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Tribal Credit, which provides credit cards to startups in emerging markets, raises $34.3M

The B2B payments space has seen an explosion in demand, and investor interest, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as businesses try to figure out how to pay each other digitally. The challenges become even more complex when dealing with cross-border payments.

Startups that were formed before the pandemic stand to benefit from the shift. One such startup, Tribal Credit, launched its beta in late 2019 to provide payment products for startups and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in emerging markets.

Today, Tribal Credit announced it has raised $34.3 million in a combined Series A and debt round led by QED Investors and Partners for Growth (PFG). Existing backers BECO Capital, Global Ventures, OTG Ventures and Endure Capital also participated in the round, along with new investor Endeavor Catalyst. The raise follows “10x” year-over-year growth, according to CEO and co-founder Amr Shady.

As part of the investment, Tribal received $3 million from the Stellar Development Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the development and growth of the open-source Stellar blockchain network. 

Tribal uses a proprietary AI-driven underwriting approval process to evaluate businesses and approve them for credit lines. Those businesses can then use those credit lines to spend on Tribal’s products, Tribal Card and Tribal Pay. Tribal Card is a business Visa card that allows users to create physical and virtual multi-currency cards. Tribal Pay allows them to make payments to merchants and suppliers that don’t accept credit cards. 

The company says its value proposition lies not only in its ability to provide SMEs with virtual and physical corporate cards, but also a digital platform that allows founders and CFOs “to give access to and manage the spend of their distributed teams.”

“We’ve seen more demand for making B2B online payments amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with many SMEs migrating to digital and spending more on online products and services,” Shady told TechCrunch. “Companies in this new economy are digital and global first. The need for a corporate card was accelerated. As card spend grew during the pandemic, this meant greater liability on founders’ using their personal cards, or other competing cards linked to their personal credit.” 

Tribal, he said, underwrites the company without impacting the founders’ credit. 

Another accelerator for its products was how the pandemic forced teams to work remotely. Founders and CFOs needed a way to provide access to corporate payments while maintaining control, Shady pointed out. Tribal’s platform aims to streamline financial operations for a distributed team. 

Of course, Tribal is not the only company offering credit cards for startups. Brex, which has amassed $465 million in venture capital funding to date, also markets a credit card tailored for startups. While the companies are similar, there is a distinct difference, according to Shady: “Emerging market SMEs have different pains, particularly when it comes to cross-border payments.”

Tribal’s initial efforts are focused on Latin America, in particular Mexico, which is the startup’s biggest market.

Its new capital will go toward accelerating its growth in the region, according to Shady. In particular, the equity will go toward growing Tribal’s leadership team in Mexico, while the debt will fuel the company’s customers’ growing credit lines, Shady said.

“We have invested heavily in our product over the past year,” Shady said. “We’re the first mover in our segment in LatAm with a diverse suite of SME products that includes corporate cards, wire payments and treasury services. We’re incredibly excited by the future ahead of us in Mexico and beyond.” 

Customers include Minu, Ben and Frank, Fairplay and SLM, among others.

Looking ahead, Tribal is exploring four other Latin American markets and expects to be operational in one new market by year’s end, according to Shady.

Image Credits: Tribal Credit

QED Investors partner Lauren Morton said her firm has been following payments and the lending needs of SMEs in emerging markets closely.

“Compared with everything else we’ve seen in this market, Tribal has a differentiated and superior product that meets customers’ needs in a way that no competitor can match,” she said in a written statement. 

Morton went on to note that Tribal has had strong traction in Mexico, with adoption from “fast-growing startups” across the country, including many companies within QED’s own portfolio. 

PFG is providing the debt facility for Tribal. In addition to funding from PFG’s global fund, the firm will be co-investing from its Latin America Growth Lending Fund in partnership with IDB Invest and SVB Financial Group, the parent company of Silicon Valley Bank. 

Tribal Credit previously raised $7.8 million in a series of seed rounds. The latest round brings its total raised to $42.1 million. Tribal Credit also joined Visa’s Fintech Fast Track Program, a move that it said should accelerate its integration with Visa’s global payment network.  The company currently has 75 employees, up from 31 last year.

SoftBank bets big on a ‘digital Ellis Island’

Welcome Tech, which has built a digital platform aimed at immigrants and their families, has raised $35 million in a Series B funding round co-led by TTV Capital, Owl Ventures and SoftBank Group Corp.’s SB Opportunity Fund.

Crosscut Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Next Play Capital and Owl Capital also participated in the financing, which brings the Los Angeles-based company’s total raised to $50 million since its 2010 inception. Welcome Tech, which has an office in San Antonio, Texas, raised an $8 million Series A in March of 2020.

Built by immigrants for immigrants, Welcome Tech aims to do just what its name indicates — help immigrants feel more welcome, have an easier transition and achieve greater success when moving to the United States.

The company’s approach was different in that rather than launch a banking product and then set out to earn the trust of the community it aims to serve, it first worked hard to earn that trust and understand the community’s needs. 

