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When you’ve got two exits under your belt by the age of 26 on July 30, 2023 at 2:16 pm

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In this week’s edition of The Interchange, we touch on M&As in the fintech space as AngelList nabbed a startup and Uplift got bought for less than it raised in venture funding. We get into those deals, and much more. Want to receive this in your inbox every Sunday? Sign up here.

Shopify’s credit bet, Jeeves’ update and AngelList’s second buy

Last week, Shopify announced a new offering — Shopify Credit, a business credit card designed exclusively for its merchants. The new product marked Shopify’s first pay-in-full business credit card, said Shopify president Harley Finkelstein. It is powered by Stripe and issued by Celtic Bank, “and accepted everywhere Visa is,” he added. My editor and I were intrigued by the fact that Shopify insisted it would charge no fees — no late fees, no foreign transaction fees, and no interest. But upon further digging into the fine print, as fellow fintech enthusiast Sar Haribhakti tweeted about, it turns out that Shopify is also describing the new offering as a “pay in full credit card.” So, merchants have 25 days after the close of their monthly billing cycle to pay their balance. And if they don’t? Well, according to Shopify’s website, the card will be locked and the merchant won’t be able to make any new purchases until the balance has been repaid. That explains how/why the company is not charging any interest! Unfortunately, I was traveling early last week and didn’t get to actually speak to Harley — our interview was over email, and somehow this little tidbit of information got left out. It certainly was not something that Shopify publicized. It feels like retail/commerce companies deciding to go into the credit card space should proceed with some caution, though, if Apple’s experience is any indication. The Information did a deep dive last week on how “the tech giant and the Wall Street titan went from ‘the most successful credit card launch ever’ to Goldman trying to exit the partnership.”

I also gave us an update on fintech startup Jeeves, which did something that us reporters wish more (actually, all) private companies would do — share financials. We’ve been covering the goings-on at Jeeves since the startup first emerged from stealth in July of 2021, announcing $131 million in debt and equity financing from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz (a16z). It then announced a $57 million Series B exactly three months later. Jeeves is among the many players in the corporate card space — but CEO and founder Dileep Thazhmon believes it’s got an advantage over competitors in that it can serve clients in Latin America (its biggest market) and other regions by offering cards that can be paid in local currencies. That’s a big deal, he says, because businesses can save money on foreign transaction fees, for example. He told us: “This is a really big differentiator because it means we’re the only expense management company that can issue local cards in Latin America, North America and Europe. It takes time to build rails in other countries. If you look at U.S.-based expense management platforms, they cannot onboard a company headquartered in Mexico. If you look at Mexican expense management providers, they cannot onboard a company [that] is headquartered in the U.S. Jeeves can do both.” Read about how Jeeves entered 2023 with annualized revenue of $40 million, its recent expansion beyond corporate cards into prepaid cards and cross-border payments, and what its plans for the future are here.

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I also got the exclusive on some big news out of AngelList — its purchase of fintech startup Nova and formal expansion into the private equity space. I talked both with AngelList CEO Avlok Kohli and Nova founder Pradyuman Vig about how the deal came about and what the expansion means for the organization. On Friday’s episode of the Equity podcast, Alex Wilhelm, Kirsten Korosec and I dug into what some might consider an unexpected move for AngelList — which has historically served early-stage investors. Hint: We thought it might have a little something to do with its 2022 raise that was co-led by a global investor that rhymes with Kiger. Private equity talk aside, it’s always cool to see a young founder with not just one exit under their belt, but two — by the age of 26. — Mary Ann

Image Credits: Founder Dileep Thazhmon / Jeeves

Weekly News

What do caregiving and divorce have in common? Financial stress for employees. This week, Christine reported on Helpful raising $7.5 million. The new app brings together insurance benefits, medical records and caregiving resources into one dashboard.

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As reported by Manish Singh: “The world’s largest asset manager is re-entering India — and it’s doing so in a partnership with Asia’s richest man. Jio Financial Services and BlackRock have struck a deal to form a joint venture, called Jio BlackRock, aimed at serving India’s growing investor base. BlackRock and Reliance’s finance unit are targeting an initial investment of $150 million each into the new 50/50 venture, which will seek to offer tech-enabled access to ‘affordable, innovative’ investment solutions for millions of investors in India, they said.” More here.

Dan Macklin, co-founder of SoFi, has joined Summer as president to help more students and families navigate and reduce student loans. TechCrunch reported on his original departure from SoFi here.

