Next Insurance, an insurtech targeting small businesses, scores $83M Series B led by Redpoint

Next Insurance, the Israeli digital insurance startup that helps small businesses get cover, has raised a significant new funding round, adding another $83 million to its balance sheet.

The Series B round is led by Silicon Valley’s Redpoint Ventures, and will be used by the company to continue expanding across the U.S., where it now operates as a full service insurance carrier. It will also increase headcount in both its Israel and U.S. offices.

Founded in 2016 with the aim of becoming a one-stop insurance shop for micro and small business insurance needs, Next Insurance designs insurance plans for business sectors that are often overlooked by more general insurers.

Small business owners often rely on price comparison websites to figure out what kind of coverage they need and where to buy it, though that means the plans they get don’t always cover all their needs. The other option is to use a broker but that also adds another middle person.

“The complexity of the small business insurance market is very significant and this leads to a situation where even the largest insurance providers own less than 10 percent of the small business market,” founder and CEO Guy Goldstein told TechCrunch when the company raised its Series A. “This offers us huge growth potential as we aim to specialize in and become a market leader in each small business vertical”.

The small business sectors where Next Insurance offers general and professional liability insurance currently includes contractors, fitness, cleaning, beauty, therapy, entertainment, and education. It lets you buy insurance instantly at what it claims is very competitive prices and with no hidden fees. In addition, now that Next Insurance is a licensed carrier, it is able to write policies independently, with what it says is more freedom over underwriting, setting prices, and configuring policies.

Moving forward, the company plans on adding further lines of insurance, on-demand coverage, and ensuring that claims are paid within 48 hours. It is also hoping to develop more sophisticated uses of AI and machine learning to improve the customer experience and streamline the insurance purchasing process.

To that end, Goldstein says Next Insurance’s Series B is a “monumental turning point” in the company’s history, describing growth over the last two years as exponential. Hyperbole aside, the company does appear to have found market fit, as evidenced by the size of the round and how many previous backers followed on.

The Series B Round brings Next Insurance’s total funding to $131 Million in just two years. Other investors that participated in this round include Nationwide Insurance, Munich Re, American Express Ventures, Ribbit Capital, TLV Ventures, and Zeev Ventures. Elliot Geidt, Managing Director of Redpoint Ventures, will join the board of Next Insurance.

More broadly, the insurtech space is rapidly heating up in recognition that the insurance sector, both consumer and B2B, is still yet to be fully digitised, especially in a mobile-first world. In the U.S., consumer home insurance app Lemonade has been grabbing most of the headlines, not least after it raised $120 million in a round led by Softbank.

“Gone are the days of complicated, unreadable policies, exclusions that leave entrepreneurs vulnerable, and endless meetings and phone calls with insurance agents who don’t understand the nuances and needs of different classes of business,” adds Goldstein in a statement. “Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy, and they deserve insurance policies that are simple to access, affordable to own, and which provide them the support and confidence they need to thrive”.

Box acquires Butter.ai to make search smarter

Box announced today that it has acquired Butter.ai, a startup that helps customers search for content intelligently in the cloud. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Butter.AI team will be joining Box.

Butter.AI was started by two ex-Evernote employees, Jack Hirsch and Adam Walz. The company was partly funded by Evernote founder and former CEO Phil Libin’s Turtle Studios. The latter is a firm established with a mission to use machine learning to solve real business problems like finding the right document wherever it is.

Box has been adding intelligence to its platform for some time, and this acquisition brings the Butter.AI team on board and gives them more machine learning and artificial intelligence known-how while helping to enhance search inside of the Box product.

Photo: Box

“The team from Butter.ai will help Box to bring more intelligence to our Search capabilities, enabling Box’s 85,000 customers to more easily navigate through their unstructured information — making searching for files in Box more contextualized, predictive and personalized,” Box’s Jeetu Patel wrote in a blog post announcing the acquisition.

