Thought Machine closes $200M for its cloud native banking SaaS and becomes a unicorn

Thought Machine, a 2014 (Xoogler) founded startup that sells cloud-based b2b banking services, has closed a $200 million Series C round and announced that it’s achieved unicorn status (aka, passing a $1BN valuation).

The new funding follows an $83M Series B round last year — when it described its market cap as “increasing healthily”.

The Series C is led by New York- and San Francisco-based Nyca Partners, with other new investors including ING Ventures, JPMorgan Chase Strategic Investments and Standard Chartered Ventures — the investment arms of some of its global tier one banking clients.

Lloyds Banking Group, which led Thought Machine’s Series A, has also participated in the latest raise.

Other existing investors also returning for the Series C are British Patient Capital, Eurazeo, SEB, Molten Ventures (formerly Draper Esprit), Backed, and IQ Capital.

Thought Machine describes itself as a “cloud native core banking technology” firm — and is selling cloud-basked banking infrastructure to old and new banks as they look to offer their customers services via the cloud, moving away from mainframe, legacy banking tech (in the case of old school banks) or offering cloud-based services from the get-go in the case of challenger banks and fintech startups.

The startup’s Series C follows a period of accelerated growth, with Thought Machine noting it’s added 200+ employees since 2020 and relocating into a larger London HQ to accommodate its expanded headcount.

The new funding will be used to continue development and expansion of its flagship SaaS product Vault — a cloud-native platform which its b2b customers rely on to provide a range of retail banking services, from checking accounts, savings accounts, loans and credit cards to mortgages.

Vault is built around APIs, using a microservice architecture and a system of Smart Contracts — hosted on a cloud service of the customer’s choosing (the likes of Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and IBM Cloud are supported) — with touted benefits including increased flexible and more scalable infrastructure, as well as reduced running costs vs maintaining legacy technology.

Commenting on the funding in a statement, Paul Taylor, CEO and founder of Thought Machine said: “We are delighted to have earned the support of our new and existing investors as we continue to move the world’s leading banks into the cloud. We set out to eradicate legacy technology from the industry and ensure that all banks deployed on Vault can succeed and deliver on their ambitions. These new funds will accelerate the delivery of Vault into banks around the world who wish to implement their future vision of financial services.”

In another supporting statement, Hans Morris, managing partner at Nyca Partners, added: “Thought Machine is the leading technology among the new generation of cloud native core platforms, and as a result it has become the top choice for tier one banks looking to upgrade their core architecture. These institutions tell us that Thought Machine’s engineering approach is unrivalled; Vault is highly configurable, flexible, scalable, and specifically designed for the complex environment and requirements of tier one banks. Investing in Thought Machine is an investment in the future of banking and we are very energized to be working with them as they build a new standard for core banking technology.”

India’s Slice becomes unicorn with $220M funding from Tiger Global, Insight Partners and Advent

Rajan Bajaj, founder of fintech Slice, chimed in on a Twitter thread earlier this year and wondered aloud what he needs to do to turn his startup into a unicorn before he turns 30.

At just 28, Bajaj has figured it out.

Slice, which was valued at under $200 million in a financing round in June this year, has joined the unicorn club with a fresh $220 million fundraise, the startup said on Monday.

Tiger Global and Insight Partners co-led the Bangalore-based startup’s Series B round. Private equity firm Advent International’s Sunley House Capital, Moore Strategic Ventures, Anfa, and existing investors Gunosy, Blume Ventures, and 8i also participated in the round.

TechCrunch reported early last month that Tiger Global and Insight Global were in talks to back Slice. A source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that the round could grow further to $250 million.

Slice has established itself as one of the market leading card-issuing firms in India. The startup offers a number of cards that are aimed at tech-savvy, young professionals in the country.

Image credits: Slice

And it’s a huge market.

Despite nearly a billion Indians having a bank account, only a tiny fraction of this population is covered by the South Asian nation’s young credit rating system. As we have outlined in the past, Indian banks heavily rely on archaic methodologies to determine an individual’s creditworthiness and whether they deserve a credit card. Their conclusion: it’s too risky to give a credit card or even a loan to most Indians.