So in its first years of existence, Welcome Tech has focused on building out a platform that provides educational resources, information and services that “they need to thrive in a  new country.” Its efforts are initially primarily focused on the Hispanic community in the U.S.

The goal of its platform, dubbed SABEResPODER (meaning Knowledge is Power in Spanish), is to serve as “a widely recognized and trusted resource” to members of the Hispanic community in the U.S., the company says.

Armed with knowledge and data that it has gathered over the years, Welcome Tech six months ago launched a banking service, including a debit card and bilingual mobile app. And in January, it launched a monthly subscription offering that gives users access to discounted resources such as medical and dental professionals.

Gardiner Garrard, co-founder and partner, TTV Capital, points out that the Hispanic market represents the largest minority cohort in the U.S., with a population of 62.8 million. 

“That said, less than half of Hispanic households are ‘fully banked’, meaning they cannot open an account, which then negatively impacts their ability to secure other products or services,” Garrard said. “To not serve this community is a major failure. Welcome Tech is addressing this issue head on.”

Today, Welcome’s platform is approaching 3 million active users, according to co-founder and CEO Amir Hemmat. Its ultimate goal, he said, is to serve as “digital Ellis Island.” 

“The way we leave immigrants’ success to chance is pretty crazy,” he told TechCrunch. “If you think of countries the way you think of companies and the way they want to attract and retain…here, we almost do the opposite.”

Image Credits: Welcome Tech

In particular, Hemmat and co-founder Raul Lomeli-Azoubel recognized that access to financial services was crucial to immigrants’ success.

“Although we ultimately see ourselves building towards a better future for immigration and a broader platform, the foundation and beachhead for that is definitely in financial services,” Hemmat said.  

Welcome offers a free banking account that is fully bilingual for English and Spanish speaking communities with “key features that are very tailor made for this community.”

A number of new digital banks targeting Latino and immigrant communities in general have emerged in recent years, including TomoCredit and Greenwood. Welcome aims to differentiate itself from competitors in being a more broad-based platform. Its subscription offering — at $10 a month — does things like offer discounts to healthcare professionals and free televisits, for example.

“When we dug in, we realized that immigrants are not being provided data-driven recommendations,” Hemmat said. “It’s very much a word of mouth and trial of error, and in some cases highly predatory, experience. We’re working to aggregate a historically fragmented audience and that gives us massive leverage to source better offerings, pricing and experiences for consumers across multiple categories.”

The company plans to use its new capital to build more partnerships so that it can do the above, as well as spread awareness about its services.

Gosia Karas, vice president and head of growth-stage investments at SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund, told TechCrunch that the fact that the immigrant population in the U.S. is “growing really fast and underserved creates an opportunity for someone to come in and serve them well with a financial services offering.”

In particular, SoftBank was attracted to Welcome Tech’s approach to truly understand, and gather data around, its target market.

“Before even jumping head first into building a fintech company, they did a lot of work prior,” Karas said. “They spent years building an understanding of this audience of the immigrant population, including building trust within that demographic. And at the same time, they have been building targeted content. This serves as a really great backbone to build a company that is very well-suited to serve that audience and to roll out things like the debit card and other financial services offerings.”

Scale AI founder and CEO Alexandr Wang will join us at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9

Last week, Scale AI announced a massive $325 million Series E. Led by Dragoneer, Greenoaks Capital and Tiger Global, the raise gives the San Francisco data labeling startup a $7 billion valuation.

Alexandr Wang founded the company back in 2016, while still at MIT. A veteran of Quora and Addepar, Wang built the startup to curate information for AI applications. The company is now a break-even business, with a wide range of top-notch clients, including General Motors, NVIDIA, Nuro and Zoox.

Backed by a ton of venture capital, the company plans a large-scale increase in its headcount, as it builds out new products and expands into additional markets. “One thing that we saw, especially in the course of the past year, was that AI is going to be used for so many different things,” Wang told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “It’s like we’re just sort of really at the beginning of this and we want to be prepared for that as it happens.”

The executive will join us on stage at TC Sessions: Mobility on June 9 to discuss how the company has made a major impact on the industry in its short four years of existence, the role AI is playing in the world of transportation and what the future looks like for Scale AI.

In addition to Wang, TC Sessions: Mobility 2021 will feature an incredible lineup of speakers, presentations, fireside chats and breakouts all focused on the current and future state of mobility — like EVs, micromobility and smart cities for starters — and the investment trends that influence them all.

Investors like Clara Brenner (Urban Innovation Fund), Quin Garcia (Autotech Ventures) and Rachel Holt (Construct Capital) — all of whom will grace our virtual stage. They’ll have plenty of insight and advice to share, including the challenges that startup founders will face as they break into the transportation arena.

You’ll hear from CEOs like Starship Technologies’ Ahti Heinla. The company’s been busy testing delivery robots in real-world markets. Don’t miss his discussion touching on challenges ranging from technology to red tape and what it might take to make last-mile robotic delivery a mainstream reality.

Grab your early bird pass today and save $100 on tickets before prices go up in less than a month.