That means taking into account the context of the search and delivering documents that make sense given your role and how you work. For instance, are if you are a salesperson and you search for a contract, you probably want a sales contract and not a one for a freelancer or business partnership.

The company launched in September, 2017, and up until now it has acted as a search assistant inside Slack you can call upon to search for documents and find them wherever they live in the cloud. The company will be winding down that product as it becomes part of the Box team.

As is often the case in these deals, the two companies have been working closely together and it made sense for Box to bring the Butter.AI team into the fold where it can put its technology to bear on the Box platform.

“After launching in September 2017 our customers were loud and clear about wanting us to integrate with Box and we quickly delivered. Since then, our relationship with Box has deepened and now we get to build on our vision for a MUCH larger audience as part of the Box team,” the founders wrote in a Medium post announcing the deal.

The company raised $3.3 million over two seed rounds. Investors included Slack and General Catalyst.

TaxScouts wants to make filing your tax return a lot less tedious

TaxScouts, a U.K. startup founded by TransferWise and Marketinvoice alumni, is the latest online service designed to make filing your tax return a lot less tedious. However, rather than focusing on the bookkeeping part of the problem primarily tackled by cloud accounting software — which is often overkill if you are self-employed or simply earn a little additional income outside of your day job — the company combines “automation” with human accountants to help you prepare your tax submission.

“Doing taxes is either tedious when you have to do them yourself, or expensive when you hire an accountant,” says TaxScouts co-founder and CEO Mart Abramov, who was employee number 8 at TransferWise and also previously worked at Intuit, MarketInvoice and Skype. “We’re automating as much of the admin part of tax preparation as possible in our online app. We then connect you with a certified accountant who will take care of the entire tax filing process for you”.

The headline draw is that TaxScouts charges a flat fee of £99 if you pay in advance, and promises a turn-around of just 24 hours. To help with this, the web app walks you through your tax status, income and expenses without assuming too much prior knowledge. This includes asking you to upload or take a photo of any required documents, such as invoices or dividend certificates. The idea is that all of the admin is captured digitally and packaged up ready for your assigned accountant to take a look.

“As more of the menial tasks are handled by our app this allows accountants to focus on what they do best and not get stuck in admin,” explains Abramov. “They can focus on providing advice and expertise to make sure everything is done right. Our customers get both the benefits of getting a personal accountant and having a simple tool to manage it all, without the huge costs”.

Abramov tells me that TaxScouts’ typical customers are anyone who wants to have their self assessment done for them or who just wants help with tax preparation. This spans self-employed people — from construction workers to professional freelancers — entrepreneurs and company directors, and people who are entitled to some kind of tax relief or refund, such as investors on crowdfunding platforms. He also said that gig economy workers are a good fit.

Moving forward, TaxScouts plans to further develop the automation functionality, including plugging into more data sources beyond its existing integration with HMRC. Abramov says this could include a driver’s Uber data for tracking mileage claims, for example, while I can immediately see how the app could integrate with various fintech offerings that capture transactions and receipts.

To that end, the startup has raised £300,000 in “pre-seed” funding to continue building out the product. Backers include Picus Capital, Charlie Delingpole (co-founder of ComplyAdvantage and MarketInvoice), and Charlie Songhurst (former GM corporate strategy at Microsoft).

Boost VC backs Storyline’s Alexa skill builder

Have you felt a disconnect with your Alexa and wished she could share more of your sense of humor or tell you an actually scary ghost story? Startup Storyline makes designing your own Alexa skills as easy and dragging and dropping speech blocks, and has just raised $770,000 in a funding round led by Boost VC to help grow its skill builder API.

The company launched in 2017 to help bridge the gap between creators and the tricky voice recognition software powering smart speakers like Alexa. With its new funding, CEO and co-founder  Vasili Shynkarenka says that Storyline is hoping to expand its team and its interface to other smart speakers, like Google Home, as well work on integrating monetization and third-party services into the interface.

