Jul
24
2019
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Revolut tweaks business accounts with new pricing structure

Fintech startup Revolut announced changes to its business accounts this week. The good news is that if you were thinking about trying Revolut for your business needs, it’s now cheaper to get started. But there are some limits.

While Revolut is better known for its regular consumer accounts that let you receive, send and spend money all around the world, the company has been offering launched business accounts for a couple of years.

The main advantage of Revolut for Business is that you can hold multiple currencies. If you work with clients or suppliers in other countries, you can exchange money and send it to your partners directly from Revolut’s interface.

The company also lets you issue prepaid corporate cards and track expenses. Revolut for Business also has an API so you can automate payments and connect with third-party services, such as Xero, Slack and Zapier.

None of this is changing today. Revolut is mostly tweaking the pricing structure.

Previously, you had to pay £25 per month to access the service with a £100,000 top-up limit per month. Bigger companies had to pay more to raise that ceiling.

Now, Revolut is moving a bit more toward a software-as-a-service approach. Instead of making you pay more to receive and hold more money, you pay more as your team gets bigger and you use Revolut for Business more intensively.

The basic plan is free with two team members, five free local transfers per month and 0.4% in foreign exchange fees. If you want to add more team members or initiate more transfers, you pay some small fees.

If you were paying £25 before, you can now top up as much money as you want in your Revolut account, but there are some limits when it comes to team members (10), local transfers (100 per month) and international transfers (10 per month, interbank exchange rate up to £10,000).

Once again, going over the limits doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to change to a new plan. You’ll pay £0.20 per extra local transfer, £3 per extra international transfer, etc.

Here’s a full breakdown of the new plans:

Screen Shot 2019 07 24 at 7.35.45 PM

If you’re a freelancer, there’s now a free plan. You’ll pay 0.4% on foreign exchange and £3 per international transfer, but there’s no top-up limit anymore.

Similarly, the old £7 plan for freelancers has been replaced by a new £7 plan that removes the limit on inbound transfers but adds some limits on transfers.

It’s good news if you’re a small customer. But if you vastly exceed the transfer limit in one of the categories, you might pay more than before. With this change, the company wanted to make Revolut for Business more accessible instead of making small customers subsidize bigger customers with high entry pricing.

Existing customers can switch to a new plan starting today. Revolut plans to switch everyone to the new plans on October 1st, 2019.

Revolut for Business 2

Jul
18
2019
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InCountry raises $15M for its cloud-based private data storage-as-a-service solution

The rise of data breaches, along with an expanding raft of regulations (now numbering 80 different regional regimes, and growing) have thrust data protection — having legal and compliant ways of handling personal user information — to the top of the list of things that an organization needs to consider when building and operating their businesses. Now a startup called InCountry, which is building both the infrastructure for these companies to securely store that personal data in each jurisdiction, as well as a comprehensive policy framework for them to follow, has raised a Series A of $15 million. The funding is coming in just three months after closing its seed round — underscoring both the attention this area is getting and the opportunity ahead.

The funding is being led by three investors: Arbor Ventures of Singapore, Global Founders Capital of Berlin and Mubadala of Abu Dhabi. Previous investors Caffeinated Capital, Felicis Ventures, Charles River Ventures and Team Builder Ventures (along with others that are not being named) also participated. It brings the total raised to date to $21 million.

Peter Yared, the CEO and founder, pointed out in an interview the geographic diversity of the three lead backers: he described this as a strategic investment, which has resulted from InCountry already expanding its work in each region. (As one example, he pointed out a new law in the UAE requiring all health data of its citizens to be stored in the country — regardless of where it originated.)

As a result, the startup will be opening offices in each of the regions and launching a new product, InCountry Border, to focus on encryption and data handling that keep data inside specific jurisdictions. This will sit alongside the company’s compliance consultancy as well as its infrastructure business.

“We’re only 28 people and only six months old,” Yared said. “But the proposition we offer — requiring no code changes, but allowing companies to automatically pull out and store the personally identifiable information in a separate place, without anything needed on their own back end, has been a strong pull. We’re flabbergasted with the meetings we’ve been getting.” (The alternative, of companies storing this information themselves, has become massively unpalatable, given all the data breaches we’ve seen, he pointed out.)

