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Promise, with its $20 million funding round, modernizes inflexible government and utility payment systems
Many people have had a difficult time making ends meet over the last year, and one of the most basic challenges has been paying for necessities like food, water, and electricity, as well as taxes and some other government fees, which are rarely structured to facilitate simple or flexible payment. Promise has funded $20 million to address this by connecting with established payment systems and providing more flexible payment options for bills and other obligations that customers may not be able to pay in full at once.
It can be difficult to find the money to pay an ad hoc bill like water or electricity when all of your income goes towards rent and food. They are less likely to be terminated suddenly than a cell plan, so it’s safer to put off paying them until later—until a few unpaid bills add up and a family is faced with hundreds of dollars in overdue charges with no option to divide them up or pay them over time. The same applies to fines and levies of any kind, including tickets.
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, CEO and co-founder of Promise, outlined this as one area where the status quo falls short. Municipal ticket payment sites and utility payment sites typically do not provide payment plans, in contrast to online retailers like those selling televisions and furniture. We’ve found that customers who are having trouble making their payments are willing and able to pay much more quickly and in full if you provide them with periodic reminders, convenient payment methods, and some leeway. She told TechCrunch that the systems themselves are the problem, as they were not made with individuals who “don’t always have an excess of money in their bank accounts” in mind. For instance, “they anticipate that if someone makes their first payment at 10 PM on the 15th, the same person will have the same amount of money the following month at the same time,” she explained. Most people’s basic necessities are ignored by these structures. It’s possible that you’ll have to make payments once a week, or in several different ways.
Ellis-Lamkins argues that the inflexibility of plan providers is a major factor in the frequent nonpayment she observes even among those who provide coverage. It could even be tough to enrol in the first place. “Some localities offer payment plans but you have to go in person to sign up, complete a multiple-page form, show proof of income, and satisfy tight criteria,” she explained. With the help of our partners, we have been able to employ self-certification to streamline the process in place of submitting tax returns or other evidence. Our current payback rate exceeds 90%.” Promise operates as an intermediary, integrating minimally with the agency or utility to raise awareness among debtors about the alternative payment option. It’s not dissimilar to how online retailers sometimes provide many payment methods, including the ability to pay over time for a product.
Promise doesn’t cover the cost up front and collect on its own terms; instead, the user enrols in a payment plan and the company handles the payment processing, including reminders, receipts, and processing. In essence, it’s an add-on flexible payment system with a focus on government agencies and similar organisations that collect fees from the general population. Payment to use Promise comes in the form of subscription fees (i.e. SaaS) and/or transaction fees, whatever is most appropriate for a given customer. A utility would rather pay a few dollars to increase the likelihood that it would collect $500 rather than risk getting nothing or having to resort to more expensive and forceful debt collection measures.
Ellis-Lamkins cited a recent analysis by the California Water Boards revealing that 1.6 million people owe a total of $1 billion in water debt in the state, with one in eight homes being $500 or more behind on their payments. With the widespread stress on household budgets caused by the pandemic, those figures are likely to be much worse than usual. Yet, as with payment plans in other contexts, households of varying incomes and types find their own reason to take advantage of such arrangements. And I think we can all agree that anyone who has ever had to cope with a poorly organised website for paying their utility bills would appreciate an alternative. With this new funding round, the company has raised over $30 million to far, including the $10 million it raised before leaving Y Combinator in 2018. Kapor Capital, XYZ, Bronze, First Round, YC, Village, and other existing investors provide the capital.
Lightbox and others invest $25 million in gaming firm Rooter
Organization headquartered in New Delhi Lightbox, March Gaming, and Duane Park Ventures lead a $25 million Series A for the game streaming and e-sports provider Rooter (Gaurav Laghate/The Economic Times). Rooter has 8.5 million monthly active users.