Storyline’s user friendly interface lets users drag-and-drop speech commands and responses to customize user’s interactions with their smart speaker devices. Users can choose between templates for a skill or a flash briefing, and test the voice recognition and logic of the design live in their browser window.

Since its launch, over 12,000 Storyline users have published 2,500 skills in the Alexa Skills Store — more than 6% of all skills in the store. The interface has also been used by the grand-prize winners of Amazon’s developer Alexa Skills Challenge: Kids and the publication Slate.

For Shynkarenka, the creation of these skills is vastly different from the creation of a typical smartphone app.

“Most people think of Alexa as another software platform, like a smartphone or the web, and that’s not [actually] true,” he said. “The most popular apps on Alexa are not the apps that let you chat with friends or browse your social networks. The most popular apps are content apps — the apps that you can use to play trivia games with your family over dinner.”

Just as YouTube has video creators, Shynkarenka says he wants Storyline to become the home for smart speaker content across devices. The startup has already cultivated an active online community of 2,500 creators excited about creating and sharing this content.

Storyline is not alone in this space however, Amazon itself released Amazon Blueprints in April that allows users to create customized Amazon skills using several different available templates.

As the smart speaker space, and subsequent skill creation one, continue to heat up, the creation of your perfectly customized new smart speaker family member may be closer than you think.

Fever gets $20M to delight more hipsters with A/B tested Madhatter’s G&T parties

London-based Fever, an urban events discovery app-cum-entertainment events business with an online media arm that it uses as marketing megaphone and data-gathering lens on its community of users, has closed a $20 million Series C investment to expand into new markets across Europe and North America — and win more hipsters over to its own brand “immersive themed experiences”.

The round was co-led by European media group Atresmedia and real estate company Labtech — because of course parties need venues — and with participation from existing investors Accel Partners and 14W Ventures.

The 2014-founded startup had raised $19.3M prior this round, according to Crunchbase, including a $3M seed for its original Fever event discovery app back in 2014.

Fever’s urban events discovery app uses a recommendation algorithm to offer personalized listings coverings activity such as music festivals, theatre, fashion, restaurants and pop-ups. But it also feeds and supplements that business via an online media network, called Secret Media Network, plus a series of branded social media channels (Secret London, Secret NYC etc) — using this cross-platform media operation to gather intel on what its community of urban users would like to do next for paid hipster fun.

In its main markets (London, New York, Paris, Madrid) it says the reach of this network is more than 12M unique users per week — allowing it to market upcoming events to millions of engaged eyeballs as well as power its own-brand ‘Fever Originals’ events, based off of the insights it’s mining from its community.

Specifically it says it’s using anonymised behavioral data-mining to algorithmically predict untapped demand for events that don’t yet exist — and then serving them up as an own brand event.

This community data driven events programming extends to testing the intent users have for different themed “immersive experiences” in different settings and scenarios — a process it likens to Netflix’s approach of using analytics to understand audiences to develop and market new content.

So what kind of events has this A/B testing-esque programming process resulted in?

Fever gives an example of an Alice in Wonderland themed experience it ran in a double-decker bus in Brooklyn — saying this was a “clear winner” during its user analysis, when it tried out alternative theme options (such as Aladdin and the Lion King), as well as alternative city locations (in other parts of New York), and venues (rooftop, double-decker bus, indoors). But its NYC community clearly wanted Alice in a bus in Brooklyn.

The resulting Madhatter themed G&T immersive experience amassed more than 12,000 people on the waitlist before the event went live. “At $60 per person, it sold out for the month of June in just a couple of days since it was released in early May, with only a sketch of what the venue would look like, and a brief story describing the experience,” Fever tells TechCrunch.

Another forthcoming own-brand event — to be announced later this month — is billed as the biggest escape room in Europe. TechCrunch’s Roman Dillet is bound to be interested in that — or at least if the event is bound for Paris.

