Saturday, October 12, 2019

10 Key Issues For Fintech Startup Companies - Forbes

10 Key Issues For Fintech Startup Companies - Forbes


10 Key Issues For Fintech Startup Companies - Forbes

Posted: 12 Oct 2019 11:00 AM PDT

By Richard D. Harroch and Melissa Guzy

Investment in financial technology ("Fintech") companies is growing dramatically. Global Fintech funding has risen to over $100 billion, fueled by large M&A deals and large rounds of financing. Investment in Fintech companies is expected to continue to grow significantly in the next few years as such companies offer outsized growth opportunities.

Fintech companies encompass a broad landscape of businesses, generally around financial-oriented services and products. Examples of Fintech-related companies or products include:

  • Payment infrastructure, processing and issuance, such as services provided by Square, Ant Financial, Revolut, and Stripe
  • Stock trading apps from Robinhood, TD Ameritrade, and Schwab
  • Alternative lending marketplaces, such as Prosper, LendingClub, and OnDeck
  • Cryptocurrencies and digital cash, a prime example of which is Bitcoin
  • Blockchain technology, such as Ethereum
  • Insurtech, which seeks to modernize and simplify the insurance industry, with companies such as Lemonade, Oscar, and Fabric
  • Money transfer and remittances, including services from TransferWise, PayPal, and Venmo
  • Mortgage lending, such as through LendingHome and Better Mortgage
  • Robo investment advisors, such as Betterment and Wealthfront
  • Neobanks, including Chime, N26, and Monzo
  • Credit reporting, such as Credit Karma
  • Online business loan providers such as Lendio and Kabbage
  • Small business credit cards, payments, and financing, such as through Brex and Fundbox
  • Financial cybersecurity companies seeking to protect institutions from money laundering, chargeback risk. and cybercrimes, such as Forter, EverCompliant, and CrowdStrike.
  • Infrastructure and software to power financial applications, such as from Plaid

See a thorough analysis of companies in the Fintech space in Fintech Insights by FT Partners.

Fintech companies fall into either a business-to-consumer sales model (B2C) or business-to-business model (B2B). Each model has its own challenges, although the B2C sales cycle tends to be much shorter than the B2B sales cycle, as businesses are slower to adopt new technology.

A number of Fintech startups show great promise and are quickly earning rising market valuations. Some of these companies have grown, or will grow, to become valued at billions of dollars. For example, Stripe is valued at over $35 billion and Square is valued at $25 billion.

Startups in the Fintech space face a number of issues and challenges, from regulatory to fundraising and competitive issues. In this article, we will outline 10 of those key issues and challenges.

1. Raising Venture Capital or Strategic Financing

Raising venture capital financing is never easy for Fintech companies. Venture investors will raise a number of key questions in their due diligence process, including:

  • What problem in the financial process is the company's solution looking to solve?
  • Is there a qualified management team?
  • Is the market opportunity big?
  • What positive early traction has the company achieved? Are there early or pilot customers?
  • Are the founders passionate and determined?
  • Do the founders understand the key financials and metrics of their business?
  • Have the founders been referred to the investor by a trusted colleague? (It's extremely difficult to get a venture investor interested through cold calling or cold emails.)
  • Is the investor pitch deck professional and interesting? (See item #2 below as to what your investor pitch deck should contain.)
  • What are the potential risks to the business, especially regulatory risk?
  • Why is the company's product or service great?
  • How will the investment capital be used and what progress will be made? Will it be enough to obtain the next round of financing?
  • Is the expected valuation for the company realistic?
  • Does the company have differentiated technology?
  • What is the company's intellectual property?
  • Are the company's financial projections realistic and interesting?

See 15 Key Questions Venture Capitalists Will Ask Before Investing in Your Startup and A Guide to Venture Capital Financings for Startups.

Ideally, Fintech companies will attract the right venture capital investors with Fintech experience and the right strategic investors.