Slice is tackling this by using its own underwriting system. Such is the confidence it has in its underwriting system that in September this year, it launched a card with $27 limit to tap into the nation’s 200 million population. In an interview with TechCrunch, Bajaj (pictured above) said the new card is gaining fast traction, but declined to share any figures.

The startup offers its customers a range of features such as the ability to pay the bill in three interest free instalments and access to discounts on purchase with scores of brands. Slice says it is issuing over 200,000 cards each month. With this, it has become the third largest card issuer in India after two banks, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“Slice has built a product that customers love, which we expect will result in continued growth and market share gains,” said Alex Cook, a partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “We are excited to partner with Rajan and the team as they expand access to credit and deliver best-in-class customer experience.”

On the business front, the startup is clocking an annual revenue runrate of over $60 million, according to the source quoted above. The source requested anonymity as the details are private.

 

This is a developing story. More to follow…

Jefa raises $2 million for its challenger bank for women in LATAM

Fintech startup Jefa has raised a $2 million seed round to build a challenger bank with a product specifically designed for women living in Latin America and the Caribbean. The company has managed to attract 115,000 women on its waitlist and participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield last year.

Investors in Jefa include The Venture Collective, DST Global, Foundation Capital, Amador Holdings, The Fund, FINCA Ventures, Rarebreed VC, Siesta Ventures, Springbank Collective, Bridge Partners, Hustle Fund, Foundation Capital and Latitude. Several business angels also participated, such as Daniel Bilbao, JP Duque, Ricardo Shaefar, Jean-Paul Orillac and Allan Arguello.

In addition to this founding round, the startup has also signed a deal with Visa. It’s a multi-year strategic partnership agreement. Jefa will be able to take advantage of Visa’s resources and products to create its payment products and more.

“Visa believes in empowering women,” senior director of fintech partnerships for Visa Latin America and the Caribbean Sonia Michaca said in a statement. “Financial and digital inclusion transform economies. Women, who control the lion-share of everyday household spending, should be at the core of this transformation, yet women are vastly underserved by traditional banks. We are thrilled to be partnering with Jefa, a women-led platform in Latin America and the Caribbean, and one which explicitly serves women’s financial needs in the region.”

The team behind Jefa believes that banks have neglected women for too long. Even challenger banks have mostly been designed for male customers in the first place. It doesn’t necessarily mean that women can’t open an account with a challenger bank. But some product decisions are unfriendly to women.

Back when Jefa founder and CEO Emma Smith pitched at TechCrunch Disrupt, she listed some of the reasons why most people in Latin America who don’t currently have a bank account are women. For instance, minimum balance requirements are hostile to women who statically earn lean than men.

When Jefa launches, the company will let you open a bank account for free from a mobile app. You don’t have to visit a bank branch. A few days later, you’ll receive a Visa debit card. There will be a built-in savings feature and a reward program.

The startup plans to roll out its product in Mexico first, then Colombia and Central America. Jefa isn’t the first challenger bank trying to branch out from the unified banking offering. There are several startups trying to create vertical banks, such as banks for kids (Greenlight or Step) or banks for climate change-focused customers (Aspiration). And there’s now Jefa creating a vertical bank for women.

Vauban, an AngelList-like platform for VCs and angels to run and raise funds, closes $6.3m

It’s always been a slight puzzle why AngelList never really properly took off in Europe, especially when, a few years ago, there was such a dearth of funding options for poorly served European startups. But the reasons are fairly simple when you look at them. For starters, the US tech industry boomed in the last ten years. Why bother spreading your resources, when your home market is taking off, right? Secondly, the sheer complexity of building such a platform across Europe’s myriad regulatory borders would tend to dissuade even the boldest of actors. So this is why the market for such a fund-raising platform has been more or less wide open for such a long time. Until now.

Vauban is a new startup based out of London which provides venture capital fund managers with tools to raise a fund and invest capital. It’s now closed a Post-Seed / Pre-Series A funding round of £4.7m or $6.3m.

Vauban says it will now deepen its tech and regulatory infrastructure, and launch a new office in Luxembourg to strengthen its European / EU offering, alongside its headquarters in London. Thus it will be able to span the entire European ecosystem.

The investment round was co-led by Pentech and Outward, in addition to 7percent Ventures and MJ Hudson. A roster of angel investors have also participated including CEO of Nested Matt Robinson;  the founder of Grabayo, Will Neale; the founder and CEO of ComplyAdvantage, Charles Delingpole; Partner at Augmentum Fintech Perry Blacher; and Al Giles, from legal services provider Axiom.

