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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.

Here’s the first look inside Orbex’s Scotland rocket factory

European private launch startup Orbex is getting ready to start actually launching payloads aboard its own rockets, and it’s pulling back the curtains to give a look at the factory it’s using to build its launch vehicles. The UK-based company is building its rockets from a facility in Scotland, and this virtual tour gives an idea of what they’re doing to make the first rocket field by renewable, clean-burning fuel a reality.

Orbex Prime’s Stage 2 vehicle.

The second stage that Orbex will use employs bio-prone for its fuel, which will reduce carbon emissions by as much as 90 percent vs. the kerosene based fuel used on most similar vehicles. Orbex also built reusability into their ‘Prime’ launch vehicle design, and it’s 3D-printing its engines in one single piece, working with partner SLM to make this possible. That will add more structural reliability to the engine, the company says.

Orbex carbon fibre winding machine.

In service of making this unique vehicle, the Orbex site in Scotland features “one of the largest carbon fibre winding machines in Europe,” which measures around 60 feet long and which can produce its rockets with a weight savings of up to 30 percent vs. similarly sized vehicles already on the market. That weight savings means faster acceleration and more fuel efficiency.

Also part of the new facility is a large autoclave that is used to bring the rocket components to the proper temperature for setting and curing. The company says that its equipment can wind its main stage fuel tanks in just a matter of hours using this equipment, which is a big part of ability to achieve launch vehicle construction efficiency, which leads to affordable costs for small satellite launch clients keen to make use of the Prime to deliver their payloads.

Orbex’s 3D-printed rocket engine.

The 3D printer for the engines can fully print one of the Prime’s engines in just five hours – each Prime launcher will make use of six for the vehicle that will power the first stage, and a seventh, vacuum-rated one to power the second stage as it makes the final trip to orbit to delivery its payloads.

Orbex already has a number of commercial contracts in place, and expects to fly Prime for the first time sometime in 2021. It’ll look to launch from the proposed Sutherland spaceport, which is currently in development and will be Europe’s first ever mainland orbital spaceport once complete.