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How the Biden administration is approaching crypto regulations – TechCrunch

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It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario than the one left behind by former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

The draconian regulatory proposals were Mnuchin’s own personal vendetta, according to Bitcoin veterans like Square Crypto developer Matt Corallo and Coin Center director Jerry Brito, and it’s too soon to say whether incoming Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will approve the proposed know-your-customer standards or reject them. 

Given the chaos created by the Trump administration, bitcoin fans are anxiously optimistic about how regulators will approach the cryptocurrency space during President Joe Biden’s administration.   

Mnuchin at the very end had an alarmist view about the illicit use of cryptocurrency that wasn’t shared by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It doesn’t seem that Janet Yellen has that same view,” Brito said. “Her view seems to be very standard.”

Namely, Yellen believes there are both positive and negative ways to use cryptocurrency. She’s expressed a desire to strengthen regulations that prevent illicit usage like terror financing. She may set the tone for government bodies like the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). 

“The SEC, OCC and CFTC are choosing people that are very crypto knowledgeable,” Brito added. “That could tell you they are getting deep knowledge to regulate it heavily or, more likely, it’s now seen as an important part of the economy and finance.”

Although it’s still early in the transition, it appears the Biden administration will nominate former Ripple advisor and former U.S. Treasury Department official Michael Barr to head the OCC. In the short term, Trump’s SEC appointee, Commissioner Hester Pierce, will continue her notoriously crypto-friendly approach to the securities market. But the Biden administration is reportedly considering former CFTC chairman Gary Gensler to soon lead the SEC.

“The new SEC Chairman Gary Gensler has been pretty outspoken with his views on Facebook’s project Libra, as well as Ripple. It’s his opinion that those are securities and should be regulated by the SEC,” said attorney Hailey Lennon, a crypto-focused partner at Anderson Kill law firm. “In the next year or two, I hope some of the litigation we are seeing and new leadership in the SEC, will result in greater clarity so that down the road there are less enforcement actions. Clarity will help companies to know what to avoid.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reported the White House is expected to nominate Georgetown University professor Chris Brummer to lead the CFTC. Brummer was previously President Obama’s pick, but never got confirmed by the Senate due to political gridlocks. It’s still unclear who will be nominated in 2021 for key roles related to curbing terror financing, such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). 

“I think we might start seeing more regulation coming from FinCEN and OFAC. There have been some settlements with crypto companies and OFAC has been adding wallet addresses to the SDN [sanctions] list,” Lennon said. “Even if we see more positive things coming from the OCC, SEC and CFTC, it will be balanced a bit with more regulations related to know-your-customer and anti-money laundering, more general supervision of the source of funds and sanctions screening.”

Sanctions are the hot topic of 2021. Throughout 2020, the Iranian government published statements indicating it intends to use cryptocurrency, including bitcoin but not limited to it, to circumnavigate banking sanctionsEmigres from Iran and other countries have used bitcoin to do exactly this.

So far, the Biden administration hasn’t offered any indication it might lift sanctions. To the contrary, on February 18, the Treasury published a statement that the payment processor BitPay was penalized for allowing users to transact with citizens in sanctions jurisdictions like Iran, Cuba and Ukraine. Regulators’ approach to cryptocurrency, which many Iranian-Americans also use both internationally and domestically, will reflect whether the White House prefers a hawkish or dovish approach to diplomacy in the Middle East. 

Perianne Boring, founder of an advocacy group called the Chamber of Digital Commerce, said “the new administration and leadership have signaled a critical perspective” of the broader cryptocurrency space. As such, Boring said she hopes industry leaders will continue to engage with lawmakers to “lay the foundation for America’s leadership role” in global crypto markets. 

She said American crypto startups are competing in global arenas, against startups based in nations with more progressive laws as nations strive to foster the “next Silicon Valley.” Other nations are encouraging crypto companies, especially domestic crypto mining industries. Many technologists believe it behooves American leaders to defend dollar dominance by cultivating innovation in this tech sector. After all, many of the leading stablecoins are still denominated in American dollars. 

“The Biden-Harris administration and Congress must make clear that addressing digital asset and blockchain policies are a priority,” Boring said. “The Biden-Harris administration should be focused now on growing the economy back to full employment and robust quarterly and annual economic growth.”

