Quick read: European payments and fintech snapshot

There’s a huge amount going on in the European payments and fintech startup space right now, which is great news for the industry but makes staying on top of everything challenging at best. With that in mind we’ve picked out five what we think are the most-interesting stories across the region right now. Let us know if you find our European snapshot valuable and we may make it into a regular feature of our newsletter. Here’s what you need to know:


1. Funding for Irish fintech startups

When it comes to UK fintech, there’s no doubt London dominates the story, in terms of both startups basing themselves there and the amount of funding the city attracts. Aiming to boost access to capital for financial tech startups in Ireland, the government has just launched a €500,000 new fintech fund for early stage startups.

Enterprise Ireland, the government agency tasked with supporting Irish businesses, is keen to invest in startups focusing on applying blockchain, artificial intelligence, big data and the internet of things to finance. Up to €50,000 is available.


2. Pleo wins startup competition at Pioneers Festival

Denmark’s Pleo has just picked up €500,000 in seed funding after winning the ‘Pioneer of the Year’ startup completion at Pioneers Festival in Vienna this week.  If you missed our interview with CEO and co-founder Jeppe Rindom last month, the firm aims to simplify corporate expense processes and eliminate the need for employees to have to pay for work-related outgoings on their personal cards. It offers a prepaid MasterCard and accompanying app for the management and control of employee spending. The money itself comes from Vienna and Silicon Valley-based Speedinvest. Currently in private beta, the firm is in the process of on-boarding companies in the UK and Denmark to join its private beta trial.

“It’s a great feeling to have our idea validated by some of the smartest minds in Europe,” says Rindom, formerly CFO at B2B payments giant TradeShift. “Nobody likes expense reports so that’s why we built a company card that works for everyone, from everyday employees to thrifty Financial Directors and frustrated accounts departments.”


3. Sepa for cards standards

And now for a mouthful of acronyms: the European Payments Council (EPC) and Cards Stakeholders Group (CSG) just opened a three month consultation on a document that is designed to help standardise the card industry in the region. The latest version of the SEPA (Single Euro Payments Area) Cards Standardisation Volume deals with things like Card Interchange Fee Regulation IFR) guidance.


4. Spotify for journalism goes stateside

Aiming to try and help fix fragmentation in access to news online, Dutch micro-payments firm Blendle is now available on iOS.

Still in private beta, the startup has also just opened up its beta in the US, meaning users can pay to access pay-walled stories across the pond. Describing itself as something like a Netflix or Spotify for journalism, the firm wants to help  readers access and pay for top content from publishers. It has the likes of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Time Inc., The Financial Times, New York Magazine, Newsweek and Bloomberg Businessweek on board and thousands of beta users on board, this Netherlands team is definitely one to watch.


5. Transferwise picks up $26m

Meanwhile, high profile fintech startup Transferwise just picked up $26m in extra funding. Down from $58m in its previous funding at the beginning of last year, some would call this a ‘down round’. Not so its team, which described it as “top-up funding” to TechCrunch. A spokesperson told us that funding isn’t always a necessity and said it was responding to demand from investor Baillie Grifford.

“TransferWise was incredibly well funded to execute its business plan already, funding is not always about necessity,” a company spokesperson tells bobsguide. “Baillie Gifford were keen to invest and we wanted to give them the opportunity. The extra money will help us continue our global expansion plans and grow even faster.”

In fairness, the money transfer startup has never used its valuation (now believed to be north of $1bn) for leverage. Instead it has focused on milestones in user growth and transaction volume to benchmark its growth.

Founded in 2001, the firm says it now has 1m customers and offers 600 currency routes (for example UK to Germany), with 150 more expected this year. This year it has added routes to China and South Korea, with Brazil, Japan and Hong Kong next on the agenda. The company’s users are currently sending £500m ($734m) each month and the company now employs 600 people across the UK, Europe and the US.

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