B2B FinTech Radar: 7 June 2022

On the radar this week:

Q&A with Viktor Stensson, CEO of Bokio

Citi invests in document management spin out Arteria AI

Debbie, a behavioral savings product builder, raised $1.2 million.

Edge, the builder of an unbiased payments operating system for high-risk industries, raised a $2.4 million pre-seed.

Alloy, a German decentralized finance platform for institutional investors, raised a $3 million pre-seed.

Liminal, the builder of wallet infrastructure for digital assets, raised $4.7 million.

Cloudwall, a risk management builder for digital assets, raised $6.3 million in seed funding.

Circit, an Irish open banking tool for auditors, raised a €6.5 million Series A

Merge, which is building banking and payments infrastructure for web3 companies, raised a $9.5 million seed round.

Ecolytiq, a sustainable finance CO2 tracker, raised €13.5 million led by Visa.

First Digital, a trustee that helps financial institutions custody digital assets, raised $20 million.

Foxen, a provider of payment solutions to the real estate industry, raised a $44 million Series A

Starkware, which facilitates building faster transaction applications on ethereum (layer 2), raised a $100 million Series D.

Q&A with Viktor Stensson, CEO of Bokio

1. Tell us a bit about yourself and your company.

In 2015 me, Mikael Eliasson, Emma Rozada and Joel Rozada founded Bokio. Since then, our AI-powered bookkeeping and accounting software has grown rapidly. We’ve expanded to the UK and our user base is growing at an incredible pace. We have 100 employees and serve over 60,,000 monthly active users in the UK and our native country Sweden.

Citi invests in document management spin out Arteria AI

Arteria AI, a document and contract management spin out from Deloitte, has received investments from the strategic investing arm of Citi’s Global Spread Products division, and Canada’s BDC Capital.

Arteria includes a series of product modules that can be used to help draft, negotiate and analyse documentation and contracts. Unlike standard digital document platforms, Arteria was built to meet the specific requirements of the institutional banking and trading sector.

The package is tailored to work across multiple business product lines, from primary and secondary capital markets, to lending, prime brokerage, structured finance, transaction banking and private equity.

Katya Chupryna, head of Citi’s Spread Products Investment Technologies, says: “Our investment in Arteria AI aligns with our strategy, as the company’s differentiated technology is both widely applicable to multiple Citi businesses including new issuance for structured credit and accretive to our broader ecosystem of portfolio companies.

“The company has already accumulated significant traction with established financial institutions, demonstrating the immense utility of their technology. A strategic investment into Arteria also represents a great opportunity to support a female-founded and led enterprise FinTech company.”

The unspecified investment follows Arteria AI’s Series A round in April 2021, where it raised $11m just five months after the company’s inception as an independent business.

Debbie Is Building The First Rewards Platform To Incentivize Individuals To Pay Off Their Debt

Credit card usage has grown exponentially since first introduced in the 70s. While it has enabled our consumption-driven economy to grow to new economic heights, our reliance on credit has left us stranded with poor financial habits. More Americans are in debt now more than ever, without a way to climb out of their financial hole. Debt is so pervasive in our society that pizza companies are offering a buy-now-pay-later option for ordering via their online checkout. Frida Leibowitz, Rachel Lauren and Maxime Fourmault are helping Americans reduce their reliance on credit with Debbie before they financially overdose. Debbie is a “habit-shifting rewards platform” that leverages behavior psychology to craft financial products that give users a path out of debt and towards a healthier financial future. The Miami, Florida-based startup has raised $1.2m from One Way Ventures, BDMI, TA Ventures, Village Global, Green Egg Ventures, Liquid2 Ventures, If Then Ventures, Dipanjan Bhattacharjee and several other angel investors.

Edge’s $2.4m Pre-seed

Payments is an exciting space with innovation occurring in every form and fashion. However, current offerings for businesses mislabeled as high-risk are overcharging for poor user experience and a frustrating lack of critical features. I’ve been working with businesses affected by these problems for the last five years and I’m constantly shocked by the lack of available options when you’re labeled “high-risk.”