Brito said he’s especially curious to see new appointees for OFAC and FinCEN, since they’ll be Yellen’s right and left hand in her approach to sanctions and regulations. He agreed with Lennon and Boring, all of whom believe new legal norms are in the pipeline. However stringent, or pro-business, the coming verdicts may be, at least Biden has yet to rage tweet about hating bitcoin, the way Trump did. 

“It’s still that period where everyone is getting their sea legs and trying to understand what their priorities are,” Brito said of the Biden administration. “Once they start either putting forth policy or reacting to the things that happen, that’s when we’ll really know where they stand.”   





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A.I. drug discovery platform Insilico Medicine announces $255 million in Series C funding – TechCrunch

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Insilico Medicine, an A.I-based platform for drug development and discovery announced $255 million in Series C financing on Tuesday. The massive round is reflective of a recent breakthrough for the company: proof that it’s A.I based platform can create a new target for a disease, develop a bespoke molecule to address it, and begin the clinical trial process. 

It’s also yet another indicator that A.I and drug discovery continues to be especially attractive for investors. 

Insilico Medicine is a Hong Kong-based company founded in 2014 around one central premise: that A.I assisted systems can identify novel drug targets for untreated diseases, assist in the development of new treatments, and eventually predict how well those treatments may perform in clinical trials. Previously, the company had raised $51.3 million in funding, according to Crunchbase

Insilico Medicine’s aim to use A.I to drive drug development isn’t particularly new, but there is some data to suggest that the company might actually accomplish that gauntlet of discovery all the way through trial prediction. In 2020, the company identified a novel drug target for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease in which tiny air sacs in the lungs become scarred, which makes breathing laborious. 

Two A.I-based platforms first identified 20 potential targets, narrowed it down to one, and then designed a small molecule treatment that showed promise in animal studies. The company is currently filing an investigational new drug application with the FDA and will begin human dosing this year, with aims to begin a clinical trial late this year or early next year. 

The focus here isn’t on the drug, though, it’s on the process. This project condensed the process of preclinical drug development that typically takes multiple years and hundreds of millions of dollars into just 18 months, for a total cost of about $2.6 million. Still, founder Alex Zhavoronkov doesn’t think that Insilico Medicine’s strengths lie primarily in accelerating preclinical drug development or reducing costs: its main appeal is in eliminating an element of guesswork in drug discovery, he suggests. 

“Currently we have 16 therapeutic assets, not just IPF,” he says. “It definitely raised some eyebrows.” 

“It’s about the probability of success,” he continues. “So the probability of success of connecting the right target to the right disease with a great molecule is very, very low. The fact that we managed to do it in IPF and other diseases I can’t talk about yet – it increases confidence in A.I in general.” 

Bolstered partially by the proof-of-concept developed by the IPF project and enthusiasm around A.I based drug development, Insilico Medicine attracted a long list of investors in this most recent round. 

The round is led by Warburg Pincus, but also includes investment from Qiming Venture Partners, Pavilion Capital, Eight Roads Ventures, Lilly Asia Ventures, Sinovation Ventures, BOLD Capital Partners, Formic Ventures, Baidu Ventures, and new investors. Those include CPE, OrbiMed, Mirae Asset Capital, B Capital Group, Deerfield Management, Maison Capital, Lake Bleu Capital, President International Development Corporation, Sequoia Capital China and Sage Partners. 

This current round was oversubscribed four-fold, according to Zhavoronkov. 

A 2018 study of 63 drugs approved by the FDA between 2009 and 2018 found that the median capitalized research and development investment needed to bring a drug to market was $985 million, which also includes the cost of failed clinical trials. 

Those costs and the low likelihood of getting a drug approved has initially slowed the process of drug development. R&D returns for biopharmaceuticals hit a low of 1.6 percent in 2019, and bounced back to a measly 2.5 percent in 2020 according to a 2021 Deloitte report

Ideally, Zhavoronkov imagines an A.I-based platform trained on rich data that can cut down on the amount of failed trials. There are two major pieces of that puzzle: PandaOmics, an A.I platform that can identify those targets; and Chemistry 42, a platform that can manufacture a molecule to bind to that target.