Here are some examples of how experienced Fintech investors can assist Fintech companies:

  • Provide market, product, and competitive intelligence
  • Help to refine the marketing plan and the customer target list
  • Offer introductions to potential customers; potential strategic partners, including providers of debt financing; venture capital investors interested in the Fintech space; and potential management team members

Strategic Fintech investors can be:

  • Pilot customers
  • Distribution partners
  • Technical and product advisors
  • Strategic partners collaborating on product development
  • Helpful in providing insight into regulatory issues
  • An M&A acquirer of the Fintech company

However, Fintech companies need to avoid granting too many rights (such as rights of first refusal on sale of the company), as this will chill or kill future fundraising or M&A opportunities. Additionally, tailoring product development to the needs of a strategic investor can turn a startup into a captive development team.

2. Having a Great Investor Pitch Deck

Both venture investors and strategic investors expect to see a concise and interesting summary of the business before they will even consider taking a meeting. Therefore, it's crucial that a Fintech startup creates a great investor pitch deck that tells a compelling story and shows scalability.

You want your investor pitch deck to cover the following topics, roughly in the order set forth here, and with these titles:

  • Company Overview (A summary overview of the company)
  • Mission/Vision of the Company (What is the mission and vision?)
  • The Team (Who are key team players? What is their relevant background?)
  • The Problem (What big problem are you trying to solve?)
  • The Solution (What is your proposed solution? Why is it better than other solutions or products?)
  • The Market Opportunity (How big is the addressable market?)
  • The Product (Give specifics on the product or service.)
  • The Customers (Who are the target customers? Why will there be a big demand from these customers? How easy is it for a customer to adopt and use?)
  • The Technology (What is the underlying technology? How is it differentiated? Is it defensible and difficult to replicate?)
  • The Competition (Who are the key competitors? How will you be better than the competition?)
  • Traction (Early customers, early adopters, revenues, press, partnerships)
  • Business Model (What is the business and revenue model? Is it scalable? What are the acquisition costs and stickiness?)
  • The Marketing Plan (How do you plan to market? What do you anticipate for customer acquisition costs versus the lifetime value of the customer?)
  • Financials (Projected revenues, key assumptions, and EBITDA)
  • The Ask (How much capital are you are trying to raise? What progress will you make with that capital?)

Here are some helpful pitch deck tips:

  • Tell your story in 15 to 20 slides. (If you can't tell the story with brevity, you can't tell it well.)
  • Explain why the market opportunity is or will be large.
  • Describe the talent on your team.
  • Don't provide excessive financial details. Hit the key indicators and save the rest for follow-up.
  • Don't try to cover everything in the pitch deck. Your in-person presentation will give you an opportunity to add and highlight key information.
  • Use plain English—too much jargon or acronyms can distract from your story and you will lose credibility.
  • Don't underestimate or belittle the competition, or dismiss the regulatory risks.
  • Make sure your information and metrics are up-to-date.
  • "Look and feel" matters. Think of it as your investor interface, and consider getting professional help from a graphic designer.
  • Review other pitch decks for ideas on presentation. Do a Google search and you will find hundreds of pitch decks online.
  • Be sure to include the following wording at the bottom left of the pitch deck cover page: "Confidential and Proprietary. Copyright (c) by [Name of Company]. All Rights Reserved."
  • Send the pitch deck in a PDF format to prospective investors in advance of a meeting. Relying on Google Drive, Dropbox, or some other online service just puts up a barrier to the investor actually reading it.

For additional guidance, as well as sample pitch decks, see How to Create a Great Investor Pitch Deck for Startups Seeking Financing and The 17 Biggest Mistakes Startups Make With Their Investor Pitch Deck.

3. Regulatory Issues for Fintech Companies

If you are in the Fintech space, you should anticipate that dealing with regulation will become a daily norm. There is increasing pressure on Fintech startups, globally, to address and deal with existing or potential regulatory hurdles.

It is important to work with regulators and make sure that you hire a capable team member who is dedicated to understanding the trends, can interface with the appropriate regulatory bodies, and who has a solid understanding of any regulatory impact on your product or the way you market the product. Many countries (such as Singapore, Australia, and the UK) have "Regulatory Sandboxes" that can assist and guide Fintech companies.

However, in the United States, Fintech companies must comply with both federal laws and a patchwork of state laws. Although certain federal agencies and state regulators have voiced support for promoting Fintech innovation by simplifying the applicable regulatory regime, in the near term, Fintech companies should expect to engage specialized legal counsel experienced in navigating the morass of laws, regulations, and court decisions that could apply.

