All posts in “Europe”

Fairjungle is a modern take on corporate travel management

French startup Fairjungle wants to make it easier to book a flight or a hotel room for corporate purposes. The company just raised a $2 million funding round (€1.8 million) from Thibaud Elzière, Eduardo Ronzano, Bertrand Mabille and Whitestones Ventures.

If you work for a big company, chances are you book corporate flights through GBT, CWT or BCD Travel. And let’s be honest, the web interface usually sucks. It’s often hard to compare flights, change dates or even get a fair price.

Fairjungle is betting on a modern user experience and a software-as-a-service business model to change this industry. The idea is to make it feel more like you’re using a flight comparison service instead of a travel agency with a website.

“The value proposition [of legacy competitors] was historically around finding the best travel options for the business traveler, which has become obsolete today when you have tools like Skyscanner and Google Flights,” co-founder and CEO Saad Berrada told me.

In order to modernize that industry, the startup is leveraging the inventory of Skyscanner, Booking.com, Amadeus, Travelfusion and Hotelbeds. This way, you can book flights on 400 airlines and reserve hotel rooms in one million hotels.

After searching for a flight or a hotel room, you can book directly from Fairjungle. This way, employees don’t have to download invoices and file expense reports on a separate platform every time they travel. Companies can set up different rules to keep costs down. For instance, a flight that is unusually expensive requires approval from a manager.

Instead of charging per transaction, Fairjungle has opted for a SaaS model with a subscription of €5 per monthly active user.

Fairjungle currently focuses on small and mid-sized companies. The company has attracted 20 clients so far, including OVH. And it expects to generate $3.4 million (€3 million) in gross bookings by the end of the year.

Cleo, the London-based finech, has quietly taken debt financing from US-based Triplepoint Capital

Cleo, the London-based “digital assistant” that wants to replace your banking apps, has quietly taken venture debt from U.S.-based Triplepoint Capital, according to a regulatory filing.

The amount remains undisclosed, though I understand from sources that the figure is somewhere in the region of mid-“single digit” millions and will bridge the gap before a larger Series B round later this year. Cleo declined to comment on the fundraising.

However, sources tell me that the need to raise debt financing is partly related to Cleo Plus, the startup’s stealthy premium offering that is currently being tested and set to launch more widely soon. The new product offers Cleo users a range of perks, including rewards and an optional £100 cash advance as an alternative to using your bank’s overdraft facility. The credit facility is, for the time bring at least, being financed from the startup’s own balance sheet, hence the need for additional capital.

The new funding also relates to Cleo’s U.S. launch, which began tentatively around a year ago. This has been more successful than was expected, seeing Cleo add 650,000 active U.S. users to date. The U.S. currently makes up over 90% of new users now, too. Overall, the fintech claims 1.3 million users have signed up to the Cleo chatbot and app, with 350,000 active in the U.K.

Accessible via Facebook Messenger and the company’s iOS app, Cleo is an AI-powered chatbot that gives you insights into your spending across multiple accounts and credit cards, broken down by transaction, category or merchant. In addition, Cleo lets you take a number of actions based on the financial data it has gleaned. This includes choosing to put money aside for a rainy day or specific goal, sending money to your Facebook Messenger contacts, donating to charity, and setting spending alerts and more.

Meanwhile, alongside Triplepoint, Cleo is backed by some of the biggest VC names in the London tech scene — including Balderton Capital, Entrepreneur First, Moonfruit co-founders Wendy Tan White and Joe White, Skype founder Niklas Zennström, Wonga founder Errol Damelin, TransferWise founder Taavet Hinrikus and LocalGlobe.

After Loot runs out of cash, founder and 17 team members join RBS’ digital bank Bó

Ollie Purdue, the founder of Loot, the current account aimed at millenials that went into administration last month after running out of cash, is joining Bó, the digital bank being developed by RBS-owned Natwest, TechCrunch as learned.

He’ll take up the position of Chief Product Officer and will lead product development for the new brand, reporting to Bó CEO Mark Bailie. I understand that Purdue is also to be joined by 17 other ex-Loot team members, spanning product, marketing and design functions.

