was quietly shared in the body of Venmo’s monthly transaction history email. It reads as follows:
NOTICE: Venmo has decided to phase out some of the functionality on the Venmo.com website over the coming months. We are beginning to discontinue the ability to pay and charge someone on the Venmo.com website, and over time, you may see less functionality on the website – this is just the start. We therefore have updated our user agreement to reflect that the use of Venmo on the Venmo.com
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Zelle forecast to overtake Venmo this year

Despite some concerns over its adoption by scammers, new payment service Zelle is shaping up to overtake rival Venmo this year, according to a new forecast from eMarketer. The firm expects Zelle to grow more than 73 percent in 2018, to reach 27.4 million users in the U.S., ahead of Venmo’s 22.9 million. Square Cash will trail with 9.5 million users. This growth isn’t necessarily chalked up to user preference, but rather, ubiquity. Zelle is backed by a network of over 30 U.S. banks, as their means of winning over users from other payment apps including Venmo, PayPal, and Square Cash. The banks had wanted to develop their own alternative these apps for several years, but only recently had those efforts gained momentum. The Zelle website now claims participation from over 100 financial institutions, as well as processor partners CO-OP Financial Services, FIS, Fiserv
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Scooters go mad, Opendoor wants to buy your house, and Meituan’s IPO

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This week was something of a first for the crew, twice. First, we had two guests on the show, and, also, we only made it through two and a half topics. The former is good, the latter is, well, we’ll see. So, this week Matthew Lynley and I were joined by David Chao, co-founder and general partner at DCM, and Steve Vassallo, a general partner at Foundation Capital. Points to both for being guinea pigs. Heading into our first topic I’m sorry to inform you that, at least in terms of Equity, scooters are the new Uber. So, we wound up talking about both this week. We started with the fact that Bird is raising new capital at an even more staggering valuation than before ($2 billion!), and that
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SEC says Ether isn’t a security, but tokens based on Ether can be

“In cases where there is no… central enterprise being invested in or where the digital asset is sold only to be used to purchase a good or service available through the network on which it was created,” that digital asset is “out of the purview of U.S. securities laws”, according to William Hinman, the director of the division of corporation finance at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This (edited) statement from Hinman at the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit: Crypto will likely be seen as the starting gun on a crypto free-for-all in the United States. Hinman’s comments were certainly a positive signal to the market. They sent the price of Ether spiking from $469 to $516 over the course of the past hour. While the markets may view this as an unadulterated victory for cryptocurrencies of all stripes, the Securities and Exchange Commission simply looks
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Seattle reverses controversial tax Amazon opposed, just a month after approving it

In an embarrassing and mystifying about-face, the Seattle City Council has repealed a tax it passed unanimously just a month ago that would require large companies to pay a fixed amount per employee; the money would have been used to combat homelessness. Amazon was the most high-profile opponent of the tax, but not the only one by far, and apparently the Council decided that fighting the business community was “not a winnable battle.” The situation was in some ways a microcosm for government and grassroots efforts to wrangle with the extremely complex relationship between the growth of tech and various housing crises. I won’t attempt to characterize it here, but Seattle had come to the conclusion that if your company had more than $20 million in receipts, it could afford to pay $275 (down from a proposed $500) per employee per year. That would have been some $11 million
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Celebrity funds from Jay Z, Will Smith and Robert Downey Jr. are backing a life insurance startup

Ethos, the company that bills itself as making life insurance accessible, affordable and simple, has officially come out of stealth with an $11.5 million investment led by on of the world’s top venture firms, Sequoia Capital, and additional participation from the family offices of Hollywood’s biggest stars and an NBA all-star.

Jay Z’s Roc Nation, the family funds of Kevin Durant, Robert Downey Jr. and Will Smith all participated in the new round for Ethos, and Sequoia Partner Roelof Botha is taking a seat on the company’s board. Because nothing says star power like a life insurance startup.

The life insurance market is one that’s been attracting interest from venture investors for a little over a year now. Companies like England’s Anorak, HealthIQ, Ladder, Mira Financial, France’s Alan, which is backed by Partech Investments (among others), Fabric, and Quilt, are all pitching life insurance products as well.