“We have a tool, which incorporates more than 60 philosophies for target discovery,” he says. 

“You are betting something that is novel, but at the same time you have some pockets of evidence that strengthen your hypothesis. That’s what our A.I does very well.” 

Although the IPF project has not been fully published in a peer-reviewed journal, a similar project published in Nature Biotechnology was. In that paper, Insilco’s deep learning model was able to identify potential compounds in just 21 days

The IPF project is a scale-up of this idea. Zhavoronkov doesn’t just want to identify molecules for known targets, he wants to find new ones and shepherd them all the way through clinical trials. And, indeed, also to continue to collect data during those clinical trials that might improve future drug discovery projects. 

“So far nobody has challenged us to solve a disease in partnership” he says. “If that happens, I’ll be a very happy man.” 

That said, Insilico Medicine’s approach to novel target discovery has been used piecemeal, too. For instance, Insilico Medicine has collaborated with Pfizer on novel target discovery, and Johnson and Johnson on small molecule design and done both with Taisho Pharmaceuticals. Today, the company also announced a new partnership with Teva Branded Pharmaceutical Products R&D, Inc. Teva will aim to use PandaOmics to identify new drug targets.

That said, it’s not just Insilico Medicine raking in money and partnerships. The whole field of A.I-based novel targets has been experiencing significant hype.

In 2019 Nature noted that at least 20 partnerships between major drug companies and A.I drug discovery tech companies had been reported. In 2020, investment in A.I companies pursuing drug development increased to $13.9 billion, a four-fold increase from 2019, per Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence Index annual report. R&D cost 

Drug discovery projects received the greatest amount of private A.I investment in 2020, a trend that can partially be attributed to the pandemic’s need for rapid drug development. However, the roots of the hype predate Covid-19. 

Zhavorokov is aware that A.I based drug development is riding a bit of a hype wave right now. “Companies without substantial evidence supporting their A.I powered drug discovery claims manage to raise very quickly,” he notes. 

Insilico Medicine, he says, can distinguish itself based on the quality of its investors. “Our investors don’t gamble,” he says. 

But like so many other A.I-based drug discovery platforms, we’ll have to see whether they make it through the clinical trial churn. 



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Vienna’s GoStudent raises $244M at a $1.7B valuation for its online tutor marketplace – TechCrunch

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Online teaching came into the spotlight for many students and parents in the last year, and today one of the companies that saw a big lift during that rush of activity is announcing a big round of funding to carry it into what has emerged as a more permanent change of habits for many learners.

GoStudent, a marketplace where K-12 students (and their parents) can find and engage with one-to-one video-based tutors in a variety of subjects, has raised €205 million ($244 million), in a Series C round that values the company at €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion).

The funding is coming at a time of strong growth. The Vienna, Austria-based startup is now live in 18 countries and sees some 400,000 sessions booked monthly on its platform, up 700% year-on-year (and up 15% month-on-month). It says it is on track to double employees to 1,000 and reach 10,000 tutors by the end of this year. The plan is to expand to more countries — Mexico and Canada are next on the list — and to continue growing its lists of tutors and subjects covered.

“We now plan to be even more aggressive geographically and plan to invest more into the brand,” Felix Ohswald, cofounder and CEO, told TechCrunch.

(As a point of comparison, when it last fundraised in March, GoStudent was booking a mere 250,000 tutoring sessions over its platform.)

DST Global is leading the round, with SoftBank (via its Vision Fund 2), Tencent, Dragoneer and previous backers Coatue, Left Lane Capital and DN Capital also participating. Vienna, Austria-based GoStudent has raised €291 million to date, including a €70 million round only this past March and €13.3 million in a Series A this past November.

The rapid pace of funding and GoStudent’s rising valuation — this investment makes it the highest-valued edtech startup in Europe, the company said — comes amid a streak of funding rounds for edtech companies.

And that may be no surprise: online and other digital tools in the last year especially felt more relevant (and in many cases were used more) than ever before due to social distancing during the pandemic. (Other recent deals have included funding for Byju’s, Kahoot, Formative, Engageli, Lingoda, Brainly, ClassDojo, Newsela, and Yuanfudao, among many others.)