Vauban allows VCs and angel investors to raise funds, create angel syndicates, and manage fundraising and investment activities. The platform claims it enables users to set-up and deploy Funds and SPVs, from multiple global investment jurisdictions, at “a fraction of the usual time and cost”, covering structuring, legal documents, investor onboarding, banking, and reporting.

Vauban says it is onboarding “at least one new client every day” and current VC users include Anthemis, Passion Capital and Octopus Ventures. In total, it says over 5,000 LPs are using its platform.

Founder and Co-CEO Rémy Astié said: “Our goal is to reduce the friction between those who have the capital, and those who need it to solve humanity’s biggest problems. So, we decided to start by rebuilding the infrastructure on digital rails, because it’s mission-critical in order to provide a great UX to everyone in the industry: GPs, LPs and Founders.”

Vauban has appeared at a time when there is huge investment activity in European tech. Some €41.8bn was raised across Europe in the first half of 2021, up from €32.6bn in 2020.

With VC firms now managing several funds and now often using Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) to participate in specific deals, make secondary investments, or set up ‘sidecar’ funds alongside EIS vehicles or their main institutional funds, the whole process is becoming more complex, hence the increasing ‘platformization’ of the space. Doing all this on spreadsheets or, similarly simple tools, will no longer cut it.

Furthermore, European angel investors are more and more professionalizing and syndicating deals to boost dealmaking and dealflow, hence why a dedicated platform is likely to be welcome.

Ulric Musset, Founder and Co-CEO says, “One of the biggest catalysts for new startup creation was the launch of Amazon Web Services in the early 2000s. We believe Vauban will have the same impact that AWS has had on the startup ecosystem.”

Andi Kazeroonian, Investor at Outward VC, commented: “Despite the meteoric growth in alternative investments in recent years, the infrastructure the industry relies on has failed to evolve. Simply creating and administering an investment vehicle remains synonymous with lengthy, cumbersome and expensive processes fragmented across multiple service providers. Vauban’s integrated platform has turned this on its head with a relentless focus on product and user experience, which has unsurprisingly led to exceptional organic growth and its emergence as the standout category leader in Europe.”

Craig Anderson, Partner at Pentech added: “We like to invest in category-leading companies with big ambitions for growth. We believe Vauban is building a modern infrastructure for the alternate asset market which enables users to set up, deploy and manage their funds and SPVs in just a few hours.”

Founder and Co-CEO Rémy Astié told me over a call: “We are different to AngelList in that we are very international and global by design. The idea is to create a global platform, which means that you can raise from LPS anywhere in the world, to invest in a company that’s anywhere in the world. And yeah, we think that’s our core strength, that we build everything with international LPs in mind, so you can raise in multiple currencies.”

Ant is changing how consumers borrow money from its app

In December 2020, Beijing laid out a guideline for Ant Group to “rectify” its business after calling off its IPO, which could have been the largest initial public offering in history. In the plan, regulators asked Ant to revamp its credit business, among other changes that would make it subject to the same set of regulations overseeing financial institutions. In other words, Ant can no longer get by with its freewheeling practices by calling itself a “tech” firm.

Nearly a year later, the Alibaba-affiliated fintech powerhouse showed that it has almost finished restructuring its popular consumer credit products.

Credit loan products contributed nearly 40% of Ant’s revenues in the six months ended June 2020, according to the firm’s prospectus filed last year. The two main products are Huabei (Spend), which launched in 2014 for daily expenditures by consumers, working like a virtual credit card. A year later Jiebei (Borrow) was introduced as a credit product for larger consumption transactions.

Under the old model, Ant originated loans that were then underwritten by third-party banks and other financial institutions. As of June 2020, about 98% of Ant’s credit balance originated through its platform was underwritten by its partner financial institutions or securitized, according to the firm’s prospectus.

Jiebei has split itself into two brands, users reported earlier this week. Credit lines extended by third-party banks are now called Xinyong Dai (Credit Loan) on Alipay, Ant’s flagship financial services app. Those provided by Ant’s consumer finance company, which was recently established at the behest of regulators, are staying under the Jiebei brand.