Fever says it will also put on a music and art festival in Madrid in September which it’s called “Jardin de las Delicias” which it says is inspired by Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights — a late 15th or early 16th century painting that hangs in Madrid’s Museo de Prado.

When open, the triptych masterpiece in oils depicts a heaven to hell progression starting with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and ending in a highly detailed and nightmarish illustration of hell involving animals torturing and feasting on human flesh.

The large central panel illustrates a vision of life between those two moral bookends: Teeming with nude male and female flesh, animals, plants and some fantastical creatures. Presumably that’s where Fever’s themed event intends to focus. At least, we hope so…

El jardín de las Delicias, de El Bosco.jpg
By Galería online, Museo del Prado., Public Domain, Link

Fever says its data-driven, wait-list model allows it to mitigate financial risk for the events it programs and the partners it works with (such as drinks brands).

It does not use a booking fee model for Fever Originals — its platform is free for users, with no additional fees when they buy a ticket — rather it’s operating what it calls a “marketing fee monetization strategy”, which is describes as significantly more lucrative than a traditional booking fee.

“The organisers pay a commission fee based upon Fever’s ability to drive additional ticket sales and attendance to their event or experience,” it explains. “Fever is using its prescription power to get its users excited about experiences they were not originally considering, and as a result is offering a powerful marketing tool for organisers, in comparison with other traditional tools (billboards, TV ads, etc.).

“This is in contrast to a ‘ticketing fee’, which refers solely to a fee charged for the processing of a ticket sale transaction. Given that Fever/Secret Media creates significant financial and advertorial value for event organisers, the ‘marketing fee’ is around 3-5 times that of a ‘ticketing fee’.”

It adds that its current cities have been growing self-sufficiently over the last 12 months, at a rate of 100% year on year, since reaching break-even — which also happened a year ago.

At the same time, it continues to offer third party events discovery within its apps, saying the business model it started with hasn’t changed but that its growing audience (and the data it’s able to extract from them) has allowed it to supplement that by programming its own events.

With A/B-tested events like these, the world’s hipsters have probably never had it so good.

Commenting on the Series C in a statement, Javier Nuche, MD of diversification at Atresmedia, said: With this investment we are consolidating our presence in the fast-growing experience economy and digital marketing space. Fever’s ability to mobilize a digital audience together with its optimization technology has proven extremely valuable for advertisers and will create very significant commercial synergies with Atresmedia, in our goal to offer the best communication solutions to our clients.”

Draper Esprit invests in and partners with German VC Earlybird

Draper Esprit, the publicly-listed VC firm based in London, is putting down further roots across Europe in cooperation with German VC Earlybird.

The “strategic partnership” sees Draper invest an initial €18 million in the latest Earlybird Fund VI (which closed this week at €175 million, above its initial target, apparently), with a commitment to invest a further €17 million or so per annum over the next four years.

The tie up will also mean the two VCs will work together beyond Draper simply being an LP in Earlybird, such as sharing deal-flow and investment resources. In addition, Draper is taking a minority stake in the management company of Earlybird Fund VI via the issuing of new Draper Esprit shares to Earlybird partners.

By putting money into Earlybird Fund VI, Draper has also indirectly acquired a minority stake in a number of startups that have already received investment from the fund. They include Shapeshift, Everoad, Movinga, Fraugster, Medidate, Xain, and Crossengage.

However, explained Draper Esprit CEO and co-founder Simon Cook in a call this morning, the partnership is really about the two firm’s leveraging the brand recognition of their broader and respective portfolios.

In aggregate, both firms say they count 100 “high growth” companies across Europe in their respective portfolios. They include the likes of Revolut, Graze, UI Path, N26, Transferwise, Ledger, Graphcore and Peak Games.

Meanwhile, in a European VC market where almost every local early-stage VC is becoming “pan-European,” the two firms met to discuss how they might work together. As the conversation progressed, it became clear that a more formal partnership fitted the ambitions of both VCs as they both attempt to have a larger presence across the continent.

