Posted In:

Covid, Reflection

The Wonder Year


Mar 13, 2021


Posted In:

Covid, Reflection


Mar 13, 2021



What seemed like a problem that would last weeks became a year of the unexpected. On this day last year, hundreds of schools closed in the US and elsewhere, the Fed announced it would inject $1.5t to help stabilize the economy, the NBA, MLB, and NCAA all suspended or postponed their seasons, and Disney closed all its theme parks.

In the 365 days since the WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, more than 120m have become infected, countless have died and many were suddenly put in financially precarious positions. At the beginning we were amused by welsh goats roaming empty streets, but as the novel virus became a staple and ravaged lives across the world, we were forced to reinvent how we work, eat, and even entertain ourselves, at least until a vaccine came around.

In spite of the massive losses faced at a global scale, it is impossible to argue against how far we’ve come in such little time. Leaving aside the biomedical leaps that we simply don’t understand, we do know that innovation in the financial markets also serves as an example. This week alone, a dude called Metakovan acquired a piece of digital art for $69m. Multiple cryptocurrency platforms raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Sports card trading is back - and not just for fun, but as a true means of diversifying into alternative stores of value.

And things are indeed looking better, as President Biden announced that all Americans will be eligible for the vaccine as of May 1st, and set July 4th as the line in the sand for “Independence Day” from the virus. This past year has been more of a (terrible) wonder, than wonderful, but the future is looking brighter and is certainly full of new things to invest in.

Portfolio News

African payments company Flutterwave raises $170m, now valued at over $1b - Congratulations to portfolio company Flutterwave on the announcement of their Series C funding! The proliferation of fintech services across Africa remains in full swing as investors remain bullish about the opportunities that abound in the sector and now we behold another unicorn: African payments company Flutterwave announced that it has closed $170m, valuing the company over $1b. New York based private investment firm Avenir Growth Capital and U.S. hedge fund and investment firm Tiger Global led the round. Read more

MoneyLion joins Paretta Autosport as first sponsor of the first female INDYCAR race team at the Indianapolis 500 - Paretta Autosport and MoneyLion announced today that the financial platform will become the first team sponsor of the No. 16 Chevy-powered INDYCAR at this year's Indianapolis 500. Paretta is the first female owned, female driven, and female forward race team in the sport. To further the INDYCAR's "Race for Equality and Change" initiative announced last year, and in honor of International Women's Day, MoneyLion and Paretta Autosport are also partnering to launch MoneyLion's "Women Who Roar" campaign to advance financial empowerment, support women's careers and level the playing field for women across a number of areas in finance, science and technology. Read more

MoneyLion CEO: SPAC route offers fintech companies ‘degrees of freedom’ - PYMNTs speak to Dee Choubey, MoneyLion CEO, about taking the SPAC route. Dee said the "SPAC allows MoneyLion to put a significant amount of cash on the balance sheet to accelerate its corporate efforts and increase brand awareness. The “quantum of capital” that can be raised in one transaction versus over several transactions means “your degrees of freedom increase. There are other benefits to being public other than just the capital. Those benefits come from a talent acquisition perspective, from a visibility perspective, from a partnership perspective.” Read more

NYDIG raises $200m from strategic partners - Congratulations to portfolio company NYDIG on raising a $200m growth capital round, led by strategic partners Stone Ridge Holdings Group, Morgan Stanley, New York Life, MassMutual, Soros Fund Management, and FS Investments. Bessemer Venture Partners and FinTech Collective, who led the two prior funding rounds for NYDIG, were also significant participants. As an example of accelerating institutional Bitcoin adoption, NYDIG also announced today that life, annuity, and property & casualty insurers now own, in aggregate, more than $1b of direct and indirect bitcoin exposure facilitated exclusively by NYDIG, and held on NYDIG's secure, audited, and insured institutional custody platform. Read more

NYDIG announces appointment of New York Life chairman and CEO Ted Mathas to its board of directors - Mr. Mathas' experience will be particularly helpful as NYDIG focuses on the expansion of its growing Investor Solutions business, enabling institutional investors simple, secure, and efficient access to bitcoin, as well as on the expansion of its growing Platform Solutions business, especially with respect to the development of a bitcoin-enabled marketplace for annuity and life insurance products. Read more