Huabei has similarly started a restructuring, which will show users which loans are extended independently by banks and which by Ant’s consumer finance firm. Huabei will focus on “small-ticket” everyday transactions, it said in a Weibo post.

“Following the brand differentiation, users applying for credit loan services will have more information about their credit providers to avoid brand confusion.”

Huabei also noted that it’s now submitting consumer credit information to a database overseen by China’s central bank. It started the routine in September after it established its consumer credit company, which, just like banks, need to report their credit information to the central bank in China.

Coinbase acqui-hires team behind BRD crypto wallet

As crypto proponents look to onboard a new generation of users, one of the major consumer onramps has been a host of consumer wallet apps with slick interfaces.

Today, Coinbase announced that it is bringing on the team from BRD — a crypto wallet startup that first launched its mobile wallet back in 2014. While the team is transitioning over to Coinbase, BRD’s co-founders say nothing will be changing for BRD users for the time being and that their wallets will continue to operate normally and that user “funds are safe and secure.”

The wallet startup was an early player in the mobile crypto wallet space that started as a place for users to store bitcoin, but grew to support a wide network of tokens and the ability to buy, sell and swap cryptocurrencies thanks to partnerships with exchanges. The startup claims to have more than 10 million users.

“The team brings deep expertise in self-custody for crypto wallets, which will help Wallet enable more people to safely and securely access the decentralized world of crypto,” a tweet from the Coinbase Wallet Twitter account reads.

BRD raised a hefty amount of venture capital funding, banking nearly $55 million in venture funding from firms like SBI Crypto Investment and East Ventures.

Coinbase and BRD did not reveal terms of the acquihire.

Co-founder Adam Traidman and Aaron Voisine note that they plan to build out a “migration path” for users to transfer their wallet contents to the Coinbase Wallet app but that it will be entirely optional for users.

 

 

TabTrader raises $5.8M for a mobile app that aggregates crypto exchange data

As many of the top cryptocurrencies seem to temporarily stabilize near all-time highs, users looking to speculate on tokens that are a bit more volatile are searching across exchanges to find deals.

Amsterdam-based startup TabTrader has been capitalizing on this search with a platform that aggregates prices and token availability across dozens of exchanges. While other platforms allow users to look at token prices across exchanges, most are desktop-optimized while TabTrader has built up a substantial presence for its mobile app on iOS and Android.

As different exchanges take different approaches toward onboarding new tokens, crypto traders are increasingly signing up for accounts on multiple exchanges and tracking prices across multiple apps with multiple notification types set for each. Many users rely on TabTrader for its cross-exchange price alert feature, notifying users when a particular token has gone above or below a certain value. While plenty of exchanges offer this functionality inside their native apps, the reliability and customizability of these push notifications has often been inconsistent.

CEO Kirill Suslov tells TechCrunch that the TabTrader app has more than 400,000 active users, with particularly strong presences in Europe and Asia.

The startup has adopted a Kayak-like model, aggregating prices for tokens and picking up rebate fees from exchanges when users make a purchase through the app. While users plug their wallet info into the app to easily make purchases through connected exchanges, Suslov says that TabTrader never has access to user funds.

Alongside these rebates, TabTrader also makes money through a $12 monthly subscription for a paid version, as well as advertising. Suslov says his 20-person team has scaled to reach their current audience without any paid marketing.

While tens of millions of users have created accounts on centralized exchanges like Coinbase and Binance, Suslov says that TabTrader’s biggest opportunity may be embracing so-called decentralized exchanges like Uniswap, which allow users to rapidly exchange tokens with other users.

Suslov says that while the exchanges have built out great technology in the back-end, the front-end interfaces aren’t as easy for users to navigate, leaving room for an aggregator like TabTrader to streamline the user experience while allowing users to explore decentralized exchanges for the first time. The startup says they’re starting with a number of Solana-based exchanges including Serum, Raydium and Orca.

“[Decentralized exchanges] are the hottest topic of 2021,” Suslov says.We raised to get onto this rocket ship.”

Suslov tells TechCrunch that TabTrader has banked $5.8 million in Series A funding from 100X Ventures, Hashkey Capital, Spartan Capital, SGH Capital, SOSV and Artesian Venture Partners.