In a corresponding blog post, Draper Esprit reiterates that it invests in series A, B and beyond, whereas Earlybird is focused on seed stage to series A. So, whilst there is some overlap, it won’t be hard for the two firms to divvy up deals and Cook told me Draper Esprit will share all relevant deal-flow with Earlybird and where it makes sense a partner at either firm will take the lead.

“We invest from offices in the U.K., Ireland, and Paris. They, from Berlin, Munich, Istanbul. We raise money via the public markets and through our EIS and VCT funds, they from traditional private LPs,” adds the VC firm.

Airwallex raises $80M for its international payment service for businesses

Airwallex, a three-year-old fintech startup focused on international payments for SMEs and businesses, is putting itself on the map after it raised an $80 million Series B round.

Based of out of Melbourne, but with six offices in Asia and other parts of the world, Airwallex’s new funding round is the second largest financing deal for an Australian startup in history. The round was led by existing investors Tencent, the $500 billion Chinese internet giant, and Sequoia China. Other participants included China’s Hillhouse, Horizons Ventures — the fund from Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-Shing — Indonesia-based Central Capital Ventura (BCA) and Australia’s Square Peg, a firm from Paul Bassat who took recruitment firm Seek to IPO and is one of Australia’s highest-profile founders.

The financing takes Airwallex to $102 million raised. Tencent led a $13 million Series A in May 2017, while Square Peg added $6 million more via a Series A+ in December. Mastercard is also a backer; the finance giant uses Airwallex to handle its “Send” product while Tencent uses the service to power an overseas remittance service for its WeChat app.

Airwallex handles cross-border transactions for companies that do business in multiple countries using international currencies. So it’s not unlike a Transferwise-style service for SMEs that lack the capital to develop a sophisticated (and expensive) international banking system of their own.

The service uses wholesale FX rates to route overseas payments back to a client’s domestic bank and is capable of processing “thousands of transactions per second,” according to the company. A use case example might include helping a China-based seller return money earned in the U.S. or Europe via Amazon or other e-commerce services, or route sales revenue back directly from their own website.

Airwallex CEO Jack Zhang (far right) on stage at TechCrunch Shenzhen in 2017

China is a key market for Airwallex — which was started by four Australian-Chinese founders — as well as the wider Asian region, and in particular Australia, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. With this new capital, Airwallex co-founder and CEO Jack Zhang said the company will increase its focus on Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, whilst also extending its business in Europe (where it has a London-based office) and pushing into North America.

Product R&D is shared across Melbourne and Shanghai, while Hong Kong accounts for business development, compliance and more, Zhang explained. However, Airwallex’s locations in London and San Francisco are likely to account for most of the upcoming headcount growth planned following this funding. Right now, Airwallex has around 100 staff, according to Zhang.

The company is also aiming to expand its product range, too.

The firm is in the process of applying for a virtual banking license in Hong Kong, a third-party payment license in mainland China, and a cross-border Chinese yuan license. One goal, Zhang revealed, is to offer working capital loans to SMEs to help them to scale their businesses to the next level. Airwallex is working with an undisclosed partner to underwrite deals in the future. Zhang explained that the company sees a gap in the market since banks don’t have access to critical data on clients for loan assessments.

More generally, he’s bullish for the future despite Brexit and the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.

“The trade war gives the Chinese yuan a lot of vitality, and we’ve seen more demand in the market. China’s belt road initiative has really taken off, too, and we’re seeing the impact in many many of our payment corridors,” he explained. “Business has been booming, especially as traditional offline SMEs start to move online and go from domestic to global.”

“We want to be the backbone to support these new opportunities for businesses,” Zhang added.

Dell will soon be a public company (again)

Dell, which went private in one of the the largest leveraged buyouts in tech circa 2013, announced today that it will once again be going public through a relatively complex mechanism that will once again bring the company back onto the public markets with founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake Partners largely in control.

