Jul
12
2021
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Quantexa raises $153M to build out AI-based big data tools to track risk and run investigations

As financial crime has become significantly more sophisticated, so too have the tools that are used to combat it. Now, Quantexa — one of the more interesting startups that has been building AI-based solutions to help detect and stop money laundering, fraud and other illicit activity — has raised a growth round of $153 million, both to continue expanding that business in financial services and to bring its tools into a wider context, so to speak: linking up the dots around all customer and other data.

“We’ve diversified outside of financial services and working with government, healthcare, telcos and insurance,” Vishal Marria, its founder and CEO, said in an interview. “That has been substantial. Given the whole journey that the market’s gone through in contextual decision intelligence as part of bigger digital transformation, was inevitable.”

The Series D values the London-based startup between $800 million and $900 million on the heels of Quantexa growing its subscriptions revenues 108% in the last year.

Warburg Pincus led the round, with existing backers Dawn Capital, AlbionVC, Evolution Equity Partners (a specialist cybersecurity VC), HSBC, ABN AMRO Ventures and British Patient Capital also participating. The valuation is a significant hike up for Quantexa, which was valued between $200 million and $300 million in its Series C last July. It has now raised over $240 million to date.

Quantexa got its start out of a gap in the market that Marria identified when he was working as a director at Ernst & Young tasked with helping its clients with money laundering and other fraudulent activity. As he saw it, there were no truly useful systems in the market that efficiently tapped the world of data available to companies — matching up and parsing both their internal information as well as external, publicly available data — to get more meaningful insights into potential fraud, money laundering and other illegal activities quickly and accurately.

Quantexa’s machine learning system approaches that challenge as a classic big data problem — too much data for a human to parse on their own, but small work for AI algorithms processing huge amounts of that data for specific ends.

Its so-called “Contextual Decision Intelligence” models (the name Quantexa is meant to evoke “quantum” and “context”) were built initially specifically to address this for financial services, with AI tools for assessing risk and compliance and identifying financial criminal activity, leveraging relationships that Quantexa has with partners like Accenture, Deloitte, Microsoft and Google to help fill in more data gaps.

The company says its software — and this, not the data, is what is sold to companies to use over their own data sets — has handled up to 60 billion records in a single engagement. It then presents insights in the form of easily digestible graphs and other formats so that users can better understand the relationships between different entities and so on.

Today, financial services companies still make up about 60% of the company’s business, Marria said, with seven of the top 10 U.K. and Australian banks and six of the top 14 financial institutions in North America among its customers. (The list includes its strategic backer HSBC, as well as Standard Chartered Bank and Danske Bank.)

But alongside those — spurred by a huge shift in the market to rely significantly more on wider data sets, to businesses updating their systems in recent years, and the fact that, in the last year, online activity has in many cases become the “only” activity — Quantexa has expanded more significantly into other sectors.

“The Financial crisis [of 2007] was a tipping point in terms of how financial services companies became more proactive, and I’d say that the pandemic has been a turning point around other sectors like healthcare in how to become more proactive,” Marria said. “To do that you need more data and insights.”

So in the last year in particular, Quantexa has expanded to include other verticals facing financial crime, such as healthcare, insurance, government (for example in tax compliance) and telecoms/communications, but in addition to that, it has continued to diversify what it does to cover more use cases, such as building more complete customer profiles that can be used for KYC (know your customer) compliance or to serve them with more tailored products. Working with government, it’s also seeing its software getting applied to other areas of illicit activity, such as tracking and identifying human trafficking.

In all, Quantexa has “thousands” of customers in 70 markets. Quantexa cites figures from IDC that estimate the market for such services — both financial crime and more general KYC services — is worth about $114 billion annually, so there is still a lot more to play for.

“Quantexa’s proprietary technology enables clients to create single views of individuals and entities, visualized through graph network analytics and scaled with the most advanced AI technology,” said Adarsh Sarma, MD and co-head of Europe at Warburg Pincus, in a statement. “This capability has already revolutionized the way KYC, AML and fraud processes are run by some of the world’s largest financial institutions and governments, addressing a significant gap in an increasingly important part of the industry. The company’s impressive growth to date is a reflection of its invaluable value proposition in a massive total available market, as well as its continued expansion across new sectors and geographies.”

Interestingly, Marria admitted to me that the company has been approached by big tech companies and others that work with them as an acquisition target — no real surprises there — but longer term, he would like Quantexa to consider how it continues to grow on its own, with an independent future very much in his distant sights.