Echoing a crop of fast-growing independent U.K. challenger banks, the yet-to-launch Bó is being built on a new technology stack, operating as a separate unit and tech platform from RBS’ legacy operations. In other words, a startup within but supported by an incumbent bank. I’m hearing from my own sources that the digital bank is already up and running and is almost ready to go live, with around 1,000 RBS employees actively testing the product before a public launch this year.

Meanwhile, that Purdue and almost one third of the Loot team is joining the RBS venture is particularly intriguing given that RBS was an investor in Loot and was thought to be close to acquiring the startup before ultimately pulling out of the deal. This led to Loot scrambling for additional funding, which it was unable to do in time before running out of cash entirely after existing investors decided not to follow on.

Specifically, Royal Bank of Scotland Group indirectly owned a 25% stake in Loot via an investment by Bó! In January this year, RBS announced that Bó had invested £2 million in Loot following an initial investment of £3 million in July 2018.

It was also presumed by many fintech insiders that Loot had been white-labeled and was powering the Bó product. Clearly that was never the case, leaving questions unanswered around why RBS/Natwest would invest in a competitor, only to sees its demise six months later. Now we know that it wasn’t for a lack of talent at Loot, while there appears to be little bad blood between Purdue and RBS. There are always multiple parties and dynamics involved in an acquisition.

To that end, one source tells me that Bailie was the main champion for Loot within RBS and that he was likely a draw for the Loot founder and other members of the Loot team. I also understand that Purdue and team feel they have unfinished business within the consumer digital banking space and that with the full resources of RBS they’ll have an opportunity to continue what they started at Loot.

PayFit raises $79 million for its payroll service

French startup PayFit is raising a new $79 million funding round (€70 million) from Eurazeo and Bpifrance. The company first started with a payroll service for small and medium companies in France. It has evolved into a full-fledged HR solution for multiple European countries.

PayFit uses a software-as-a-service approach so that small companies can easily manage payroll and HR information from a web browser. Everything stays up-to-date and compliant with labor regulation.

After you enter information about your employees, PayFit automatically generates pay slips every month. Your employees receive an email when their pay slips are ready. If somebody is getting a raise, you can connect to your PayFit account and modify an amount for all pay slips going forward.

When it comes to payroll taxes, the service automatically reminds you when you have to pay them and how much you’re supposed to pay. You can also generate exports for your accountant, see reports about your staff, etc.

And PayFit doesn’t want to stop at payrolls. You can also manage absences and leaves, expense reports and shifts. It makes sense to build those tools in house as they have a direct effect on your payroll.

In order to approve expense reports and vacation days, you can also build an organizational chart in PayFit and decide who’s managing who.

While it’s easy to build an HR giant in the U.S., it’s a bit more complicated in Europe as labor laws vary so much from one country to another. But the startup has managed to launch its service in France, Spain, Germany and the U.K. — Italy is coming soon.

The company says that it has developed its own programming language called Jetlang in order to transform labor code into computer code.

There are 3,000 companies relying on PayFit and 300 people working for the company. With today’s funding round, PayFit plans to double its workforce by 2020.

Why is Andreessen Horowitz (and everyone else) investing in Latin America now?

Investments by U.S. venture capital firms into Latin America are skyrocketing and one of the firms leading the charge into deals is none other than Silicon Valley’s Andreessen Horowitz.

The firm that shook up Silicon Valley with potentially over-generous term sheets and valuations and an overarching thesis that “software is eating the world” has been reluctant to test its core belief… well… pretty much anywhere outside of the United States.

That was true until a few years ago when Andreessen began making investments in Latin America. It’s the only geography outside of the U.S. where the firm has committed significant capital and the pace of its investments is increasing.

Andreessen isn’t the only firm that’s making big bets in companies south of the American border. SoftBank has its $2 billion dollar investment fund, which launched earlier this year, to invest in Latin American deals as well. (Although the most recent SoftBank Innovation Fund investment in GymPass is likely an indicator that the fund, much like SoftBank’s “Vision” fund, has a pretty generous interpretation of what is and is not a Latin American deal.)

“We previously didn’t invest internationally, [because] we weren’t as well set up to help these companies,” says Angela Strange, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz . “Part of the reason for why LatAm is proximity.”