Dell’s leveraged buyout largely marked the final page in the company’s storied history as a PC provider, going back to the old “dude, you’re getting a Dell” commercials. The company rode that wave to dominance, but as computing shifted to laptops, mobile phones, and complex operations were offloaded into cloud services like Amazon Web Services, Azure and Google Cloud, Dell found itself navigating a complex environment while having to make a significant business transition beyond the PC era. That meant Dell would be beholden to the whims of public markets, perhaps laden with short-term pessimism over the company’s urgent need to find a transition.

The transaction is actually an offer to buy shares that track the company’s involvement in VMWare, converting that tracking stock into Dell Technologies stock that would mark its return as a publicly-traded company. Those shares will end up traded on the NYSE, around five years later after its founder took the company private with Silver Lake Partners in a deal worth roughly $25 billion. Silver Lake Partners owns around 24% of the company, while Dell owns 72% and will continue to serve as the chairman and CEO of the company. This move helps the company bypass the IPO process, which would remove the whole time period of potential investors scrutinizing the company (which has taken on a substantial debt load).

Dell said in its most recent quarter it recorded revenue of $21.4 billion, up 19% year-over-year, and over the past 12 months the company generated $82.4 billion of revenue with a net loss of $2.3 billion. The company said it has also paid down $13 billion of gross debt since its combination with EMC back in 2016. All this has been part of the company’s transition to find new businesses beyond just selling computers, though there’s clearly still demand for those computers in offices around the world. As it has expanded into a broader provider of IT services, it’s potentially positioned itself as a modern enterprise tools provider, which would allow it to more securely navigate public markets while offering investors a way to correctly calibrate its value.

FirstVet swipes $6M to expand its pet advice telehealth service

Pet services can be serious startup business. Witness the likes of dog walking startups Rover and Wag, for example. At the same time digital health is a major area of interest for entrepreneurs, thanks to reliable demand meeting tech’s disruptive potential.

Well, Sweden’s FirstVet is dabbling in both — offering remote video consultations and advice for pet owners wondering if they should worry about their furry friend’s latest bout of coughing/sneezing/vomiting, or whether that chocolate bar the dog snarfed when you weren’t looking is a cause for real concern.

As the name suggests, the niche FirstVet is looking to carve out is a pretty specific one — focused on first layer pet owner concerns which essential boil down to asking a qualified professional whether you really need to take Fido to the vet or not. So it’s main competitor is probably Google search.

“We are a supplement to physical clinics rather than a substitute to them,” says CEO and co-founder David Prien. “The most common problems we help pet owners with are gastrointestinal questions, wounds, skin/fur/ears. Our main objective is to be the natural first point of contact for pet owners.”

True to his word, a note on FirstVet’s website warns prospective customers: “If your pet is acutely ill or severely wounded you should always seek veterinary care immediately.”

“We really don’t want to be the party that pet owners turn to in real emergency cases and always refer them directly to physical vet clinics, we always make the medical journals available for both the clinic receiving the referral and pet owner directly after each consultation,” adds Prien.

The startup launched in 2016, and now claims around 60,000 registered users in its home market of Sweden — saying it’s answered close to 4,500 calls after slightly over a year on the market. Business has been growing 25 per cent month over month, it adds.

Prien says the price point for the service is set at about 30-40% of the starting fee for a physical vet visit in the market.

Which is still 30-40% more expensing than Googling symptoms — i.e. assuming you’re happy to ignore the risk of the free info you found online being entirely bogus.

While FirstVet intended to offer a b2c service, its route to market has been via partnerships with insurance companies who offer the service to their customers as a way to potentially reduce the risk of more major pet insurance payouts, or as a touchpoint for reaching pet owners who don’t have insurance cover and thus could be persuaded to sign up.

“What happened was that we quickly found that it made sense to collaborate with the insurance companies since it saves money for both them and the end customer,” says Prien. “The service is very popular amongst un-insured pet owners as well, and the share of uninsured pets using the service corresponds with the insurance penetration for each market so far.”

