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Robotic Automations

Paystand acquires Teampay to be DeFi version of ‘Venmo for B2B payments’ | TechCrunch

Paystand has acquired spend management software startup Teampay to create what the companies describe as a “no-fee B2B digital payment and spend powerhouse.”

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Teampay has raised $65 million since it was founded in 2016.

The combined company services over 1 million businesses running on a commercial blockchain to more than 1 million participants. It processed more than $10 billion in transactions to date, which it touts is nearly 2% of annual U.S. business-to-business payments.

“Teampay represents this new class of fintech companies,” Paystand CEO Jeremy Almond told TechCrunch exclusively. “They have products for CFOs to really change how they can digitize all of their workflow. It’s what I’d call a next-gen experience for the users and is a good fit for our customers going through this really big modernization process.”

Paystand will continue to run the Teampay brand, mainly because it is well-known, he said.

Almond believes businesses fintech should learn from consumer finance apps. In the B2B world, the process for sending and receiving funds is complex, slow and riddled with fees. But consumers can send and receive money to each other via Venmo or CashApp. Those are the kinds of features he wants Paystand to offer.

Teampay is the blockchain-enabled B2B payments provider’s second acquisition in two years. It purchased payment platform Yaydoo in 2022. At the time, Paystand’s valuation was north of $1 billion. Paystand brought in $98 million in venture capital since being founded in 2014. Teampay is not on the blockchain, however, now Paystand can bring that functionality to both the accounts receivable and accounts payable sides.

“We think it’s a trend of consumerization of the enterprise,” Almonds said. “Now we can offer both sides to 1 million businesses.”

Despite fintech being a hot industry in recent years, the banking industry overall has an aging payment rails problem. This causes higher fees, more intermediaries and delays. Almond is a long-time proponent of using a decentralized financial infrastructure to solve the payment rails problem. Paystand uses the Ethereum blockchain as the engine for its Paystand Bank Network, which enables business-to-business payments with zero fees.

“Blockchain is the new cloud,” he said. “I know blockchain, bitcoin and decentralized finance networks have their share of problems, but they represent a fundamental shift away from the same central banking system that’s been in place since the 1930s.”

“A lot of people think blockchain or decentralized finance is not ready yet,” he added. “What we’re really proving is if you create real value for businesses and finance teams, people will use it.”

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Stripe, doubling down on embedded finance, de-couples payments from the rest of its stack | TechCrunch

Stripe continues to hold the title of being the biggest financial technology business still in private hands, with a current valuation of about $65 billion and a whopping $1 trillion in total processed payment volume last year alone. But fintech is fragmented and a fast-moving target, and with competitors chipping away at its place, Stripe is changing up its approach.

Today, Stripe announced that it will be de-coupling payments — the jewel in its crown — from the rest of its financial services stack. This is a big change, considering that in the past, even as Stripe grew its list of services, it required businesses to be payments customers in order to use any of the rest. Alongside this, the company is adding in a number of new embedded finance features as well a new wave of AI tools.

The updates were unveiled at Sessions, Stripe’s big developer event in San Francisco, where the company said it would be announcing more than 50 (yes, 50) new features on its platform, part of a slate of more than 250 (yes, 250) that have been announced so far this year.

That might sound like a lot of noise, but in truth, most of the list of new items is actually on the incremental side — updates and new features to bigger products already announced.

“Our mission is to grow the GDP of the internet. Our strategy is to listen carefully to the needs of the most sophisticated and innovative businesses in the world,” said Patrick Collison, the CEO and co-founder of the company, at the event. “This year, because of our scale, Stripe is well positioned to help our users deal with the increasingly complex payments landscape and put AI to work to drive growth. We’re also making Stripe more modular, so companies can use just the parts of Stripe most useful to them.”

Stripe removing its requirement to use its payments API addresses a major piece of friction for customers and would-be customers who might have wanted to use some of the company’s other tools — which include the likes of fraud, risk and verification services, billing and invoicing, in-person payments, financial account data, and more — but did not want to be all-in on Stripe’s larger platform. It signifies a shift in how Stripe views its wider platform: in the past it took the approach that the launch of other services could help lure users to taking its payment services; now it appears to be willing to explore how it can sell some of those either, non payments services on their own.

In an interview, Will Gaybrick, Stripe’s chief product officer, admitted that users had been asking for company to open up its walled garden for some time, but he claimed that one of the main reasons why it delayed doing so until now was due to it being technically hard to create integrations for legacy services.