In part because of the nature of data protection, in its short six months of life, InCountry has already come out of the gates with a global viewpoint and global remit.

It’s already active in 65 countries — which means it’s already equipped to store, process and regulate profile data in the country of origin in these markets — but that is actually just the tip of the iceberg. The company points out that more than 80 countries around the world have data sovereignty regulations, and that in the U.S., some 25 states already have data privacy laws. Violating these can have disastrous consequences for a company’s reputation, not to mention its bottom line: In Europe, the U.K. data regulator is now fining companies the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars when they violate GDPR rules.

This ironically is translating into a big business opportunity for startups that are building technology to help companies cope with this. Just last week, OneTrust raised a $200 million Series A to continue building out its technology and business funnel — the company is a “gateway” specialist, building the welcome screens that you encounter when you visit sites to accept or reject a set of cookies and other data requests.

Yared says that while InCountry is very young and is still working on its channel strategy — it’s mainly working directly with companies at this point — there is a clear opportunity both to partner with others within the ecosystem as well as integrators and others working on cloud services and security to build bigger customer networks.

That speaks to the complexity of the issue, and the different entry points that exist to solve it.

“The rapidly evolving and complex global regulatory landscape in our technology driven world is a growing challenge for companies,” said Melissa Guzy of Arbor Ventures, in a statement. Guzy is joining the board with this round. “InCountry is the first to provide a comprehensive solution in the cloud that enables companies to operate globally and address data sovereignty. We’re thrilled to partner and support the company’s mission to enable global data compliance for international businesses.”

Jul
17
2019
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Stonly lets you create interactive step-by-step guides to improve support

French startup Stonly wants to empower users so that they can solve their issues by themselves. Instead of relying on customer support agents, Stonly wants to surface relevant content so that you can understand and solve issues.

“I’m trying to take the opposite stance of chatbots,” founder and CEO Alexis Fogel told me. “The issue [with chatbots] is that technology is not good enough and you often end up searching through the help center.”

If you’re in charge of support for a big enough service, chances are your customers often face the same issues. Many companies have built help centers with lengthy articles. But most customers won’t scroll through those pages when they face an issue.

That’s why Stonly thinks you need to make this experience more interactive. The service lets you create scripted guides with multiple questions to make this process less intimidating. Some big companies have built question-based help centers, but Stonly wants to give tools to small companies so they can build their own scenarios.

A Stonly module is basically a widget you can embed on any page or blog. It works like a deck of slides with buttons to jump to the relevant slide. Companies can create guides in the back end without writing a single line of code. You can add an image, a video and some code to each slide.

At any time, you can see a flowchart of your guide to check that everything works as expected. You can translate your guides in multiple languages, as well.

Once you’re done and the module is live, you can look back at your guides and see how you can improve them. Stonly lets you see if users spend more time on a step, close the tab and drop in the middle of the guide, test multiple versions of the same guide, etc.

But the startup goes one step further by integrating directly with popular support services, such as Zendesk and Intercom. For instance, if a user contacts customer support after checking a Stonly guide, you can see in Zendesk what they were looking at. Or you can integrate Stonly in your Intercom chat module.

Editor 01

As expected, a service like Stonly can help you save on customer support. If users can solve their own issues, you need a smaller customer support team. But that’s not all.

“It’s not just about saving money, it’s also about improving engagement and support,” Fogel said.

Password manager company Dashlane is a good example of that. Fogel previously co-founded Dashlane before starting Stonly. And it’s one of Stonly’s first clients.

“Dashlane is a very addictive product, but the main issue is that you want to help people get started,” he said. It’s true that it can be hard to grasp how you’re supposed to use a password manager if you’ve never used one in the past. So the onboarding experience is key with this kind of product.

Stonly is free if you want to play with the product and build public guides. But if you want to create private guides and access advanced features, the company has a Pro plan ($30 per month) and a Team plan (starting at $100 per month with bigger bills as you add more people to your team and use the product more extensively).

The company has tested its product with a handful of clients, such as Dashlane, Devialet, Happn and Malt. The startup has raised an undisclosed seed round from Eduardo Ronzano, Thibaud Elzière, Nicolas Steegmann, Renaud Visage and PeopleDoc co-founders. And Stonly is currently part of the Zendesk incubator at Station F.

