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May 23, 2019
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OpenFin raises $17 million for its OS for finance

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OpenFin, the company looking to provide the operating system for the financial services industry, has raised $17 million in funding through a Series C round led by Wells Fargo, with participation from Barclays and existing investors including Bain Capital Ventures, J.P. Morgan and Pivot Investment Partners. Previous investors in OpenFin also include DRW Venture Capital, Euclid Opportunities and NYCA Partners.

Likening itself to “the OS of finance”, OpenFin seeks to be the operating layer on which applications used by financial services companies are built and launched, akin to iOS or Android for your smartphone.

OpenFin’s operating system provides three key solutions which, while present on your mobile phone, has previously been absent in the financial services industry: easier deployment of apps to end users, fast security assurances for applications, and interoperability.

Traders, analysts and other financial service employees often find themselves using several separate platforms simultaneously, as they try to source information and quickly execute multiple transactions. Yet historically, the desktop applications used by financial services firms — like trading platforms, data solutions, or risk analytics — haven’t communicated with one another, with functions performed in one application not recognized or reflected in external applications.

“On my phone, I can be in my calendar app and tap an address, which opens up Google Maps. From Google Maps, maybe I book an Uber . From Uber, I’ll share my real-time location on messages with my friends. That’s four different apps working together on my phone,” OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar explained to TechCrunch. That cross-functionality has long been missing in financial services.

As a result, employees can find themselves losing precious time — which in the world of financial services can often mean losing money — as they juggle multiple screens and perform repetitive processes across different applications.

Additionally, major banks, institutional investors and other financial firms have traditionally deployed natively installed applications in lengthy processes that can often take months, going through long vendor packaging and security reviews that ultimately don’t prevent the software from actually accessing the local system.

OpenFin CEO and co-founder Mazy Dar. Image via OpenFin

As former analysts and traders at major financial institutions, Dar and his co-founder Chuck Doerr (now President & COO of OpenFin) recognized these major pain points and decided to build a common platform that would enable cross-functionality and instant deployment. And since apps on OpenFin are unable to access local file systems, banks can better ensure security and avoid prolonged yet ineffective security review processes.

And the value proposition offered by OpenFin seems to be quite compelling. Openfin boasts an impressive roster of customers using its platform, including over 1,500 major financial firms, almost 40 leading vendors, and 15 out of the world’s 20 largest banks.

Over 1,000 applications have been built on the OS, with OpenFin now deployed on more than 200,000 desktops — a noteworthy milestone given that the ever popular Bloomberg Terminal, which is ubiquitously used across financial institutions and investment firms, is deployed on roughly 300,000 desktops.

Since raising their Series B in February 2017, OpenFin’s deployments have more than doubled. The company’s headcount has also doubled and its European presence has tripled. Earlier this year, OpenFin also launched it’s OpenFin Cloud Services platform, which allows financial firms to launch their own private local app stores for employees and customers without writing a single line of code.

To date, OpenFin has raised a total of $40 million in venture funding and plans to use the capital from its latest round for additional hiring and to expand its footprint onto more desktops around the world. In the long run, OpenFin hopes to become the vital operating infrastructure upon which all developers of financial applications are innovating.

Apple and Google’s mobile operating systems and app stores have enabled more than a million apps that have fundamentally changed how we live,” said Dar. “OpenFin OS and our new app store services enable the next generation of desktop apps that are transforming how we work in financial services.”

News Source = techcrunch.com

Truphone, an eSIM mobile carrier that works with Apple, raises another $71M, now valued at $507M

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Truphone — a UK startup that provides global mobile voice and data services by way of an eSIM model for phones, tablets and IoT devices — said that it has raised another £18 million ($23.7 million) in funding; additionally securing £36 million ($47 million) more “on a conditional basis” to expand its business after signing “a number of high-value deals.”

It doesn’t specify which deals these are, but Truphone was an early partner of Apple’s to provide eSIM-based connectivity to the iPad; and it will also be offering a service for new iPhone XS and XR models, taking advantage of the dual SIM capability. Truphone says that strategic partners of the company include Apple (“which chose Truphone as the only carrier to offer global data, voice and text plans on the iPad and iPhone digital eSIM”); Synopsys, which has integrated Truphone’s eSIM technology into its chipset designs; and Workz Group, a SIM manufacturer, which has a license from Truphone for its GSMA-accredited remote SIM provisioning platform and SIM operating system.

The company said that this funding, which was made by way of a rights issue, values Truphone at £386 million ($507 million at today’s rates) post-money. Truphone told TechCrunch that the funding came from Vollin Holdings and Minden Worldwide — two investment firms with ties to Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who also owns the Chelsea football club, among other things — along with unspecified minority shareholders. Collectively, Abramovich-connected entities control more than 80 percent of the company.

We have asked the company for more detail on what the conditions are for the additional £36 million in funding to be released and all it is willing to say is that “it’s KPI-driven and related to the speed of growth in the business.”

For some context, Truphone most recently raised money almost exactly a year ago, when it picked up £255 million also by way of a rights issue, and also from the same two big investors. The large amount that time was partly being raised to retire debt. That deal was done at a valuation of £370 million ($491 million at the time of the deal). Going just on sterling values, this is a slight down-round.