Edge shines a light on the archaic practices companies are forced to settle for by offering a modern, unbiased solution for all companies. The stigmas associated with these industries are outdated and too broad. We evaluate businesses individually rather than grouping them into whole categories. Edge is building a payments platform that has transparent pricing, is simple to use, and has best-in-class support so you can finally focus on running your business.

Today we are excited to announce our $2.4M pre-seed led by Long Journey Ventures. We’re also grateful for the support of Scott Banister (early advisor & board member @ PayPal), Socially Financed, The Fintech Fund, Jackalope VC, Centre Street Partners, Gaingels, SuperAngel VC, Alumni Ventures, Spacecadet Ventures, Pareto, Shreyas Doshi (first PM Manager @ Stripe), Arash Ferdowsi (Dropbox co-founder), James Bailey (Velos Partners), Alan Rutledge, Joshua Browder (DoNotPay), Brandon Curran, Sam Weller, Tristan Tao, and others. founder backs DeFi platform Alloy in $3 million pre-seed round

German DeFi platform Alloy has won the backing of founder Guillaume Pousaz in a $3 million pre-seed round led by VC firm Headline.

In an announcement this morning, Alloy said Pousaz had invested via his family office Zinal Growth, alongside Sorare founder Nicolas Julia and Seedcamp. 

Alloy is aiming to build a decentralized finance (DeFi) platform targeting institutional investors, which founder Paul Faecks says remain hesitant to participate in the DeFi ecosystem despite their interest.

Digital asset wallet startup Liminal raises $4.7 million

Liminal, a wallet operations infrastructure that secures digital assets in a simple and efficient way, has raised $4.7 million in its seed funding round led by Elevation Capital.

The round also saw participation from prominent investors like LD Capital, Woodstock, Nexus Ventures, and crypto ventures like CoinDCX, Hashed, Cadenza Ventures, Vauld, Better Capital, and Sparrow Capital. There are also marquee angel investors like Andreas Antonopoulos, Balaji Srinivasan, Sandeep Nailwal, Jaynti Kanani, Ajeet Khurana, amongst others.

Liminal is the first wallet architecture to provide the MPC and MultiSig to secure digital assets across different blockchains. This plug-and-play platform provides unmatched support to exchanges by eliminating manual operations by 90% and saving manual refill hours. Safe custody of digital assets is a key challenge faced by businesses and institutional investors, and custodians like Liminal will play a big role in facilitating the mass adoption of digital assets and Web3. The company was founded in 2021 by Mahin Gupta. A serial entrepreneur, Gupta built India’s first blockchain company Prior to this, he co-founded ZebPay, one of India’s largest crypto exchanges. Through Liminal, he has embarked on a journey to simplify and automate wallet operations, and self-custody of digital assets for businesses and institutional investors.

SG crypto firm Cloudwall bags $6.3m in seed round

Singapore-based Cloudwall, a digital asset risk management startup, has raised US$6.3 million in its seed round led by LocalGlobe and Illuminate Financial.

Investors including IA Capital Partners, Eberg Capital, and Nemo Ventures, along with founders and operator angel investors from across decentralized and traditional finance also took part.

The company will use its funds to grow its team to 15 people by the end of the year and develop the platform to launch an early-access program.

Founded in 2021, Cloudwall Capital is building a new product, Serenity, which will provide institutional investors with the risk management insights to effectively build portfolios and manage risks inherent in digital assets.

Dublin’s Circit raises €6.5m for open banking platform

CEO David Heath told that Circit is to auditing verification what Stripe is to payments.

Irish open banking start-up Circit has raised €6.5m in funding for its financial auditing management platform.

The Dublin-based fintech has developed a platform for managing financial auditing used by banks, solicitors and brokers. Circit is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland as an account information service provider under PSD2 – the EU regulation for open banking.