Jul
17
2019
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ContractPodAi scores $55M for its ‘AI-powered’ contract management software

ContractPodAi, a London-based startup that has developed what it describes as AI-powered contract lifecycle management software, is disclosing $55 million in Series B funding. The round is led by U.S.-based Insight Partners, with participation from earlier backer Eagle Investment.

Founded in 2012, ContractPodAi offers an “end-to-end” solution spanning the three main aspects of contract management: contract generation, contract repository and third-party review. Its AI offering, which uses IBM’s Watson, claims to streamline the contract management process and reduce the burden on corporate in-house legal teams.

“The legal profession has been historically behind the curve in technology adoption and our objective here is to support to digital transformation of legal departments via our contract management platform,” ContractPodAi co-founder and CEO Sarvarth Misra tells TechCrunch.

“Our business focuses on providing in-house counsel of corporations across the world with an easy to use, out of the box and scalable end to end contract management platform at a fixed fee SaaS licence model.”

With regards to ContractPodAi’s target customer, Misra says its solution is industry agnostic but is typically sold to large international businesses, including FTSE 500 and Fortune 2000 corporations. Customers include Bosch Siemens, Braskem, EDF Energy, Total Petroleum, Benjamin Moore and Freeview.

Armed with new capital, ContractPodAi says it plans to “significantly” scale up its product development, sales and customer success teams globally. The company already has offices in San Francisco, New York, Glasgow and Mumbai, in addition to its London HQ.

Adds Misra: “We believe the market for contract management solutions is fragmented with providers focusing one or two aspects of contract management functionality. ContractPodAi’s objective has been to provide one contract management ecosystem which covers all aspects of contract management functionality… This, along with our fixed, transparent pricing and ability to provide full implementation as part of the annual SaaS, differentiates us the from the rest of the providers.”

Jul
01
2019
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Equinix and Singapore’s GIC will launch a $1 billion joint venture to build hyperscale data centers in Europe

Equinix, one of the world’s largest data center companies, announced that it will form a $1 billion joint venture with GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund. The partnership will focus on building xScale data centers in Europe. Instead of targeting the wholesale market, Equinix is developing xScale data centers to handle the demands of the biggest cloud service providers in the world. Equinix’s clients have already included Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, Google Cloud and other hyperscale cloud providers.

Under the agreement, expected to be finalized in the third quarter, GIC will own an 80% stake in the joint venture, with Equinix owning the remaining 20%. Equinix will also sell its London LD10 and Paris PA8 International Business Exchange (IBX) data centers to the joint venture for new xScale centers. xScale centers will also be built in Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London, bringing the total to six centers that will provide a combined capacity of 155 megawatts once completed.

Equinix says global deployments from hyperscale cloud providers currently exceed about $500 million in annual revenue. The new xScale data centers will be located on or near Equinix’s IBX campuses, to enable providers to handle more customer access points and rapidly-scaling workloads. Equinix currently has more than 200 IBX campuses, covering more than 50 metro areas around the world. xScale data centers will also offer interconnection and edge services to increase connection speeds for cloud service customers and be engineered specifically to meet the needs of hyperscale companies.

In a press statement, Charles Meyers, president and CEO of Equinix, said, “The JV structure will enable us to extend our cloud leadership while providing significant value to a critical set of hyperscale customers. We look forward to launching similar JVs in other operating regions and believe that these efforts will continue to further differentiate Equinix as the trusted center of a cloud-first world.”

Jun
18
2019
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Blue Prism acquires UK’s Thoughtonomy for up to $100M to expand its RPA platform with more AI

Robotic process automation — which lets organizations shift repetitive back-office tasks to machines to complete — has been a hot area of growth in the world of enterprise IT, and now one of the companies that’s making waves in the area has acquired a smaller startup to continue extending its capabilities.

Blue Prism, which helped coin the term RPA when it was founded back in 2001, has announced that it is buying Thoughtonomy, which has built a cloud-based AI engine that delivers RPA-based solutions on a SaaS framework. Blue Prism is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange — where its market cap is around £1.3 billion ($1.6 billion), and in a statement to the market alongside its half-year earnings, it said it would be paying up to £80 million ($100 million) for the firm.