We spotted a tweet (or whatever it’s called now) by Forbes’ Alex Konrad this week about his interview with Victor Lazarte (the former CEO of Brazilian games startup Wildlife Studios), who is Benchmark’s newest equal partner. Lazarte told Forbes that he will invest broadly but has an interest in startups in games, consumer and fintech. TechCrunch’s Connie Loizos caught up with Benchmark’s Miles Grimshaw in June to discuss AI investment. More here.

Also, feds raised rates, and now some fintechs are doing so, too. Wealthfront announced on X that the rate on its “Cash Account” is increasing to 4.80% APY (annual percentage yield), up from 4.55% through its partner banks. If you refer a friend, you get 5.30% APY. Perhaps an interesting note is the up to $5 million FDIC insurance (and $10 million for joint accounts) being offered. Not to be outdone is Robinhood, which also announced via X that it was offering 4.9% APY on accounts that were FDIC-insured up to $2 million through program banks.

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What else we’re reading

Six ways FedNow may affect businesses’ cash flow 

Vesttoo investigation reveals $4B fraud involving fake letters of credit

John Collison’s land grab: A Stripe co-founder grows in power

Mastercard’s cease-and-desist letters halt cannabis debit card transactions

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Clearwater Analytics to launch new generative artificial intelligence solution for investment management

American Express introduces commercial partner program

Fundings and M&A

Seen on TechCrunch

Upgrade acquires travel-focused BNPL startup Uplift for a song (This is particularly notable considering that Uplift got acquired for far less than it raised over its lifetime.)

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GlossGenius raises $28M to expand its bookings and payments platform for beauty businesses

Bloom Money raises £1M to digitize finance for ethnic communities

a16z-backed Eco unveils Beam, a P2P crypto transfer service aiming to be a ‘global Venmo’

Bunq, the Dutch neobank, has raised $111M at a flat $1.8B valuation to break into the US 

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Seen elsewhere

Inspectify, which sells software for property inspection services, lands $5.7M 

Digital MGA Foxquilt secures $12M funding

Houston workforce training startup acquired by California company

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Mercury Financial secures $200M for its credit card business expansion

Deposit ‘marketplace’ launches with backing from BMO

Settle books $145M credit facility from Silicon Valley Bank 

Join us at TechCrunch Disrupt 2023 in San Francisco this September as we explore the impact of fintech on our world today. New this year, we will have a whole day dedicated to all things fintech, featuring some of today’s leading fintech figures. Save up to $600 when you buy your pass now through August 11, and save 15% on top of that with promo code INTERCHANGE. Learn more.

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Image Credits: Bryce Durbin

​ In this week’s edition of The Interchange, we touch on M&As in the fintech space as AngelList nabbed a startup and Uplift got bought for less than it raised in venture funding. We get into those deals, and much more. Want to receive this in your inbox every Sunday? Sign up here. Shopify’s credit bet, 

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Humans Need Not Apply: The AI Candidate Promising to Disrupt Democracy

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The rise of AI Steve, the artificial intelligence candidate running for a seat in the UK Parliament, has sparked a heated debate about the role of AI in governance and the potential disruption it could bring to traditional democratic processes.

Steven Endacott, the human force behind AI Steve, envisions his AI co-pilot as a conduit for direct democracy, enabling constituents to engage with the AI, share concerns, and shape its policy platform through a voting system of “validators.” Endacott has pledged to vote in Parliament according to the AI’s constituent-driven platform, even if it conflicts with his personal views.

Proponents argue that AI Steve can revolutionize politics by bringing more voices into the process and ensuring that policies truly reflect the will of the people. They claim that an AI candidate can engage in up to 10,000 conversations simultaneously, allowing for unprecedented levels of public participation and input.

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However, critics raise valid concerns about transparency, accountability, and the potential for AI systems to be manipulated or influenced by their creators, data limitations, or external actors. There are also questions about whether an AI can fully grasp the nuances and human elements involved in complex political issues.

Some argue that AI Steve is merely a clever marketing ploy to garner attention and votes, rather than a genuine effort to “humanize” politics. There are fears that the use of AI in elections could undermine faith in electoral outcomes and democratic processes if voters become aware of potential scams or manipulation.

 

Beyond the specific case of AI Steve, the rise of AI candidates and the increasing use of AI in political campaigns and elections raise broader questions about the integrity of democratic systems and the need for effective regulations and guidelines.

