The company’s financial results show that Affirm, which doles out personalized loans on an installment basis to consumers at the point of sale, has an enticing combination of rapidly expanding revenues and slimming losses.
Growth and a path to profitability has been a winning duo in 2020 as a number of unicorns with similar metrics have seen strong pricing in their debuts, and winsome early trading. Affirm joins DoorDash and Airbnb in pursuing an exit before 2020 comes to a close.
Let’s get a scratch at its financial results, and what made those numbers possible.
Affirm recorded impressive historical revenue growth. In its 2019 fiscal year, Affirm booked revenues of $264.4 million. Fast forward one year and Affirm managed top line of $509.5 million in fiscal 2020, up 93% from the year-ago period. Affirm’s fiscal year starts on July 1, a pattern that allows the consumer finance company to fully capture the U.S. end-of-year holiday season in its figures.
The San Francisco-based company’s losses have also narrowed over time. In its 2019 fiscal year, Affirm lost $120.5 million on a fully-loaded basis (GAAP). That loss slightly fell to $112.6 million in fiscal 2020.
More recently, in its first quarter ending September 30, 2020, Affirm kept up its pattern of rising revenues and falling losses. In that three-month period, Affirm’s revenue totaled $174.0 million, up 98% compared to the year-ago quarter. That pace of expansion is faster than the company managed in its most recent full fiscal year.
Accelerating revenue growth with slimming losses is investor catnip; Affirm has likely enjoyed a healthy tailwind in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic boosting ecommerce, and thus gave the unicorn more purchase in the realm of consumer spend.
Again, comparing the company’s most recent quarter to its year-ago analog, Affirm’s net losses dipped to just $15.3 million, down from $30.8 million.
Affirm’s financials on a quarterly basis — located on page 107 of its S-1 if you want to follow along — give us a more granular understanding of how the fintech company performed amidst the global pandemic. After an enormous fourth quarter in calendar year 2019, growing its revenues to $130.0 million from $87.9 million in the previous quarter, Affirm managed to keep growing in the first, second, and third calendar quarters of 2020. In those periods, the consumer fintech unicorn recorded a top line of $138.2 million, $153.3 million, and $174 million, as we saw before.
Perhaps best of all, the firm turned a profit of $34.8 million in the quarter ending June 30, 2020. That one-time profit, along with its slim losses in its most recent period make Affirm appear to be a company that won’t hurt for future net income, provided that it can keep growing as efficiently as it has recently.
The COVID-19 angle
The pandemic has had more impact on Affirm than its raw revenue figures can detail. Luckily its S-1 filing has more notes on how the company adapted and thrived during this Black Swan year.
Certain sectors provided the company with fertile ground for its loan service. Affirm said that it saw an increase in revenue from merchants focused on home-fitness equipment, office products, and home furnishings during the pandemic. For example, its top merchant partner, Peloton, represented approximately 28% of its total revenue for the 2020 fiscal year, and 30% of its total revenue for the three months ending September 30, 2020.
Investors, while likely content to cheer Affirm’s rapid growth, may cast a gimlet eye at the company’s dependence for such a large percentage of its revenue from a single customer; especially one that is enjoying its own pandemic-boost. If its top merchant partner losses momentum, Affirm will feel the repercussions, fast.
Regardless, Affirm’s model is resonating with customers. We can see that in its gross merchandise volume, or total dollar amount of all transactions that it processes.
GMV at the startup has grown considerably year-over-year, as you likely expected given its rapid revenue growth. On page 22 of its S-1, Affirm indicates that in its 2019 fiscal year, GMV reached $2.62 billion, which scaled to $4.64 billion in 2020.
Akin to the company’s revenue growth, its GMV did not grow by quite 100% on a year-over-year basis. What made that growth possible? Reaching new customers. As of September 30, 2020, Affirm has more than 3.88 million “active customers,” which the company defines as a “consumer who engages in at least one transaction on our platform during the 12 months prior to the measurement date.” That figure is up from 2.38 million in the September 30, 2019 quarter.
