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Tag Archives: consumer

Personal finance startup SmartAsset raises $28M

I first wrote about SmartAsset nearly six years ago, when it launched its first product , a tool allowing prospective homebuyers to analyze the rent vs. buy decision and to see what kind of home they could actually afford. According to co-founder and CEO Michael Carvin, “On the consumer side, our strategy has never really changed. Our mission is to help people make the best personal finance decisions and to build the web’s best resource for personal finance decision-making.” Of course, some aspects of the company have evolved. For one thing, SmartAsset now offers tools, calculators and content in a number of categories, including taxes, retirement and banking. For another, it’s announcing today that it has raised $28 million in Series C funding, bringing its total raised to more than $51 million. The new round comes from Focus Financial Partners (a firm backed by Stone Point Capital and KKR), Javelin Venture Partners, TTV Capital, IA Capital, Contour Venture Partners, Citi Ventures, Fabrice Grinda and others. Carvin said SmartAsset reached more than 45 million uniques last month, nearly doubling its traffic year-over-year. And 25 percent of that traffic comes from repeat visitors. As for how SmartAsset makes money from those visitors, it does so partly by promoting financial products like mortgages. But Carvin said the biggest piece is the SmartAdvisor platform , which connects financial advisors with potential investors. Carvin described it as “the web’s first digital lead generation platform for financial advisors,” and compared the SmartAsset business model to Zillow’s, saying both companies have built big audiences that they can then match up with real estate or finance professionals. In SmartAsset’s case, users fill out a questionaire and then work with a SmartAsset concierge to help them find an advisor who’s a good fit. Carvin added that the advisors on the platform have been screened by the company, for example to ensure that they haven’t had any criminal violations and that FCC hasn’t upheld any complaints against them for the past decade. Asked whether this focus on financial advisors has led SmartAsset to change the way it designs its consumer products Carvin said, “We believe the better the user experience, the better our business will work

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Peek raises $23M and inks partnership with Google in push to digitize travel activities

Peek , a U.S. startup aiming to digitize the travel activities industry, has pulled a $23 million Series B round of financing and uncorked a partnership with Google that will help increase its visibility. Founded in 2012 by Ruzwana Bashir (CEO) and Oskar Bruening (CTO), the San Francisco-based startup describes itself as “OpenTable for the activities market” in that it aims to make booking activities as seamless and straightforward as a restaurant or even a flight. Peek raised $10 million two years ago , and this new round is led by Cathay Innovation with participation from existing backers that include ex-Yelp COO Geoff Donaker, Kayak founder Paul English, I2BF and Manta Ray. Peek has plenty of well-known angel backers, including Pete Flint — founder of Trulia and NFX — former Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. This new round takes it to $40 million from investors to date. In addition to the money, the startup has announced a tie-up with Google that will see its inventory added to Google Search, Google Maps and Google Trips. That’s sure to help visibility and spike bookings, and it adds to other partnerships that Peek has struck with platforms that include Yelp. Peek is taking aim at the global activities market which Bashir estimates is worth some $150 billion, with the U.S. being the most lucrative market on the planet. “It hasn’t gone through the analog-to-digital transition like other industries,” she told TechCrunch in an interview. “So we’re building the infrastructure and software that emerged in other industries ten years ago.” Peek’s business model is similar to two well-backed Asian companies, Klook — which has raised over $90 million from the likes of Sequoia China and Goldman Sachs — and KKDay, which was recently backed by Japanese travel giant H.I.S

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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.

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Lemonade files lawsuit against wefox for IP infringement