Hosted in New Delhi Gaming and e-sports platform Rooter has raised $25 million in a Series A fundraising round, with the money going towards expanding the company’s user base and live-streaming platform for video games. In the new Series A round, the companies Lightbox, March Gaming, Duane Park Ventures, 9Unicorns, ADvantage, Capital-A, and Goal Ventures played the most prominent roles. Previous backers like IeAD Sports and Health Tech Partners were also involved. The online gaming platform has done more than just raise capital; it has also helped some of its stockholders sell their shares and given some employees an exit strategy by buying them out through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
In May of 2020, the online gaming platform raised $1.7 million from Paytm, Venture Catalysts, Rockstud Capital, Founder Bank Capital, Anthill Ventures, and leAD Sports & Health Tech Partners as part of a pre-Series A round of funding. Rooter, founded in 2016 by Piyush Kumar and Dipesh Agarwal, features coverage of popular esports and broadcasters for titles including BGMI, Valorant, Call of Duty, and Free Fire. According to the statement, Rooter has over 30 million downloads of its mobile app and over 8.5 million monthly active users. It also notes that each month, roughly 1 million different individuals contribute gaming content to the Rooter platform. Rooter, which plans to build a community of half a million professional game broadcasters, boasts that it can connect with fans by streaming live, user-created audio and video material in at least ten Indian languages. “Rooter has been developing at a rapid speed over the last 18 months, in unison with the exploding mobile gaming market in India, and this latest influx of cash by such major domestic and international investors further validates our work,” stated Piyush Kumar, Founder & CEO of Rooter.
Our streamers have reported unprecedented interest in their content, leading to record income growth over the past six months. In the following two years, Dipesh and I plan to work with our backers to grow Rooter into the largest gaming firm in the country, Piyush says. March Gaming Managing Partner Gregory Milken said in a statement about the investment, “The availability of cheap, fast, and reliable mobile data in India has resulted in a massive explosion of streaming services and digital content, and we believe Rooter is best-positioned to capture this expanding market as the clear platform of choice for game streaming. Our first investment in India is a huge deal for us.
“We have closely monitored the gaming market in India for some years,” Salil Bhargava, Director at Duane Park, stated. We anticipate tremendous growth in India’s gaming streaming market. Loco, Rooter’s main competitor, received $9 million in funding from PUBG maker Krafton in June of 2018. In the next three years, RedSeer and Lumikai predict that 700 million people in India will play video games.
In exchange for a $200 million series D investment, Ant-backed M-Daq has given Affinity a majority ownership
M-Daq, a Singapore-based fintech business backed by Ant Group, has received an investment of US$200 million from Asian private equity giant Affinity Equity Partners in a series D transaction.
According to information provided by VentureCap Insights, M-Daq has raised a total of US$34.8 million since its inception in 2010. Richard Koh, founder and CEO of M-Daq, explained to Tech in Asia that the discrepancy in the figure resulted from the fact that not all of the capital had been drawn down by the company due to the presence of secondary shares being offered in the round.
According to a statement released by M-Daq, thanks to Affinity’s investment, the company now shares control of the Singapore-based firm with its management and employees.
Koh owns 15.92% of M-Daq and Joo Seng Wong owns 3.15%. In addition, 12.7% of the company is owned by employee stock option plans. Both Noboru Takahashi, the business’s first chief technology officer, and Lee Yaw Chyun, the company’s first chief financial officer, own stock in the company. According to information from VentureCap Insights, this translates to a 33.56% ownership share in the company.
M-Daq already has a number of investors and commercial partners, including Ant Group, EDBI, NTT Communications, Samsung, and Kiwoom-Shinhan, an alliance between Kiwoom Securities and Shinhan Capital.
M-Daq, which has been cash flow positive since 2018, plans to use the new funds in research and development of new products as well as in expanding its worldwide enterprise customer base.
“We are delighted to have discovered in Affinity a strong believer-partner to pursue our third five-year strategic plan with a view of a public outing,” Koh added.
M-Daq claims that its patented FX solutions process over US$10 billion in annual cross-border transactions, principally serving ecommerce and technology firms like AliExpress, Taobao, and Tmall.
Aladdin and Fliq are among M-most Daq’s notable offerings. With Aladdin, online shoppers can transact in their own currency while businesses may accept payments in whichever currency they desire. When customers travel internationally with Fliq, they can use their local e-wallets to make purchases anywhere Fliq is accepted.
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