The deal is coming in a combination of cash and stock: £12.5 million payable on completion of the deal, £23 million in shares payable on completion of the deal, up to £20 million payable a year after the deal closes, up to £4.5 million in cash after 18 months, and a final £20 million on the second anniversary of the deal closing, in shares. Thoughtonomy had never raised outside funding, although that was not for lack of interest.

“We’ve had approaches on a daily basis since the intelligent automation market has exploded,” said Terry Walby, CEO and founder of Thoughtonomy, in an interview, “but getting the best outcome for the company and our customers is not just about taking money and headlines [touting] our valuation.”

The acquisition comes about six months after Blue Prism announced it would be raising around $130 million (£100 million) to continue growing at a time when RPA is getting a lot of attention in the market. Linda Dotts, the company’s SVP of global partner strategy and programs, today confirmed that it did raise that money, and that part of the proceeds of that are being used to make the Thoughtonomy acquisition. She also confirmed that it would be looking at other opportunities, a sign that we are likely going to see at least a little more consolidation in this space.

On the same day that it had announced that fundraise, Blue Prism also unveiled a new AI initiative, working with partners to execute on that. And indeed that is what it is getting with Thoughtonomy. The companies were already working together before this — Thoughtonomy’s other key partners are companies like Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud, used to deliver its services — and according to Walby, the idea is that his startup will be helping Blue Prism get its services to the next level of where RPA is going.

“We provide architectural support and add intelligence,” he said in an interview. “Our platform addresses activities that require understanding or interpretation, and so it expands the use cases for RPA beyond structured processes.”

That’s notable, given the position of Blue Prism within the RPA landscape. The company is one of the more legacy providers — one of the consequences of being an early mover — and while that gives it a clear advantage of showing it has staying power, in the world of software that can be a more challenging sell when younger companies are building tech from scratch on newer frameworks. (UiPath, which has made major inroads into RPA both in terms of its customer and partner growth, as well as in terms of its funding, is one example.)

And in a market that is still seeing growth (read: companies often operate at a loss to invest in that growth), its ups and downs are there for everyone to see and scrutinise. In its half-year earnings that it posted today, its negative EBITDA margin widened once more — sales, marketing and other business development efforts come at a cost, for one — although group revenues also nearly doubled to £41.6 million from £22.9 million in the same period a year earlier. Total customer numbers are up 91% over the same period a year ago, and with sales returns typically taking about 12 months to come through on the balance sheet, the longer-term picture is worth watching, too.

Jun
11
2019
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Crane, a new early-stage London VC focused on ‘intelligent’ enterprise startups, raises $90M fund

Crane Venture Partners, a newish London-based early-stage VC targeting what it calls “intelligent” enterprise startups, is officially outing today.

Founded by Scott Sage and Krishna Visvanathan, who were both previously at DFJ Esprit, “Crane I” has had a second closing totalling $90 million, money the firm is investing in enterprise companies that are data-driven. Sage and Visvanathan are joined by Crane Partner Andy Leaver.

Specifically, Crane is seeking pre-Series A startups based in Europe, with a willingness to write the first institutional cheque. The firm is particularly bullish about London, noting that 90% of cloud and enterprise software companies that went public in the last 8-10 years opened their first international office in London. Investments already made from the fund include Aire, Avora, Stratio Automotive and Tessian.

Crane’s anchor LPs are MassMutual Ventures, the venture capital arm of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), and the U.K. taxpayer funded British Patient Capital (BPC), along with other institutions, founders and VCs spanning the U.S., Europe and Asia. In addition, Crane has formed a strategic partnership with MassMutual Ventures to give Crane and its portfolio companies “deep access” to new markets and networks as they expand internationally.

Below follows an email Q&A with Crane founders Scott Sage and Krishna Visvanathan, where we discuss the new fund’s remit, why Crane is so bullish on the enterprise, London after Brexit, and why the enterprise isn’t so boring after all!

TC: Why does London and/or the world need a new enterprise focused VC?