As a startup, it's important to be aware of the regulatory framework. A few key issues to consider include:

  • Are there existing regulations today that regulate the company's products or services?
  • If there are existing regulations, does the company comply?
  • What licenses will be required?
  • Does it make sense to partner with another company that already has the required licenses?
  • If you are going to partner, what would be the economic split? What is required to partner from each company's perspective? What is the risk? Is this a long-term approach or an intermediary step?

If the company is dealing with securities, deposits, and/or lending, then legal counsel should be consulted on an appropriate approach before marketing to consumers. 

Privacy and protection of personal information is a huge issue right now, with new laws coming out all over the world. Even large financial institutions are struggling to keep up with new requirements. The following consumer privacy-, data security-, and financial services-related laws or regulatory schemes are important for Fintech companies:

  • Federal Trade Commission–The FTC is broadly empowered to bring enforcement actions to protect consumers against unfair or deceptive practices and has developed a sort of "common law" with respect to regulatory expectations. The FTC has taken the position that "deceptive practices" include a company's failure to comply with its published privacy policy and its failure to implement "reasonable" security measures to protect consumers' personal information.
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau–Also regulates at a federal level certain financial services provided to consumers. The CFPB recently issued new policies intended to promote Fintech innovation, but these policies remain untested, and there is a key unresolved issue regarding whether federal regulations can preempt state laws or regulations governing the same subject matter.
  • European Union GDPR rules–Europe enforces strict data protection laws for companies that may collect or process EU residents' data. GDPR rules have a global reach as they regulate any international company that collects or processes EU residents' data.
  • Telephone Consumer Protection Act–Imposes restrictions on telemarketing.
  • State data breach notification laws–All 50 U.S. states require customer notification of security breaches involving personal information; moreover, many states are establishing minimal "reasonable" standards to protect consumer data.
  • CAN-SPAM laws–Places restrictions on email marketing.
  • Evolving federal and state laws–For example, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018, which imports EU GDPR-style rights for California residents around data ownership, transparency, and control.
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act–Imposes privacy and security obligations on insurance companies, banks, and other covered financial institutions with respect to customer financial records.
  • New York Department of Financial Services cybersecurity rules–Imposes specific security requirements, including technical controls and reporting obligations on licensed entities. The requirements are directed at the security of the systems underlying the financial sector, not simply on data.
  • Anti-Money Laundering laws–Fintech companies that handle, remit, or transmit funds may be required to comply with laws designed to prevent money laundering and other illegal activities.
  • International laws—There are numerous countries around the world developing their own requirements. Some of these laws require that transactions have to be processed and information maintained in the country.

4. Competing With Huge Financial Brands

Today, Fintech companies don't only compete with the large existing financial powerhouses, such as Goldman Sachs, Citi, or PayPal, but they soon will have to contend with Amazon and other technology companies expanding into financial services. A Fintech startup cannot underestimate the spending power of the incumbents and their willingness to spend when it comes to direct consumer marketing.

A Fintech company needs to differentiate its product and services and ensure defensibility. The target market might be poorly understood or underserved, or consumers are simply dissatisfied with the current offerings. In the infrastructure space, it might be that a new trend is emerging and a new solution bridges a product gap or reduces friction.

As "open banking" expands globally, along with PSD2 (the European Payment Services Directive applicable to the payments industry) and GDPR, new opportunities are emerging for Fintech companies. The introduction of new regulations is leveling the playing field and creating new opportunities for products and services in both the B2C and B2B spaces.

Although large incumbents have been working to address these changes, they are generally slower than the average Fintech company; speed to market is an important competitive advantage, but might not be sustainable over the long term. 

A Fintech B2C company should be able to answer the following:

  • What problem do you solve that the large incumbents are not addressing, and why are they ignoring that market segment or opportunity?
  • Are you trying to change customer behavior? If so, what is your approach and why do you think it is possible?
  • What are customers risking if they adopt your solution versus an incumbent's product?
  • Can you build trust with your customers?
  • How will incumbents react? And if they do, how long will it take them?
  • Do you have any technology that is defensible with your solution?

For a B2B company, the questions are centered around product differentiation and the problem you can solve for the enterprise. Remember that the product needs to solve a significant problem in order for a large company to bet on a startup versus a larger, more established company. The following list highlights the most critical points:

  • Does the product solve a pain point today that is causing the company either significant expense, loss of business, or potential regulatory fines?
  • Is the product robust enough to compete with the incumbents and beat them in a head-to-head matchup?
  • Will the incumbents use it as a loss leader, eliminating any potential margin?

