December 16, 2019 News Magazine

VertoFX raises $2M for its African and EM currency trading platform

VertoFX, an Africa and emerging markets-focused currency trading and payment startup, has raised a $2.1 million seed round, led by Accelerated Digital Ventures.

The London-based company, with a subsidiary in Lagos, Nigeria, has created a platform that allows businesses and banks to exchange and make payments in exotic foreign currencies that don’t often convert or trade conveniently across businesses or banks.

For example, South Africa’s Rand is Africa’s most convertible and traded currency — with lower spreads and transaction costs — while currencies of countries such as Ethiopia or Egypt may be difficult or expensive to trade or transact B2B payments.

“That’s the reason we are utilizing technology to create a marketplace model and price discovery to create liquidity for these currencies,” VertoFX founder Ola Oyetayo told TechCrunch.

There are around 40 global currencies that are considered exotic or illiquid, most of them in frontier markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle-East, according to Oyetayo.

VertoFX curency startup AfricaAnd there’s a revenue opportunity to creating a convenient online marketplace for trading and payments in these currencies.

“Our research says there’s about $400 billion being done by small and medium-scale businesses in Africa alone in transactional volume on an annual basis. If we take 1% of that as a commission or transaction fee, that’s a $4 billion addressable market, just in the continent,” said Oyetayo.

vertofx founders Anthony Oduwole and Ola OyetayoVertoFX was founded in 2017 by Oyetayo and Anthony Oduwole — both ex-global bankers born in Nigeria. The company was part of Y Combinator’s 2019 winter cohort and processed around $7 million in transaction volume last month, according to Oyetayo.

VertoFX is registered as a payment services provider with the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority. Current clients include several undisclosed banks and San Francisco-based payment venture Flutterwave.

VertoFX doesn’t release revenue figures, but confirmed it earns a commission, or spread, on each transaction processed on its platform. There are currently 19 currencies on the platform and the ability to settle in 120 countries, including China and the U.S.

VertoFX is also moving into offering market research — toward potential subscription services — on the currencies it trades, according to Oyetayo.

The startup will use the round for platform development, expanding the currencies and gaining licenses in new countries. “We’ll also use the round for hiring, primarily in compliance and regulator type roles,” said Oyetayo. VertoFX already has a developer team in India and is looking at local developer talent for its Africa offices.

ADV’s Ryan Proctor confirmed the VC firm’s lead on the investment round, which also included participation from YC and several local angel investors in Africa, Oyetayo told TechCrunch.

On the possibility of becoming acquired by a big bank, VertoFX isn’t so interested, according to Oyetayo.

“We both come from big banks and if we’d wanted to go down that route we’d have developed this more as a software as a service platform,” he said.

“We’re playing the long game here, and I don’t think acquisition is the end game,” he said.

Banner
Related Posts

YC-backed Eden Farm wants to cut out the middlemen between farmers and restaurants in Indonesia

August 15, 2019

August 15, 2019

Eden Farm is a startup with the ambitious goal of building a food distribution network for Indonesia, where many restaurants currently rely on markets for fresh ingredients. But this means high markups and unreliable supplies for restaurant owners and lower profits for farmers, co-founder and CEO David Gunawan tells TechCrunch. The company, part of Y Combinator’s current batch, wants to help both by simplifying the supply chain, ensuring stable pricing and reducing food waste. Eden Farm currently focuses on fresh produce and non-perishable items, but plans to expand its product line to meat and seafood, too. The company launched in 2017 and now supplies produce from 60 farmers to more than 200 restaurants in six major cities: Jakarta, Tangerang, South Tangerang, Bekasi, Depok and Bogor. Eden Farm is currently raising an oversubscribed seed round. Gunawan says the target was originally intended to be $1 million, but has now increased to $1.75 million. Investors include Y Combinator an..