Nigeria’s OnePipe raises $3.5M to double down on its embedded finance offering

Last year, fintech API infrastructure players came into the African tech scene, ushering in Plaid-like services to businesses and developers.

And the attention on these companies, particularly from venture capitalists, spiralled into this year, with each significant player raising large seed to Series A rounds.

OnePipe, a fintech API company with a different play from the lot, joins the list today, raising $3.5 million seed to double down on its embedded finance offering.

African impact-focused VC Atlantica Ventures, a co-lead investor in OnePipe’s $950,000 pre-seed round last year, also co-led this seed round alongside Tribe Capital and V&R Associates.

New investors Canaan Partners, Saison Capital, Norrsken (the fund of Klarna founder Niklas Adalberth), The Fund and Two Culture Cap also participated. Existing investors Chris Adelsbach, Techstars, Ingressive Capital, Acquity, P1, Raba and DFS Lab followed on with new checks, alongside a few angel investors.

There are generally three main fintech API infrastructure plays. One is data and financial accounts aggregation (Plaid, Okra, Mono, Stitch and Pngme are some players in the space).

The second focuses on embedded finance and banking as a service, where Treasury Prime, Marqeta ply their trade. The third is core open banking pioneered by the likes of TrueLayer.

OnePipe’s original game plan was to create an API gateway that connected banks and fintechs under a uniform standard, a move that would allow the company to perform core open banking. 

But founder and CEO Ope Adeoye (self-described as the company’s chief plumber), on a call with TechCrunch, said upon continuous integration with these financial institutions, it became clear the company needed to pivot since it wasn’t generating many demand cycles.

And having struck partnerships with a few banks, OnePipe decided to take a step back and delve into the world of embedded finance.

Unlike open banking and data aggregation plays where a company needs to collaborate with almost every bank in the country where they operate, it’s not necessarily the case with companies offering embedded finance. That’s why OnePipe has six partner banks at the moment.

“The caveat goes like this, the moment you make a positioning play for banking as a service, all you really need is one partner bank that lets you go deep because the embedded finance [offering] is about depth and not breadth,” said the CEO.

“If you go for data aggregation or open banking in general, then you are going for breadth, not depth. So on our side, we said we’d rather go with tier two and tier three bands, where once you describe the concept to them, they get it. It powers their growth and is more valuable to them, unlike other larger financial institutions.”

By running API infrastructure on behalf of these partner banks and helping them monetize it, OnePipe works with non-financial institutions to launch and cross-sell an array of financial services such as credit, accounts and payments within their offerings.  

“We raised a round last year to focus on one use case of the partnership, which was to pull together the APIs of a fixed set of banks and offer embedded banking or banking as a service play,” Adeoye asserted. “Meaning, we make it possible for non-financial institutions, or businesses in general, to offer banking services to their customers.”

So an FMCG startup, for instance, can plug into a bank’s API managed by OnePipe and begin to issue accounts to customers, allowing them to make payments off those accounts and access credit when they need it.

In the 10 months OnePipe switched up to this model, it has processed more than 6.3 million transactions worth over $46.3 million, the company said. These numbers are from over 1 million individual accounts and 138+ businesses, ranging from FMCG and retail to lending and agriculture.

OnePipe takes a percentage cut from transactions made on these accounts and shares with its partner banks. For loans offered via its APIs, OnePipe takes at least 1% of the loan interest from its lending partners and also shares it with the businesses and partner banks.

With what OnePipe has accomplished so far, Aniko Szigetvari, the founding partner at Atlantica Ventures, believes the company is not only deepening financial inclusion in Nigeria but the continent. 

“In our view, embedded finance is the next enabler for both traditional and financial service businesses to increase customer loyalty and revenue by offering a wide range of third-party financial products and revenue streams for their customers,” he said.

Though OnePipe is currently only present in Nigeria, it is making its first move beyond the country’s shores to align with Szigetvari’s statement.

OnePipe is going through a strategic partnership route as Adeoye mentioned that his company made a deal with African logistics and freight company Sendy to expand into other African countries. Per the company’s statement, the plan is to “pull a Stripe-Shopify-esque tag team.”

“We made sure that before we looked into other African countries, we were going in with a customer on the ground already,” said the CEO. “We did a deal with Sendy that made them participate in this round, and we will then deploy the capital for expansion. So as they go to Egypt, South Africa, we’ll be deploying with them and grow together.”