SS: Just to correct you Steve, we’re an enterprise only seed fund :) – which does make us somewhat unique. We back founders who have a differentiated product vision but who haven’t demonstrated the commercial metrics that our counterparts typically look for. We see opportunity and not just risk.

TC: It feels like years since I first heard you were both raising a fund together and of course I know that Crane has already made 20+ investments. So why did it take you so long to close and why are you only just officially announcing now?

KV: It was definitely a humbling experience and took us 12 months longer than we would have hoped! We held our first close for Crane I, our institutional fund, in July 2018, two and a half years from when we started raising. We had previously established a pre-cursor fund and started investing in Q1 2016, quietly building up our portfolio and presence. We had to hold off on discussing the fund until we concluded the final close a few weeks ago for regulatory and compliance reasons.

TC: You say that Crane is broadly targeting early-stage “intelligent” enterprise startups — as opposed to unintelligent ones! — but can you be more specific with regards to cheque size and stage and any particular verticals, themes or technologies you plan to invest in?

SS: Data is central to our thesis – the entire enterprise stack will need to be rebuilt to understand and learn from data, which is what we mean by intelligence. The majority of installed enterprise applications today are workflow tools and don’t do anything intelligent for the user or the organisation. We’re also excited about entirely new products for new markets that didn’t previously exist.

Our first cheques range from $750k to $3m, with sizeable follow on reserves to support our companies through Series B. We view our sweet spot as helping companies build their go-to market strategies and are happy to invest pre-revenue (approximately half of our portfolio at the time of investment), although we prefer to invest post-product.

TC: Given that you typically invest pre-Series A, where an enterprise startup may be pre-revenue and not yet have anything like definitive market fit, what are the standout qualities you look for in founding teams or the assumptions they are betting on?

KV: You mean apart from the obvious ones that every VC would say about passion, vision, hunger etc (mea culpa!)? We love highly technical teams who have a visceral understanding of the problem they are solving – usually because they lived through it previously. Many of the founders we’ve backed are reimagining the market segments they are addressing.

TC: Almost every new fund these days is talking about its operational support for portfolio companies. What does Crane do to actively support the very early-stage companies you back?

SS: Our sole focus is on supporting founders with their go-to-market strategy which encompasses everything from product positioning and generating marketing leads to building a high performing sales team, renewing and upselling customers. We have formal modules we run behind the scenes with a new company once we’ve invested and we’re also building out a stable of venture partners who are specialists in these areas. We believe that there is a multiplier effect in creating a community of similar staged businesses with parallels in their business models.

TC: Although Crane is pan-European, I know you are especially bullish on London as a leader in creating and adopting enterprise technology, why is that?

KV: We believe London has a great concentration of customers, data science and software talent, commercial and go-to-market talent. 90% of cloud and enterprise software companies that went public in the last 8-10 years opened their first international office in London. And, we’ve also seen a newfound boldness amongst young first-time founders who are not bound by the limits of their imaginations. Look at Onfido, Tessian and Senseon – all first-time founding teams we have backed who are building category-defining businesses.

TC: Which brings us to Brexit. How does Crane view the U.K. exiting the EU and the challenges this will undoubtedly create for tech and enterprise companies, in particular relating to hiring?

SS: We are believers in a global economy and the UK being a major contributor to it. The reason London is still the startup capital of Europe is because of its diversity and openness. The UK exiting the EU is counter to this which we believe will have a negative impact on our ability to attract talent and remain at the forefront of European tech.

TC: Lastly, enterprise tech is often viewed as “unsexy” and something many journalists (myself included) yawn at, even though it is a huge market and arguably the hidden software that the engine rooms of the world economy run on. Tell me something I might not already know about enterprise tech that I can repeat at a dinner party without sending everyone else to sleep?

KV: Imagine a world where you turn on your laptop and your day is pre-organised for you, your email self protects against catastrophic mistakes, your digital identity is portable, your physical workspace syncs with your calendar and auto reserves meeting rooms, and your creditworthiness is something you control, leaving you to focus on channelling your creativity as a journalist and not deal with pfaff. That’s the intelligent enterprise right there in the guise of Tessian, Onfido, OpenSensors and Aire, a selection of the companies in our portfolio. It may start with the enterprise, but ultimately, the products and businesses that are being built are all for people.

