SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) — LG Electronics Inc. will seek “open innovation” in cooperation with global partners to lead the era induced by the pandemic, its chief technology officer said, hinting that the South Korean tech giant could forge more partnerships in the future.
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Openbase founder Lior Grossman started his company the way that many founders do — to solve a problem he was having. In this case, it was finding the right open source components to build his software. He decided to build something to solve the problem, and Openbase was born.
Today, the company announced a $ 3.65 million seed round led by Zeev Ventures with participation from Y Combinator and 20 individual tech industry investors. Openbase was a member of the YC 2020 cohort.
Grossman says that being part of YC helped him meet investors, especially on Demo Day when hundreds of investors listened in. “I would say that being part of YC definitely gave us a higher profile, and exposed us to some investors that I didn’t know before. It definitely opened doors for us,” he said.
As developers build modern software, they often use open source components to help build the application, and Openbase helps them find the best one for their purposes. “Openbase basically helps developers choose from among millions of open source packages,” Grossman told me.
Grossman found that his idea began resonating with developers shortly after he launched in 2019. In fact, he reports that he went from zero to half a million users in the first year without any marketing beyond word of mouth. That’s when he decided to apply to Y Combinator and got into the Summer 2020 class.
The database is free for developers and that has helped build the user base so quickly. Eventually he hopes to monetize by allowing certain companies to promote their packages on the system. He says that these will be clearly marked and that the plan is to have only one promoted package per category. What’s more, they will retain all their user reviews and other associated data, regardless of whether it’s being promoted or not.
Grossman started the company on his own, but has added 5 employees with plans to hire more people this year to keep growing the startup. As an immigrant founder, he is sensitive to diversity and sees building a diverse company as a key goal. “I built this company as an immigrant myself […] and I want to build an inclusive culture with people from different backgrounds because I think that will produce the best environment to foster innovation,” he explained.
So far the company has been fully remote, but the plan is to open an office post-pandemic. He says he sees a highly flexible approach to work though with people spending some days in the office and some at home. “I think for our culture this hybrid approach will work. Whenever we expand further I obviously imagine having more offices and not only our office in San Francisco.”
Being “underbanked” doesn’t mean that someone lacks access to financial services. Instead, it often means they don’t have traditional bank accounts or credit cards. But in markets like Indonesia, many still use digital wallets or e-commerce platforms, creating alternative sources of user data that can help them secure working capital and other financial tools. Finantier, a Singapore-based open finance startup, wants to streamline that data with a single API that gives financial services access to user data, with their consent. It also includes machine learning-based analytics to enable credit scoring and KYC verifications.
Currently in beta mode with more than 20 clients, Finantier is busy getting ready to officially launch. It announced today that it has been accepted into Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 startup batch. The startup also also recently raised an undisclosed amount of pre-seed funding led by East Ventures, with participation from AC Ventures, Genesia Ventures, Two Culture Capital and other investors.
Finantier was founded earlier this year by Diego Rojas, Keng Low and Edwin Kusuma, all of whom have experience building products for fintech companies, with the mission of enabling open finance in emerging markets.
Open finance grew out of open banking, the same framework that Plaid and Tink are built on. Meant to give people more control over their financial data instead of keeping it siloed within banks and other institutions, users can decide to grant apps or websites secure access to information from their online accounts, including bank accounts, credit cards and digital wallets. Open banking refers mainly to payment accounts, while open finance, Finantier’s specialty, covers a larger gamut of services, including business lending, mortgages and insurance underwriting.
While Finantier is focusing first on Singapore and Indonesia, it plans to expand into other countries and become a global fintech company like Plaid. It’s already eyeing Vietnam and the Philippines and has established partnerships in Brussels.
Before launching Finantier, Rojas worked on products for peer-to-peer lending platforms Lending Club and Dianrong, and served as chief technology officer for several fintech startups in Southeast Asia. He realized that many companies struggled to integrate with other platforms and fetch data from banks, or purchase data from different providers.
“People are discussing open banking, embedded finance and so on,” Rojas, Finantier’s chief executive officer, told TechCrunch. “But those are the building blocks of something bigger, which is open finance. Particularly in a region like Southeast Asia, where about 60% to 70% of adults are unbanked or underbanked, we believe in helping consumers and businesses leverage the data that they have in multiple platforms. It definitely doesn’t need to be a bank account, it could be in a digital wallet, e-commerce platform or other service providers.”