Samasource raises $14.8M for global AI data biz driven from Africa

November 20, 2019

November 20, 2019

AI training data provider Samasource has raised a $14.8 million Series A funding round led by Ridge Ventures. The San Francisco-headquartered company delivers Fortune 100 companies with the inputs they need for machine learning development in fields including autonomous transportation, e-commerce and communications and media. It does so with a global work force of data specialists, a large number of whom are located in East Africa. In addition to San Francisco, New York and the Hague, Samasource has offices and teams in Kenya and Uganda. The company has a global staff of 2,900 and is the largest AI and data annotation employer in East Africa, according to CEO and founder Leila Janah. As part of its Series A, Samasource plans to upgrade the features of its platform. It also opened an AI Development Center in Montreal, Canada and expanded its digital delivery center in Kampala, Uganda to serve its corporate client base. “Typically we’re working with very large companies for whom AI i..

Embrace raises $4.5M for its mobile application performance management platform

April 24, 2019

April 24, 2019

Embrace, an LA-based startup that offers a mobile-first application performance management platform, today announced that it has raised a $4.5 million funding round led by Pritzker Group Venture Capital. This brings the company’s total funding to $7 million. New investors Greycroft, Miramar Ventures and Vy Captial also participated in this round, as did previous investors Eniac Ventures, The Chernin Group, Techstars Ventures, Tikhon Bernstam of Parse and others. Current Embrace customers include the likes of Home Depot, Headspace, OkCupid, Boxed, Thrive Market and TuneIn. These companies use the service to get a better view of how their apps perform on their users’ devices. As Embrace CEO and co-founder Eric Futoran, who also co-founded entertainment company Scopely, argues, too many similar services mostly focus on crashes, yet those only constitute a small number of the actual user experience issues in most apps. “To a large extent, crashes are solved,” he told me. “The crash perce..

At-home blood testing startup Baze rakes in $6 million from Nature’s Way

August 30, 2019

August 30, 2019

By now, the venture world is wary of blood testing startups offering health data from just a few drops of blood. However, Baze, a Swiss-based personal nutrition startup providing blood tests you can do in the convenience of your own home, collects just a smidgen of your sanguine fluid through an MIT manufactured device, which, according to the company, is in accordance with FDA regulations. The idea is to find out (via your blood sample) which vitamins you’re missing out on and are keeping you from living your best life. That seems to resonate with folks who don’t want to go into the doctor’s office and separately head to their nearest lab for testing. Most health professionals would agree it’s important to know if you are getting the right amount of nutrition — Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide epidemic affecting calcium absorption, hormone regulation, energy levels and muscle weakness. An estimated 74% of the U.S. population does not get the required daily levels of Vitamin D. “..

Verified Expert Brand Designer: Ramotion

April 19, 2019

April 19, 2019

Ramotion is a remote branding and product design agency that has worked with Bay Area tech startups since 2014. While they typically do branding for funded, fast-growing startups, Ramotion has helped companies ranging from Bitmoji’s early brand identity to Mozilla’s rebrand. We spoke to Ramotion’s CEO Denis Pakhaliuk about their iterative approach, his favorite branding projects, and more. Ramotion’s branding philosophy: “We are a big fan of starting small: designing a small package, releasing it, and then iterating on top of that. So, founders need to be focused on what’s really necessary right now for their next round of investment or product releases.” On common founder mistakes: “I think some founders think they need everything, but they actually need an MVP and product design. The same goes for brand identity. They need to have some key elements like colors, typeface, and the logo. There is no need to do everything in the beginning, because the logo and brand identity becomes..

Rune raises $2M to help you find new friends in mobile games, starting with Brawl Stars

October 2, 2019

October 2, 2019

Multiplayer games are more fun when you get to play with the same crew regularly. Playing with the same people means better cooperation, deeper strategies and, if all goes well, more wins. But what if none of your friends play the game you want to play? Rune, a company out of Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 class, wants to use AI to help you find the right people to play with, connecting you via voice chat. And they’ve just closed a $2 million seed round to get it done. The round was led by the gaming-focused firm Makers Fund, and backed by byFounders, E14 Fund, VentureSouq and Gmail creator Paul Buchheit. The first game they’re supporting is Brawl Stars, the popular free-to-play mobile game built by Clash of Clans creator Supercell. It’s a pretty perfect game for something like this — it’s a game where strategic teams have a solid advantage, but where building such a team from scratch can be tough. Brawl Stars will automatically match you with teammates if you’re playing alone, but in-..