5. Cost-Effective Marketing to Acquire Customers

Customer acquisition is a significant issue for Fintech startups. To be honest, entire books are written on the topic of customer acquisition, and the methods will vary depending on whether the company has B2C or B2B offerings. But, in brief, key ways Fintech companies can market themselves are:

  • Search engine ads—Pay Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, or other sites to send you traffic (such as through Google Ads). However, such ads are often expensive and not cost effective, so you need to do testing/pilot programs to see what keywords work and at what price.
  • Company website—Build a great site with lots of high-quality, original content that is search engine optimized as well as optimized for mobile traffic. Continue to add fresh content to the site.
  • Social media marketing—Have a smart social media plan to drive traffic from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and other free social media sites.
  • Content marketing—Prepare well-written articles and try to have them posted on other quality sites, such as AllBusiness.com or Medium.com, with links back to your site. Employ content widgets on third-party websites through Taboola or other third-party content discovery platforms.
  • Affiliate programs—Affiliate programs work as a mechanism to pay a finder's fee to an affiliate who refers a client to a Fintech company. For example, a credit card issuer may pay a $75 fee for each client referred who signs up for the issuer's credit card.
  • Press releases—Issue press releases announcing major developments in your company: new financing raised, new partnerships, new senior employees hired, and new product announcements.
  • Influencer marketing—Implement a marketing/advertising campaign with the help of influencers who have a large following on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites.
  • Videos—Produce videos that describe your services in an interesting and professional manner. You can then post these videos on your website, YouTube, and other social media sites.
  • Direct mail—Direct mail can be a valuable channel for Fintech companies to reach potential customers. Targeting information can be combined with credit data, making it easier to identify valuable customers, and the price of direct mail may be more cost effective than search engine advertising.
  • App marketing—If you have a mobile app, you will want to optimize it to rank higher in app store search results. Consider paid promotions in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Although venture capital financing has been flooding into Fintech startups, marketing is an easy place to waste money. We have been in a period of "growth at all cost," but this will not be sustainable.

We recommend carefully constructing a marketing strategy before you launch and making sure your tech can support analyzing cohort data on a granular level. Creating a budget for different tests on short cycles will help you to eliminate any strategies that are not working and fine-tune marketing programs that are showing success. Keep fine-tuning and experimenting, and making sure the data collected shows the right metrics to determine whether the business will thrive at scale.

For B2C companies, there needs to be a virality effect that emerges to reduce the overall acquisition costs and drive scalability. For B2B2C companies, the marketing is more complex. Initially you need to market to another business and convince them that you will increase their revenue, but ultimately sales are driven by the B2C component.

Venture investors will often ask B2C Fintech companies the following questions during due diligence:

  • How are you going to acquire customers?
  • What is the customer acquisition cost?
  • Can you demonstrate what has worked and what has not?
  • How are you striking the balance between ease of use and detecting fraud?
  • Can you demonstrate that the approach is scalable?
  • What is the payback period?
  • What is the long-term value versus the cost of acquisition of a customer?
  • How many times per month will customers use the product/service?
  • What is the churn? How "sticky" is the solution?
  • How do you measure success?

The questions from investors for B2B companies are quite different. Many of the questions are around the initial customers. B2B companies need to think about marketing very differently—acquiring the right initial customers is more important than branding. Being invited to speak at the relevant conferences and reaching the right people at a prospective customer are both important.

6. Getting Early Adopters and Avoiding Slow Sales Cycles

Getting early revenue traction is critical to determining initial product market fit. Early adopters are important for this reason. In B2B, the sales cycle is long, especially for behemothssometimes 24 to 36 months to reach a steady state of recurring revenue. For smaller enterprise customers, the sales cycle can be shortened to six months. We recommend a pipeline that is a mixture so that the product marketing and engineering teams can receive feedback on the product sooner and are able to iterate on product design to meet market requirements.