The growth is nice by itself, but Affirm customers are also becoming more active over time, which provides a modest compounding effect. In its most recent quarters, active customers executed an average of 2.2 transactions, up from 2.0 in third quarter of calendar 2019.
Also powering Affirm has been an ocean of private capital. For Affirm, having access to cash is not quite the same as a strictly-software company, as it deals with debt, which likely gives the company a slightly higher predilection for cash than other startups of similar size.
Luckily for Affirm, it has been richly funded throughout its life as a private company. The fintech unicorn has raised funds well in excess of $1 billion before its IPO, including a $500 million Series G in September of 2020, a $300 million Series F in April of 2019, and a $200 million Series E in December of 2017. Affirm also raised more than $400 million in earlier equity rounds, and a $100 million debt line in late 2016.
What to make of the filing? Our first-read take is that Affirm is coming out of the private markets as a healthier business than the average unicorn. Sure, it has a history of operating losses and not yet proven its ability to turn a sustainable profit, but its accelerating revenue growth is promising, as are its falling losses.
This morning, news that a trial COVID-19 vaccine candidate had an effective rate of more than 90% shook the financial world. The Pfizer vaccine is reportedl;y so effective, the company “will have manufactured enough doses to immunize 15 to 20 million people” by the end of the year, according to the New York Times, appears to have given investors the green light to pile back into companies harmed by the pandemic.
The shift of money from shares that proved popular during the summer is massive and abrupt. Zoom and Peloton are down sharply this morning, while Uber and Lyft are soaring. Indeed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 indices are up around 4.8% and 3.3% respectively, while SaaS and cloud share are off 3.5%.
Investors are taking money out of companies that were expected to do well thanks to the pandemic and moving that capital into firms that were weakened by the pandemic.
Our question for this morning: what do these changes mean for the economic forces that have broadly favored venture-backed startups? What happens to high-flying startups if the pandemic trade flips? What’s next for insurtech, edtech, fintech and SaaS? Let’s discuss.
Hot sectors, warm futures?
Short-term market movements do not always predict the future accurately, so we should not treat today’s trading as gospel.
That said, it’s not hard to draw some basic conclusions from the trading activity. Here’s what I think we can deduce from today’s stock market activity:
Corporate software spend growth will slow: The broad decline in the value of software companies today appears to indicate that investors expect slower growth in the future. This is especially sharp in companies boosted by the pandemic itself, and, it appears, less acute in companies that were less helped by the COVID-19 economy. Our read? Investors are betting that growth amongst the companies that most benefited from a switch to remote work, for example, will see the greatest deceleration from recent forecasts. For startups, the lesson here is plain. Go look at your public comps and consider your own valuation likely trading along similar lines.
While the world awaits the Airbnb IPO filing that could come as early as next week, Upstart dropped its own S-1 filing. The fintech startup facilitates loans between consumers and partner banks, an operation that attracted around $144 million in capital prior to its IPO.
There’s quite a lot to like in Upstart’s IPO filing, including rapidly advancing revenues and recent profitable period. However, the company’s revenue concentration could be a concern to some investors who recall what recently happened to Fastly shares after losing a large customer.
PitchBook data indicates that the company was last valued at $750 million thanks to its 2019 Series D worth $50 million. Can Upstart reach unicorn status with its IPO? Let’s peek at the numbers and try to answer the question.
Upstart’s technology uses what it describes as artificial intelligence (AI) to approve consumer loans. It collects consumer demand for credit and connects that demand to bank partners who fund the loans. The company’s AI-powered credit tool can give consumers “higher approval rates [and] lower interest rates,” according to its S-1 filing, which offers banks “access to new customers, lower fraud and loss rates, and increased automation.”
If Upstart’s AI tool can, in fact, more intelligently determine consumer creditworthiness, everyone could come out a winner, with consumers paying less and banks adding to their loan books without taking on outsized risk.
