Branch, the popular finance app in Africa, announced on Monday (April 8) that it has inked a partnership with Visa and raised $170 million in venture funding led by Foundation Capital and Visa.
In a press release, Branch said the partnership is a natural fit, as the two companies share a common vision of bringing financial access to billions of unbanked people. The company said the investment will help Branch expand financial access across the African continent, while fueling new expansion in India and Latin America.
Branch raised the $170 million in a Series C round of financing. In addition to Foundation Capital and Visa, existing investors Andreessen Horowitz, Trinity Ventures, Formation 8, the IFC, CreditEase and Victory Park also contributed in the round. Greenspring, Foxhaven and B Capital were the new investors in the round.
“I’ve known the Branch team since right after the company was founded,” Charles Moldow of Foundation Capital, who will be joining the Branch board of directors, said in the press release. “After tracking them for years, it has become clear to me that emerging markets are one of the biggest growth areas for FinTech.”
Branch and Visa plan to jointly offer virtual prepaid debit card numbers to customers around the world, allowing unbanked Branch customers to receive a credit at any ATM without the need for a bank account.
“We started Branch in Kenya, where M-Pesa gives anyone with a phone – including the unbanked – access to digital credit. Unfortunately, mobile money isn’t available in most countries. With the help of Visa, now we can send cash to any ATM and reach the underserved around the planet,” said Matthew Flannery, CEO and co-founder of Branch, in the press release.
According to the company, more than two billion people around the world are being shut out of the financial system due to credit scores and lack of access to bank accounts – yet many of those people have mobile phones. By capitalizing on the global growth of mobile technology, Branch said it aims to quickly increase financial access.
“At Visa, we believe financial empowerment is an essential passport out of poverty,” said Bill Sheedy, executive vice president of strategy at Visa. “Our partnership with Branch provides Visa a key distribution mechanism to reach people who were previously out of reach and help shape the future of microfinance.”