What this means for consumers is that even if someone doesn’t have a credit card, they can still establish creditworthiness: for example, by sharing data from completed transactions on e-commerce platforms. Gig economy workers can access more financial services and deals by giving data about their daily rides or other types of work they do through different apps.
Building Southeast Asia’s financial infrastructure
Other open banking startups focused on Southeast Asia include Brankas and Brick. Rojas said Finantier differentiates by specializing on open finance, and creating infrastructure for financial institutions to build more services for end users.
The benefit of open finance for financial institutions is that they can create products for more consumers and find more opportunities for revenue sharing models. In Southeast Asia, this also means reaching more people who are underbanked, or otherwise lack access to financial services.
While taking part in Y Combinator’s accelerator program, Finantier will also be participating in the Indonesia Financial Service Authority’s regulatory sandbox. Once it completes the program, it will be able to partner with more fintech companies in Indonesia, including bigger institutions.
There are 139 million adults in Indonesia who are underbanked or unbanked, said East Ventures co-founder and managing partner Wilson Cuaca.
The investment firm, which focuses on Indonesia, conducts an annual survey called the East Ventures Digital Competitiveness Index, and found that financial exclusion was where one of the largest divides existed. There significant gaps in between the number of financial services available in heavily-populated islands like Java, where Jakarta is located, and other islands in the archipelago.
To promote financial inclusion and alleviate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has set a goal for 10 million micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to go digital by the end of the year. There are currently about 8 Indonesian million MSMEs that sell online, representing just 13% of MSMEs in the country.
“Providing equal access to financial services will create multiplier effects to the Indonesian economy,” Cuaca told TechCrunch about East Ventures’ decision to back Finantier. “Currently, hundreds of companies work with their own unique solutions to bring financial services to more people. We believe Finantier will help them offer more products and services to this underserved section of the population.”
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OurCrowd, a top global investment crowdfunding platform, has announced the availability of a fund that is open to individual investors in Canada. OurCrowd’s OC50, a portfolio index fund, is said to be available with “unprecedented low minimum contributions” opening up the world of VC investing for Canadians.
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London-based GoCardless claims to be a leading player in recurring payments. This fintech startup has raised $ 95M (approx €77.5M) in its Series F round of funding.
The round was led by Bain Capital Ventures to fuel open banking strategy, accelerating the delivery of next-generation bank-to-bank payments.
The startup raised this funding after witnessing 46 per cent year-on-year growth, despite the pandemic. It brings the total raised amount to-date to $ 240M (approx €196M).
Use of the raised capital
The raised funds will be used by GoCardless to accelerate its open banking strategy and combine its latest technology with a global bank debit network.
The company claims that, for the first time, merchants will be able to access the best of both worlds for recurring payments:
- Instant open banking payments will provide visibility and speed
- Bank debit will maximise cash flow and minimise churn by pulling funds automatically from payers – all at a lower cost than cards
The company will also expand its offering into the e-commerce market to launch a simple and secure way of making bank-to-bank payments as a lower-cost alternative to cards.
Founded in 2011 by Hiroki Takeuchi, Matt Robinson, and Tom Blomfield, GoCardless is a global payments network and technology platform that claims to take the pain out of getting paid for more than 55,000 businesses globally, including multinational corporations to small businesses.
The company is headquartered in the UK, with additional offices in Australia, France, Germany, and the United States.
Working towards simplifying the recurring payment process
GoCardless caters to businesses of all sizes – from multinational corporations like Docusign to fast-growing SaaS businesses like 8×8, and the rising subscription economy including Brompton Bike Hire and Bridgestone’s MOBOX.
The company processes more than $ 18B (approx €14.69B) of payments annually across more than 30 countries. In 2020, during the pandemic, the company claims to have a strong performance with an increase in new bookings of 100 per cent.
Additionally, GoCardless has expanded its technology offering with “Success+”, a payments intelligence tool powered by machine learning, to help businesses optimise their retry strategy when payments fail.
Hiroki Takeuchi, CEO, and co-founder of GoCardless, says, “We believe that open banking is set to disrupt the payment landscape by introducing new, simpler, and more secure ways of making bank-to-bank payments that will compete with traditional card networks. Our investment in open banking innovation will create a uniquely valuable payment offering – continuing to provide our customers with the best way to collect recurring payments.”