But in the case of GoStudent, it’s also because the startup itself is also doing an A+ job in scaling its concept.

The company has been around since 2016 — when it started out initially providing a network for people to help each other answer questions (similar to Brainly), as well as connect with tutors, and for tutors to organize classes — but it was only about 2.5 years ago that GoStudent started to focus more squarely on one-to-one tutoring.

GoStudent provides a fully-integrated service, which lets students and their parents select from a range of topics that are typically taught in schools — currently some 30 subjects, including sciences, math, computing, languages, history, business and more — that they can be tutored on generally or specifically with the aim of taking an exam.

Tutoring comes from people who are tested, vetted and interviewed by GoStudent before they can join the platform; and before engaging tutors, parents and students interview an individual tutor and go through a practice lesson as part of that.

Learning plans are then organized according to students’ schedules and what they are setting out to do (they can send over their homework, or chapters they’re studying in school or even a curriculum outline); and the classes, assessments and payments (based on packages booked), are all handled over the platform, too.

Although there are a number of ways of learning a subject over the internet today — and specifically a number of online-only direct tutoring platforms in the market now (including Brainly, Yuanfudao, and others) — Ohswald said that by and large GoStudent’s biggest competition is the bigger in-person business of teaching, and of students and tutors connecting with each other through word of mouth — the “offline shadow market of tutors,” as he calls it.

All the same, while there are tech tools involved in provisioning and running lessons, at its heart GoStudent is also still about humans connecting to help each other, rather than humans connecting with computer programs.

Interestingly, its founders believe that the Covid-19 pandemic effect was not uniformly positive for its business.

“The pandemic had mixed effects,” Ohswald said. “On the one hand there was a natural demand from kids and parents. But with the schools closed, there was less pressure, less exams, less demand for after-school study. That aspect had a negative effect. But more broadly, there was a BIG boost for digital education. So the mindset of the parent and family drastically shifted.”

He noted that many families turned to tutoring to help “support the kids at home, to help them to stop being overwhelmed.” (And I would add, especially in the first part of the lockdown last year when schools were scrambling a little to regroup and teach online, that as a parent, we found it a relief to have at least some consistency with private tutors online at that time.)

What that means, essentially, is that while GoStudent did well in the last year, the company does not want to tie its growth to a specific set of pandemic circumstances that may well become less of an issue in the year ahead.

Indeed, for better or worse, there are bigger factors at play that predate the pandemic. Increasing pressure on students to perform their best competing against others, a continuing focus on testing, and a general level of academic ambition; but also a much easier and cheaper way of finding and connecting with people who can help students feel more supported in their efforts: all of these are also playing a role.

“GoStudent is one of the fastest growing companies that we have ever backed. The company has grown 800% in terms of revenue and 70x in terms of value since 2020 and we are convinced that this is just the beginning,” Nenad Marovac, founder and managing partner, DN Capital, told TechCrunch. “We believe that GoStudent can become one of the top digital schools in the world. By leveraging technology GoStudent democratizes quality education to all at affordable prices.”



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Fintech veteran Jitendra Gupta is ready for his new inning — now he is going after banks in India – TechCrunch

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For most people in India, having to engage with banks doesn’t instill a sense of joy. Banks in the South Asian market are notorious for making unannounced spam calls to upsell customers loans and credit cards, even when they have been explicitly asked not to do so.

Moreover, when a customer does reach out to a bank with a query, it can take forever to get the job done. Take ICICI Bank, India’s third largest bank and until recently my only banking partner for over six years, for an example.

It is now in its third month in figuring out who exactly in its relationship with Amazon is supposed to re-issue me a credit card. I have moved on with my life, and it looks like they did, too, likely before they even looked at my query.

Small and medium-sized businesses aren’t a big fan of banks, either. If you operate an early-stage startup, it’s anyone’s guess if you will ever be able to convince a bank to issue you a corporate account. So of course, startups — Razorpay and Open — took it upon themselves to fix this experience.

For consumers, too, in recent years, scores of startups have arrived on the scene to improve this banking experience. Whether you are a teenager, or just out of college, or a working professional, or don’t have a credit score, there are firms that can get you a credit card and loan.