German fintech startup Vivid Money has raised a $17.6 million Series A funding round (€15 million). Ribbit Capital is leading the investment. Today’s funding round gives Vivid Money a valuation of $117 million (€100 million).
Vivid Money is quite a young startup as the company started accepting customers just a few months ago. Built on top of Solarisbank for the banking infrastructure, Vivid Money is a challenger bank with a few nifty features.
When you sign up, you get a current account and a metal debit card. You can control the card from the app — for instance, you can lock and unlock it. It also works in Apple Pay and Google Pay.
Users can also create sub-accounts called pockets. Each pocket has its own IBAN. You can invite other users to specific pockets and you can associate your card with one pocket or another. Alternatively, you can order additional physical card for €20 per card, or get a virtual card for €1.
The startup also analyzes your transactions to identify your recurring subscriptions. This way, you can block future charges. Vivid Money users can also send money to other users from the app. They can also generate a link so that the recipient can enter their banking details.
There are also some cashback features as well with partner brands. Soon, you’ll be able to invest from the same app. You’ll be able to buy shares and ETFs.
There are two plans — a free plan and a premium subscription for €9.90 per month. Prime users get higher limits on cashback, more ways to earn cashback, higher limits on cash withdrawals and a free virtual card.
Right now, Vivid Money is only available in Germany. But the company has plans to expand to other European countries.
The Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges announced postponing Ant Group’s colossal initial public offering, a day after Chinese regulators weighed a slew of new fintech rules and summoned Jack Ma and other top executives to a closed-door meeting.
The rare talk between China’s top financial regulators and Ant, which revealed “major changes in the fintech regulatory environment,” may disqualify the firm from listing on November 5, the bourse said in a statement on the evening of November 3.
It’s unclear what those “changes” are, though the bourse has ordered Ant to disclose them. It’s worth noting that in late October, Ma gave a provoking speech criticizing China’s financial regulation. The conference was attended by China’s senior leaders and later on stirred widespread controversy.
Ant has over the years tried to be in the good graces of the authorities. When it rebranded from Ant Financial to Ant Technology this year, the gesture was seen as an attempt to shed the firm’s image as an intimidating financial giant and stress the one of a benevolent technology provider. The campaign began a few years ago, prompting the firm to devise awkward coinages like “techfin” (as opposed to “fintech”) and declare it wasn’t competing with traditional financial institutions, many of which were state-led.
The promises weren’t merely a show. Ant has slowly grown into an online marketplace matching hundreds of millions of customers with financial products offered by traditional players. It’s also brought on heavyweight state actors like the National Social Security Fund and China International Capital Corporation as shareholders, which are slated for handsome returns from their investments.
But the amount of reassurance did not seem enough. China’s financial authorities released a new wave of proposals on Monday to rein in the fintech sector, days before Ant was scheduled to raise $34.5 billion in the world’s largest initial public offering. The draft, though not explicitly aimed at Ant, coincided with the financial regulators’ meeting with Ant executives.
“Views regarding the health and stability of the financial sector were exchanged,” an Ant spokesperson told TechCrunch earlier in a statement. “Ant Group is committed to implementing the meeting opinions in depth and continuing our course based on the principles of: stable innovation; embrace of regulation; service to the real economy; and win-win cooperation.”
The message was clear: Ant strives to abide by Beijing’s wishes.
“We will continue to improve our capabilities to provide inclusive services and promote economic development to improve the lives of ordinary citizens,” the firm added.
The proposal was just the latest move in China’s ongoing effort to bring stability to its flourishing fintech sector. The draft rules include a ban on interprovincial online loans unless otherwise approved by authorities; a maximum online loan amount of 300,000 yuan ($45,000) for each individual; and a 1 billion yuan registered capital threshold for online microloan lenders.
At issue is Ant’s ballooning lending business, which contributed 41.9 billion yuan or 34.7% to its annual revenue, according to the firm’s IPO prospectus. In the year ended June, Ant had worked with about 100 banks, doling out 1.7 trillion yuan ($250 billion) of consumer loans and 400 billion yuan ($58 billion) of small business loans.
