Welcome to The exchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your trust. If you read this as a post on our site, please subscribe here so that you can receive it immediately in the future. Every week I check out the latest fintech news from the past week. This includes everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it – and understand it – so you stay informed. — Mary Ann
Hello, and welcome back. We’ve finally got our power back up after the ice storm and I’m feeling better after a cold – but since I’m still not working at full capacity, this newsletter will be shortened a bit.
Rebrands are not uncommon in the startup world, and the fintech space is no exception. They are especially more common when companies revolve around adapting to external circumstances. Last week, TripActions announced that it was undergoing a rebrand and is now called Navan.
For example, I was not at all surprised by the news, as shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, TripActions transitioned from a travel expense management company to a corporate card and expense management for businesses in general. In 2021, CEO and co-founder Ariel Cohen told me that sales not only fell, but also bottomed out. . . to zero. That’s when executives decided to focus their efforts on the then-new Liquid offering, which seems to have worked quite well for the company. In October, amid its continued growth, the company raised $154 million in equity at a post-money valuation of $9.2 billion, up from its previous valuation of $7.5 billion, as well as a structured $150 million financing deal from Coatue. It then acquired $400 million in credit facilities from Goldman Sachs and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) in December.
The rebranding is apparently more than just a name change. The company said it has now unified its travel, business and expense offers into “a single super application”. In addition, Navan – a combination of navigate And previous (or forward) – claims to be the first travel company to integrate OpenAI and ChatGPT APIs into its infrastructure and product suite.
The company says it is currently using generative AI technology to write, test and fix code with the goal of increasing operational efficiency and reducing overhead. So now, through Ava, Navan’s virtual assistant, travel managers can personalize recommendations and increase traveler engagement, executives claim. They also say that administrators can use the tool as a personal assistant to perform tasks such as performing personalized data analysis, providing detailed carbon emissions data or ordering company cards for their company. Meanwhile, travelers can, for example, conduct a travel search, resolve customer support issues, and even recommend an Indian restaurant near their London hotel.
A spokesperson for the company told me via email, “Program managers can ask Ava for reporting on the travel and spending programs, whether through text, graph, PDF, etc. We also use AI to do everything from eliminate expense reporting to automate specification – and in the case of hotel folios, we collect directly from the hotel after a stay, categorize line items, compare against company policies and submit for the user, so they are not necessary [to] move pennies to balance a folio – a process that in my experience is quite painful.
Personally, at TC, we’ve been wondering when generative AI would start impacting the fintech space, so I’m intrigued by this move in TripAction’s section – I mean Navan.
But I should point out that Navan wasn’t the only financial services company to announce that it would integrate AI into its products.
Last week, australiabusinessblog.com’s Sarah Perez reported that Microsoft and American Express have announced they’re teaming up to put AI to work “to help with the frustrating and tedious task of filing and reviewing business expense reports.” She wrote: “The companies agreed to extend their decades-long collaboration to build solutions leveraging Microsoft Cloud and AI technologies, starting with expense management. According to Amex, the initial solution will leverage machine learning and AI to automate expense reports and approvals.” Specifically, however, Amex says the AI is something it built in-house – it doesn’t leverage Microsoft’s partnership with OpenAI, instead it uses Microsoft Cloud. You can read more about that deal here.
Fascinating! I expect that we will only hear more about the integration of AI in the world of financial services.
Last week, To confirm announced it would cut its workforce by 19% and close its crypto unit. It also missed analysts’ estimates on revenue and earnings. All this news led to a sharp fall in the stock price. It’s further proof that buy now, pay later because a space is struggling. I plan to get into that more next week, so stay tuned.
enthusiasm also cut jobs — 126 people laid off last week. Last May, australiabusinessblog.com had reported that the HR technology unicorn, which was worth nearly $10 billion at the time, had applied for an extension to its 2021 Series E funding round. That funding event included $175 million in primary capital, a tranche of secondary shares and a public offering.
Ironically, TC’s Natasha Mascarenhas explains late last month, Gusto’s editor-in-chief wrote fired on the subject — and the silver lining for small businesses looking to boast talent.
“Call me cynical, but in the end a big company will always choose itself over dozens of its employees. It’s just the nature of the beast. Small businesses should use this fact to their advantage.”
australiabusinessblog.com reached out to Gusto for comment and was told the cuts represented about 5% of the workforce. A spokesperson also told me: “All employees have been notified by email. Affected employees also received a text message directing them to the email.” An employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the move came as a surprise as the company claims it is in “stable financial condition”. The same employee mentioned a toxic work culture, a sentiment echoed by some users of Blind.
According to Axios: “Robin Hood announced plans to buy back shares of Sam Bankman-Fried’s Emergent Fidelity Technologies. That particular Robinhood stake is currently in legal hell following the FTX implosion. Robinhood’s board has authorized the purchase of “most or all” of the 55 million shares Emergent Fidelity Technologies acquired last year, it said in its earnings report Wednesday. Emergent Fidelity Technologies was formed to repurchase a 7.6% stake in Robinhood early 2022. Now, however, the bet is being disputed by several players. Ouch. I’m sure Robinhood didn’t expect this when he gave up those stocks.
cake insurancethat provides workers’ compensation insurance to small businesses, announced that it has completed its transition to a “rated, full-stack carrier”. Pie will begin issuing its own insurance policies later this year following its recent acquisition of a nationally recognized insurance company (formerly the American Insurance Company), now renamed the Pie Insurance Company. We last covered Pie in September when it picked up a $315 million Series D run. Pie also expanded into commercial auto insurance as the MGA for Ford Motor Credit Company through the launch of Ford Pro Insure.
From Manish Singh: “Fintech Kissht And PayUs LazyPay is among the apps that India’s IT Ministry has blocked in New Delhi’s ongoing crackdown to curb consumer data misuse and protect the country’s integrity.” More here.
from PayPal stock is out again. The company announced during its fourth-quarter results announcement that former CEO Dan Schulman plans to retire at the end of the year. But earnings beat analysts’ estimates. Last week we wrote about the company’s plans to lay off 2,000 employees.
In July 2022, Brazilian fintech alt.bank launched novücard, a credit card in Brazil with a “dynamic” credit limit, where the limit can be automatically adjusted up and down based on usage and timeliness of payments. A spokesperson for the company told me that novücard has grown to 150,000 new customers since its launch, “making it the fastest growing credit card in Brazil.” She added: “As many as 3,000 new customers a day receive a new novücard. The company expects this figure to grow, driven primarily by word of mouth, and the number of customers will reach 2 million by the end of 2023.” Fintech alt.bank, founded by American Brad Liebmann, has 130 employees, mainly located in São Paulo and São Carlos. The company raised $5.5 million in seed funding in May 2021.
Financing and Mergers and Acquisitions
Former CTO of Gemini launches Fierce, a high-yield finance super app
New social investment platform Follow taps influencers to mirror their investment strategies
SUMA Wealth Acquires Reel to Close US Wealth Gap. Christine covered last year: https://australiabusinessblog.com.com/2022/10/21/suma-wealth-latinos-credit-gaming/
Sequoia Capital Southeast Asia backs cross-border payments start-up Tazapay
That’s it for this week. Thanks again for staying with me, and I hope to be with you again in full force next week. Enjoy the rest of your weekend! xoxo, Mary Ann