On another level, it underscores an interesting shift in the market: companies like Stripe (and many others like Adyen) have taken a platform approach to the business of payments services. They aim for bigger revenues and margins per customer by becoming one-stop-shops. But the truth is that the market is huge and fragmented, and customers of all sizes have dozens, sometimes hundreds, of options for what to use.

Indeed, some will want to have the freedom to be flexible, and some might well be locked into contracts, and some may simply want to work with multiple providers depending on the market in question, or to de-risk by using multiple platforms. That has clearly started to become a bigger opportunity for the company; hence opening up its walled garden now.

Other notable updates announced today:

Adding AI tooling to the checkout and fraud tools

Stripe announced a new version of its checkout experience that will be using AI to give a more precise selection of payment options to customers depending on location and what customers may have already used. To fuel the personalization, it’s doubling the number of payment methods to 100. They include the likes of Amazon Pay, Revolut Pay, Swish, Twint, and Zip.

“What we’ve heard historically is, hey, we need more payment method coverage if you want us to go all in on Stripe,” Gaybrick said. OpenAI (which is also one of Stripe’s AI partners), Slack and River Island are among Stripe’s customers for this service.

Stripe said that developers will also be seeing more AI when it runs A/B testing on the checkout flow.

On the fraud front, this is one area where Stripe is very much following the market trends, where we are seeing AI tooling being added into a number of fraud detection services. In its case, it’s launching a new tool called “Radar Assistant”, which lets users create new fraud tools on its Radar risk platform using natural language commands.

Big embedded finance feature update

Embedded finance — which involves companies, which may or may not be focusing on financial services, integrating financial products into their apps and other services to improve customer loyalty, revenues and experience — has become a growing area in fintech, with companies like Rapyd, Plaid, Airwallex and TrueLayer among the dozens of companies building and provisioning these tools to neobanks, other fintechs and others. Given that many ‘as a service’ offerings also offer payments, it’s important that Stripe continue to build out its own embedded finance efforts, branded Stripe Connect, to remain competitive.

Today it announced a number of upgrades to bring the total number of Connect tools to 17, included 10 focused on different payments services. These include, for example, adding in Stripe Capital to offer loans to customers, it said. Gaybrick told TechCrunch that Lightspeed, the point of sale company, makes 50% of its revenues now from embedded finance products, so it’s an important area for Stripe to keep developing.

Usage-based billing upgrade

Stripe has, frankly speaking, been somewhat slow on building out more sophisticated subscription and billing products, opening the door for companies like Paddle and more recent arrivals like Lago (which focuses on open-sourced billing) to create significantly more nuanced offerings to address the wave of new technology and pricing for that tech in the market. These range not just to more granular and customizable subscription models, but also the introduction of usage-based billing, based on whatever parameters that customers want to create. Now Stripe is also throwing its hat into that game and today it’s announcing that Anthropic is as a high-profile customer using the feature to tailor how it charges and bills for its API.

“For Claude Pro, we use Stripe Billing to manage subscriptions. For our API, we use Stripe Invoicing to make it easy to automate accounts receivable, collect payments, and reconcile transactions. This improves the experience for Anthropic and our customers alike,” said Daniela Amodei, cofounder and president of Anthropic, in a statement.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

India scrambles to curb PhonePe and Google's dominance in mobile payments | TechCrunch

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), the governing body overseeing the country’s widely used Unified Payments Interface (UPI) mobile payment system, is set to engage with various fintech startups this month to develop a strategy to address the growing market dominance of PhonePe and Google Pay in the UPI ecosystem.

NPCI executives plan to meet with representatives from CRED, Flipkart, Fampay and Amazon among other players to discuss their key initiatives aimed at boosting UPI transactions on their respective apps and to understand the assistance they require, people familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

UPI, built by a coalition of Indian banks, has become the most popular way Indians transact online, processing over 10 billion transactions monthly.

The new meetings are part of an increasing effort to address concerns raised by lawmakers and industry players regarding the market share concentration of Google Pay and PhonePe, which together account for nearly 86% of UPI transactions by volume, up from 82.5% at the end of December. Walmart owns more than three-fourths of PhonePe.

Paytm, the third-largest UPI player, has seen its market share decline to 9.1% by the end of March, down from 13% at the end of 2023, following a clampdown by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

An overview of India’s UPI ecosystem. (Image: Macquarie)

The conversation follows the central bank expressing “displeasure” to the NPCI over the growing duopoly in the payments space, a person familiar with the matter said. An NPCI spokesperson declined to comment.

