02 Dec 2019

TechBits, Dec 02, 2019

1. Africa Roundup: Nigerian fintech gets $360M, mints unicorn, draws Chinese VC

  • November 2019 could mark when Nigeria (arguably) became Africa’s unofficial capital for fintech investment and digital finance startups.
  • The month saw $360 million invested in Nigerian focused payment ventures. That is equivalent to roughly one-third of all the startup VC raised for the entire continent in 2018, according to Partech stats.
  • A notable trend-within-the-trend is that more than half — or $170 million — of the funding to Nigerian fintech ventures in November came from Chinese investors. This marks a pivot in China’s engagement with Africa to tech. We’ll get to that.

2. Pixpay is a challenger bank for teens focused on pocket money

  • Meet Pixpay, a French startup that wants to replace cash when you’re handing out pocket money to your kids. Anybody who is older than 10 years old can create a Pixpay account, get a debit card and manage pocket money.
  • Challenger banks are nothing new, but they’re still mostly targeted towards adults. If you want to create an N26 or Revolut account, you need to be at least 18 years old. You can create a Lydia account if you’re at least 14 years old with parental consent.
  • Pixpay, like Kard, wants to fill that gap and offer modern payment methods to teens so that you can ditch cash altogether. Parents and kids both download the Pixpay app to interact with the service.

3. Scientists turn undersea fiber optic cables into seismographs

  • Monitoring seismic activity all over the world is an important task, but one that requires equipment to be at the site it’s measuring — difficult in the middle of the ocean. But new research from Berkeley could turn existing undersea fiber optic cables into a network of seismographs, creating an unprecedented global view of the Earth’s tectonic movements.
  • Seismologists get almost all their data from instruments on land, which means most of our knowledge about the seismic activity is limited to a third of the planet’s surface. We don’t even know where all the faults are since there’s been no exhaustive study or long-term monitoring of the ocean floor.

4. Foodvisor raises $4.5 million to track what you eat using AI

  • French startup Foodvisor has raised a $4.5 million funding round after generating 2 million app downloads. Agrinnovation is leading the round and various business angels are also participating.
  • I covered Foodvisor last month, so I’m not going to describe the app once again. In a few words, the startup uses deep learning to enable image recognition to detect what you’re about to eat. It can detect the type of food and it also tries to estimate the weight of each item.
  • Foodvisor calculates the distance between your plate and your phone using autofocus data from the camera. It then calculates the area of each item in your plate. You can manually correct information before you log it.

5. Bunq launches metal card and plants a tree for every €100 spent

  • Fintech startup Bunq is launching a metal card called the Green Card. While some banks offer a cashback program with premium cards, Bunq is offering a special kind of “cashback”. For every €100 spent, Bunq plants a tree. The company has partnered with Eden Reforestation Projects to finance reforestation around the globe.
  • Manufacturing a metal card isn’t particularly environmentally friendly. That’s why the Green Card expires after six years instead of four years. It is also made of recyclable material (even though I’m not sure it’s that easy to recycle a metal card with a chip, a magnetic stripe, and an NFC antenna after it expires).
  • Other than that, the Green Card works more or less like the Travel Card. While Bunq offers traditional bank accounts, you can order a Travel Card or a Green Card and keep your existing bank account.

6. Vinted, the second-hand clothes marketplace, raises $141M at a $1B+ valuation

  • The market for second-hand clothes — the “circular economy” as it’s sometimes called — has been on the rise in the last several years, fuelled by economic crunches, a desire to make more responsible and less wasteful fashion choices, and a wave of digital platforms that are bringing the selling and buying of used clothes outside the charity shop. Today, one of the bigger companies in Europe working in the third of these areas is announcing a huge round of funding to double down on the trend.
  • Vinted, a site where consumers can sell and buy second-hand fashion has raised €128 million (around $140.9 million) in around that is being led by Lightspeed Venture Partners, with previous backers Sprints Capital, Insight Venture Partners, Accel and Burda Principal Investments also participating.n Ub
  • With this investment, the startup — founded and headquartered out of Vilnius, Lithuania — has passed a valuation of $1 billion (it is not specifying an exact amount), making it one of the biggest startups to come out of the country (but not the Baltics’ first unicorn… Estoniaer competitor Bolt, formerly known as Taxify, is also valued at over $1 billion.)

 

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