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.
Wealthsimple Capital of $610M raised to $4B
Wealthsimple, a major player in the Canadian fintech space, has raised $750 million CDN ($610 million) at a post-money valuation of $5 billion CAD ($4 billion). Drake, Ryan Reynolds, and Michael J. Fox were among the individual investors that participated in the round, which was headed by Meritech and Greylock (basically, all the most famous Canadians).
A post-money valuation of $1.5 billion CDN ($1.22 billion USD) was included in the last investment round disclosed in October, for which Wealthsimple raised $114 million CAD (about $93 million). The Toronto-based firm has pioneered the process of making previously inaccessible stock trading, cryptocurrency sales, and P2P money transfers more widely available to the general public. The company claims it expanded rapidly during the epidemic, which is a major factor in the dramatic increase in its valuation between the previous round of funding and this one. Its commission-free retail investment platform has expanded “rapidly” over the past 14 months, and its cryptocurrency trading platform, launched in August 2017, has also had great acceptance, the company adds.
Wealthsimple Cash, a peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer app, had a soft launch before the end of last year and was made available to all Canadians in March. Features-wise, the software is comparable to Venmo and Square’s Cash app, both of which are unavailable in Canada. Since the Wealthsimple app is free and separate from the company’s stock trading and cryptocurrency platforms, it has been rapidly adopted by users.
Wealthsimple will “increase its market position, develop out its product suite, and grow its team” using the money it has raised so far. In addition to its original robo-advisory tools, the company also provides automated tax filing and savings and investment products. The company has shown a clear willingness and ability to expand its offerings to incorporate even more of its customers’ financial lives when committed with new resources.
According to the most recent data that have been made public, the company claims to have over 1.5 million members and over $10 billion in assets under control.
IT firms in Ukraine expect the best but prepare for the worst
A large number of well-known IT enterprises and contract programmers for international clients may be found in this country.
Russia invaded Ukraine in an official capacity on Thursday. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said at a press conference on Thursday that sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies are not anticipated to instantly halt the Soviet advance. Meanwhile, Ukrainians wait tensely for whatever comes next. There are several ways in which the technological world has been affected by the conflict in Ukraine. Certain American sanctions, for instance, are aimed at preventing Russia from acquiring advanced technology for military and other uses. Moreover, Ukraine is home to a number of technological enterprises that serve millions of customers and organizations worldwide. On Thursday, the first day of the Russian occupation, I had a chance to speak with a few of them.
Perhaps the most well-known Ukrainian IT firm is Grammarly. Grammarly is the maker of an AI-driven service that helps people communicate better in writing. Millions of people all around the world use it, and some of the best venture capital firms in the world, like General Catalyst and Blackrock, have invested in it. Its current worth is $13 billion. The company’s headquarters and a large portion of its software development staff are located in Kyiv, Ukraine. The distance between Kyiv and the fighting zone in eastern Ukraine is around 700 kilometers (435 miles). It also employs people in New York City, San Francisco, and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Senka Hadzimuratovic, a representative from Grammarly, emailed me on Thursday to tell me that the company is currently putting into effect the backup measures they had developed to safeguard their employees in Ukraine. According to her, the corporation is being secretive about the intentions out of concern for employees’ safety. She also reassures me that, should the crisis worsen, the corporation has preparations in place to keep its services functioning. So that our team members in Ukraine may focus on the immediate safety of themselves and their families, we have taken measures such as establishing alternative channels of contact and temporarily shifting mission-critical tasks to members of the team based in other countries.
A LinkedIn post by Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover read as follows: “Grammarly was founded in Ukraine, and I’ve had the privilege of getting to know its vibrant culture and kind people over the past decade — that includes many of our resilient, unstoppable team members who are yet again facing stress and uncertainty. Even while I still hold out hope for a de-escalation, I am saddened by the ongoing escalations in the country.
Kyiv-based Readdle was one of the first app stores to sell apps for the iPhone and iPad. Its history is littered with successful productivity apps for iOS devices and computers. Products like PDF Expert and Scanner Pro have been downloaded about 200 million times, according to the business. Denys Zhadanov, a board member, informs me that the company has over 150 workers in Ukraine. I inquired as to the current concerns of the minds behind Ukraine’s tech startups. All large CEOs agree that Ukraine should be a sovereign state, he said. This is an act of wartime hostility. The time Zhadanov spends in each location is roughly equal.