“We have collaborations in place with all eight active insurance companies in Sweden (where the insurance penetration is about 80%),” he adds.”And are currently launching new collaborations with three Finnish insurance companies as we speak.”

FirstVet is announcing a €5.1 million (~6M) Series A today, led by Creandum with participation from existing angel investors — which is says include experts in the telemedicine space.

The funding will be used for business growth and additional market expansion in Europe, with Norway and Denmark slated as “coming soon”. It says its plan is to launch into all the Nordic countries — along with “key European markets” that have high rates of pet insurance.

“Our aim to launch in at least one central European market during 2018,” adds Prien.

Asked whether it’s taking a cut of vet visit fees for any referrals, he says not in its home region. Though his response to this question leaves a bit of wiggle room in markets where veterinary services have not been so consolidated.

“In the Nordics it’s very important for us to be independent from the big clinical actors, as they have consolidated the markets very quickly and driven the price levels. This way we can always refer the pet owner to the right veterinarian without having any other incentive than giving the right advice at the right time to all pet owners,” he tells TechCrunch.

FirstVet could face a competitive squeeze from on-demand vet startups which are operating in some European markets — such as the likes of UK startup PawSquad — which can send a qualified veterinarian to check out your pet at home. And does also offer its own 24/7 remote vet consultation option, including via video or text chats.

But Prien suggests FirstVet’s model offers pet owners the advantage of impartial advice — since it’s not incentivized to generate a physical vet visit in cases where this can be avoided. Whereas home visit services might want to encourage visits to to grab a bigger fee.

“To have a truly independent source to turn to, no matter the time or place/if you’re insured or not, really provides great value for pet owners,” he argues. “Given that the market is fully privatized, we strongly believe that it is important not to make this type of service ‘dependent on the incentive of actually generating a physical vet visit when it potentially could be avoided (as many pet owners perceive vet visits as quite stressful, time consuming and expensive).”

While it’s still early days for FirstVet, and it’s focusing on market expansion, Prien says it is also looking into ways to expand the services it can offer pet owners by creating DIY tests which they could carry out to help with remote diagnostics.

“We’re currently in the very beginning of developing self-tests for pet owners to conduct from home together with a partner as well, that indicate super interesting results,” he adds.

Toss, Korea’s top payment app, raises $40M from Sequoia China and Singapore’s GIC

The largest payment app in South Korea, Toss, has pulled in $40 million in fresh investment from Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC and Sequoia China.

The deal for Viva Republica, Toss’s parent company, comes just over a year after it raised $48 million from payment giant PayPal and others. There’s no valuation for this newest round, but we do know that it is a ‘bridge’ intended to bring new investors in and help accelerate the business for a large raise further down the line. (It is also the first Korean investment for both GIC and Sequoia China.)

Not that the business seems to need much more impetus for acceleration, growth is already strong. Viva Republica says that Toss’s registered user base has doubled over the past year to each eight million consumers, while it claims the app is processing $10 billion in transaction volume per month. The company forecasts that its annual transaction run rate will surpass $18 billion.

Back in 2016 when we reported on the PayPal -backed round, founder and CEO SG Lee — a dentist until he saw the potential for a mobile payment service — told us that Toss had begun to introduce additional services beyond peer-to-peer payments. That’s included consumer financing products, like loans, micro-insurance and cross-border payments.

Toss doesn’t have Korea to itself, its main rival is Kakao, the country’s most popular messaging app. In recent times Kakao, a $7 billion company, had opened business units in a range of industries including ride-hailing, content and payment. Its Kakao Pay business is backed by Alibaba, and it plugs into Kakao the chat app to allow peer-to-peer transfers with other consumer finance services.

Lee, the Viva Republica CEO, previously said he doesn’t fear Kakao since in his mind it is creating a b2b business while Toss is focused wholly on the consumer experience. Now it has a couple more seasoned backers in its corner too, courtesy of this new investment.