But even these services have a ceiling limit of some sort. And customers aren’t loyal to any startup.

“A customer’s relationship is always with the entity where they park their savings deposit,” said Jitendra Gupta, a high-profile entrepreneur who has spent a decade in the fintech world. Since these customers are not parking their money with fintech, “the startups have been unable to disrupt the bank. That’s the hard reality.”

So what’s the alternative? Gupta, who co-founded CitrusPay (sold to Naspers’ PayU) and served as managing director of PayU, has been thinking about these challenges for more than two years.

“If you really want to change the banking industry, you cannot operate from the side. You have to fight from the centre, where they deposit their money. It’s a very time-consuming process and requires a lot of initial capital and experience with banks,” he told TechCrunch in an interview.

After more than a year and a half of raising about $24 million — from Sequoia Capital India, 3one4 Capital, Amrish Rau, Kunal Shah, Kunal Bahl, Tanglin Venture Partners, Rainmatter and others — Gupta is ready to launch what he believes will address a lot of the issues individuals face with their banks.

His new startup, called Jupiter, wants to bring “delight” to the banking experience, and it will launch in India on Thursday.

“We believe that a bank account should be a smart account, where it gives you insight, shares personalized tips and guides you through attaining some financial discipline,” he said.

A snapshot of the reach of banks and fintech startups in India. Data: CIBIL, Statista, BofA Global Research. Image: BofA

To be sure, Jupiter, too, will offer loans and other financial services to customers. But instead of making irrelevant calls to customers, it will assess which of its customers are running short on money and give the option to take a credit line from its app itself, he said. “The upsell doesn’t need to happen by way of spam. It needs to happen by way of contextualization and personalization.”

“Jupiter has been built in a deep integration with the underlying bank, allowing the consumer to have a frictionless experience for all their banking needs,” said Amrish Rau, chief executive of Pine Labs, co-founder of CitrusPay and longtime friend of Gupta.

The startup, which employs 115 people, has developed a number of products for customers joining on day one. The products include the ability to buy now and pay later on UPI, a feature first offered in the market by Jupiter, and a mutual fund portfolio analyzer. A debit card, in-app chat with a customer service agent, expense categorisation, finding the right card, determining the existing health insurance coverage, and more are ready to ship, the startup said.

Jupiter is currently working on providing zero mark-up on forex transactions, and frictionless two-factor authentication. The startup has published a public Trello page where it has outlined the features it is working on and when it expects to ship them, as well as features suggested by its beta-testing customers. “I want to establish full transparency in what we are working on to build trust with customers,” said Gupta.

Jupiter will have its own customer relationship team that will engage with the startup’s users. The startup, which last month opened a waiting list for customers to sign up, had amassed more than 25,000 applications as of two weeks ago.

Even Jupiter, which one day wishes to disrupt the banking sector, currently has to partner with banks. Its partners are Federal Bank and Axis Bank.

I asked Gupta about the excitement his investors see in Jupiter. “Everyone believes, as you see with fintech giants such as Nubank globally, that we will become a full bank,” he said.

But for the time being, Gupta said he is not looking to partner with more banks. “I don’t want Jupiter to attract customers because they want to bank with Federal or Axis. I want them to come to Jupiter because they want to bank with Jupiter,” he said.

In the next 12 months, the startup hopes to serve more than 1 million customers.



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What does Red Hat’s sale to IBM tell us about Couchbase’s valuation? – TechCrunch

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The IPO rush of 2021 continued this week with a fresh filing from NoSQL provider Couchbase. The company raised hundreds of millions while private, making its impending debut an important moment for a number of private investors, including venture capitalists.

According to PitchBook data, Couchbase was last valued at a post-money valuation of $580 million when it raised $105 million in May 2020. The company — despite its expansive fundraising history — is not a unicorn heading into its debut to the best of our knowledge.

We’d like to uncover whether it will be one when it prices and starts to trade, so we dug into Couchbase’s business model and its financial performance, hoping to better understand the company and its market comps.

The Couchbase S-1

The Couchbase S-1 filing details a company that sells database tech. More specifically, Couchbase offers customers database technology that includes what NoSQL can offer (“schema flexibility,” in the company’s phrasing), as well as the ability to ask questions of their data with SQL queries.