Flutterwave announces International Women's Day grant 2021 - Flutterwave will be awarding 7 women-led businesses in Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Zambia with micro-grants to boost their business and celebrate women’s day. The grant will support female-owned small to medium businesses with capital, as well as the leverage they need to expand their businesses locally, and across Africa. Read more

Transforming mortgage: Ocrolus virtual roundtable - Matt Levinson will moderate this 60-minute roundtable, which will explore the current state of the mortgage industry in the U.S. They will dive into the fintech tools and partnerships that mortgage lenders are counting on to address increased demand and new circumstances like self-employment income, and talk about the future of mortgage – and how we can get there. Listen here. Read more

The Wonder Year

Lessons from a year of Covid - How can we summarize the Covid year from a broad historical perspective? Many people believe that the terrible toll coronavirus has taken demonstrates humanity’s helplessness in the face of nature’s might. In fact, 2020 has shown that humanity is far from helpless. Epidemics are no longer uncontrollable forces of nature. Science has turned them into a manageable challenge. Why, then, has there been so much death and suffering? Because of bad political decisions. Read more

One year later: 15 ways life has changed since the onset of the COVID pandemic - The past year has transformed nearly every aspect of our world. Seemingly overnight, the quirky (wearing leggings during a Zoom call with clients!) became mundane. Meanwhile, our friends, family, colleagues, and communities have had their lives changed in critical ways that promise to have much longer-lasting effects. Living through a global pandemic has driven dramatic shifts in our jobs, eating habits, childcare, and even our collective sense of time. Read more

FT podcast: Martin Wolf on the coronavirus pandemic - This time last year, the coronavirus pandemic was starting to spread around the globe, governments were imposing restrictions for the first time, and financial markets were in turmoil. In this FT News Briefing podcast, Financial Times commentator Martin Wolf looks back at the past 12 months and assesses how governments around the world have performed during the pandemic. Read more

Industry News

He got $300,000 from credit-card Rewards. The IRS said it was taxable income - Konstantin Anikeev, an experimental physicist, assembled everything he needed for an inquiry far outside his field. His materials included American Express cards, the government’s view that credit-card rewards aren’t income, and his own willingness to spend time buying gift cards and money orders. He pulled the concept from personal-finance websites: Exploit the difference between unlimited 5% rewards and lower fees on gift cards and money orders. It (mostly) worked. Read more

Crypto whale in Singapore is buyer of $69m Beeple NFT - Metakovan, the anonymous founder of NFT investment fund Metapurse, was confirmed by Christie’s as the buyer of the record-breaking $69.3m digital artwork that sold Thursday. “I think this is going to be a billion-dollar piece,” Metakovan says in an interview over Google Hangouts. “I don’t know when.” Watch the last few minutes of the auction here as the price jumps from $14m to $69m. Read more

NBA blockchain billionaires: Cuban, Tsai and Leonsis to lead owners study group - The group’s mandate is to explore ways to integrate blockchain across the league’s business. The move comes amid the exploding popularity of NBA Top Shot, digital collectibles that are being sold by league licensing partner Dapper Labs on its Flow blockchain. More than 200,000 people entered a recent Top Shot release, and the resale marketplace has seen more than $300m in sales. Read more

Trader buys $36m of copper and gets painted rocks instead - The saga unfolds like a gangland thriller, with the Swiss trading house saying it’s been the victim of cargo fraud. Before its journey from a port near Istanbul to China even began, about 6,000 tons of blister copper in more than 300 containers were switched with jagged paving stones, spray-painted to resemble the semi-refined metal. The bizarre case highlights commodity traders’ vulnerability to fraud, even when security and inspection controls are in place. Read more

Ant Group CEO Simon Hu has resigned from the Chinese fintech giant - Ant Group CEO Simon Hu has resigned for personal reasons. Chairman Eric Jing will become CEO effective immediately, a source with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg. Read more

SoFi acquires community bank Golden Pacific Bancorp to speed up its national bank charter process - SoFi announced that it has agreed to acquire Golden Pacific Bancorp (GPB) for about $22.3m. The dollar amount is not staggering. What is more notable about the acquisition is that it’s giving SoFi a quick route to getting a national bank charter. A national bank charter will give SoFi the ability to accept deposits and make loans that use SoFi’s member deposits as opposed to funding its loan offerings as a nonbank, by contracting external underwriters at a premium. Read more