Investment in this Series A round was led by New York-based Aquiline Technology Growth and Luxembourg-based MiddleGame Ventures, both of which are fintech-focused VC firms.

CEO David Heath told in an interview that a number of team members in Circit have come from auditing backgrounds in big firms who think the industry, which is going through its “biggest reform in decades”, could do with more digitalisation.

New web3 fintech emerges from stealth with a $9.5m seed round

After a burst of excitement about ‘web3’ in 2021, more new startups are appearing to provide its financial infrastructure.

One such example is Merge, founded by Kebbie Sebastian, a former PayPal and Barclays executive, alongside former Coinbase and Luno executives.

The company, which aims to provide banking and payment infrastructure for Web3 companies, has just raised a $9.5m seed round.

Octopus Ventures led the funding round, which also included investors such as Hashed, Coinbase Ventures, Alameda Research and Ethereal Ventures. Other investors included the founder of Aave, co-founder of Polygon, CEO of Ledger and Barclays’ former CEO of Consumer Banking amongst other angel investors.

Merge operates an API-based banking and payments platform, bridging the gap between fiat and crypto ecosystems.

“As the crypto economy moves further into the mainstream, it’s increasingly clear that the current financial infrastructure isn’t fit to serve the rapid expansion of crypto-native businesses and many providers aren’t specialised enough to gauge risk, said Zihao Xu, investor at Octopus Ventures.

Visa invests in CO2 tracker ecolytiq

Sustainable finance provider ecolytiq has secured a €13.5 million financing round led by Visa and other blue chip investors.

Consulting firm PwC Germany also participated through a fund managed by Segenia Capital, VCM Global Asset Management and btov.

Founded in 2019, the Berlin-based company works in partnership with Visa to offer banks and financial institutions the technology to educate and support consumers to manage their environmental impact. The platform uses transactional data to provide customers with CO2 spending data, offsetting, and sustainable investment advice.

In 2021, ecolytiq partnered with Visa on the launch of the Visa Eco Benefits bundle, an embedded carbon footprint tracker for Visa member institutions.

Early adopters include Rabobank, Tatra Bank, Tomorrow, Novus, as well as partners such as Worldline and Tink.

Charlotte Hogg, CEO Visa Europe says: “A significant shift is needed towards more sustainable behaviours to meet the global net-zero goals by 2050. A key element to this change starts with providing an individual understanding of the environmental impact of their choices. Ecolytiq enables banks and their customers to raise awareness of the positive impact they can make. The company has gone from strength to strength in the past two years and we’re proud to support the next stage of their growth.”

Ecolytiq co-founder David Lais says the funds will be invested into product development and new business models for the financial sector in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Fintech startup First Digital scores $20m funding

Fintech firm First Digital, the only qualified custodian and trustee helping institutions custody both traditional and digital assets, has announced a $20m fundraising round backed by Nogle and Kenetic Capital.

First Digital Trust plays a key role in helping legacy institutions and companies bridge legacy and emerging finance; and it is the only in the Asian region to offer full-service support for assets ranging from stocks, bonds, currencies, and insurance, to digital assets, including cryptocurrency tokens and NFTs.

Part of the funding round will go towards their global expansion to Singapore, UK, and Canada, as well as the development of the region’s first secondary market for private equity and digital assets. With this move, clients of First Digital will be able to list the assets they hold and receive offers from other qualified First Digital clients.

The launch is the first of its kind in the region and overcomes a major hurdle for investors who often struggle to acquire or liquidate private shares within secure and custodial infrastructure. Newcomers custodying assets also have an opportunity to access private companies who may have missed out on initial release rounds.

“Our mission is to help companies, hedge funds, and institutions integrate Web3 assets seamlessly, securely, and compliantly by providing vital upgrades to open finance infrastructure keeping security, KYC & AML, and regulatory requirements at front of mind. Providing these kinds of onramps and administrative support is how we will see more major players bringing in sustainable investment and liquidity into the space,” said Vincent Chok, CEO of First Digital Trust.