The News Project’s publishing platform goes live with its first customer, CALmatters

July 9, 2019

July 9, 2019

CEO Merrill Brown says he founded The News Project to address one of the big problems in the journalism business: “It costs too much to launch and operate news sites.” It’s an issue that Brown knows well — he’s a former journalist, journalism executive and educator who served as the founding editor in chief of MNSBC.com. He announced earlier this year that The News Project has raised a six-figure investment from WordPress VIP, and now it’s actually launching with its first customer, the nonprofit site CALmatters, which offers news and analysis around California politics. Last week, Brown and The News Project’s product lead Miguel Ferrer walked me through what the the company does, both for CALmatters and more generally. The company’s pitch, in a nutshell, is to provide a “news business in box.” Ferrer explained, “Not only is it what you need for a news business in a box, it’s also understood to be more than a technical toolset, more than a CMS, even as the CMS is ultimately the core..

Scaling a nonprofit, startup style

April 9, 2019

April 9, 2019

It’s been a year since All Raise emerged with the support of dozens of venture capital’s most powerful women. The 34 founding members had a lofty goal: Double the capital going to female founders in five years and double the representation of female VCs in 10 years. After a few experiments, some trial and error and the first-of-its-kind Women Who Venture Summit, All Raise cemented its reputation as a force for change in Silicon Valley. In the last 12 months, the organization has connected high-profile VCs with female founders through its Female Founder Office Hours, lifted up founders who value diversity with the Founders for Change campaign and connected male general partners with nascent female investors with its VC Champions program. Now, the 501(c)(3) is ready for its next act. As part of a push to formalize the organization and garner more support in the form of cash, All Raise has hired its first chief executive officer, seasoned Silicon Valley operator Pam Kostka (pictured). ..

Hooch moves beyond subscription drinks, with rewards for travel, dining and more

March 7, 2019

March 7, 2019

When we first wrote about Hooch, it offered a fun, straightforward deal — for $9.99 per month, you could claim one free drink per day from participating bars and restaurants. Since then, the company launched Hooch Black, a pricier subscription that includes perks like hotel discounts and concierge service. But even then, co-founder and CEO Lin Dai was hinting at plans to use blockchain technology to create what he called “a decentralized model for consumer rewards.” Now Hooch is delivering on what Dai promised, with a relaunched app that rewards users for their purchases. “We were super excited about the feedback and response [to Hooch Black] that we saw from our members,” Dai said. “What we decided to do is just completely update the app with rewards for consumers across four different categories — travel, dining, entertainment and e-commerce.” He noted that while most loyalty programs reward you for using a specific card or for shopping with a specific company, Hooch has partnere..

China startup deals shrink as fundraising for investors plummets

July 16, 2019

July 16, 2019

Chinese startups continue to weather tough times as private investors, caught in a cash crunch, are concentrating money into fewer deals. China’s deal-making activity for startups in the six months ended June halved from a year ago to 1,910, according to data from consulting firm ChinaVenture’s research arm. The amount invested in domestic startups during the first half of 2019 plummeted 54% to $23.2 billion. The slide in startup investment comes as the money behind the money shrinks amid a cooling economy in China that is exacerbated by a trade war with the U.S. Fundraising for investors was already showing signs of slowdown a year earlier. In the first half of this year, private equity and venture capital firms in China secured 30% less than what they had raised over the same period a year ago, amounting to a total of $54.44 billion; 271 funds managed to raise, down 52%. That money from limited partners is also flowing to a small rank of investors. Twelve institutions accounted f..

Toyota partners with AI startup Preferred Networks on building helper robots for humans

August 7, 2019

August 7, 2019

Toyota is enlisting the help of startup Preferred Networks, a Japanese company founded in 2014 with a focus on artificial intelligence and deep learning, to help move forward its goal of developing useful service robots that can assist people in everyday life. The two companies announced a partnership today to collaborate on research and development that will use Toyota’s Human Support Robot (HSR) robotics platform. The platform, which Toyota originally created in 2012 and has been developing since, is a basic robot designed to be able to work alongside people in everyday settings. Its primary uses involve offering basic car and support assistance in nursing and long-term care applications. Equipped with one arm, a display, cameras and a wheeled base, it can collect and retrieve items, and provide remote control and communication capabilities. Preferred Networks already has some experience with Toyota’s HSR – it demonstrated one-such robot programmed to clean a room fully autonomousl..