Couchbase’s software can be deployed on clouds, including public clouds, in hybrid environments, and even on-prem setups. The company sells to large companies, attracting 541 customers by the end of its fiscal 2021 that generated $107.8 million in annual recurring revenue, or ARR, by the close of last year.

Couchbase breaks its revenue into two main buckets. The first, subscription, includes software license income and what the company calls “support and other” revenues, which it defines as “post-contract support,” or PCS, which is a package of offerings, including “support, bug fixes and the right to receive unspecified software updates and upgrades” for the length of the contract.

The company’s second revenue bucket is services, which is self-explanatory and lower-margin than its subscription products.



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Maybe neobanks will break even after all – TechCrunch

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The Exchange is back after its brief hiatus. Anna and I have some really neat stuff planned, so stick with us every morning this week. — Alex

Building a consumer-facing fintech company is expensive. And if you want to build one in a sector crowded by both incumbent companies and richly funded startups, it can be super expensive.

That was the lesson we learned in late 2020 by examining operating results from a number of neobanks.

Neobanks are essentially software layers atop banking infrastructure, offering consumers digital-first, mobile-friendly and often lower-fee banking services. The push to rethink consumer banking is a global effort, with neobanks cropping up in essentially every market you can think of. Private investors have shown up in droves to fund competing neobanks because they have the potential to secure users — customers — that generate revenues for long periods of time.


The Exchange explores startups, markets and money. Read it every morning on Extra Crunch or get The Exchange newsletter every Saturday.


Investors have proven more than willing to fund huge investments in growth and product at many neobanks, leading to steeply negative operating results at the unicorns. In short, while American consumer fintech Chime has disclosed positive EBITDA — an adjusted profitability metric — many neobanks that we’ve seen numbers from have demonstrated a stark inability to paint a path to profitability.

That could be changing.

Recent results from Revolut that TechCrunch covered earlier this morning show that the company had a deeply unprofitable 2020. But if we dig into its quarterly results, there’s good news to be found. Neobanks could be maturing into their cost structure at last.

So today we’ll parse the key Revolut financial results and look at what we can dig up from Starling and Monzo. Perhaps the somewhat good financial news from Revolut is not merely to be found at just one neobank?

Revolut’s 2020

Our own Romain Dillet has a broad look at Revolut’s business here, if you would like a wider lens. We only care about its raw financial results at the moment.

Here are the big numbers:

  • 57% revenue growth from £166 million in 2019 to £261 million in 2020
  • Gross profit growth of £123 million in 2020, up 215% from 2019
  • Gross margin of 49% in 2020, what Revolut described as nearly a doubling
  • 2020 operating loss of £122 million from £98 million in 2019
  • Total loss of £168 million in 2020, up from £107 million in 2019

The gist of these figures is that the company’s revenue growth was solid, but improving gross margins allowed its gross profit to spike in 2020.



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Vietnamese financial services app MFast gets $1.5M pre-Series A led by Do Ventures – TechCrunch

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MFast founders Phan Thanh Long and Phan Thanh Vinh

MFast, a mobile app that lets Vietnamese users in remote areas access financial services, announced today it has raised a $1.5 million pre-Series A. The round was led by Do Ventures, with participation from JAFCO Asia. 

Launched in 2019 by fintech company Digipay, MFast says it has been used by 600,000 people to date. It partners with financial institutions who provide services like loans and insurance, and says it has been used to distribute more than 50 billion VND (about $2.2 million USD) worth of insurance products so far, and 5,000 billion (about $217 million) in financial products.. The company told TechCrunch that it currently has 11 financial partners.

MFast’s consumer credit partners include Mirae Asset, CIMB, Mcredit and Easy Credit, and its insurance partners include PVI, PTI and BSH. It claims to have a network of more than 350,000 advisors, who offers their services through the app.

The company pre-qualifies applicants for credit services using predictive machine learning algorithms to identify applicants with high risks of defaulting on their loans, while its insurance customers are matched with plans using a data-driven engine.

The majority, or about 75% to 80% of MFast’s users are in remote provinces or rural areas, which the company says often limits their access to banking and credit-related services. 