Over the years, China’s financial regulators have dropped numerous other policies limiting the expansion and profitability of fintech players. For instance, Ant’s payments service Alipay and its rivals could no longer generate lucrative interest returns from customer reserve funds starting last year.
Ant has not responded to a request for comment on the IPO halt.
Fintech startup Wise has raised a $12 million Series A round. The company offers business bank accounts with an interesting go-to-market strategy. Wise partners with other companies so that they can offer bank accounts to their own customers.
For instance, if you’re running a marketplace or an e-commerce platform that matches companies with individual customers, you can leverage Wise to offer bank accounts to your partner companies. RemoteTeam is using Wise to improve its payroll experience for… remote teams.
e.ventures is leading today’s funding round with Grishin Robotics also participating. Seed investors Base10 Partners and Techstars are also investing again.
Wise isn’t a classic bank-as-a-service company as it doesn’t want to power neobanks and help them get started. Instead, the startup targets other companies that touch on financial services but can’t offer those services because it’s such a big investment.
Integrating Wise in your product doesn’t require significant development or regulation efforts. You don’t have to develop an entire banking user interface as you can just redirect your customers to Wise. The fintech startup also handles know-your-customer and know-your-business (KYC and KYB) processes.
When your clients have their own Wise accounts, it lets them do all the basic things you’d expect from a business bank account. You can hold money, pay with bank transfers, a debit card, a virtual card or checks, and get paid using card payments, ACH and checks.
Behind the scene, BBVA provides banking services, which means that your deposits are FDIC insured up to $250,000. The company also uses Stripe for some features and other infrastructure companies.
Wise co-founder and CEO Arjun Thyagarajan describes those partners as building blocks. The company can swap those partners and integrate with other APIs to launch in new countries for instance.
Interestingly, if you choose to offer Wise bank accounts to your partners, you’ll share the revenue on deposits and interchange fees.
Up next, the company plans to expand to other countries, such as Canada. It’ll also try to tackle specific verticals, such as marketplaces for telemedicine and healthcare startups in general. It could require adding different features for different types of customers.
Wise is also negotiating some partnerships with high-profile companies, which should bring new customers to the platform.
One of the most important catalysts for the recent growth in financial services has been fintech enablers and infrastructure. Companies like Plaid wrap otherwise byanztine legacy infrastructure in modern APIs, allowing every developer to easily integrate financial products with software …
So, as Alpaca’s trading volume grows, so too does its revenue. This matters as we have notes on Alpaca’s trading volume in 2020, and how some of those figures compare to its 2019 results. The data helps explain why, and how the startup attracted new capital.
Here’s the startup’s historical trading volume in dollars, generated via customers’ use of its API:
January: $388.1 million
February: $591.4 million
March: $999.0 million
April: $853.6 million
June: $1.59 billion
July: $1.58 billion
August: $959.3 million
September, 2020: ~$2 billion
Per the company, that $2 billion result in September is up 10x its year-ago performance, implying that revenue at Alpaca has soared in recent quarters. Fast revenue growth, and possible 10x revenue expansion, is investor catnip. The company’s Series A, therefore, is not a surprise event.
Off the heels of this growth, Alpaca wants to go after more enterprise customers and double-down on building features into its API so that it can pursue a vision of providing financial services to everyone on the planet, according to Yokokawa. That hope, by the way, is why the company is building infrastructure tech and not consumer-facing tooling. Alpaca wants to sit behind the scenes, the world ’round, powering other players so that it can have maximum reach. (If it powers lots of different companies’ trading tooling, the startup might be able to reach more total end-users than trying to accrete the world’s trading population to a single, first-party service.)
To accomplish its aspirational goal, the startup needs more folks to build more things. Similar to many startups, Alpaca has gone fully remote and is taking its fresh cash to hire around the world. I asked the CEO if he was adding mostly, say, in-market salespeople as Alpaca looks to expand its customer base globally. He responded that most of its distributed hires have been developers, though some have been marketers as well.