In February, a parliamentary panel in India urged the government to support the growth of domestic fintech players that can offer alternatives to the Walmart-backed PhonePe and Google Pay apps.

The NPCI has long advocated for limiting the market share of individual companies participating in the UPI ecosystem to 30%. However, it has extended the deadline for firms to comply with this directive to the end of December 2024. The organization faces a unique challenge in enforcing this directive: It believes that it currently lacks a technical mechanism to do so, TechCrunch previously reported.

The RBI is also weighing an incentive plan to create a more favorable competitive field for emerging UPI players, another person familiar with the matter said. Indian daily Economic Times separately reported Wednesday that the NPCI is encouraging fintech companies to offer incentives to their users, promoting the use of their respective apps for making UPI transactions.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Flatpay rings up $47M to target smaller merchants with simple payment solutions | TechCrunch

As the world waits for $65 billion payments tech giant Stripe to go public, a wave of smaller startups continues to roll into the market to pick up more payments business. In one of the latest developments, Danish company Flatpay, which builds payment solutions for small and medium physical merchants like shops, restaurants and salons, has raised €45 million ($47 million) led by Dawn Capital.

Flatpay had raised just under $21 million before this latest Series B, and with this new funding, we understand that is now valued at well over $100 million. The company plans to use the money to expand into new markets in Europe and to build out more products alongside the point-of-sale and card terminals that it sells today. Some of these products might involve AI but only as an enabler of certain features, rather than a core service, said Flatpay’s CEO Sander Janca-Jensen.

“We have been able to raise money without mentioning the AI buzz word,” he said. “It seems to be rare these days.”

€45 million is a strong Series B in the current market in Europe, especially when you consider the size of the startup. Founded in 2022, Flatpay currently has just 7,000 customers across its current footprint of Denmark, Finland and Germany.

Even with its revenues and customer base both growing at a monthly rate of 15%, Flatpay’s business is just a drop in the merchant ocean.

There are more than 24 million SMBs in Europe; point-of-sale terminals in the region number more than 17 million; and there are not just dozens but hundreds of other payments services — they include the likes of Stripe, Adyen, Sumup and Paypal through to much smaller players like SilkPay — all targeting the same customers that Flatpay is.

But investors believe there is a lot of potential in the startup, enough to bet early and strong, even in the current economic climate.

Janca-Jensen, who co-founded the company with Rasmus Busk, Rasmus Hellmund Carlsen and Peter Lüth, said the gap Flatpay spotted in the market was a lack of really simple solutions for merchants who want the convenience that technology can bring, without the harder aspects that come along with it, such as troubleshooting, understanding the intricacies of charges and integrating products into their business flow. 

The startup’s approach to addressing that comes in three ways, he said. On the customer side, Flatpay works with a defined size of customer: only merchants that process over €100,000 annually, and the customers cannot be multiple-location chains or franchises. Janca-Jensen said that it regularly rejects customers if they don’t meet those parameters.

On the technology side, it has matched its target customer size with the unit economics of its payment solutions to come up with very basic, flat fees (hence the startup’s name) of 0.99% for terminal transactions and 1.49% for POS purchases. Flatpay then doesn’t set a minimum charge for single transactions, and it doesn’t charge fees if customers are paying with international cards. Janca-Jensen admitted that its model means that Flatpay sometimes loses money on transactions, but it overall lowers the bar for usage and encourages more spend and overall revenue for the company.

Perhaps most interestingly, on the sales side, despite its focus on streamlined technology, Flatpay only sells via live sales visits. No online sales (although there are specialists who will help arrange those in-person sales visits and handle support), no virtual visits, and no plans to introduce either.

Janca-Jensen said he and his co-founders developed a fondness for direct field sales when they were selling home alarm systems in a previous life.

As with payments hardware and software, security can be a hard sell to customers. They found that the only way they could reliably seal deals was by selling in person. And the only way that sales people could sell in person was by understanding the products really well. And the only way they could understand the products really well was by the company paring down the products themselves. 

“You have to get salespeople to understand the product enough to explain it well to buyers. It sets high standards for how simple your product must be,” said Janca-Jensen. “We like that challenge.”

Currently about half of Flatpay’s 200 employees are on the sales side, he said, split between those who help arrange sales visits and handle support; and those who visit customers in person. Typically, they are recruited from other retail roles rather than software sales.

“We steer clear of SaaS account executives and fintech people,” he said. In his opinion, SaaS sales are so easy, that people who work in that area are “too lazy and complacent” to make the grade for field sales.