The funding will be used to expand MFast to more cities and provinces in Vietnam, develop its technology and partner with more institutions. MFast also plans to enter other markets in the future. 



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Google’s first retail location opened today in NYC – TechCrunch

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To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Welcome back to the Daily Crunch for Thursday, June 17. Thank you to Walter Thompson and the Extra Crunch staff for taking the reins I took from Alex. I was released from jury duty, so I’ll be seeing you through the remainder of the week, and we’ll be back to regularly scheduled Alex in no time.

But before we get on with the show, I want to let you know that Duolingo’s director of engineering will join us at our City Spotlight: Pittsburgh event in just two weeks. Karin Tsai joined the company in 2012 as one of its first engineers, and saw the company grow from a scrappy startup into a 400-person global business.

Henry

The TechCrunch Top 3

Google recently discovered a bug in its Android app that could have allowed an attacker to quietly steal personal data from a device. The company caught it, plugged it and confirmed that it had no evidence that anyone’s data was compromised.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has revived a bill that would establish a new U.S. federal agency to shield Americans from the invasive practices of tech companies operating in their own backyard.

The AI-powered defense company founded by Oculus founder and seller-to-Facebook Palmer Luckey has landed a $450 million round of investment that values the startup at $4.6 billion just four years in.

Startups and VC

Unit has raised $51 million in a Series B round to further its goal of making it possible for non-fintech and fintech companies alike to build banking products “in minutes.”

Disrupting job recruitment disruption: Beamery raised $138 million to continue building out more technology and shake up online job recruitment as we know it. Ingrid reports today that the company calls itself a “talent operating system,” describing that thusly: “A way to manage sourcing, hiring and retaining of people, plus analyzing the bigger talent picture for an organization.”

Nylas, which created an effective way to integrate email, calendars and other tools into other apps using APIs, is announcing a big round of funding to expand its business — $120 million big. 

Data analytics for HR is what eqtble is offering, and it just raised a $2.7 million seed round to do it. There is a lot of data to capture when it comes to a company’s staff, and eqtble wants to help you snag it.

The industrial side of cybersecurity: Claroty, a late-stage company that protects big companies, including Pfizer (which it helped to secure its COVID-19 vaccine supply chain — raised $140 million.

5 tips for brands that want to succeed in the new era of influencer marketing

A small startup with the right message can connect with established and emerging stars on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube who will promote your company’s products and services — as long as they understand the influencer marketplace.

Creators have plenty of brands and revenue channels to choose from, but growth marketers who understand how to court influencers will make inroads no matter how small their budget. Although brand partnerships are still the top source of revenue for creators, many of them are starting to diversify.

If you’re in charge of marketing at an early-stage startup, this post explains how to connect with an influencer who authentically resonates with your brand and covers the basics of setting up a revenue-share structure that works for everyone.

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

If you live in New York, you can now make your way to Google’s new store, which opened today in Chelsea. The giant’s new brick-and-mortar presence joins the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and Amazon so people can peruse its hardware offerings, as well as those of selected not-Google offerings.

It’s an advertising world, and we’re just living in it: Instagram today announced the global launch of ads in Reels, its TikTok rival. Sarah Perez says in her reporting that the ads will be up to 30 seconds in length and vertical in format. Like Reels, the new ads will loop, and people will be able to like, comment on and save them, the same as other Reels videos.

Google this morning announced a line of new virtual machines built on AMD’s third-gen EPYC processor. The new line, called Tau, is x86-compatible and offers a 42% price-performance boost over standard VMs. Google, of course, claims the Tau family “leapfrogs” existing cloud VMs.

Amazon this week announced its Appstore Small Business Accelerator Program, which will reduce the commissions Amazon takes on app developer revenues for qualifying smaller businesses. Previously, Amazon’s Appstore took a 30% cut of revenue, including that from in-app purchases. Now, it will take only 20% from developers who earned up to $1 million in the prior calendar year. The program will additionally offer AWS credits.

E3 2021, virtual style, wrapped this week, and, according to Brian Heater, Microsoft won the week with the announcement of 30 games. Nintendo followed with added Switch software.

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