After reducing staff to around 10 when COVID-19 arrived, Alpaca is now 35 people strong. Those folks will help Alpaca grow across two vectors, namely geographic expansion and growth into the enterprise, powered by API development. The company’s work on broker-dealer features is part of its international growth plan.
The nature of travel, especially work travel, is undergoing a seismic change. In the post-COVID future, we may travel less frequently but stay for longer; companies may hire more remotely and workers may travel to their headquarters for extended periods. …
French startup Spendesk has added $18 million to its Series B round. The company already raised $38.4 million as part of its Series B last year, which means that it raised $56.4 million as part of this round. Eight Roads Ventures is investing in today’s extension round.
Spendesk, as the name suggests, focuses on all things related to spend management. The company issues virtual and physical cards for employees, lets you set up an approval workflow and manages expense reimbursements. It can also centralize all your invoices and receipts on the platform.
By centralizing everything on the same platform, it lets you control your spending in real time and save time on accounting tasks. Reconciliation is easier if you combine transactions and receipts on Spendesk. Clients can also export data to Xero, Datev, Netsuite or Sage.
Image Credits: Spendesk
For big expenses, you can send a request to your manager. If they approve your request, you receive a single-use virtual card for that expense.
Similarly, if your company gives you a physical debit card, you get a pre-defined budget. Your manager can top up your card for big expenses, block ATM withdrawals, block weekend transactions and more. Employees can check their payments from the mobile app, see their card balance and add receipts.
Spendesk is a software-as-a-service product with a monthly subscription fee. While transactions have probably slowed down due to the economic crisis, the company says that its subscription revenue has doubled year-over-year. In just a year, the company grew from 100 to 200 people.
It remains focused on small and medium companies across Europe. There are 40,000 people using Spendesk through their companies. Clients include Algolia, Curve, Doctolib, Raisin and Wefox. The company has hired Joseph Smith as Chief Revenue Officer, pictured left above with the company’s CEO Rodolphe Ardant (pictured right).
Mobile cryptocurrency wallet BRD announced today that it now has more than six million users worldwide, thanks to strong growth in India and Latin America. With this momentum, the company expects to reach 10 million users by early 2021.
Founded in 2015, Zurich-based BRD also said it now adds about one million new users every two months, after initially taking more than four years to hit the one million user mark. It reached 550,000 monthly active users at the beginning of July. Co-founder and chief executive officer Adam Traidman attributes the increased interest in cryptocurrency, especially among first-time users, to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s causing a lot of people who are staying at home and sheltering in place to reconsider a lot of fundamental questions about their life and family right now,” he told TechCrunch. “It’s causing a lot of thinking about money and finances. People have had a lot more time over the last six months to look at their investments and as a result of that, we found that for cryptocurrency in general, but especially for BRD’s business, we’ve been growing dramatically.”
An image of mobile cryptocurrency wallet BRD’s user interface
He added that BRD, which has raised $55 million in funding from investors like SBI Crypto Investment and East Ventures, has two main groups of users. The first are millennials who have discretionary income that they invest using apps like Robinhood instead of traditional brokerages. The second group are people who have been more financially impacted by the pandemic and are turning to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to cope with currency fluctuations in their countries or as a more cost-effective alternative to international wire transfers to send money to family members. Falling bank interest rates have also prompted many people to consider alternative places to put their money.
While Bitcoin and Ethereum are still the most popular purchases through BRD, in countries with volatile currency fluctuations, like Venezuela, Argentina and India, interest in stablecoins, which are pegged to the U.S. dollar, is growing. The company is also seeing more adoption in Eastern European countries.
BRD is a non-custodial wallet and cryptocurrencies are stored on users’ devices, which makes it more accessible to users in countries who need to undergo lengthy registration processes to use custodial wallets. The app also allows people to use Apple Pay or their bank cards to buy cryptocurrency. This ease of use is one of the reasons for its growth, Traidman said.