GoCardless’s Open Banking strategy
Open Banking is designed to open up banking data to provide consumers and businesses with access to better services that can save them time and money.
GoCardless’s investment in its open banking strategy aims to:
- Provide an end-to-end recurring payment solution for its merchants: first-time payments via bank debit can take on average two to three days to process, prompting merchants to use alternative methods such as cards for the first payment. Instant first payments will offer a lower-cost alternative to cards before the recurring collection continues via bank debit.
- Expand into the adjacent e-commerce market: develop a unique bank-to-bank payment method for e-commerce payments made to merchants that customers use on a regular basis. This will provide an alternative to cards that will significantly lower transactions costs for merchants.
- Enable businesses to collect international payments: provide businesses of all sizes with global access to Open Banking / PSD2 and its equivalents around the world, all delivered into their existing bank accounts in local currency.
- Provide businesses with a complete open banking payment processing service, including features such as refunds, payment reconciliation and error handling.
- Open Banking, and its equivalents around the world, are designed to open up banking data to provide consumers and businesses with access to better services that can save them time and money.
Back in September, last year, GoCardless launched a US debit solution. In addition to it, the company also announced the opening of a US headquarters in San Francisco. Almost a month later, the fintech startup partnered with TransferWise to make it easier for businesses to collect recurring payments from overseas.
GoCardless, the London fintech that aims to become the one-stop shop globally for businesses that want to let customers pay via recurring bank payments, has raised $ 95 million in Series F funding.
According to The Telegraph newspaper, this gives the company much coveted unicorn status. However, I understand the round values GoCardless at just over $ 970 million, meaning that the 2011-founded fintech is perhaps best described as a soonicorn (presuming these things are important to you).
The latest fundraise was led by Bain Capital Ventures, and follows 46% year-on-year growth for GoCardless as it benefits from an increase in e-commerce and online payments generally during the pandemic. It brings the total raised by the company to date to $ 240 million.
GoCardless says it will use the funding to accelerate its open banking strategy, which will see it combine open banking-enabled bank-to-bank payments with the global bank debit payments network it has already built out. “For the first time, merchants will be able to access the best of both worlds for recurring payments: Instant open banking payments will provide visibility and speed, while bank debit maximises cash flow and minimises churn by pulling funds automatically from payers — all at a lower cost than cards,” pitches the fintech.
In addition — and noteworthy — GoCardless says it will expand its offering into the “adjacent e-commerce market” to launch a simple and secure way of making open banking-enabled bank-to-bank payments as a lower-cost alternative to cards.
The company has always pitched direct debits as a much better recurring payments method, especially for subscription commerce and regular B2B payments. That’s because, amongst other things, debit and credit cards expire, breaking any subsequent recurring payments. By adding bank-to-bank payments to its stack, GoCardless is continuing to push up against the card network duopoly of Visa and Mastercard.
“We think the magic is in the combination of open banking payments and our existing direct debit platform,” co-founder and CEO Hiroki Takeuchi tells me, when asked why GoCardless is entering the soon to be commoditized space of open banking payments.
“They are really complementary as open banking is faster and more secure but direct debit is more flexible and more reliable. The combination will create something entirely new and unique that will not only make our product better for our existing customers but also enable us to go after new markets”.
He says that GoCardless already has the required FCA permissions to do open banking payments, and new products are actively under development. Debut products will be launching in the first half of 2021.
“We have been following open banking very closely but we felt it wasn’t reliable enough or slick enough for payments until quite recently,” adds Takeuchi. “This has been changing and we think now is the perfect time to focus on open banking payments”.
One interesting aspect of open banking is that the U.K. regulator is currently consulting with the industry on plans to make recurring payments possible via open banking, meaning that they could be used instead of direct debits. Arguably, GoCardless’ biggest moat is the global recurring payments network it has built, and so I put it to Takeuchi that open banking is both an opportunity and a threat to GoCardless.
“We don’t worry about this — we are agnostic to the rails we build on,” he says, pushing back. “What we care about is getting money from one bank account to another as efficiently as possible. In fact, we processed the first (and I think maybe the only) variable recurring payment via open banking last year as part of a test we worked on with the open banking team.
“If open banking offers rails that replicate direct debit then we will adopt those. The reality is that the payment itself is only a small part of the overall value we provide for our merchants — there are a lot of other basics such as reconciliation, refunds, international settlement, FX etc. that are really important — so we are confident that there is still a lot for us to do”.