SEC warns against investing in SPACs based solely on celebrity backing - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cautioned investors about buying shares of so-called special purpose acquisition companies only because they are backed by celebrities, including movie stars and athletes. The SEC said a celebrity endorsement of a SPAC does not necessarily make it a safe bet for investors. Celebrities, like others, can be enticed into a risky investment, but they may be better able to sustain the risk of losses, the securities regulator added. Read more

CaixaBank to replace cards with recycled material - Spain's CaixaBank is the latest lender to start issuing cards made from recycled plastic and biodegradable components. Read more

Jack Dorsey is offering to sell the first tweet as an NFT and the highest bid is $2.5m - The Twitter CEO shared a link Friday afternoon to a platform called “Valuables,” where his March 21, 2006 tweet “just setting up my twttr” was up for bidding. The highest offer is from Sina Estavi, CEO of Bridge Oracle, for $2.5m as of Saturday afternoon. Read more

Jack Ma’s private jet records show billionaire is down but not out - While Jack Ma has made only one public appearance since upsetting the Chinese government last October the FT has obtained the flight details of his private jet that suggest that while the 56-year-old founder of China’s largest fintech company is down, he is far from out. Read more

John McAfee is indicted for altcoin pump-and-dumps and ICO schemes - The US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York indicted McAfee and executive assistant Jimmy Watson on multiple charges that encompass two alleged cryptocurrency schemes (McAfee was previously indicted in October for separate tax evasion charges). According to court documents, McAfee and his associates raked in a combined $13m between the two efforts, both of which relied on using McAfee’s popular Twitter account to push niche cryptocurrencies or promote initial coin offerings without disclosing that he stood to profit, either through investment gains or promotional fees. Read more

IDB proposes pan-LatAm fintech sandbox amid innovation boom - The Inter-American Development Bank is set to propose that Latin America and the Caribbean regulators establish a pan-regional testing ground for new fintech businesses, to facilitate further financial innovation. Read more

Bitcoin intraday trading pattern emerges as institutions pile in - Bitcoin has shown a tendency lately to clock its intraday low in the Asian or European session, and end near daily highs in the U.S. A theory has emerged that this may be due to tokens being mined and sold in Asia, and then buyers come into the market in U.S. hours. Read more

Select Financings

Alt - San Francisco and New York based platform which allows people to buy, sell and store sports cards raised $31m in combined Seed and Series A funding led by Seven Seven Six. Read more

BlockFi - Jersey City based crypto-lending platform raised $350m in Series D funding led by Bain Capital Ventures, DST Global, Pomp Investments and Tiger Global. Read more

Cedar - New York based patient engagement and financial technology platform raised $200m in Series D funding led by Tiger Global. Read more

Cheese - California based digital banking platform aimed at Asian Americans and immigrants raised $3.6m in Seed funding led by and Amplify. Read more

Corvus Insurance - Boston based cyber insurance provider raised $100m in Series C funding led by Insight Partners. Read more

Cowbell Cyber - California based provider of cyber insurance raised $20m in Series A funding led by Brewer Lane Ventures. Read more

Cube - New York based financial planning software maker raised $10m in Series A funding led by Mayfield. Read more

FalconX - San Mateo based cryptocurrency trading platform raised $50m in new funding led by Tiger Global and B Capital Group. Read more

Hi Marley - Boston based messaging platform for insurers raised $25m in Series B funding led by Emergence Capital. Read more

InterPrice Technologies - New York based debt capital markets fintech platform raised $2.5m in Seed funding led by Bowery Capital. Read more

Komainu - UK based digital asset custody services provider raised $25m in Series A funding led by Alan Howard. Read more

M1 Finance - Chicago based platform for people to manage their money and investments raised $75m in Series D funding led by Coatue. Read more

MobileCoin - San Francisco based cryptocurrency firm raised $11.4m in new funding from Future Ventures and General Catalyst. Read more

Pipe - Los Angeles based finance platform for SaaS companies raised $50m in strategic funding led by Siemens, Next47 and Raptor Group. Read more

Starling - UK based digital challenger bank raised £272m in Series D funding led by Fidelity. Read more

WeLab - Hong Kong based mobile lender raised $75m in Series C1 funding led by Allianz. Read more

Wrapbook - New York based entertainment payroll startup raised $27m in Series A funding led by a16z. Read more

Zego - UK based on-demand auto insurer raised $150m in Series C funding led by DST Global. Read more


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