Getting early adopters in B2C is much easier, especially if a company uses incentives. Companies need to understand their market segments, the sales cycle for the "proof of concept" phase, and the sales cycle for broader commercial rollout. In a company's early days, it is fine to be opportunistic. but at some point, usually when the company reaches $5 million to $10 million in revenues, an organized sales process needs to be implemented. At this point, an opportunistic approach can become problematic when addressing issues associated with competing sales, engineering, and customer requests.

Too many companies don't mature organizationally and remain sales opportunistic. Taking the time to prepare a detailed market segmentation and to build a sales process and pipeline will pay off in the long term. Many Fintech CEOs are trying to please their venture capitalists, but implementing a process will lead to more sustainable growth. This is the time to really understand product market fit and to determine what other features and functionality should be added to meet specific client requirements.

The following is a list of questions a Fintech company may be asked by a venture capitalist. Many startups underestimate their sales cycle in both the budgeting and due diligence processes. However, a realistic sales plan can be developed from the answers to these questions:

  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is a realistic sales cycle for this market?
  • Is there a "proof of concept" requirement?
  • How long is the proof of concept?
  • Will you get paid for the proof of concept?
  • What are the metrics that determine a successful proof of concept?
  • Who is the decision-maker at the customer's company?
  • Will the proof of concept lead to revenue? And, if so, what can you expect in years one, two, and three?
  • What other features need to be developed to go into full commercialization?
  • With the product you have today, who is the ideal customer and are they interested?
  • What are competing solutions?
  • How much do customers pay for competing solutions?
  • If you win a customer, will they be a good reference for future potential customers?
  • What is a realistic revenue ramp for this customer?
  • Does it require significant internal resources to support this customer?
  • Are you betting your company on the right customers?

7. Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Issues

Data privacy, cybersecurity, and data breach issues are especially important in the Fintech space. Fintech companies often have access to highly confidential information on individuals: Social Security numbers, credit card information, net worth, income, and much more.

Hackers have become increasingly sophisticated at illegally accessing a Fintech company's data. Their latest stealth methods have made it more difficult for companies to detect and defend themselves from such attacks. Advanced covert surveillance techniques allow attackers to monitor and steal data—often sensitive proprietary information or strategies—over a long period of time without detection.

A delay by a company to discover and report a data breach can result in significant negative publicity, as well as legal exposure, including the risk of substantial fines and potential liabilities due to class action lawsuits and shareholder derivative actions. The FTC and state attorneys general have taken action against companies that failed to immediately report data breaches. A few high-profile companies that have had actions brought against them due to delays in reporting a data breach include Equifax, Uber, and Google+.

Investors in Fintech companies may want to review a company's procedures to protect the data of employees, customers, and business partners, as well as the company's networks and systems. Questions they may ask include:

  • What is the inherent cybersecurity risk of the company's business model?
  • Does the company have a written cybersecurity program that establishes administrative, operational, and technical controls to mitigate security risks?
  • Does the company have appropriate policies, including at a minimum an information security policy, an employee-facing acceptable use policy, and a data classification and handling policy?
  • Does the company conduct regular risk assessments, and vulnerability and penetration testing of its systems?
  • Does the company have dedicated security personnel?
  • Does the company perform an annual risk assessment related to privacy and cybersecurity?
  • Does the company train its employees and contractors on privacy and security best practices?
  • Does the company have a comprehensive incident response plan, and is it tested?
  • Does the company manage vendor risk?
  • Does the company have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan, as well as backup protocols?
  • Does the company protect the physical security of its facilities and assets?
  • Does the company implement "reasonable" technical security controls (or comply with mandatory standards), including, for example, anti-virus software, encryption, access controls, network monitoring, authentication, and asset management?
  • Does the company have an insider threat program to detect the potential theft of proprietary information or intellectual property?
  • Does the company require privacy impact assessments when implementing new systems or processes?
  • Has the company suffered past data breaches and what were the consequences?

Investors will also review whether the company is in compliance with applicable laws, as noted in items #3 and #10 in this article.

For a comprehensive discussion of data privacy and cybersecurity issues, see Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Issues in Mergers and Acquisitions: A Due Diligence Checklist to Assess Risk.

