Joe’s Startup Nation


Apr 03, 2021



Apr 03, 2021



The $2.3t infrastructure package unveiled this week by the Biden administration is nothing short of transformative in potential. It is also a mighty lift. The scope of its ambition is considerable, going from fixing roads and bridges to expanding broadband internet access and boosting R&D funding. Debt financing isn’t sufficient, so paying for it requires higher corporate taxes (raising them from 21% to 28%). Biden has called it a “once-in-a-generation investment in America”, an attempt to build “from the bottom up and from the middle up, not the top down.”

Considering this comes off the back of a $1.9t COVID relief bill, one can argue that it marks a departure from the type of government relationship that dominated Western ideology in the past decades. It is also far from a done deal; among other things, it risks eliminating Biden’s goodwill with Republicans. What is certain is that it opens opportunities for innovators all over the country that have spent the last decades seeking to disrupt legacy industries. Particularly if viewed in combination with the democratizing effect that the advent of mobile devices has had.

Besides the numerous climate-related subareas of focus – which we lack the expertise to comment on – we’re excited by the prospect of creating regional innovation hubs to promote VC investment and startup development, opening opportunity for underserved ones. There’s $31b allegedly earmarked for programs that will give small businesses access to credit, VC and R&D dollars. Another $100b is reserved for broadband infrastructure goals. There’s a lot of baseball to be played still, but here’s to another version of making America great again…

Portfolio News

DriveWealth partners with Plaid for frictionless investing - With the new partnership, customers of both firms can authenticate their end users’ bank accounts using Plaid and obtain tokens which provide fast, secure bank funding source verification through the DriveWealth API. This boosts the success rate for the Automated Clearing House, gives added visibility to transfers and guards customer information. Read more

Vestwell included in Growjo's list of 500 Fastest Growing Companies in New York City for 2021 - Portfolio company Vestwell is part of selective list of 500 companies awarded by Growjo, which range from various industries including SaaS, fintech, healthcare and real estate. Read more

Fondeadora selects AU10TIX for automated identity verification services - Fondeadora, Mexico's fastest-growing challenger bank, today announced that it has selected AU10TIX, the global leader in identity verification, to boost the speed and security of its customer onboarding and ongoing due diligence processes. The partnership combines the simplicity of Fondeadora's digital banking app with AU10TIX's deep experience in automating ID authentication and KYC flows for the financial sector, enabling a safer, more accessible financial service option for millions of Mexicans. Read more

Virtual roundtable: Transforming mortgage - This 60-minute roundtable explores the current state of the mortgage industry and how technology can radically improve the customer experience. Matt Levinson moderated a robust conversation on the topic featuring portfolio companies Ocrolus and Plaid, as well as industry leaders Blend Labs and Sprout Mortgage. The panelists dive into topics such as: the fintech tools that mortgage lenders are counting on to address increased demand, new ways in which income and assets are underwritten, and the path to a very different mortgage underwriting experience in the future. Read more

Joe's Startup Nation

‘A big and heavy lift’: Biden plans infrastructure spending spree - Biden’s goal is to address what many Democrats see as chronic underfunding of public goods in recent decades, which they argue has stymied growth, exacerbated middle class stagnation and bred populist resentment. The plan also reflects Biden’s belief that a more aggressive industrial policy will make it easier for the US to compete in the global economy — and face off against strategic rivals, particularly China. Read more

Startups have about $1t worth of reasons to love the Biden infrastructure plan - Tech companies have spent the past decade or more developing innovations that can be applied to old-world industries where structural impediments to technology adoption have only recently been broken down by the advent of incredibly powerful mobile devices. Now, these industries are at the heart of the president’s plan to build back better, and the hundreds of billions of dollars that are earmarked to make America great again will, either directly or indirectly, be a huge boost to a number of startups and large tech companies whose hardware and software services will enable much of the work the Biden administration wants done. Read more

Biden’s $2.3t infrastructure plan takes broad aim - President Biden unveiled a $2.3t infrastructure plan centered on fixing roads and bridges, expanding broadband internet access and boosting funding for research and development, plus higher corporate taxes to pay for the package. “It’s not a plan that tinkers around the edges,” Mr. Biden said during a speech in Pittsburgh, where he kicked off his presidential campaign. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America.” Read more

Industry News

Goldman Sachs is close to offering bitcoin and other digital assets to its wealth management clients - The bank aims to begin offering investments in the emerging asset class in the second quarter, according to Mary Rich, who was recently named global head of digital assets for Goldman’s private wealth management division. Goldman is looking at ultimately offering a “full spectrum” of investments in bitcoin and digital assets, “whether that’s through the physical bitcoin, derivatives or traditional investment vehicles,” she said. Read more

SoFi to give amateur investors early access to IPOs in break from Wall Street tradition - SoFi itself will be an underwriter in these deals, meaning it works with companies to determine a share price, buys securities from the issuer then sells them back to certain investors. It’s common for brokerage firms to get a portion of IPO shares in that process. But they don’t typically offer them to the everyday investor. Read more

Circle launches NFT platform; will accept credit card and crypto payments - Broad popular acceptance of NFTs is lagging behind the surging markets because of the complex methods of payment, usually including the use of cryptocurrencies. The Circle NFT solution, however, simplifies that process by allowing for credit card use. The “seamless” experience makes it easier for people to get into the NFT game, encouraging greater engagement, platform expansion and new support for creators via the “marriage of traditional payment rails and leading digital dollar stablecoin USD Coin (USDC).” Read more