Anti-democratic actors and authoritarian regimes may seek to exploit AI technologies for censorship, surveillance, and suppressing dissent under the guise of enhancing governance. There are also concerns about the potential for an “AI arms race” between political parties to develop and deploy the most sophisticated AI technologies, further eroding public trust.

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As AI tools become more advanced and accessible, upholding electoral integrity will require proactive efforts to establish guardrails, transparency measures, and accountability frameworks around their use in politics. Policymakers, advocates, and citizens must work together to ensure that AI is leveraged as a force for a better and more inclusive democracy, rather than a tool for manipulation or consolidation of power.

The rise of AI candidates like AI Steve serves as a wake-up call for democratic societies to grapple with the implications of artificial intelligence in governance and to strike the right balance between harnessing its potential benefits and mitigating its risks to the democratic process.

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Saudi Arabia Says ‘Thank You, Next’ to the US Dollar

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Saudi Arabia is reportedly considering abandoning the US dollar for oil trade settlements, a move that could shake the foundations of the global financial system. For decades, the petrodollar system has propped up the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency, with Saudi Arabia insisting on dollar payments for its vast oil exports.

However, recent comments from Saudi officials hint at exploring alternatives to the dollar amid growing tensions with the US over various geopolitical issues and the rise of economic powerhouses like China.

Implications of a Petrodollar Shift

If Saudi Arabia abandons the petrodollar, the implications could be significant:

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1. Dollar Dominance Eroded: The dollar’s reserve currency status could weaken, potentially leading to a decline in its value.
2. Global Financial Instability: A sudden shift could trigger volatility in global markets as investors adjust portfolios.
3. Geopolitical Realignment: The move could signal Saudi alignment with China and challenge US economic hegemony.

Challenges and Uncertainties

While the prospect is significant, challenges remain:

1. Finding a suitable alternative currency with the dollar’s liquidity and stability.
2. Potential economic disruption for Saudi Arabia and trading partners.
3. Political backlash and strained relations with the US and allies.

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As the world watches, it remains uncertain whether Saudi Arabia’s comments signal a negotiating tactic or a profound shift in the global financial order.

 

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X Opens the Door to Adult Content With New Policy

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X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, has made a significant policy shift by officially permitting adult content on its platform with some restrictions and guidelines.

In an update to its rules, X stated that users can now share “consensually produced and distributed adult nudity or sexual behavior” as long as it is properly labeled and not prominently displayed in areas like profile pictures or header images.

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“We recognize that many of our users are adults who want to freely express themselves by sharing legal adult content,” said an X spokesperson. “At the same time, we have a responsibility to protect minors and prevent exposure to explicit material without proper labeling.”

Under the new guidelines, users who “regularly post” adult content must adjust their settings to automatically mark images and videos as sensitive content, which blurs or hides the media by default. By default, users under 18 or who haven’t entered their birth date cannot view this sensitive adult content.

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The policy prohibits content “promoting exploitation, nonconsent, objectification, sexualization or harm to minors, and obscene behaviors.” It applies to all adult content, whether photographic, animated, or AI-generated.

X has stated that it will monitor user-generated content and adjust account settings for those who fail to properly mark pornographic posts. Similar rules and enforcement will apply to violent content as well.

The move aligns X with Apple’s app store guidelines, which allow apps with adult content as long as it is hidden by default and behind proper age gates and content warnings.

While adult content was already present on X, this policy update officially permits and regulates it, aiming to balance freedom of expression for consenting adults with protecting minors from exposure to explicit material.

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However, enforcing these rules consistently may prove challenging for X’s reduced content moderation teams following recent layoffs and cost-cutting measures.

The policy shift has drawn mixed reactions, with some praising X for embracing adult expression while others raise concerns about the potential for the platform to become inundated with pornographic content despite the restrictions.

As X navigates this new territory, the effectiveness of its labeling requirements, age verification measures, and content moderation efforts will be closely watched by users, regulators, and advocacy groups alike.

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If you want to create awesome branded experiences that truly captivate your audience, look no further than Bolanle Media. Our team of experts specializes in crafting immersive, unforgettable events that seamlessly blend creativity and strategy. From product launches to experiential marketing activations, we’ll ensure your brand makes a lasting impression. With our finger on the pulse of the latest trends and technologies, we’ll help you engage customers in innovative ways they’ll be buzzing about. Don’t settle for ordinary – let Bolanle Media elevate your brand with extraordinary experiences tailored to your unique vision. Click this link to learn more and take your marketing to new heights.

 

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