Zhadanov, like other Ukrainian business leaders, claims that his firm has backup plans and that its infrastructure and customer data are stored on servers in the United States and Europe. With offices in 11 different locations and a workforce spread around the globe, he is confident that business won’t take a hit. We are now taking precautions for the safety of our Odessa-based personnel. While technology advances, some Ukrainian IT leaders lament that geopolitics may seem stuck in the Cold War era.
MacPaw, based in Kyiv, creates utilities like CleanMyMac and The Unarchiver to make Macs more useful. As 21st century humans, “we all wish that the dreadful days of war were a thing of the past,” stated MacPaw CEO and creator Oleksandr Kosovan in a blog post on Thursday. We have seen how vulnerable freedom, independence, and the human right to life and choice are once again with the Russian onslaught against Ukraine. Kosovan continues by saying that the safety of MacPaw’s employees in Kyiv is the company’s top priority right now. To secure the security of its employees in Ukraine, the business has developed “different assistance programs and formed an emergency plan.” Customer information is stored on AWS servers outside of Ukraine, he adds.
New Application Security Platform from Cider Security
Cider Security, an AppSec OS supplier, came out of stealth in March after raising $32 million in a series A fundraising round. The goal of Cider Security’s platform is to let customers coordinate and manage all of their application’s security policies from a centralized location.
With this method, businesses and technical decision-makers have a resource at their disposal to aid in-house teams’ efforts to better monitor application security and defend against hostile threat actors.
The risks associated with app-based businesses
Enterprises have been struggling to improve application security since studies have shown that half of all apps contain security flaws and “a totally new attack surface,” prompting this statement. Cider Security’s goal is to provide customers with a unified platform to monitor and manage security threats across the whole software development life cycle (SDLC), from initial design to final deployment, and beyond. 48% of firms admit to pushing out risky code, and 54% claim they did so to meet a vital deadline with a plan to fix in a later release, indicating that many of these apps are unsecured because of organizations hurrying code development to bring goods to market faster. Similarly, 45% acknowledged that the flaws were detected too late in the release cycle to be fixed. What this means is that developers now have less time to ensure an app is secure before releasing it to users as a result of quick release cycles. With the advent of the devops profession, the engineering environment has undergone dramatic change. Guy Flechter, co-founder and CEO of Cider Security, has noted an increase in the rate of releases, the breadth of the technological stack, the prevalence of third-party integrations, and the prevalence of automated procedures.
These shifts have had a major effect on safety. Flechter remarked, “They’ve established a whole new set of categories of danger and opportunity, and their enemies are constantly taking advantage of them.” Fletchter argues that in 2021, “an AppSec OS has become a must for allowing organisations to adapt to this new reality, and allowing engineering to continue to move fast, without making any compromises on security,” due to a variety of sophisticated hacks and threats targeting engineering environments.
The security arms competition in applications
The application security industry, which Cider Security is a part of, was worth $6.38 billion in 2020 and is projected to grow to $15.76 billion by 2026 as more businesses create and secure their own applications. The service is up against a number of well-established competitors, such as Argon, which offers a solution for safeguarding the software supply chain by automatically discovering pipeline assets and providing automated notifications on occurrences. It’s worth mentioning that Aqua Security, a company specializing in protecting cloud-native applications, purchased Argon only recently after raising $135K in series E funding in March.
Another rival that has just secured $30 million in a Series A fundraising round is Legit Security, a SaaS-based solution that aims to safeguard software supply chains with features like the automated detection of pipelines for infrastructure code and software development life cycle (SDLC) assets. Flechter asserts that Cider Security’s product stands apart from the competition because of his team’s experience in the application security space, even if competitors like Argon and Legit Security are tackling the same problem. “Our solution is essentially the first application security operating system that allows orchestrating and harmonising CI/CD security-related activities across all three disciplines of CI/CD security—SIP (Security in the Pipeline), SOP (Security Of the Pipeline), and SAP (Security Across the CI/CD Lifecycle (Security Around the Pipeline).
Tiger Global Management mostly spearheaded the fundraising round.
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