8. Intellectual Property and Technology Issues for Fintech Companies

Fintech investors are particularly interested in a company's software, technology, and underlying intellectual property. The questions the investors will pursue include:

  • How differentiated is the company's technology?
  • What competitive advantages will there be over existing Fintech offerings?
  • How easy will it be to replicate the company's offering? How long will it take?
  • How costly will it be to fully build out, maintain, and enhance the offering?
  • What key intellectual property does the company have (patents, patents pending, copyrights, trade secrets, trademarks, domain names)?
  • How was the company's intellectual property developed?
  • What comfort is there that the company's intellectual property does not violate the rights of a third party?
  • Is the intellectual property properly owned by the company, and have all employees and consultants assigned the intellectual property over to the company?
  • Would any prior employers of a team member have a potential claim to the company's intellectual property?
  • If the intellectual property was developed at a university, through government grants, or with open source technology, does the company have the right to use the technology?
  • Where does the company's intellectual property reside? (This can have important tax consequences.)

See 10 Intellectual Property Strategies for Technology Startups.

9. Business, Revenue, and Expense Model Issues

Investors are particularly sensitive to a number of key business, revenue, and expense model issues inherent in Fintech companies, including:

  • With so many Fintech offerings out there, how can you get noticed and be differentiated?
  • What is the customer acquisition cost?
  • How easy is the onboarding process for new customers?
  • Can the company find a scalable way to acquire users?
  • How will the company detect fraud?
  • If the product or service is adopted, is it difficult for a customer to transition to an alternative?
  • How can churn be mitigated?
  • What is the long-term value of a customer?
  • Can the long-term value of the customer be increased over time while decreasing the cost of acquisition of a customer?
  • How often is the product used by the customer each month?
  • Is the service user-friendly enough?
  • What level of customer support is necessary to ensure customers are satisfied?
  • What ongoing product improvement costs will the company face?
  • Can the company manage a significant growth in users from a technical standpoint with acceptable financial consequences?
  • Is the business capital intensive?
  • Can the company raise sufficient capital to cover the company's anticipated burn rate? 

When building a company's financial model, it is important to keep expenses as lean as possible until a revenue trajectory can be established. We suggest building the model from the ground level. On the expense side, start with the core engineering team, add a business development person, and one good "athlete" who can be a multitasker. Don't go crazy on fixed expenses.

Startups are usually very accurate at projecting their expenses, but it's far more difficult to project revenues. It can be difficult to judge when to ramp up expenses. For a B2B business, even if you were to execute perfectly, there is a natural revenue ramp that occurs and it is difficult to alter the trajectory. Fintech companies, therefore, should avoid overspending on sales and marketing too early.

Once the burn rate gets too high and revenue does not materialize, it is usually difficult for a company to recover. Early-stage companies should avoid the following expenses:

  • Fancy offices and too much office space
  • Too many parties paid for by the company
  • Having a large sales and marketing team before product/market fit has been established
  • Too many pilots with large financial institutions without predetermined goals/metrics that will lead to full-scale implementation
  • A lengthy period of product development before being able to launch a minimally viable product
  • Employee salaries comparable to Amazon, Google, or an investment bank
  • Long-term contractual commitments

Key early expenditures for Fintech companies should include:

  • Engineering talent
  • Product marketing talent
  • A solid business development employee
  • Decent initial office space located in an area where the company can attract top talent
  • Regulatory analysis

10. Legal Issues for Fintech Startups

Investors will look at several questions to ensure a Fintech company's house is in order from a legal perspective:

  • Has the company been properly organized? (Most investors prefer investing in corporations, not LLCs.)
  • Where is the company incorporated?
  • Is the company paying attention to important contractual issues?
  • Has the company complied with applicable securities laws when issuing stock or options?
  • Has the deal and equity split between co-founders been made clear? What happens if a co-founder leaves the company?
  • Is the company in compliance with employment laws? Does it have appropriate policies in place, such as those prohibiting sexual harassment? Has it obtained all appropriate employment documents from employees?
  • Are all employees and contractors required to sign Confidentiality and Invention Assignment Agreements?
  • Is the company taking appropriate steps to protect itself in its customer contracts (liability limitations, arbitration provision in the event of a dispute, etc.)?
  • Are key tax considerations taken into account?
  • Does the company have an employee manual?
  • Does the name of the company or its service pose any trademark issues, domain name problems, or other issues?
  • Should the company implement an employee equity plan to incentivize employees?
  • Is the company complying with all applicable laws and regulations (see item #3 in this article), and where the laws are unclear, what is the regulatory risk?