Foxen Closes $44 Million Series A Round to Fund Revolutionary FinTech Solutions in Real Estate

Columbus, Ohio and Santa Barbara, California, June 02, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Foxen, a market leader in financial technology solutions for the real estate industry, today announced a $44 million Series A financing led by growth equity investor Summit Partners, with participation from Level Equity. Foxen will use the funding to accelerate development of its expanding product portfolio and fuel hiring across the organization.

Foxen’s technology solutions center on financial wellness – the improvement in the management of finances through technology – and are designed to mutually benefit property managers, owners, and their residents. The company’s products were born of a market need for accountability and compliance in insurance coverage across the multifamily real estate market. Rental housing provides homes to more than a third of U.S. households[1], and while most multi-family property managers require renters insurance, compliance of this requirement is often not managed. Only about 57% of tenants carry an insurance policy[2], exposing renters to risk due to common incidents and leaving building owners susceptible to damage to the unit or property.

“As a property owner, I learned firsthand that requiring renters insurance is ineffective without the ability to manage compliance,” said Jay Harkrider, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Foxen. “At Foxen, we’ve leveraged years of industry experience to build a technology platform that provides a convenient, affordable rental insurance alternative that simultaneously enables properties to achieve 100% compliance, creating a better experience for both residents and landlords. With the backing and resources of Summit Partners and Level Equity, we are poised to accelerate the expansion of this platform with new products that deliver on our vision of improving financial wellness through real estate.”

StarkWare nets $100M as investors bank on layer-2 success

Ethereum (ETH) layer-2 developer StarkWare has raised a further $100 million in its latest fundraising round despite the prevailing downturn in cryptocurrency markets.

StarkWare’s series D fundraising round sees the firm’s valuation up to $8 billion, marking a four-fold increase in value just six months after its Series C round in November 2021. Tech investment firm Greenoaks Capital led the latest fundraising round in addition to private equity firm Coatue, Tiger Global and other investors.

StarkWare has established itself as a major player in the Ethereum layer-2 scaling space, boasting more transaction throughput than the Bitcoin network and collectively more than all other layer-2 platforms in 2022.

The firm makes use of rollup technology for its Ethereum layer-2 scaling platforms. By generating validity proofs, more commonly known as zero-knowledge proofs, StarWare says it is able to add massive batches of transactions to Ethereum’s mainnet.

Co-founder and president Eli Ben-Sasson, alongside other computer scientists, pioneered ZK-STARK cryptography. Zero-Knowledge Scalable Transparent Arguments of Knowledge is a proof system that makes use of new-age cryptography to encrypt and verify transaction data — ensuring security, scalability and resistance to quantum computing.

Binance launches $500 million Web3 venture fund

Digital asset exchange Binance has closed a $500 million venture fund for investing in Web3 and blockchain technology projects, with support from institutional investors.

The fund, which will be led by Binance Labs, the venture capital and incubation of Binance, is supported by global institutional investors such as DST Global Partners, and Breyer Capital. Other major private equity funds, family offices, and corporations also subscribed to the fund as limited partners.

Changpeng Zhao, founder and CEO of Binance, says: “In a Web3 environment, the connection between values, people, and economies is essential, and if these three elements come together to build an ecosystem, that will accelerate the mass adoption of the blockchain technology and crypto. The goal of the newly closed investment fund is to discover and support projects and founders with the potential to build and to lead Web3 across DeFi, NFTs, gaming, Metaverse, social, and more.”

Since 2018, Binance Labs has invested in and incubated more than 100 projects from over 25 countries. Its portfolio includes projects such as 1inch, Audius, Axie Infinity, Dune Analytics, Elrond, Injective, Polygon, Optimism, The Sandbox, and STEPN.

Zhao says the $500 million fund is expected to be allocated to projects spanning incubation, early-stage venture, and late-stage growth.