TC: Scott, Krishna, thanks for talking to TechCrunch!

May
23
2019
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Takeaways from KubeCon; the latest on Kubernetes and cloud native development

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois and Ron Miller discuss major announcements that came out of the Linux Foundation’s European KubeCon/CloudNativeCon conference and discuss the future of Kubernetes and cloud-native technologies.

Nearly doubling in size year-over-year, this year’s KubeCon conference brought big news and big players, with major announcements coming from some of the world’s largest software vendors including Google, AWS, Microsoft, Red Hat, and more. Frederic and Ron discuss how the Kubernetes project grew to such significant scale and which new initiatives in cloud-native development show the most promise from both a developer and enterprise perspective.

“This ecosystem starts sprawling, and we’ve got everything from security companies to service mesh companies to storage companies. Everybody is here. The whole hall is full of them. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between them because there are so many competing start-ups at this point.

I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a consolidation in the next six months or so where some of the bigger players, maybe Oracle, maybe VMware, will start buying some of these smaller companies. And I’m sure the show floor will look quite different about a year from now. All the big guys are here because they’re all trying to figure out what’s next.”

Frederic and Ron also dive deeper into the startup ecosystem rapidly developing around Kubernetes and other cloud-native technologies and offer their take on what areas of opportunity may prove to be most promising for new startups and founders down the road.

For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free. 

May
23
2019
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EFounders backs Yousign to build a European e-signature company

French startup Yousign is partnering with startup studio eFounders. While eFounders usually builds software-as-a-service startups from scratch, the company is trying something new with this partnership.

Indeed, eFounders wants to create all the tools you need to make your work more efficient. The startup studio is behind many respectable SaaS successes, such as Front, Aircall and Spendesk. And electronic signatures are a must if you want to speed up your workflow.

Sure, there are a ton of well-established players in the space — DocuSign, SignNow, Adobe Sign, HelloSign, etc. But nobody has really cracked the European market in a similar way.

Yousign has been around for a while in France. When it comes to features, it has everything you’d expect. You can upload a document and set up automated emails and notifications so that everybody signs the document.

Signatures are legally binding and Yousign archives your documents. You also can create document templates and send contract proposals using an API.

The main challenge for Yousign is that Europe is still quite fragmented. The company will need to convince users in different countries that they need to switch to an e-signature solution. Starting today, Yousign is now available in France, Germany, the U.K. and Spain.

Yousign had only raised some money; eFounders is cleaning the cap table by buying out existing investors and replacing them.

“We can’t really communicate on the details of the investment, but what I can tell you is that we bought out existing funds for several millions of euros in order to replace them — founders still have the majority of shares,” eFounders co-founder and CEO Thibaud Elzière told me.

In a blog post, Elzière writes that eFounders has acquired around 50% of the company through an SPV (Single Purpose Vehicle) that it controls. The startup studio holds 25% directly, and investors in the eFounders eClub hold 25%.

Yousign now looks pretty much like any other eFounders company when they start. Of course, founders and eFounders might get diluted further down the road if Yousign ends up raising more money.

May
20
2019
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Wagestream closes $51M Series A to plug the payday gap without putting workers in debt

Getting your work wages on a monthly (not weekly nor biweekly) basis has become a more widespread trend as the price of running payrolls has gone up, and organizations’ cashflow has gone down. That 30-day shift may be a boost to employers, but not employees, who may need access to those wages more immediately and find it a challenge to stretch out their income month to month.

Now, a startup based out of London has raised a large round of funding for service that’s aiming to plug that gap. Wagestream — which works with employers to let employees draw down a percentage of their income in the month for a small, flat fee — today said that it has closed a Series A round of £40 million ($51 million).

The funding is coming in the form of equity and debt, with Balderton and Northzone leading on the equity side, which makes up £15 million of the raise, and savings bank Shawbrook investing £25 million on the debt side to finance employee draw-downs. Other investors in the round include QED, the Rowntree Foundation, the London Co-investment Fund (LCIF) and Village Global, a social venture firm backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, among others.

The company is not disclosing its valuation, but this brings the total raised to just under £45 million, and “the valuation is definitely higher now,” according to CEO and co-founder Peter Briffett.