Related Articles:

*We express our appreciation for the helpful comments on this article from Dora Mao, Senior Counsel at Orrick, Herrington & Sutfcliffe LLP, who is an expert in Fintech, capital market, and lending transactions. We also express appreciation to Jim Hoffmeister, Global Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer at Visa, Inc.

Copyright © by Richard D. Harroch. All Rights Reserved.

About the Authors

Richard D. Harroch is a Managing Director and Global Head of M&A at VantagePoint Capital Partners, a large venture capital fund in the San Francisco area. His focus is on internet, digital media, and software companies, and he was the founder of several internet companies. His articles have appeared online in Forbes, Fortune, MSN, Yahoo, FoxBusiness, and AllBusiness.com. Richard is the author of several books on startups and entrepreneurship as well as the co-author of Poker for Dummies and a Wall Street Journal-bestselling book on small business. He is the co-author of the recently published 1,500-page book by Bloomberg, Mergers and Acquisitions of Privately Held Companies: Analysis, Forms and Agreements. He was also a corporate and M&A partner at the law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, with experience in startups, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital. He has been involved in over 200 M&A transactions and 250 startup financings. He can be reached through LinkedIn.

Melissa Guzy is the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Arbor Ventures. Prior to founding Arbor Ventures, Melissa was Managing Director and Head of VantagePoint Asia, a $4.5 billion venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley with offices in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. As a thought leader in the global technology community, with experience across Asia and Silicon Valley, Melissa has been recognized as one of the Top 200 Fintech Influencers in Asia in 2018. Melissa brings with her a unique combination of global experience and perspectives, with deep technological and innovative prowess anchored in an extensive international network. Melissa is a regular speaker on Venture Capital markets, key Fintech trends, and the changing global landscape. Melissa serves on the Board of Directors of the HKVCA and the SVCA, and is Co-Chair of the HKVCA Venture Committee. She also served on the Board of Innovation for the Hong Kong Securities and Commodities Commission. Melissa has been recognized as one of the Top 100 Influencers in FinTech, NxtBnk (2016), Always On FinTech Power Player (2015 & 2016), and One of the Most Influential Women in Tech in Asia. She is a Hopkins Fellow and participated in the Women's Leadership Program at Harvard University. She has been a speaker at Financial Times Top 50 Women in Asia, Money2020, Asian Financial Forum, RISE, and a guest lecturer on the Venture Capital industry at the University of Florida, Hong Kong University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, in addition to being a Contributing Expert at CFTE, the Centre for Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship.

[Weekly Funding Roundup] Startups raise $101.6M; NBFC Kogta Financial leads with $42.25M Series C round - YourStory

Posted: 12 Oct 2019 03:42 AM PDT

After a surge last week, October that saw startups raising equity funding of $474.6 M, the Indian startup ecosystem raised only $101.6 million this week.

This was spread across 16 deals, including six early-stage deals, five late-stage deals and five other deals.

Like last week, this week's funding activity was also devoid of venture debt deals. While the late-stage deals raised $80.1 million, the balance amount was raised through early-stage and other deals.

Weekly funding roundup

Weekly funding roundup

Deal of the week

Kogta Financial, a retail non-banking financial company (NBFC), raised Rs 300 crore ($42.25 million) in its Series C round, led by Creador IV LP along with Morgan Stanley Private Equity. Founded in 1996, Kogta offers financing for used and new commercial vehicles, cars and tractors, along with loans to MSME segment. The Jaipur-based NBFC operates 105 branches across eight states in central and west India, serving over 30,000 active customers.

Early-stage funding

Social commerce startup DealShare raised $11 million in its Series A round of funding led by Matrix Partners India and Falcon Edge Capital. The round also saw participation from partners of DST Global, Omidyar Network India, and few leading angel investors. The company said that the funds will be utilised for city expansion, developing artificial intelligence-based solutions, and indigenous logistics network.

San Francisco and Bengaluru-based firm, Hevo Data, an automated unified data platform that helps companies understand their users and customers better, raised $4 million in a seed round led by Sequoia Capital's Surge Venture and Chiratae Ventures. By using Hevo, companies can build a 360-degree view of their customers, by combining data from multiple disparate data sources and applications including sales CRM, advertising channels, marketing tech, financial system software, and customer support products. 