So far, in the three markets where Flatpay operates, the aim has been to recruit very local salespeople who understand the nuances of their respective markets. That seems to raise a lot of questions about how well this can scale longer term, but Janca-Jensen brushes that concern aside, and investors are equally bullish.

“The field sales model, when done well, works. You can localise and roll out teams in a cost-efficient way to explain on a local basis why a product makes sense,” said Josh Bell, a general partner at Dawn who focuses on fintech, in an interview.

He pointed out that iZettle — another company Dawn backed — was also an early mover in using field sales to sell its fancy new tech to non-technical customers. “They were a winner, but even they never did it as well as Flatpay does this. Payments is huge and Flatplay has touched just at a fraction of the opportunity.”

Denmark’s Seed Capital also participated in this round, along with other, unnamed investors.

Software Development in Sri Lanka

Robotic Automations

Exclusive: Fisker spent months trying to track down millions of dollars in customer payments

Fisker temporarily lost track of millions of dollars in customer payments as it scaled up deliveries, leading to an internal audit that started in December and took months to complete, TechCrunch has learned.

The EV startup was ultimately able to track down a majority of those payments or request new ones from customers whose payment methods had expired. But the disarray, which was described to TechCrunch by three people familiar with the internal payment crisis, took employees and resources away from Fisker’s sales team at a time when the company was attempting to save itself by restructuring its business model.

Fisker struggled to keep tabs on these transactions, which included down payments and in some cases, the full price of the vehicles, because of lax internal procedures for keeping track of them, according to the people. In a few cases, it delivered vehicles without collecting any form of payment at all, they said.

“Checks were not cashed in a timely manner or just lost altogether,” one of the people told TechCrunch. “We were often scrambling to find checks, credit card receipts and any wired funds a few months after a vehicle was sold.”

Alongside the internal audit, outside auditor PwC was asking Fisker for more documentation about its vehicle sales as part of the process of putting together the company’s annual financial report, according to two of the people. Fisker was often unable to provide satisfactory documentation, leading to more requests from PwC.

“Paperwork being collected wasn’t always being collected in full, or sent to the same places,” another one of the people said.

These sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press about internal matters.

This internal confusion put the company in a position where it couldn’t accurately say how much revenue it had generated, according to the people, who noted it is one of the reasons Fisker has yet to file its annual financial report for 2023.

Tracking down the payments may wind up offering little solace to the startup, which is on the brink of bankruptcy. Fisker has paused production of its only vehicle, the Ocean SUV, after running into trouble meeting internal sales goals and struggling to support customers dealing with a number of quality problems. It has alerted investors that it may not be able to continue operations without a fresh infusion of cash.

This week, the New York Stock Exchange suspended the trading of Fisker shares and delisted the company, increasing the likelihood that it won’t be able to raise money to survive. The company gutted prices — by as much as 39% — on its remaining inventory Wednesday morning.

Representatives for Fisker and PwC did not respond to requests for comment.

Red flags raised

Fisker has warned investors since last year about problems with its internal accounting practices. In November, the company reported that it had discovered multiple “material weaknesses” in its internal financial reporting.

The company initially said it lacked “a sufficient number of professionals with an appropriate level of accounting knowledge, training and experience to appropriately analyze, record and disclose accounting matters timely and accurately.”

That statement followed the resignation of two chief accounting officers within a month. “Specifically, there are insufficient controls to ensure that the accounting department is consistently provided with complete and adequate support, documentation and information, and that matters are resolved in a timely and effective manner,” the company wrote at the time.

In that same filing, Fisker revealed a second material weakness involving the “risks of material misstatement over the accounting for inventory and related income statement accounts.”

On February 29, Fisker admitted in a press release that it identified an additional material weakness “in revenue and the related balance sheet accounts.”

This legal jargon was a way for Fisker to admit what sources told TechCrunch: that it simply did not have the people or processes in place to properly assemble its books.

Fisker’s poor internal procedures have created problems beyond keeping track of payments.

The company has also struggled to keep up with making the required payments to various state DMVs when setting up new customers, according to the people.

This has resulted in at least dozens of customers spending months with temporary license plates. Some owners have had to bother the company for multiple sets of temporary plates, as they keep expiring. The same has been true for some owners who have been stuck waiting for their title and registration.

Fisker hired contractors in February to help resolve the title and registration problems, but the backlog was immense, according to the people. One of the people said that the team was working on amending paperwork on orders stretching as far back as August 2023.

“There was no infrastructure in place prior to spinning up the wheels of the sales machine,” one of the people said.

Software Development in Sri Lanka