Lemonade , the insurance platform based out of NYC, has filed a lawsuit against German company ONE Insurance, its parent company wefox, and founder Julian Teicke. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court Southern District of NY, alleges that wefox reverse engineered Lemonade to create ONE, infringing Lemonade’s intellectual property, violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and breaching its contractual obligations to Lemonade not to “copy content… to provide any service that is competitive…or to…create derivative works.” In the filing, Lemonade alleges that Teicke repeatedly registered for insurance on Lemonade under various names and for various addresses, some of which do not exist. Teicke also allegedly filed claims in what appeared to be an attempt to assess and copy the arrangement of those flows. Lemonade’s counsel says Teicke started seven claims over the course of 20 days, prompting Lemonade to cancel his policy. Alongside Teicke, a number of other executives and members of leadership at wefox also filed fake claims, despite having opted in to Lemonade’s user agreement and taking an honesty pledge, which is required of all Lemonade users. This, according to Lemonade, violates the Computer Fraud and Abuse act. Lemonade also alleges that the ONE app infringes Lemonade’s IP, and that in assessing the Lemonade app and building a competitor, Teicke also violated Lemonade’s TOS. Lemonade has revolutionized the insurance business in two key ways: First, it made the process of actually buying insurance as easy as a few clicks on your smartphone. Digitizing the process makes the issue of getting home or renters insurance far less daunting and more approachable to consumers. Secondly, Lemonade rethought the business model of insurance. Normally, insurance providers charge you a certain monthly rate based on the value of the property/items looking to be insured. But at the end of the year, the money remaining in that policy becomes profit, putting the insurance company in direct opposition to the consumer any time a claim is filed. Lemonade takes its profit directly out of each payment, and if a file isn’t claimed, it sends the rest of the leftover money to the charity of your choice, ensuring that Lemonade and the consumer are on the same page when a claim is filed. In keeping with that thesis, any proceeds generated from this lawsuit will go directly to Code.org.

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Facebook plans to separate archives for political ads and for ads promoting news publishers’ political content; publisher archive will be ready in a…

Sara Fischer / Axios : Facebook plans to separate archives for political ads and for ads promoting news publishers' political content; publisher archive will be ready in a few weeks   —  Speaking at Axios' Media Trends event Monday night, Facebook's head of global news partnerships Campbell Brown formally announced …

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Inside the Open Markets Institute Conference attended by politicians and media execs who discussed the role of Facebook and Google on the media…

Mat Honan / BuzzFeed : Inside the Open Markets Institute Conference attended by politicians and media execs who discussed the role of Facebook and Google on the media industry   —  You can't bust a trust if the trust busts you first.  —  Reporting From Washington, D.C.  —  The rising antitrust movement gathered Tuesday …

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Uber hires Daniel Danker from Facebook to serve as a senior director and head of driver product, filling a role that has been vacant since December…

Megan Rose Dickey / TechCrunch : Uber hires Daniel Danker from Facebook to serve as a senior director and head of driver product, filling a role that has been vacant since December   —  Uber has brought on Daniel Danker to serve as a senior director and head of driver product.  Prior to joining Uber, he was a product director …

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Records and sources say China will begin using electronic identification system to track cars nationwide on July 1; compliance will be compulsory from…

Yoko Kubota / Wall Street Journal : Records and sources say China will begin using electronic identification system to track cars nationwide on July 1; compliance will be compulsory from Jan. 2019   —  National plan to electronically scan autos adds to the ways Beijing can monitor its citizens, also including video cameras and facial recognition technology

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Didi says car-pooling service drivers can only pick up riders of the same sex in the early morning/late evening, after murder of female rider earlier…

Reuters : Didi says car-pooling service drivers can only pick up riders of the same sex in the early morning/late evening, after murder of female rider earlier this year   —  BEIJING (Reuters) - China's biggest ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing said on Wednesday its car-pooling service drivers can only pick …

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Netflix says it has entered into a partnership with Telltale Games to bring simple episodic games to its platform, starting with Minecraft: Story Mode…

Nick Pino / TechRadar.com : Netflix says it has entered into a partnership with Telltale Games to bring simple episodic games to its platform, starting with Minecraft: Story Mode   —  EXCLUSIVE: Telltale's Minecraft: Story Mode outed as first streamable game  —  Netflix and Telltale Games have entered into a deal …

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Over 70 internet experts and pioneers pen letter opposing proposed EU copyright provision to require internet platforms filter content, before next…

Electronic Frontier Foundation : Over 70 internet experts and pioneers pen letter opposing proposed EU copyright provision to require internet platforms filter content, before next week's vote   —  As Europe's latest copyright proposal heads to a critical vote on June 20-21, more than 70 Internet and computing luminaries …

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Epic Games says Fortnite now has 125M registered players under a year after launch; last week, Epic investor Tencent said 40M play the game once a…

Nick Statt / The Verge : Epic Games says Fortnite now has 125M registered players under a year after launch; last week, Epic investor Tencent said 40M play the game once a month or more   —  That's a lot  —  Developer Epic Games announced today that Fortnite has grown to 125 million registered players in less than a year.

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