The company’s most recent funding announcement was a $15 million Series B announced in January 2019 for expansion in Asian markets. BRD also offers enterprise blockchain tools called Blockset and says it is currently used to store the equivalent of about $6 billion in cryptocurrencies.
Millennials and Gen Z have been hard-hit by the one-two punch of the 2008 and 2020 financial crises. That experience has radically shaped their approach to finances and their mindset around credit and debt. This episode explores how fintech founders …
This season of the Powered by Battery podcast features portfolio executives representing companies from various geographies and technology sectors. The views expressed here are solely those of podcast guests, not Battery. If you’re interested in learning more about these companies, or others in the Battery portfolio, you can access more information here.
Banks and credit unions haven’t always been the quickest adopters of new, digital tools. But could the global pandemic push them along? In this episode of Powered by Battery, we chat with Dede Wakefield, CEO of financial-technology firm Alogent, which sells technology to help financial institutions better manage their own internal processes and interact with customers online. Wakefield talks about how Covid-19 at first generated a “pause” in her business, with some customers putting off new initiatives temporarily—but then causing many to re-engage with new initiatives to make them more digitally savvy in a socially distanced world. In addition, Wakefield discusses her lessons learned from having a large team working from home, including changing the way she handles internal company communications. Have a listen.
Working from home has advantages—and disadvantages. Alogent is one of many companies that was able to fairly seamlessly convert to remote work once the pandemic arrived in March—partly because some of its employees were already working from home. After the pandemic is over, many companies may realize the productivity benefits of not having employees enduring long commutes each day, and of giving them more flexibility for dealing with family matters. But, as Wakefield notes, some workplace collaboration gets lost when employees can’t see each other face-to-face, including in chance office interactions.
Communicate, communicate, communicate. It may seem like overkill, but employees often appreciate more-frequent communication from the C-suite. Early in the pandemic, Wakefield was writing missives to her team once a week—and found that many employees responded well to more-frequent updates about company news, milestones and other happenings. They also appreciated her sharing some details about her own personal challenges during the pandemic.
The M&A process is different these days. Companies that rely on M&A as a major growth engine may need to tweak their strategies. With restrictions on business travel, it can be harder to visit potential targets and conduct due diligence. On the flip side, integrations may be less cumbersome, with fewer offices to merge.
Paper checks aren’t going away. Despite the rise of Apple Pay and Venmo, paper checks will be with us for a while. According to Wakefield, there were 14.5 billion checks written in 2019—meaning there are still lots of opportunities for technology players to help process those checks, including through electronic and mobile capture. Many people would still prefer to write a paper check than use digital methods, particularly for larger transactions.
Content and document management systems may not be sexy, but they’re important to banks. In addition to improving online services for customers, many fin-tech solutions can also help streamline banks’ internal processes and, in some cases, increase revenue. Credit unions with modern content- and document-management solutions, for instance, might find it easier to offer additional loan products to customers who have existing checking or savings accounts.
The information provided in this podcast is solely intended for the use of entrepreneurs, corporate CEOs and founders regarding Battery Ventures’ potential financing capabilities for prospective portfolio companies. The information is current as of the date it was published. The contents are not intended to be used in the investment decision making process related to any product or fund managed by Battery Ventures. Battery Ventures provides investment advisory services solely to privately offered funds. Battery Ventures neither solicits nor makes its services available to the public or other advisory clients.
*Alogent is a Battery portfolio company. Investments identified above are for illustrative purposes only. No assumptions should be made that any investments identified above were or will be profitable. It should not be assumed that recommendations in the future will be profitable or equal the performance of the companies identified above. For more information about Battery Ventures’ potential financing capabilities for prospective portfolio companies, please refer to our website. For a complete list of portfolio companies, please click here.
Content obtained from third-party sources, although believed to be reliable, has not been independently verified as to its accuracy or completeness and cannot be guaranteed. Battery Ventures has no obligation to update, modify or amend the content of this podcast nor notify its audience in the event that any information, opinion, projection, forecast or estimate included, changes or subsequently becomes inaccurate.