Cryptocurrencies are gaining more attention for a less expected reason: industry players’ interest in working with regulators to smooth out uncertainty in the market. As this happens, crypto startups have landed new funding for their efforts to bridge businesses with related financial services, with backers this week focusing on the corporate cryptocurrency banking space. Business banking also maintains the spotlight this week, with investors targeting a small business (SMB) challenger bank, alternative lending players and more.
Founded by two former UBS bankers, SEBA Crypto AG is a Switzerland-based startup looking to develop a cryptocurrency bank for corporates and investors. The company also plans to offer traditional banking services to business clients that operate in the crypto market, reports said this week. As it has progressed, SEBA announced $103 million in new funding from Black River Asset Management and Summer Capital. While the funding is a big boost, the company still has several hurdles to overcome in an industry struggling with a lack of regulatory clarity. Reports said SEBA is in the process of obtaining a banking and securities dealer license from Swiss regulator FINMA, and plans to open physical branches beginning next year.
Germany-based Bitwala wants to merge the crypto and traditional banking worlds, and has just raised $4.7 million for its effort. Backers from Earlybird led the funding, reports in Silicon Canals said, with coparion also participating. The funding will be used by Bitwala to launch its platform that allows for bank customers to deposit funds into their accounts using both fiat euro and bitcoin. While regulatory challenges persist, Bitwala is collaborating with an unnamed bank partner in Germany, as well as regulators in the country, to ensure full compliance in its solution. Its bank partner provides SEPA debit and credit transaction, debit card, and recurring payment services to Bitwala clients, while the company also offers a cryptocurrency wallet.
France’s Qonto wants to be the leading challenger bank in its market for small business and freelance customers. The company secured $23 million in funding from Valar Ventures and Alven, both existing backers, as well as the European Investment Bank (EIB) Group. Qonto provides small firms with a French international bank account number (IBAN), debit cards and expense management capabilities. The new funding will be used to expand its staff and move into new markets, targeting Spain, Italy and Germany.
The U.K.’s Funding Options announced $6.54 million in funding from ING Ventures, which is obtaining a minority stake in the small business financing platform. The company will use the investment to expand across the U.K. and the Netherlands, with a focus on additional European markets, a press release said. The firm links SMBs and their advisors to providers of financing and loan products, matchmaking based on borrowers’ creditworthiness and current financial circumstances.
Based in Rwanda, BeneFactors links SMBs to working capital with an invoice financing solution. The company secured $150,000 in Pre-Seed funding, reports in WeeTracker said this week, though the publication did not say who provided the investment. In an interview with the publication, BeneFactors CEO Olivia Bryanne Zank said small businesses in the country struggle to obtain the working capital they need to thrive, and that the company collaborated with the National Bank of Rwanda to develop and obtain the appropriate licensing and reporting structure it needs.
A $185 million Series C funding round will boost freight and logistics startup Convoy. The U.S. company announced this week that Capital G, the growth equity investment fund of Alphabet, provided the funding, as did other backers. The company aims to “transform the trucking industry” by linking shippers with an online marketplace and enhanced freight solutions. The solution aims to streamline truck drivers’ access to new clients and increase efficiencies that Co-founder and CEO Dan Lewis said causes so many trucks to run empty and sit idling. Convoy said it will use the investment to focus on product development and scale up.
Tokyo’s AlpacaJapan develops artificial intelligence (AI) tools for global capital markets, offering a business platform and database management tool. The company announced $5.71 million in new funding this week from MUFG Bank, SMBC Venture Capital Fund, Innovative Venture Fund Investment, CSV Venture Fund, D4V, Archetype Ventures Fund and others. The Series A funding will be used to focus on further development of its AlpacaForecast platform, which provides predictive market movement capabilities, as well as its AlpacaRadar/Search product that provides predictive analytics into market risk. The company’s press release announcing the funding also noted that it plans to hire new staff.
Commercial card startup Brex hasn’t yet closed its latest funding round, but unnamed sources told The Wall Street Journal that the firm is in the process of doing so in an effort to reach a $1 billion valuation. The company, expected to see new funds from DST Global to the tune of about $100 million, provides expense management solutions tied to commercial card products for business clients. How it differentiates itself from the competition, reports said, is that it does not require its business client owners to be held personally liable for their commercial cards. The company is focusing on technology startups as customers, reports noted.