Ex-Microsoft exec Harry Shum leads ‘digital economy’ research center in Shenzhen

Overlooking a lush wetland in Hong Kong, the International Digital Economy Academy (IDEA) quietly opened last year.

The research institute sits on the northern bank of the Shenzhen River, which separates Hong Kong from mainland China. But technically, it’s located inside a special area straddling the two cities: the Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation and Technology Cooperation Zone. The name is self-explanatory. It’s a joint effort by the governments of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, with support from Beijing, to collaborate on scientific and technological research.

IDEA is one of the organizations that have set up inside the 3.89 km² special zone — which is about the size of 540 football pitches — and is a brainchild of Harry Shum. The renowned computer scientist was an executive vice president at Microsoft from 2013 to 2019 and also co-founded Microsoft’s largest research branch outside the U.S., Microsoft Research Asia.

Like his former colleague at Microsoft, Kai-Fu Lee, Shum was active in both the research and business sides of AI. Now at IDEA, his team aims to “develop disruptive innovative technologies based on social needs and give back to society in a way that allows more people to benefit from the development of the digital economy.” Several research directors at IDEA are also Microsoft veterans, including Yutao Xie and Jiaping Wang.

The sweeping regulatory clampdown on China’s internet firms has led to headlines saying Beijing has turned against tech. But the government’s intent is more nuanced. It’s zeroing in on Big Tech deemed harmful to the society and economy, companies that have encouraged financial market risks, gaming addiction, exploitation of gig workers, and other ills.

In the meantime, China remains fixated on its goal to promote fundamental research and reduce reliance on Western technologies. In Shenzhen, home to tech giants like Huawei, DJI and Tencent, the government is recruiting world-class scientists. Harry Shum and his team are among the latest to have joined the raft.

IDEA definitely has a buzzy name (and a great acronym). The term “digital economy” comes up often in President Xi Jinping’s speeches on how technology can be a driving force for the economy. The “digital economy has become a key force in restructuring the global economy and transforming the global competitive landscape in recent years,” the President said in October. “The internet, big data, cloud computing and other technologies are being increasingly integrated into all sectors of economic and social development.”

IDEA is examining how AI can transform industries like finance, manufacturing and medical care. This week, it announced it’s partnering with leading Chinese quant trader Ubiquant on a joint lab to work on “risk monitoring and avoidance for financial transaction markets,” as well as “basic infrastructure for high-performance computing systems.”

IDEA is just one of the many research labs that have sprung up across Shenzhen in recent years. The Shenzhen Institute of Data Economy, located on the Shenzhen campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong with support from the government, is another group working to advance China’s digital economy.

TechCrunch+ roundup: Why your title matters, part-time CFOs, Sequoia’s new model

Startup culture is informal, which is why some workers end up with job titles like “customer delight manager” or “product whisperer.”

That might work inside mature companies, but early-stage founders who are presenting themselves to investors must be more specific.

In an interview with Natasha Mascarenhas, B2B stealth startup founder Akshaya Dinesh recounted the time her team was rejected by an accelerator because they hadn’t yet picked a CEO.


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“We said something like, ‘We’re very early and we’re both technical so we’re kind of doing everything together,’ but if we had to choose it would be X,” said Dinesh.

Making sure each contributor has a clearly defined title gives potential investors a better understanding of the team and its abilities — and it will also help avoid future legal disputes.

But like it or not, it also means some founders will receive a larger slice of the pie than others.

“As we’ve learned through loud legal disputes and quieter signs, titles matter,” writes Natasha, who also interviewed several investors and legal experts. “Perhaps even more than the name of your startup does.”

In observance of the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S., we won’t be publishing on Thursday, November 25 and Friday, November 26.

Thanks very much for reading!

Walter Thompson
Senior Editor, TechCrunch+
@yourprotagonist

5 must-have board slides for SaaS sales and revenue leaders

Hand putting wooden five stars on table

Image Credits: Aramyan (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Before he became a partner at Battery Ventures, Bill Binch was chief revenue officer at Pendo, a product analytics app.

In his former role, he was responsible for providing his company’s board with quarterly updates on growth and revenue.

