Author: Steve OHear

Cleo, the ‘digital assistant’ that replaces your banking apps, picks up $10M Series A led by Balderton

TECHCRUNCH When Cleo, the London-based ‘digital assistant’ that wants to replace your banking apps, quietly entered the U.S., the company couldn’t have expected to be an instant hit. Many better funded British startups have failed to ‘break America’. However, just four months later, the fintech upstart counts 350,000 users across the pond — claiming more than 600,000 active users in the U.K., U.S. and Canada in total — and says it is adding 30,000 new signups each week. All of which hasn’t gone unnoticed by investors. Already backed by some of the biggest VC names in the London tech scene — including Entrepreneur First, Moonfruit founder Wendy Tan White, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Wonga founder Errol Damelin, TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus, and LocalGlobe — Cleo is adding Balderton Capital to the list. The European venture capital firm, which has previously invested in fintech unicorn Revolut and the well-established GoCardless, has led Cleo’s $10 million Series A round, in which I understand most early backers, including Zennström, also followed on. One source told me the Series A gives the hot London startup a post-money valuation of around £30 million (~$39.7m), although Cleo declined to comment. In a call with co-founder and CEO Barney Hussey-Yeo, he explained that the new capital will be used to continue scaling the company, with further international expansion the name of the game. Hussey-Yeo says Cleo...

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Curve, the all-your-cards-in-one app, adds ‘zero fees’ when spending abroad

TECHCRUNCH Curve, the London fintech that lets you consolidate all of your bank cards into a single Curve card and app to make it easier to manage your spending, has always faced a slight awareness problem. Even though nobody else does what Curve does — the product is innovative on a multiple fronts, such as its “financial time travel” feature — it is also the kind of proposition that not everybody gets until they’ve signed up and started using it. Once they do, however, they tend to stick around. I’m told retention rates are way above industry average at 70 percent. Three years since launch and much further along in the roadmap, the sum of its parts is beginning to make Curve a much easier sell. Not least because any company that wants to create “one card to rule them all” needs to have multiple bases covered if it is going to convince you to leave your other debit and credit cards at home. One of those, of course, is low FX fees when spending abroad. Or, better still, zero fees. Enter the latest update from Curve, which introduces the “real exchange rate, with no hidden fees”. Up until now, Curve offered a better exchange rate and fee structure than most high street banks (around 1-2 percent on top of MasterCard’s competitive exchange rate), but it wasn’t up there...

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Twitter’s former Head of People EMEA joins VC firm Atomico as Partner

TECHCRUNCH Atomico, the European venture capital firm founded by Skype’s Niklas Zennström, is announcing a number of new hires to its investment team, including new Partner Caroline Chayot, who previously led the EMEA HR team at Twitter. I’m told she’ll be working alongside existing Atomico Partner Dan Hynes, who was formerly the Director of Global Staffing at Skype, with the pair helping meet increased demand from Atomico’s portfolio companies for talent support. At Twitter, Chayot is said to have supported the leadership team in scaling the social media behemoth from two to six markets, growing the team from 80...

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Tandem CEO will tell you why building a bank is hard at Disrupt Berlin

TECHCRUNCH Challenger banks, neobanks or digital-only banks… Whatever we choose to call them, Europe — and the U.K. in particular — has more than its fair share of bank upstarts battling it out for a slice of the growing fintech pie. One of those is Tandem, co-founded by financial technology veteran Ricky Knox, who we’re excited to announce will join us at TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin. Tandem — or the so-called “Good Bank” — has been on quite a journey this year. Most recently the bank launched a competitive fixed savings product, pitting it against a whole host of incumbent...

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Vegan meal delivery startup Allplants is served £7.5M Series A funding

TECHCRUNCH Allplants, a London-based startup that delivers ready-made “plant-based” meals (that’s vegan, to you and me), has raised £7.5 million in Series A funding. The round is led by VC firm Octopus Ventures, which was an early backer in healthy snack delivery company Graze. Additional investors in the round include existing backer Felix Capital (which I’m told has doubled its seed investment), Swedish VC firm Otiva, unnamed partners at VerlInvest (who are participating in a personal capacity), David Milner (ex-CEO Tyrells), Simon Nixon (founder of MoneySupermarket), and video blogger Jack Harries. Allplants reckons it is the U.K.’s largest Series...

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Ostrichpillow Hood, the latest product from Studio Banana, is no joke

TECHCRUNCH I’m not going to lie, when Studio Banana released the original Ostrichpillow back in 2012, despite breaking all Kickstarter records at the time, I thought the whole thing might be an elaborate joke. Or, worse still, since the sleep-at-your-desk styled product had found popularity amongst people who worked at startups, Silicon Valley was now parodying itself. Except that “transformative” design company Studio Banana is based in Europe, with offices based in London, Lake Geneva and Madrid. And 500,000 sales and five products later, the joke is arguably on its critics. As I’m fond of telling founders who ask...

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Divido, the consumer finance platform, scores $15M Series A

TECHCRUNCH Divido, the consumer finance platform that lets you take out credit at the point of purchase to help spread the cost of buying new things, has raised $15 million in Series A funding. Leading the round is Dawn Capital, and DN Capital, with participation from Mastercard, American Express Ventures and a number of previous investors. Renier Lemmens, who previously served as Chief Executive Officer of PayPal EMEA and was an executive at Barclays, has also been appointed as chairman. Launched in late 2015, London-based Divido currently works with over 1,000 partners to enable them to offer B2C and B2B finance to their customers at checkout. This includes being able to spread the cost of any product or service over a period of time by providing instant access to credit at the point of purchase, either online and in-store. However, where the company differentiates from the likes of Klarna is that Divido doesn’t provide the line of credit itself or work with a single lender, instead operating a marketplace model. This sees lenders compete to offer the most suitable credit. The broader pitch is that Divido’s consumer finance at the point of sale leads to up to 20 percent more sales for retailers, more lending for banks and more transactions for payment partners. The company’s clients include Mercedes-Benz, BNP Paribas Shopify. Explains Christer Holloman, CEO of Divido, in a...

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Confrere, the video calling service for professionals and clients, raises $1.5M seed

TECHCRUNCH Confrere, a video calling service designed specifically for professionals who need to hold online consultations or meeting with clients, has raised $1.5 million in seed funding. Leading the round is Berlin’s Point Nine Capital, with participation from Nordic Makers, The Nordic Web Ventures, and Fathom Capital. A number of angel investors also took part in the round, including Albert Armengo (the founder of Doctoralia, sold to Docplanner), as well as a number of physicians who are users of the product. Notably, Confrere was co-founded by CEO Svein Yngvar Willassen, who previously founded and headed up appear.in, another video...

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