The list of investors is proving to be a useful one for Wagestream as it grows. I asked if Bezos’ company, Amazon, was working with Wagestream. Briffett confirmed it is not a customer currently, “but we are talking to them.” It does, however, have a number of other customers already signed up, including pest removal service Rentokil PLC, Camden Town Brewery, the Slug & Lettuce pub chain and Carluccio’s chain of eateries, along with the NHS and Hackney Council — covering some 120,000 workers in all.

Amazon is an indicative example of one of the big opportunities for the company, which today is active in the U.K. but aiming to expand across Europe and the rest of the world.

While it is one of the biggest employers in the tech world, where it might typically pay out six-figure salaries in senior management, operational and technical roles, it’s also building out its business by being one of the biggest employers of hourly workers in its warehouses, wider logistics operations and similar areas. It’s employees like these who might be considered the first wave of employees that Wagestream is initially targeting, some of whom may be earning just enough or slightly more than enough to get by (at best), and face being victims of what Briffett referred to as the “payday poverty cycle.”

Getting paid monthly accounts for some 85% of all paychecks in the U.K. today, and the proportion is similar in Europe and also getting increasingly common in the U.S., Briffett — who has also worked at Microsoft, LivingSocial (when it was still backed by Amazon, and where he started the U.K. operation and ran it as the CEO for years) and YPlan (acquired by Time Out) — said in an interview. You might ask: Why don’t the workers just budget better? But it doesn’t always work out that way, especially the longer the gap is between paychecks, and if you, for example, have an unexpected expense to cover.

Because of that ubiquity, and the acuteness of the problem (if you’ve ever earned just about enough, or been a child in a family whose parents did, you may understand the predicament quite well), Wagestream is not the first time we’ve seen a financial services startup emerge to target that demographic.

Some other attempts have been scandalously disastrous, however: recall “Payday Loan” provider Wonga, backed by an illustrious set of investors but ultimately accused of, and hit hard by regulators and the public for, preying on people who were in need of funds with loans that were not transparent enough in their terms and led the borrowers into deep debt.

Wonga itself paid a big price for its practices, and the company is now bankrupt (and apparently still unable to replay creditors, as of the last report in March).

It was the disaster of Wonga — and an article in the WSJ about alternatives to payday loans — that Briffett said got him thinking about the possibilities and building Wagestream. (Ironic note: if you use PitchBook as I do, Wonga is listed among Wagestream’s backers, which Briffett assures me is an error.)

Wagestream positions itself as a “social impact” startup for targeting a very real problem that impacts financial inclusion for a proportion of the population, and it says this represents one of the highest rounds ever for a startup in the U.K. aimed at social impact.

“We fell in love with the strong product-market fit of Wagestream. We very rarely hear such universal positive feedback from all who have tried a product,” said Rob Moffat, a partner at Balderton, in a statement. “Companies used to take an active role in supporting the financial health of their users but this has slowly been eroded, to the extent where employees paid at the end of the month are effectively subsidising their employer for 29 days a month. Wagestream starts to restore the right balance.”

Wagestream operates by striking deals with employers to offer its services to its workers, who download an app and link up Wagestream with their salary and banking details. Businesses are able to set limits for what percentage of their wages employees can draw down each month, and how often the service can be used. Typically the limit is around 40% of a monthly wage, Briffett said.

Employees then can get the money instantly by paying a fee of £1.75 per withdrawal. “We are funding all of the withdrawals up front,” Briffett said. “We are the first company to marry workforce management and financial data.”

Down the road, the plan will be to expand to Europe as well as to the U.S., where there are already some other services that are trying to tackle the same problem, such as Instant Financial and DailyPay. There are also a number of areas the company could move into, such as working with companies that employ contract workers, and providing additional financial services to workers already using the app to draw down funds.

More expansion, Briffett said, will inevitably also mean more funding, particularly on the debt side.

For now, the emergence of Wagestream is an encouraging sign of how VCs are not just interested in tapping their coffers to bet on tech companies that they think will be hits. They also want to hunt for those whose returns may well be strong, but ultimately are made stronger by the longer-term effect they might have on the wider landscape of consumers, how they interface with fintech, and continue their own progress in the world.

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