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Bolt adds $75M to its Series C, as the battle to rule online checkout continues

Bolt, a startup that offers online checkout technology to retailers, announced this morning that it has added $ 75 million to its Series C round, bringing the financing to a total of $ 125 million.

WestCap and General Atlantic led the new tranche, which Bolt CEO Ryan Breslow told TechCrunch was raised at around twice its Series C valuation. PitchBook pegs the company’s Series C at a post-money valuation of $ 500 million, implying that the Series C1 values Bolt at around $ 1 billion.

The company is calling the latest check its “Series C1.’ Why not just call it a Series D? According to Breslow, Bolt’s future Series D will be much larger.

While Bolt’s creatively demarcated Series C1 is interesting, the capital event is in line with how the checkout space is growing in aggregate right now. There’s a lot of money being put to work on solving a particular e-commerce pain point.

Fast, a competing online checkout software provider, raised $ 20 million in March. And this June, Checkout.com, which is based in England but has a global stable of offices, raised $ 150 million at a $ 5.5 billion valuation.

Bolt, meanwhile, announced the first $ 50 million of its Series C in July. The company’s C1 event, therefore, represents not only the fourth major investment into checkout tech this year, but it also fits into a now-regular trend of fast-growing startups raising two checks in 2020 — companies like Welcome, Skyflow, AgentSync and Bestow also completed the feat this year.

But enough talking about its market. Let’s dig into what Bolt is building and why it just took on another truckload of cash.

Series C1

Bolt offers four connected services: checkout, payments, user accounts and fraud protection.

The company’s core offering is its checkout product, which it claims is both faster than comparable industry averages and has higher conversion rates. The startup’s payments and fraud services fits into its checkout universe by ensuring that transactions are real and that payments can be accepted. Finally, Bolt’s user accounts (shoppers are prompted to save their credentials when they first execute a purchase with the startup’s tech) boost the chance that someone who has checked out online using its tech will do so again in the future, helping Bolt to sell its service and ensure customers benefit from it.

The more shoppers that Bolt can attract, the more accounts it will have in the market feeding more data into its anti-fraud tool and checkout personalization technology.

And Bolt is reaching more online buyers, with the company claiming a roughly 10x gain of the number of people who have made accounts with its service this year. According to Breslow, the number was around 450,000 last December. It’s around 4.5 million now, he said, and Bolt expects the figure to reach 30 million next year.

Given the huge scale of its expected account creation, TechCrunch asked Breslow about his confidence interval in the number. He said 90%, thanks to Authentic Brands Group (ABG) linking up with Bolt, a deal that his company announced last month. Breslow said that ABG has 50 million shoppers; perhaps the 30 million figure is possible.

(Distribution for checkout tech is like oxygen, so competing companies in the space love to chat about their availability gains. Here’s Fast talking about being supported by WooCommerce from last week, for example. Fast declined to share processing growth metrics with TechCrunch after that announcement.)

Bolt’s historical shopper growth has paid dividends for its total transaction volume. The company told TechCrunch that it processed around $ 1 billion in transactions this year, up around 3.5x from its 2019 gross merchandise volume (GMV). That approximate pace of growth implies a roughly $ 286 million GMV result for Bolt last year; how far the company can scale that figure in 2021 will be our chief measuring stick for how well its ABG deal performs.

Breslow told TechCrunch that Bolt expects to 3x its GMV in 2021, which we read as implying a roughly $ 3 billion number.

But don’t just take that figure, apply a payment processing percentage, and walk away with a revenue guess for Bolt. The company does make money from payments, but also from charging for its other services — like fraud protection — on a SaaS basis. So Bolt is a hybrid payments-and-software company, an increasingly popular model, though one that certain categories of software are slow to pick up on.

Underpinning Bolt’s plans to treble GMV and greatly expand its shopper network is its new capital. The $ 75 million cache of new dollars is going into handling market demand, moving upmarket and engineering, the company said. In short there’s a lot of in-market demand for better checkout tech — hence all the venture activity — and larger customers need more customizations and sales support. Bolt is going to spend on that.

Given that Bolt just reloaded, it would not be a surprise to see Fast or Checkout.com raise more capital in Q1 or Q2 of 2021. More when that happens.