Visa supports transaction settlement with USDC stablecoin - Payment card network Visa has announced that transactions can be settled using USD Coin (USDC), a stablecoin powered by the Ethereum blockchain. Crypto.com is the first company to test the new capability with its own Visa-branded cards. Read more

FTC shuts down savings app Beam under tentative settlement - Beam — the mobile savings app that imploded last year after an investigation revealed dozens of customers were unable to get their money out — has been shut down for good under a tentative settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. As part of the settlement, Beam is banned from operating a mobile banking app or any other product or service that can be used to deposit, store, or withdraw funds. It also is prohibited from misrepresenting the interest rates, restrictions, and other aspects of any financial product or service. Read more

Regulatory sandboxes in LatAm: fintech test environments take shape - Regulators in several Latin American jurisdictions are opening regulatory sandboxes to drive innovation – but not all see them as necessary. Read more

PayPal’s new feature allows US consumers to check out using cryptocurrency - Checkout with Crypto allows the customers to sell their cryptocurrency through PayPal at the time of checkout, then settle the actual transaction in U.S. dollars. For the businesses, that means nothing really changes on their end — they’re still being paid in USD, not cryptocurrency. But PayPal’s feature makes it possible for this transaction to take place within the same checkout flow, making it easier on shoppers to quickly make their purchases using cryptocurrency. Read more

Walgreens launches a bank account - US pharmacy chain Walgreens is launching its own mobile and online bank account in partnership with InComm Payments and Meta Bank. Read more

Ramp looks to raise more capital as the corporate-spend market mints unicorns - The New York based corporate card startup is raising $65m in funding and $50m in funding that will value it at $1.1b and $1.6b, per the Information. D1 Capital Partners led the $65m round, and was joined by investors including Stripe, Coatue Management, and Goldman Sachs. Stripe is also leading the second $50m. Read more

A massive bet on highly secretive derivatives may have sunk Archegos hedge fund - Much of the leverage used by Bill Hwang’s Archegos Capital Management was provided by banks including Nomura and Credit Suisse through swaps or so-called contracts-for-difference, according to people with direct knowledge of the deals. It means Archegos may never actually have owned most of the underlying securities -- if any at all. While investors who build a stake of more than 5% in a U.S.-listed company usually have to disclose their position and subsequent transactions, that’s not the case with stakes built through the type of derivatives apparently used by Archegos. The products, which are made off exchanges, allow managers like Hwang to amass stakes in publicly traded companies without having to declare their holdings. Read more

Ripple to acquire 40% stake in Asian payments processor Tranglo - The planned investment is aimed at expanding the reach of Ripple's On-Demand Liquidity (ODL) service in Asia, which uses XRP for cross-border transactions. Ripple said Tranglo would play a "critical" role in supporting its existing ODL corridors in the Southeast Asian region. Read more

New alliance between Itaú and Rappi will bring greater financial inclusion to Chile - This agreement aims to revolutionize the local financial market with simple, innovative and unique digital products, allowing an increasing number of individuals to access new financial solutions in an agile and digital way. Read more

Finch Capital acquires Wirecard Turkey - The london-based early-stage fintech VC is acquiring Wirecard Turkey, a subsidiary of Wirecard. Read more

Select Financings

Airtel Africa - UK based payments platform raised $100m in new funding from Mastercard. Read more

Ajaib - Indonesia based investment app raised $65m in Series A funding led by Ribbit Capital. Read more

Butter - London based “buy now, pay later” financing service raised £15.8m in new funding led by BCI Finance. Read more

Capitolis - New York based SaaS platform for helping banks pool trading resources raised $90m in Series C funding led by a16z. Read more

Dapper Labs - Vancouver based NFT company behind Crypto Kitties and NBA Top Shot raised $305m in new funding led by Coatue. Read more

Ethic - New York based tech-driven asset management platform that powers personalization for advisors raised $29m in Series B funding led by Oak HC/FT. Read more

Gro - London based decentralized finance startup raised $7.1m in Seed funding from Galaxy Digital, Framework Ventures and Northzone. Read more

HighRadius - Houston based AI-powered order-to-cash and treasury solution raised $300m in Series C funding led by D1 Capital and Tiger Global. Read more

ImToken - Singapore based crypto wallet and blockchain tech startup raised $30 million in Series B funding led by Qiming Venture Partners. Read more

Next Insurance - Palo Alto based small business insurance provider raised $250m in new funding led by FinTLV Ventures and Battery Ventures. Read more

Paidy - Japan based BNPL provider raised $120m in Series D funding from JS Capital Management, Soros Capital Management, Tybourne Capital Management and Wellington. Read more

Pipe - Miami based B2B financing platform for SaaS companies raised $150m in new funding led by Greenspring Associates. Read more

Sightline Payments - Las Vegas based payments company for the gaming market raised $100m in growth funding led by Cannae Holdings. Read more

Spiral - New York based banking solution for the charitable sector raised $14m in new funding led by Team8. Read more

Tugende - Uganda based asset finance startup raised $3.6m in Series A funding led by Partech. Read more


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