By Aisling Finn on Monday 17 August 2020
Turns out a global lockdown has been somewhat positive for fundraising fintechs.
Ever since lockdown was imposed back at the tail end of March, it’s hard to deny that countries and businesses across the globe have been on shaky ground as the coronavirus pandemic plunged the global economy into turmoil.
Early on, fintechs were labelled as potential casualties of the pandemic, no less because of their size, questions over revenue and funding, but also because they are less well-established than incumbents and don’t have the same level of consumer trust that larger financial institutions have.
But, despite the complete upheaval to the way many of us work, fintechs have been thriving, not just surviving.
Recent figures show that investment in the UK’s fintechs in the first half of 2020 was slightly up on the same period in 2019, with funding jumping to over £2bn in 2020 compared to £1.9bn in 2019.
So, to see exactly what it was like AltFi caught up with several fintechs (over a video call) to see what it was like to raise cash remotely.
One of the biggest funding rounds of not just lockdown, but also 2020 so far, came from London-based payment processor Checkout.com.
Towards the end of June, Checkout.com closed a $150m Series B fundraise, that was the largest funding round we had seen under lockdown and tripled its valuation to $5.5bn, now equaling Revolut and Klarna’s valuations.
Thomas Hovaguimian, CFO of Checkout.com, told AltFi: “Whilst Covid-19 has been catastrophic in terms of human impact and a lot of people and businesses are struggling, we saw a very deliberate window to raise capital in.”
“And we were lucky because we already knew our existing investors really well and that helped us to narrow down the process and get the whole process done quickly.”
Hovaguimian added: “We came into this recent raise with very strong recent financial performance and we were confident because we were out-performing our business from the previous year and our investors were confident we would continue to perform well, despite Covid-19.”
Hovaguimian also revealed to AltFi that the fintech opened the round on 19 May 2020 only to close it exactly a month later on 19 June 2020, meaning that the $150m was raised entirely remotely.
Another European fintech that raised a sizeable chunk of cash completely remotely was Revolut.
Tom Hambrett, general counsel of Revolut, told AltFi: “We were lucky because TSG approached us and said: ‘We’re really disappointed that you closed the round so early and that we missed out on it’ and luckily they were a really good fit for us at the time.”
“It was bizarre working remotely and doing a deal from my kitchen table, but it was actually a seamless process and from start to finish it only took us six weeks.”
Hambrett chuckles as he recounts holding these meetings from his kitchen table: “I’ve got my bikes in the background!”
The fintech was holding meetings with TSG, the lead investor in the additional raise, from all over the world, with the majority of the Revolut team based in London, but with partners in California and New York, where there is a considerable time difference.
The only downside that Hambrett can think of is that time often seemed to run away from him and his team: “We were sitting in our living rooms, on Monday or Sunday morning, it doesn't matter, time just flies by and we just kept working.”
And it’s not just some of the world’s biggest fintechs that are raising in these unprecedented times.
Remote working fintech Deel couldn’t have picked a better time to showcase their speciality.
Launching across Europe with an entirely remote-funded $14m Series A round led by Andreeseen Horowitz, Deel’s COO and former general manager of Revolut North America, told AltFi: “We definitely practice what we preach!”
“Raising money under lockdown provided a personal touch because we got a better chance to meet investors. We got to see the inside of someone’s living room which is something that you wouldn’t get in a business setting,” he added.
On the other side of the virtual table to fundraising fintechs sit a team of lawyers to help businesses through the process of raising cash.
Adrian Rainey, partner at Goodwin Law, a law firm that works closely with some of the biggest names in fintech, told AltFi: “Investing remains extremely robust and the total amount of VC investment in the UK in the first half of, 2020 was the same as in the first half of 2019, in fact, it was slightly above in Q2 2019.”
“If the second half of 2020 continues on the same trajectory, we'll end up beating the record year in 2018, which was a record year in terms of the amount of capital raised by European venture funds.”
Recent figures published by Accenture show that fintech funding in the first half of 2020 outperformed investment in the same period the year previous, with the total number of fintech deals on the table increasing from 163 to 176 in the first half of this year.
“If you stand back and look at the macro level of the overall level of activity, and the ability of people to cope with the changing circumstances and still make stuff happen, it's really encouraging,” Rainey told AltFi.
“With hindsight, of course, because this is the UK and Europe, we know that the ecosystem that we’ve built over the last 20 years was going to continue to thrive but I don't think everyone would have been as sanguine as they are now back in March and April.”
As well as helping fintechs close vital deals, Rainey was also asked by the Chancellor to help head up the Future Fund all the way back at the beginning of the crisis.
“There was a huge amount of heavy lifting that went into assembling this team of lawyers back in March and April before the Future Fund was even announced in May.”
“I think it's important to acknowledge the positive impact, in particular, that the Future Fund has had on fintech, but also other aspects of government involvement across the UK,” Rainey told AltFi.
To date, the government has pledged to match over £562m in convertible loans.
So, there you have it one of the main bonuses of raising remotely is the lack of travelling and the jetlag that comes with it.
However, despite the obvious lack of travel, fintechs have found that even though there is often a huge amount of physical distance between them and their investors, there has been a heightened human element to the fundraising.
And while the global pandemic and economic turmoil rages on around it, fintech investments are holding steady, and even slightly up on the year before, giving the world of fintech the glimmer of hope to keep looking for the next pot of cash.