Google Ventures launches first European fintech investment

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Google Ventures, the search giant’s venture capital arm, is making its first fintech investment in Europe, changing tack from the primarily life sciences focus espoused by former founder Bill Maris.

The firm, which shut down its European fund after just 18 months and lost several European partners as well as its US founder Mr Maris last year, is investing £20m into London fintech firm CurrencyCloud which allows online companies to take cross-border payments.

The five-year-old startup, whose other investors include Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten and Sapphire Ventures, the investment arm of software company SAP, made $1m in revenues in December, and is growing 60 per cent year on year.

It has 200 customers, including the Standard Bank of South Africa, and Travelex, which pay CurrencyCloud a cut of all payments made via its API. So far, it has raised £44 million, and doubled its valuation between its Series C, raised in early 2015, and the latest round.

“We have an API that we sell to other payment firms, banks and e-commerce companies, from shipping to electronics, wealth management and travel, allowing them to do international transfers and payments, with built-in compliance,” says chief executive Mike Laven.

“GV hadn’t done any other fintech investments in Europe. Google looks at us as a tool that other firms can use to globalise. The investment was all about being developer-led.”

GV, which invests roughly $500m in high-growth tech companies globally, ws launched in 2009 with a deep tech and biosciences focus.

In a blog on the GV website, Mr Maris previously wrote: “Life science and health remain our most active areas of investment. They will continue to be a focus for us in 2016 and beyond.”

About a third of the fund’s investments are in life sciences companies, according to London-based partner Tom Hulme.

However, since new managing partner David Krane took up his role in August last year, the fund seems to be shifting gears, although it says it will continue to invest in life sciences companies.

“A core area of investment for us is fintech, reflected in deals like Stripe in November last year, and Align Commerce which was renamed Veem, announced this week,” Mr Hulme said.

“London is particularly interesting because there is a huge exit opportunity. We look for capital and potentially exit options, and London has great financiers, customers, and potential acquirers for a business like Currency Cloud in the long run.”

although it says it will continue to invest in life sciences companies.


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