Startups – TechCrunch

Ramp raises $30M as the battle to own corporate spend heats up

Corporate spend management startup Ramp has raised $ 30 million more in a new round, it announced today. TechCrunch covered Ramp’s launch earlier this year, when it also detailed that it had raised around $ 23 million up to that point.

The startup raised its latest round in August of 2020, with conversations about the deal kicking off in June. The new capital is Ramp’s second priced raise after its August, 2019 seed round worth $ 8 million and the first after its February, 2020-era $ 15 million raise. D1 and Coatue were new investors in this new investment, which included some prior backers.

Ramp CEO Eric Glyman called the new equity something akin to a Series A3, noting that it had effectively reused docs from a preceding round, albeit with a new price attached. Venture history purists could argue that Ramp’s new raise was the company’s Series B — the second priced round after its seed — or that it is really a Series C, as the startup’s seed round was as big as a 2000s-era A and was also a priced event.

Whatever.

Ramp did not need the funds. Per Glyman, the startup still had part of its original seed round in the bank when it raised the latest check. That implies that the company had more than $ 45 million in cash as of August, 2020.

Asked why he raised the capital if it was not needed, the CEO told TechCrunch that its new investors had “pretty unbelievable” investment track records. And Glyman added that the round was attractively priced, limiting dilution. The exec also said that having the new funds helped Ramp hire more aggressively with confidence.

But while the round is interesting to a degree, more intriguing is the space in which Ramp competes. So let’s talk about the power of software, and when the startup and its competitors might start charging more for their deployed code.

Software

Ramp competes for market share in corporate spend management, an active vertical with a number of venture-backed players. That actor density has generated a level of competition that has rewritten the ground rules for getting credit and charge cards into the hands of companies. The table stakes are higher than ever in the niche.

Why? Because issuing credit and debit cards to consumers and corporations has largely been commoditized, causing startups hunting for slices of spend via interchange to build increasingly powerful software suites around their original products; if you can’t entice new customers with fancy cards, how about lots of digital tooling built around spend itself, to help your company manage and limit cash outflows?

The examples of this trend are myriad: Brex built out a cash management solution, for example, and expense management tools. Ramp itself launched expense management software of its own this year, and Divvy has a similar service along with other card-related software tools.

Venture capitalists have poured $ 55 million into Ramp, by our count, north of $ 400 million into Brex, not counting debt raised by the unicorn, and more than $ 250 million into Divvy . So, the game of building increasingly robust software stacks atop corporate cards is one to watch, as the scale of venture bets made on the key players in the space is titanic.

Ramp is dropping new code with its funding news, underscoring the point. The company recently added vendor management tooling, and is now adding reimbursing capabilities so that employees can be paid back for expenses not made on the startup’s cards.

Which of the three has the best software stack? They each think that they do, we reckon.

The result of the efforts by Ramp and its competitors to build out software around their card offerings has been rapid customer growth. Divvy, reached this week concerning its own metrics, told TechCrunch that it has seen its customer number expand 120% in 2020 and total spend on its platform rise 100% this year. Brex declined to share growth metrics.

Ramp announced its own growth figures as part of its news passel, including that it reached $ 100 million in spend on its platform in the first 18 months following its incorporation (a somewhat non-GAAP time frame, we admit), and that a quarter of the total spend that it has supported for corporations was recorded in the last 30 days.

There appears to be plenty of market for the startups to grow into, just as there is plenty of capital available for them to tap.

To close, a question: When will corporate spend management startups flip the switch, and start to charge for their software suite? Currently the trio make money largely from interchange, collecting a tiny piece of transactions that they power with their cards. This scales well, and keeps friction of signing up new customers low; after all, who doesn’t want a free set of financial tooling?

But, eventually, they will charge for their software. SaaS revenue is simply too highly valued to not go after. At some point. Perhaps that day will mark the end of the corporate spend land logo grab, and the start of the software niche’s maturation. At which point I expect new competitors to sprout up and the cycle to repeat.

Startups – TechCrunch

Buhari calls for increased regional collaboration in Africa to battle insecurity – Nairametrics

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