Neo banking startup, Juno raised $3 million seed funding led by Sequoia Capital and Polychain Capital. Dragonfly Capital, Consensys Labs, Astarc Ventures, Jitendra Gupta, and Nitin Sharma, and others, also participated. The company plans to use the funds to expand its team in Bengaluru and Singapore.

CleanseCar, a startup in the vehicle services space, raised $2 million. Currently operating in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, and Gurgaon, with 20,000-plus monthly subscribers, the startup looks to expand its business in these cities. The investors who participated in the round were Haldiram's Family Office, (Vevek Ventures Investments Pvt Ltd), Dr Apoorv Ranjan Sharma (Founder, Venture Catalysts), Dhianu Das (Alfa Ventures), Karan Kumar (Founder, Amalthea Capital), Rahul Bothra (CFO, Swiggy) and others.

Mumbai-bassed Neuroleap, a brain enhancement and mental health venture, raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Rajashree Birla, Chairperson, Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, and Sminu Jindal, MD, Jindal Saw, and Founder Chairperson, Svayam. 

Specialised winter wear brand Kosha raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from a clutch of individual and financial investors including Tres Monos Capital and Narendra Hiranandani, Founder of Enhira Software. Kosha, which was launched in 2017 by Yuktie Jhangiani, offers technically designed garments ideal for adventure travel and fashionable trench coats, accessories and sweaters. 

Late-stage deals

Melorra, a Bengaluru-based jewellery brand, raised $12 million funding from VC Lightbox, BlackSoil Capital and family offices of some of India's biggest business houses. These include Ravi Sheth's Great Eastern Shipping Company, the Burmans of Dabur, Rainmaker Ventures, and the Jeejeebhoy family office. The Series C funding will be used to improve Melorra's technological capabilities, increase brand visibility, and expand its employee base.

Greytip Software Private Limited, which operates HR automation and payroll product GreytHR, raised Series C funding of $4.8 million (Rs 34.5 Cr) from Info Edge. The round also saw participation from existing investor MegaDelta Capital. As part of the deal, Info Edge has come on board as a new investor. Lincoln International were the exclusive advisors to this fundraise round.

BASIX Sub-K iTransactions Limited, a Hyderabad-based fintech company focussed on financial inclusion, has raised Series C round of Rs 75 crore ($10.5 million) from Maj Invest, a Denmark-based asset management company. Sub-K plans to utilise the funds for product innovation and strengthening the IT platform that would position the company as a preferred fintech as well as a distribution partner for banks and financial institutions.

Global tea brand Vahdam Teas raised Rs 75 crore ($10.5 million) in its Series C round of funding led by consumer fund Sixth Sense Ventures. A cluster of reputed family offices and HNIs including Mankind Group Family office, Infosys Founder Kris Gopalakrishnan, SAR Group Family office, Zomato Co-founder Pankaj Chaddah, Urmin Group Family office, etc., also invested in the company.

Other deals

Online discovery platform Smytten raised $1.5 million in a funding round from existing investor Roots Ventures. The Gurugram based firm plans to use the fresh funds to scale up, product innovation and building multiple touchpoints for brand discovery. 

Vahan Inc., a Bengaluru-based AI startup, which was a part of the latest batch of Y Combinator, raised a fresh round of undisclosed funding from Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, and Pioneer Fund. The startup plans to use the funds to hire talent across engineering, products, sales, marketing, and operations.

Sattuz raised an undisclosed amount from Indian Angel Network, a pioneer in the seed and early-stage investing. Owned and operated by Gorural Foods & Beverages, the Bihar-based brand is facilitating improved access to the goodness of foods and beverages of rural India for the global consumer base comprising new-age, health-conscious individuals. 

Bollywood singer Sukhbir Singh has invested an undisclosed amount in Noida-based coworking and managed office space provider Nukleus. As part of the deal, Sukhbir Singh will join the advisory board of the startup as an active member. 

Bengaluru-based location intelligence platform GeoIQ has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from IP Ventures. Founded in 2018 by Devashish Fuloria (CEO), Tusheet Shrivastava (CTO) and Ankita Thakur (Chief Data Scientist), GeoIQ has over 25 clients across retail and logistics including Sanofi, Eko Financial, Bounce, Curefit, etc.

(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)


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