Ethos is

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Bitcoin price falls but doesn’t flatline

Those not looking at the Bitcoin markets lately will either gasp or smile. Bitcoin, down from its all time high of around $19,000, is now floating at $6,785 as of this writing. To many this means that either the Bitcoin experiment is over or, to many more, that it has just begun. There are plenty of folks who will have been hurt by this crash. I was speaking with a Romanian entrepreneur about his friend who bought BTC on a credit card only to find that he is wildly underwater. The volatility is also frightening to folks who might have gotten in on the last run up only to find themselves back at the start. I pity the poor waiter who a friend saw making Bitcoin trades at $18,000 during his shift. I hope he sold. But there are no signs that the cryptocurrency train is stopping. Startups around the
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Korean crypto exchange Coinrail loses over $40M in tokens following a hack

Another day, another crypto hack. This time it’s Korea, the crypto-mad Asian country, where an exchange called Coinrail lost more than $40 million in altcoins, ICO-issued tokens that aren’t bitcoin or Ethereum, after it was hit by an apparent attack over the weekend. Korea may be a hot spot for crypto investment, but Coinrail is one of its smaller exchanges, just about ranking inside the world’s top 90 based on trading volume, according to coinmarketcap.com. Nonetheless, even the smaller exchanges have plenty of coins, as the size of this heist illustrates. Most notably, the hackers got away with $19.5 million-worth of NPXS tokens that were issued by payment project Pundi X’s ICO. Added to that they scored a further $13.8 million from Aston X, an ICO project building a platform to decentralize documents, $5.8 million in tokens for Dent, a mobile data ICO, and over
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Accenture wants to beat unfair AI with a professional toolkit

Next week professional services firm Accenture will be launching a new tool to help its customers identify and fix unfair bias in AI algorithms. The idea is to catch discrimination before it gets baked into models and can cause human damage at scale. The “AI fairness tool”, as it’s being described, is one piece of a wider package the consultancy firm has recently started offering its customers around transparency and ethics for machine learning deployments — while still pushing businesses to adopt and deploy AI. (So the intent, at least, can be summed up as: ‘Move fast and don’t break things’. Or, in very condensed corporate-speak: “Agile ethics”.)  “Most of last year was spent… understanding this realm of ethics and AI and really educating ourselves, and I feel that 2018 has really become the year of doing — the year of moving beyond virtue signaling. And moving into
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US startups off to a strong M&A run in 2018

With Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub this week, we can now decisively declare a trend: 2018 is shaping up as a darn good year for U.S. venture-backed M&A. So far this year, acquirers have spent just over $20 billion in disclosed-price purchases of U.S. VC-funded companies, according to Crunchbase data. That’s about 80 percent of the 2017 full-year total, which is pretty impressive, considering we’re barely five months into 2018. If one included unreported purchase prices, the totals would be quite a bit higher. Fewer than 20 percent of acquisitions in our data set came with reported prices.1 Undisclosed prices are mostly for smaller deals, but not always. We put together a list of a
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GitHub’s epic exit, Domo’s dicey math, and Dataminr’s big raise

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast, where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines. This time ’round we had Connie and Alex on hand with Brian Ascher, a longtime partner with Venrock down in Palo Alto, Ca. It was a surprisingly busy week, so we had our work cut out us. Without further ado:

Alibaba’s Ant Financial fintech affiliate raises $14 billion to continue its global expansion

Ant Financial, the financial services affiliate connected to Alibaba which operates the Alipay mobile payment service, has confirmed that it has closed a Series C funding round that totals an enormous $14 billion. The rumors have been flying about this huge financing deal for the past month or so, with multiple publications reporting that Ant — which has been strongly linked with an IPO — was in the market to raise at least $9 billion at a valuation of upwards of $100 billion. That turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg here. The money comes via a tranche of U.S. dollar financing and Chinese RMB from local investors. Those names include Singapore-based sovereign funds GIC and Temasek, Malaysian sovereign fund Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Warburg Pincus, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Silver Lake and General Atlantic. Ant said that the money will go towards extending its global
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Stitch fix blows out Wall Street’s expectations and announces the launch of Stitch Fix Kids

Stitch Fix, one of last year’s high-profile IPOs, has had a bumpy ride for the past few quarters — but it blew out expectations this afternoon for its most recent quarter, and the stock went absolutely nuts. There’s also a ton of news coming out from the company today, including the hire of a new chief marketing officer as well as the launch of Stitch Fix Kids. All this is pretty good timing because the company appears to be cramming everything into one announcement that is serving as a very pleasant surprise to Wall Street, which is looking for as many signals as it can get that the subscription e-commerce company will end up as one of the more successful IPO stories. Shares of the company are up more than 14% after the release came out, where the company beat out expectations that Wall Street set across the board —
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M17 delays IPO debut after pricing this morning on NYSE

M17 Entertainment, a Taipei-based live streaming and dating app group, priced its IPO this morning on the NYSE and was expected to open trading today according to their final press release. But with just a little more than two hours to go before market closing, it’s still not trading, and no one seems to know why. An interview I had scheduled with the CEO earlier this afternoon was canceled at the last minute, with the company’s representative saying that M17 couldn’t comment since its shares were not yet actively trading, and thus the company remains under an SEC-mandated quiet period. M17 has had a rocky non-debut so far. Originally targeting a fundraise of $115 million of American Depository Receipts (shares of foreign companies listed domestically on the NYSE), the company concluded its roadshow raising less than half of its target, for a final investment of $60.1 million. The
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