Voiceflow, which allows anyone to make voice apps without coding, raises $3.5 million

April 23, 2019

April 23, 2019

The market for voice apps has opened up — Amazon Alexa’s platform alone has more than 80,000 skills as of earlier this year — and there’s little sign of that growth slowing now that smart speakers have hit critical mass in the U.S. To capitalize on this trend, Voiceflow, a startup making it easier for product teams to build voice applications for Alexa and Google Assistant, has raised $3 million in seed funding. The round was led by True Ventures, and includes participation from Product Hunt founder Ryan Hoover, Eventbrite founder Kevin Hartz and InVision founder Clark Valberg. The company has previously raised $500,000 in pre-seed funding. Explains Voiceflow CEO and co-founder Braden Ream, the idea for a collaborative platform for building voice apps came from direct experience as a voice app developer. The team — which also includes Tyler Han, Michael Hood and Andrew Lawrence — had decided to build a voice application offering interactive children’s stories for Alexa, called Story..

Slack off. Send videos instead with $11M-funded Loom

February 19, 2019

February 19, 2019

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many emails can you replace with a video? As offices fragment into remote teams, work becomes more visual, and social media makes us more comfortable on camera, it’s time for collaboration to go beyond text. That’s the idea behind Loom, a fast-rising startup that equips enterprises with instant video messaging tools. In a click, you can film yourself or narrate a screenshare to get an idea across in a more vivid, personal way. Instead of scheduling a video call, employees can asynchronously discuss projects or give ‘stand-up’ updates without massive disruptions to their workflow. In the 2.5 years since launch, Loom has signed up 1.1 million users from 18,000 companies. And that was just as a Chrome extension. Today Loom launches its PC and Mac apps that give it a dedicated presence in your digital workspace. Whether you’re communicating across the room or across the globe, “Loom is the next best thing to being there” co-founder Shahed Khan t..

Gogoro launches its newest electric vehicle, a lightweight scooter called Viva

September 26, 2019

September 26, 2019

Gogoro, the Taiwanese electric vehicle company, revealed its newest vehicle today, a lightweight scooter designed for people who want something smaller than one of the company’s Smartscooter mopeds, but more powerful than an electric bike. Called the Viva, the scooter can run for 85 kilometers on one of Gogoro’s swappable batteries, which are charged at the same stations as its Smartscooters. Horace Luke, co-founder and CEO of Gogoro, tells TechCruch that the Viva was created as an environmentally-friendly alternative to 50cc to 100cc gas scooters. It will be available starting in October, launching first in Taiwan next year before being released in some international markets. Made from recyclable scratch-proof solid-core polypropylene and available in five color combinations, the Viva weighs 80 kilograms and has up to 21 liters of storage. It will retail at USD $1,800, with about 100 optional accessories available, including baskets and racks. As in many other Asian cities, mopeds ..

Lookout, Robinhood. E*Trade, Schwab, Ameritrade go zero-fee

October 2, 2019

October 2, 2019

The biggest players in online stock trading all just copied Robinhood by removing their fees for stock and ETF trading. Charles Schwab announced yesterday it would drop its $4.95 fee, leading to plummeting share prices for it as well as competitors. By the end of yesterday, Ameritrade announced it too would axe its $6.95 fees, and then E*Trade followed suit this morning killing off its own $6.95 fee. However, none of their share price recovered. From yesterday before Schwab’s announcement through now, Schwab fell 12%, from $41.84 to $36.54; E*Trade fell 19%, from $43.69 to $35.20; and Ameritrade fell 28%, from $46.70 to $33.54. Clearly investors aren’t thrilled that these financial giants are bowing to pressure from a measly startup. Yet the move could definitely hurt growth for the $7.6 billion-valued fintech upstart Robinhood. It has relied on the free stock trades to pull in users that it then monetizes with its Robinhood Gold subscription to premium services, including the abili..

Comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *