- Insider has been tracking the next wave of hot new startups that are blending finance and tech.
- Check out these pitch decks to see how fintech founders sold their vision.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Fintech VC funding hit a fresh quarterly record of $22.8 billion in the first three months of 2021, according to CB Insights data. While mega-rounds helped propel overall funding, new cash was spread across 614 deals.
Insider has been tracking the next wave of hot new startups that are blending finance and tech.
Check out these pitch decks to see how fintech founders are selling their vision and nabbing big bucks in the process. You’ll see new financial tech geared at freelancers, fresh twists on digital banking, and innovation aimed at streamlining customer onboarding.
Connecting startups and investors
Blair Silverberg is no stranger to fundraising.
For six years, Silverberg was a venture capitalist at Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Private Credit Investments making bets on startups.
“I was meeting with thousands of founders in person each year, watching them one at a time go through this friction where they’re meeting a ton of investors, and the investors are all asking the same questions,” Silverberg told Insider.
He switched gears about three years ago, moving to the opposite side of the metaphorical table, to start Hum Capital, which uses artificial intelligence to match investors with startups looking to fundraise.
On August 31, the New York-based fintech announced its $9 million Series A. The round was led by Future Ventures with participation from Webb Investment Network, Wavemaker Partners, and Partech.
Payments infrastructure for fintechs
Three years ago, Patricia Montesi realized there was a disconnect in the payments world.
“A lot of new economy companies or fintech companies were looking to mesh up a lot of payment modalities that they weren’t able to,” Montesi, CEO and co-founder of Qolo, told Insider.
Integrating various payment capabilities often meant tapping several different providers that had specializations in one product or service, she added, like debit card issuance or cross-border payments.
“The way people were getting around that was that they were creating this spider web of fintech,” she said, adding that “at the end of it all, they had this mess of suppliers and integrations and bank accounts.”
The 20-year payments veteran rounded up a group of three other co-founders – who together had more than a century of combined industry experience – to start Qolo, a business-to-business fintech that sought out to bundle back-end payment rails for other fintechs.
Software for managing freelancers
The way people work has fundamentally changed over the past year, with more flexibility and many workers opting to freelance to maintain their work-from-home lifestyles.
But managing a freelance or contractor workforce is often an administrative headache for employers. Worksome is a startup looking to eliminate all the extra work required for employers to adapt to more flexible working norms.
Worksome started as a freelancer marketplace automating the process of matching qualified workers with the right jobs. But the team ultimately pivoted to a full suite of workforce management software, automating administrative burdens required to hire, pay, and account for contract workers.
In May, Worksome closed a $13 million Series A backed by European angel investor Tommy Ahlers and Danish firm Lind & Risør.
Personal finance is only a text away
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the growing preference of mobile banking as customers get comfortable managing their finances online.
The financial app Albert has seen a similar jump in activity. Currently counting more than six million members, deposits in Albert’s savings offering doubled from the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to May of this year, from $350 million to $700 million, according to new numbers released by the company.
Founded in 2015, Albert offers automated budgeting and savings tools alongside guided investment portfolios. It’s looked to differentiate itself through personalized features, like the ability for customers to text human financial experts.
Budgeting and saving features are free on Albert. But for more tailored financial advice, customers pay a subscription fee that’s a pay-what-you-can model, between $4 and $14 a month.
And Albert’s now banking on a new tool to bring together its investing, savings, and budgeting tools.
Rethinking debt collection
For lenders, debt collection is largely automated. But for people who owe money on their credit cards, it can be a confusing and stressful process.
Relief is looking to change that. Its app automates the credit-card debt collection process for users, negotiating with lenders and collectors to settle outstanding balances on their behalf. The fintech just launched and closed a $2 million seed round led by Collaborative Ventures.
Relief’s fundraising experience was a bit different to most. Its pitch deck, which it shared with one investor via Google Slides, went viral. It set out to raise a $1 million seed round, but ended up doubling that and giving some investors money back to make room for others.
Blockchain for private-markets investing
Securitize, founded in 2017 by the tech industry veterans Carlos Domingo and Jamie Finn, is bringing blockchain technology to private-markets investing. The company raised $48 million in Series B funding on June 21 from investors including Morgan Stanley and Blockchain Capital.
Securitize helps companies crowdfund capital from individual and institutional investors by issuing their shares in the form of blockchain tokens that allow for more efficient settlement, record keeping, and compliance processes. Morgan Stanley’s Tactical Value fund, which invests in private companies, made its first blockchain-technology investment when it coled the Series B, Securitize CEO Carlos Domingo told Insider.
E-commerce focused business banking
Business banking is a hot market in fintech. And it seems investors can’t get enough.
Novo, the digital banking fintech aimed at small e-commerce businesses, raised a $40.7 million Series A led by Valar Ventures in June. Since its launch in 2018, Novo has signed up 100,000 small businesses. Beyond bank accounts, it offers expense management, a corporate card, and integrates with e-commerce infrastructure players like Shopify, Stripe, and Wise.
Founded in 2018, Novo was based in New York City, but has since moved its headquarters to Miami.
Blockchain-based credit score tech
A blockchain-based fintech startup that is aiming to disrupt the traditional model of evaluating peoples’ creditworthiness recently raised $30 million in a Series B funding led by credit reporting giant TransUnion.
Four-year-old Spring Labs aims to create a private, secure data-sharing model to help credit agencies better predict the creditworthiness of people who are not in the traditional credit bureau system. The founding team of three fintech veterans met as early employees of lending startup Avant.
Existing investors GreatPoint Ventures and August Capital also joined in on the most recent round. So far Spring Labs has raised $53 million from institutional rounds.
TransUnion, a publicly-traded company with a $20 billion-plus market cap, is one of the three largest consumer credit agencies in the US. After 18 months of dialogue and six months of due diligence, TransAmerica and Spring Labs inked a deal, Spring Labs CEO and cofounder Adam Jiwan told Insider.
Digital banking for freelancers
Lance is a new digital bank hoping to simplify the life of those workers by offering what it calls an “active” approach to business banking.
“We found that every time we sat down with the existing tools and resources of our accountants and QuickBooks and spreadsheets, we just ended up getting tangled up in the whole experience of it,” Lance cofounder and CEO Oona Rokyta told Insider.
Lance offers subaccounts for personal salaries, withholdings, and savings to which freelancers can automatically allocate funds according to custom preset levels. It also offers an expense balance that’s connected to automated tax withholdings.
In May, Lance announced the closing of a $2.8 million seed round that saw participation from Barclays, BDMI, Great Oaks Capital, Imagination Capital, Techstars, DFJ Frontier, and others.
Digital tools for independent financial advisors
Jason Wenk started his career at Morgan Stanley in investment research over 20 years ago. Now, he’s running a company that is hoping to broaden access to financial advice for less-wealthy individuals.
The startup raised $50 million in Series B funding led by Insight Partners with participation from investors Vanguard and Venrock. The round brings the Los Angeles-based startup’s total funding to just under $67 million.
Founded in 2018, Altruist is a digital brokerage built for independent financial advisors, intended to be an “all-in-one” platform that unites custodial functions, portfolio accounting, and a client-facing portal. It allows advisors to open accounts, invest, build models, report, trade (including fractional shares), and bill clients through an interface that can advisors time by eliminating mundane operational tasks.
Altruist aims to make personalized financial advice less expensive, more efficient, and more inclusive through the platform, which is designed for registered investment advisors (RIAs), a growing segment of the wealth management industry.
Payments and operations support
While countless small businesses have been harmed by the pandemic, self-employment and entrepreneurship have found ways to blossom as Americans started new ventures.
Half of the US population may be freelance by 2027, according to a study commissioned by remote-work hiring platform Upwork. HoneyBook, a fintech startup that provides payment and operations support for freelancers, in May raised $155 million in funding and achieved unicorn status with its $1 billion-plus valuation.
Durable Capital Partners led the Series D funding with other new investors including renowned hedge fund Tiger Global, Battery Ventures, Zeev Ventures, and 01 Advisors. Citi Ventures, Citigroup’s startup investment arm that also backs fintech robo-advisor Betterment, participated as an existing investor in the round alongside Norwest Venture partners. The latest round brings the company’s fundraising total to $227 million to date.
Fraud prevention for lenders and insurers
Onboarding new customers with ease is key for any financial institution or retailer. The more friction you add, the more likely consumers are to abandon the entire process.
But preventing fraud is also a priority, and that’s where Neuro-ID comes in. The startup analyzes what it calls “digital body language,” or, the way users scroll, type, and tap. Using that data, Neuro-ID can identify fraudulent users before they create an account. It’s built for banks, lenders, insurers, and e-commerce players.
“The train has left the station for digital transformation, but there’s a massive opportunity to try to replicate all those communications that we used to have when we did business in-person, all those tells that we would get verbally and non-verbally on whether or not someone was trustworthy,” Neuro-ID CEO Jack Alton told Insider.
Founded in 2014, the startup’s pitch is twofold: Neuro-ID can save companies money by identifying fraud early, and help increase user conversion by making the onboarding process more seamless.
In December Neuro-ID closed a $7 million Series A, co-led by Fin VC and TTV Capital, with participation from Canapi Ventures. With 30 employees, Neuro-ID is using the fresh funding to grow its team and create additional tools to be more self-serving for customers.
AI-powered tools to spot phony online reviews
Marketplaces like Amazon and eBay host millions of third-party sellers, and their algorithms will often boost items in search based on consumer sentiment, which is largely based on reviews. But many third-party sellers use fake reviews often bought from click farms to boost their items, some of which are counterfeit or misrepresented to consumers.
That’s where Fakespot comes in. With its Chrome extension, it warns users of sellers using potentially fake reviews to boost sales and can identify fraudulent sellers. Fakespot is currently compatible with Amazon, BestBuy, eBay, Sephora, Steam, and Walmart.
“There are promotional reviews written by humans and bot-generated reviews written by robots or review farms,” Fakespot founder and CEO Saoud Khalifah told Insider. “Our AI system has been built to detect both categories with very high accuracy.”
Fakespot’s AI learns via reviews data available on marketplace websites, and uses natural-language processing to identify if reviews are genuine. Fakespot also looks at things like whether the number of positive reviews are plausible given how long a seller has been active.
New twists on digital banking
The majority of these fintechs target those who are underbanked, and rely on usage of their debit cards to make money off interchange. But fellow startup HMBradley has a different business model.
“Our thesis going in was that we don’t swipe our debit cards all that often, and we don’t think the customer base that we’re focusing on does either,” Zach Bruhnke, cofounder and CEO of HMBradley, told Insider. “A lot of our customer base uses credit cards on a daily basis.”
Instead, the startup is aiming to build clientele with stable deposits. As a result, the bank is offering interest-rate tiers depending on how much a customer saves of their direct deposit.
Notably, the rate tiers are dependent on the percentage of savings, not the net amount.
“We’ll pay you more when you save more of what comes in,” Bruhnke said. “We didn’t want to segment customers by how much money they had. So it was always going to be about a percentage of income. That was really important to us.”