Welcome to The exchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your trust. If you read this as a post on our site, please subscribe here so that you can receive it directly in the future. Every week I check out the latest fintech news from the past week. This includes everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it – and understand it – so you stay informed. — Mary Ann
Last week ended with an explosive feature published by NY Magazine. The article arrived Daylight, an LGBQT+-focused neobank whose seed and Series A raises businessupdates.org had reviewed here and here, respectively. The depiction of CEO and founder Rob Curtis was so far from the polite executive I interviewed that it made me question my own judgment of character. Lawsuits, fabrications and inappropriate behavior are among the many allegations reported in this in-depth report part. One person who tried the bank’s service told me that apart from being allowed to use their chosen name on a card, they “didn’t really see much benefit or specialization” and that it was “so buggy”. stopped using it.
Meanwhile, there’s never a dull day in the business spending space. Last week I wrote about Driveway reporting 4x revenue growth in 2022. That got me curious about other companies in the space, so I pinged a few. A Air base The spokesperson reached out to me and shared via email, “We grew 2x across the key dimensions of ARR, payment volume and number of paying customers. It’s important to point out that the bulk of our revenue comes from high margin and subscriptions, unlike most of the exchange revenue-driven businesses in our space. We choose not to play the gross ARR obfuscation game…” Ouch. Meantime I forgot to include that last week Brex was extended to the travel area. That company has reportedly ruffled a few feathers, according to lately Award Wallet, by “devaluing cash and crypto redemptions by 40% and slashing Brex Rewards points transfer rates to airline partners by more than 40%” with little to no notice. Twitter was also abuzz with news, like this tweet is an indication. I’ve contacted the company but haven’t heard anything yet.
Other weekly news
Haje Jan Kamps reports, “What do you do when you have a very successful and popular product (marijuana) that is legal in some places but has been federally a Schedule 1 drug since 1970? Well, you cannot rely on national institutions as your business partners. One of the major places to pop up is in payments and payment processing; even after recreational cannabis became legal in 21 states and decriminalized in a dozen more, cannabis has largely become a cash business. In an increasingly cashless world, this is a problem for both consumers and businesses. Smoke country is currently beta testing a loophole that would allow customers to pay by credit card. The secret, it turns out, is crypto.” More here.
Reports Anna Heim: “If you think embedded insurance is the only hot thing in insurtech these days, we have a surprise in store for you: While it’s true that startups that help sell insurance are enjoying headwinds along with other products and services, there are plenty of other opportunities in the space, several investors told businessupdates.org+. More here.
I have contacted the payment company Checkout.com‘s new president, Céline Dufétel, to find out more about her plans in her new role, including what lies ahead for the company this year, her thoughts on the future of payments in general, and why she sees so many opportunities in the USA. asked her what she thought of the Stripe comparisons… and her answer might surprise you. More here.
Reports Kyle Wiggers: “Confluent co-founder Neha Narkhede today announced a new fintech company, oscillatory, which is developing an ‘AI-driven’ platform to help financial institutions protect online transactions from fraud and theft. Oscilar is fully self-funded, backed by $20 million contributed by Narkhede and the company’s other co-founder, Sachin Kulkarni. Narkhede says they chose not to raise outside funding so they could “rapidly build and scale the company as it launches publicly.” More here.
Reports Kyle Wiggers: Months after revealing a “major update of Apple Pay Called Apple Pay Later, which allows users to split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase into four equal payments over six weeks with no interest or overdue fees, Apple has finally launched the feature. But not for everyone – at least not yet. Apple says starting today it will invite randomly selected users to access a pre-release version of Apple Pay Later, with plans to offer it to all “eligible” users on iOS 16.4 or iPadOS 16.4 in the coming months .
In the meantime, Fitch ratings weighed in on the Apple Pay Later news, with senior director Michael Taiano noting via email that “Apple doesn’t allow customers to link a credit card, a unique feature of its BNPL product that should limit borrowers’ ability to use one form pay-off debt with another form of debt, although it does not fully address our broader concerns about the structural and cyclical challenges that the buy-now-pay-later business model continues to face.”
Tage Kene-Okafor conducted an in-depth interview with Union54 co-founder and CEO Perseus Mlambo in which the executive “spoke candidly about the issues faced by Union54 when it was forced to cease operations last year due to a $1.2 billion chargeback fraud attempt, how the company risked going completely silent fall, and why fintechs need to be more transparent about exposure to fraud.” A must read!
Reports Fintech Futures: “Payment giants Visa And MasterCard are reportedly among a number of companies competing to acquire the Brazilian payments and banking platform Pismo. According to news reports, the company is working with Goldman Sachs on a possible sale at a reported valuation of $1 billion. Sources tell Bloomberg that other interested parties include a bank and a venture capital firm, and the talks may not lead to a sale. According to Valor Economico’s Pipeline, Visa submitted an initial offer of $1 billion, which was rejected by Pismo, after which Visa increased its offer to $1.4 billion.” More here. businessupdates.org covered Pismo’s $108 million raise in October 2021. If true, this is super exciting news not just for Pismo, but for the Latin American startup scene as a whole.
Speaking of Latin America, latitudea self-proclaimed “Technical Entrepreneurship Program” for the Latin American region supported by Andreessen Horowitz and NFX,”business accounts launched.” According to co-founder Brian Requarth, the move was made in part because “virtually all of the founders in LatAm worked with SVB. . . . There’s a gaping hole,” he said via email. “We had been working on this for months, so we decided to launch it.” businessupdates.org reported on Latitud’s increase last March.
Aspiration submitted one Oregon WARNING on March 24, 2023, notifying the state that it plans to lay off 180 people sometime between May 26, 2023 and June 1, 2023. development, HR and product design. As a source shared, Aspiration planned to become a public company but has yet to iron out its SPAC. The SPAC has applied for an extension until June 9 to complete the merger. According to the website, it is particularly focused on selling carbon credits to businesses rather than the eco-friendly neobank most people might be familiar with, the source said. businessupdates.org reached out to Aspiration, but got no response. The company has raised approximately $250 million in known funding.
reports PYMNTS: “Family finance app Green light has unveiled an integration for banks and credit unions. Greenlight for Banks…allows financial institutions to add Greenlight’s app to their financial services offerings… The app allows banks to offer customers Greenlight’s tools for earning, saving and spending. In addition, parents can automate allowances and transfer money instantly, while kids and teens “get hands-on money management experience with parental controls,” the company said.
Financing and Mergers and Acquisitions
Seen on businessupdates.org
Salt Labs raises $10 million to gamify frontline work
StellarFi raises $15 million to help people build credit by paying bills and rent on time
Paytrix raises $18.3 million to build out its one-stop payment store
Payday aims to power the future of work for Africa with $3M seed led by Moniepoint Inc
Amazon-backed Acko is approaching $120 million in new funding
PSA: Last year was my first Disrupt and I was blown away. This year I’m even more excited, because we have a special fintech stage! Join us – it’s going to be awesome.
Next week we will take a short break due to the Easter holidays, but I will be back on April 16th. Until then, take care of each other! And as always, thank you for reading and sharing this newsletter. xoxo, Mary Ann