“Sure, an acquisition to the likes of a big tech company absolutely could happen, but I am gearing this up for an IPO,” he said.

Jul
23
2020
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Quantexa raises $64.7M to bring big data intelligence to risk analysis and investigations

The wider field of cybersecurity — not just defending networks, but identifying fraudulent activity — has seen a big boost in activity in the last few months, and that’s no surprise. The global health pandemic has led to more interactions and transactions moving online, and the contractions we’re feeling across the economy and society have led some to take more desperate and illegal actions, using digital challenges to do it.

Today, a U.K. company called Quantexa — which has built a machine learning platform branded “Contextual Decision Intelligence” (CDI) that analyses disparate data points to get better insight into nefarious activity, as well as to (more productively) build better profiles of a company’s entire customer base — is raising a growth round of funding to address that opportunity.

The London-based startup has picked up $64.7 million, a Series C it will be using to continue building out both its tools and the use cases for applying them, as well as expanding geographically, specifically in North America, Asia-Pacific and more European territories.

The mission, said Vishal Marria, Quantexa’s founder and CEO, is to “connect the dots to make better business decisions.”

The startup built its business on the back of doing work for major banks and others in the financial services sector, and Marria added that the plan will be to continue enhancing tools for that vertical while also expanding into two growing opportunities: working with insurance and government/public sector organizations.

The backers in this round speak to how Quantexa positions itself in the market, and the traction it’s seen to date for its business. It’s being led by Evolution Equity Partners — a VC that specialises in innovative cybersecurity startups — with participation also from previous backers Dawn Capital, AlbionVC, HSBC and Accenture, as well as new backers ABN AMRO Ventures. HSBC, Accenture and ABN AMRO are all strategic investors working directly with the startup in their businesses.

Altogether, Quantexa has “thousands of users” across 70+ countries, it said, with additional large enterprises, including Standard Chartered, OFX and Dunn & Bradstreet.

The company has now raised some $90 million to date, and reliable sources close to the company tell us that the valuation is “well north” of $250 million — which to me sounds like it’s between $250 million and $300 million.

Marria said in an interview that he initially got the idea for Quantexa — which I believe may be a creative portmanteau of “quantum” and “context” — when he was working as an executive director at Ernst & Young and saw “many challenges with investigations” in the financial services industry.

“Is this a money launderer?” is the basic question that investigators aim to answer, but they were going about it, “using just a sliver of information,” he said. “I thought to myself, this is bonkers. There must be a better way.”

That better way, as built by Quantexa, is to solve it in the classic approach of tapping big data and building AI algorithms that help, in Marria’s words, connect the dots.

As an example, typically, an investigation needs to do significantly more than just track the activity of one individual or one shell company, and you need to seek out the most unlikely connections between a number of actions in order to build up an accurate picture. When you think about it, trying to identify, track, shut down and catch a large money launderer (a typical use case for Quantexa’s software) is a classic big data problem.

While there is a lot of attention these days on data protection and security breaches that leak sensitive customer information, Quantexa’s approach, Marria said, is to sell software, not ingest proprietary data into its engine to provide insights. He said that these days deployments typically either are done on premises or within private clouds, rather than using public cloud infrastructure, and that when Quantexa provides data to complement its customers’ data, it comes from publicly available sources (for example, Companies House filings in the U.K.).

There are a number of companies offering services in the same general area as Quantexa. They include those that present themselves more as business intelligence platforms that help detect fraud (such as Looker) through to those that are secretive and present themselves as AI businesses working behind the scenes for enterprises and governments to solve tough challenges, such as Palantir, through to others focusing specifically on some of the use cases for the technology, such as ComplyAdvantage and its focus on financial fraud detection.

Marria says that it has a few key differentiators from these. First is how its software works at scale: “It comes back to entity resolution that [calculations] can be done in real time and at batch,” he said. “And this is a platform, software that is easily deployed and configured at a much lower total cost of ownership. It is tech and that’s quite important in the current climate.”

And that is what has resonated with investors.

“Quantexa’s proprietary platform heralds a new generation of decision intelligence technology that uses a single contextual view of customers to profoundly improve operational decision making and overcome big data challenges,” said Richard Seewald, founding and managing partner of Evolution, in a statement. “Its impressive rapid growth, renowned client base and potential to build further value across so many sectors make Quantexa a fantastic partner whose team I look forward to working with.” Seewald is joining the board with this round.

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