“As a wise mentor once told me, no one ever gets a promotion from a board meeting, but people sure do get fired afterward,” he writes in an article about the five slides sales and revenue teams must get right:

  • Headline reel.
  • Detailed, five-quarter view.
  • Segments, geographies and verticals.
  • Pipeline.
  • Sales team health.

Data collection isn’t the problem: It’s what companies are doing with it

Rear view of young man walking towards detour on red background

Image Credits: Klaus Vedfelt (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Instead of raking in user data as a general practice, companies should aggregate information to optimize product development and create a superior customer experience, writes Maxim Kharchenko, director of fintech products at Rakuten Viber.

In a detailed TechCrunch+ post, Kharchenko uses examples to explain how companies can set up data fabrics, AI and decision intelligence frameworks to build a data-driven business without sacrificing user trust.

3 ways fractional CFOs can fast-track a startup’s success

red balloon with man helping people cross chasm

Image Credits: wildpixel (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Bringing a CFO aboard is not a high priority at most early-stage startups.

It isn’t a critical role until the company reaches product-market fit, and the best ones are expensive to recruit and retain.

Hiring a part-time CFO may be a better option, particularly for companies that are shaping up their finances before seeking new funding, advises Ranga Bodla, head of industry marketing for Oracle NetSuite.

“With no sign that the flow of capital will ease in the near future, bringing in a fractional CFO could be a well-timed strategic move for startups with ambitious growth plans,” he writes.

What happened to Paytm’s IPO valuation?

In India, nearly every store has a placard with a Paytm QR code customers can use to pay for nearly anything.

Given its ubiquity, there was boundless optimism ahead of the fintech’s IPO last week. However, the stock tanked the next day and fell further this week.

It appears the public didn’t like the IPO price too much, Alex Wilhelm writes. Despite a growing merchant base and strong rise in GMV, it appears Paytm “is struggling to pull enough revenue from its work to cover the cost of doing business.”

In Amazon scuffle, Visa’s loss could be Affirm’s gain

Online shopping concept. Credit card and laptop computer on blue background 3D Rendering, 3D Illustration

Image Credits: Ilija Erceg (opens in a new window) / Getty Images (Image has been modified)

Interchange fees can be costly for e-commerce retailers in more than one way — costly payment methods like credit cards lead to customers making fewer transactions and abandoning shopping carts.

And Amazon’s recent decision to stop accepting Visa cards on its U.K. site is evidence of just how much those costs can matter, writes Ryan Lawler.

A host of e-commerce platforms are increasingly moving to alternatives like buy now, pay later as customers tend to buy more often when given no-interest or interest-free payment alternatives, and providers like Affirm and Afterpay are poised to reap the benefits of this shift, Ryan writes.

“We’re likely to see more BNPL partnerships and adoption as retailers seek to grow their top-line sales, reach new customers and move beyond credit cards as a primary payment method.”

What open source-based startups can learn from Confluent’s success story

3D illustration of many arrows changing way to converge toward objective on kraft paper. Confluence background.

Image Credits: Olivier Le Moal / Getty Images

Founders are often told to perfect one product and only shift focus after they’ve either succeeded or failed at it.

But Confluent simultaneously built a cloud product while still figuring out its on-premise service business, writes enterprise reporter Ron Miller.

“The challenge for us was that we had a software offering with very large customers with lots of demands, and we had to [build] a cloud offering across all the different clouds while still servicing that [existing] customer base,” Confluent CEO and co-founder Jay Kreps told Ron.

“Growing the existing business and building something new are both pretty hard problems, so that was the big challenge for us.”

Kreps and Ron also spoke about how the dual focus paid off to help Confluent become a $22-billion publicly listed company, its early days, and why founders should trust their instincts.

As Sequoia changes its model, other permanent-capital VCs weigh in

Sequoia Capital announced in October that it would create a new structure that rolled up all of its investments into a single fund.

“Our industry is still beholden to a rigid 10-year fund cycle pioneered in the 1970s,” wrote partner Roelof Botha in a blog post.

The move to a more permanent, Registered Investment Adviser model is meant to counter that, several U.K.-based VC investors told Anna Heim and Alex Wilhelm.

“It takes a fund like Sequoia with the strength of their LP relationships to even consider this kind of option,” Molten Ventures partner Vinoth Jayakumar said.