Truphone, however, says that business is strong right now:

“The appetite for our technology has been enormous and we are thrilled that our investors have given us the opportunity to accelerate and scale these groundbreaking products to market,” said Ralph Steffens, CEO, Truphone, in a statement. “We recognised early on that the more integrated the supply chain, the smoother the customer experience. That recognition paid off—not just for our customers, but for our business. Because we have this capability, we can move at a speed and proficiency that has never before seen in our industry. This investment is particularly important because it is testament not just to our investors’ confidence in our ambitions, but pride in our accomplishments and enthusiasm to see more of what we can do.”

Truphone is one of a handful of providers that is working with Apple to provide plans for the digital eSIM by way of the MyTruphone app. Essentially this will give users an option for international data plans while travelling — Truphone’s network covers 80 countries — without having to swap out the SIMs for their home networks.

The eSIM technology is bigger than the iPhone itself, of course: some believe it could be the future of how we connect on mobile networks. On phones and tablets, it does away with users ordering, and inserting or swapping small, fiddly chips into their devices (that ironically is also one reason that carriers have been resistant to eSIMs traditionally: it makes it much easier for their customers to churn away). And in IoT networks where you might have thousands of connected, unmanned devices, this becomes one way of scaling those networks.

“eSIM technology is the next big thing in telecommunications and the impact will be felt by everyone involved, from consumers to chipset manufacturers and all those in-between,” said Steve Alder, chief business development officer at Truphone. “We’re one of only a handful of network operators that work with the iPhone digital eSIM. Choosing Truphone means that your new iPhone works across the world—just as it was intended.” Of note, Alder was the person who brokered the first iPhone carrier deal in the UK, when he was with O2.

Truphone has not released numbers detailing how many devices are using its eSIM services at the moment — either among enterprises or consumers — but it has said that customers include more than 3,500 multinational enterprises in 196 countries. We’ll update this post as we learn more.

News Source = techcrunch.com

Truphone raises $339M to retire debt and step up in connecting IoT devices

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Truphone, a mobile company based out of London that made a name for itself through low-cost international mobile voice and data plans, is taking a very big step forward in a strategy to catapult itself into the future of communications: the company has picked up a massive £255 million ($339 million), funding that it will use to retire its debt and double down on providing data connectivity for connected devices beyond mobile phones.

This investment is being done as a rights issue, an issue of shares to existing shareholders at a special price: in this case, Minden and Vollin Holdings, two investment firms with ties to Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who also owns the football club Chelsea among other things. Prior to today’s news, the pair already owned an 83 percent stake in Truphone.

Truphone’s CEO Ralph Steffens told TechCrunch that the round values Truphone at £370 million ($491 million). This is not large premium compared to Truphone’s last reported round and is far less than the total the company has raised in its life: In 2013 Truphone raised £75 million at a £300 million valuation, and to date, it raised just under $600 million.

A large part of today’s investment, Steffens said, was being made to pay down Truphone’s debt and go forward with a clean slate.

The company has been around since 2006 (I’m guessing it may have outlasted the statute of limitations on being called a “startup”) and in the last three to four years specifically has racked up about £239 million in debt, Steffens said, as it was expanding its business.

The rest is going towards investing back into the company and specifically into acquisitions to further its business in IoT, an area where Truphone have been laying some groundwork already. “We’re making a strategic acquisition that we may announce in a matter of days,” he said.

The rush of new, smart devices that work in part by connecting to the internet is bringing in a new group of startups to provide that connectivity. In addition to Truphone, others in the same area of business include Cubic Telecom — which works with Audi on connected vehicles and also recently raised some funding to fuel its growth.

Truphone, Steffens said, does have a deal “with a carmaker” too (although he declined to name it), but said that its interest in IoT goes beyond that. “We were focused on the automotive industry initially, but in the last six to nine months, we have had a substantial pull from other verticals.”

Interestingly, Truphone’s basic technology is at the root both of the company’s legacy business, and the business it hopes to tap into in the future.

Truphone’s original premise of offering low-cost international voice and data plans for users was based on software that essentially patched together capacity from multiple carriers across multiple countries. That gave Truphone users the ability to buy one allowances and use it roaming in other countries for no extra charge.

The play now for providers of these services is to use that same framework of cheap voice and data and apply it to any device that might need it, be it a vehicle or your new home alarm or a machine at a factory.

“We have a high degree of confidence from the investor community that we are on the right track,” Steffens said of Truphone’s move deeper into IoT. “We are having increasingly very relevant conversations with tier one and blue chip companies to offer advanced solutions.” These, he said, could be in automotive vehicles as well as the wider range of ‘smart’ devices that are coming to market.

Meanwhile, company’s current business remains continues to build on its legacy services.

These include Truphone’s low-cost mobile services that are usable in some 220 countries, ongoing services for 3,500 enterprise customers (an obvious target market for roaming packages), and newer initiatives like a strategic partnership with Apple.

Truphone works as a connectivity provider for Apple’s e-Sim-based hardware, which today is only its iPad tablets. Steffens describes this partnership as going “full speed ahead” at the moment. Truphone is targeting to be live on Apple’s devices in 30 markets by the end of this year, and 54 by next year. 

Steffens added that Truphone is “well on track to be profitable” in 2018. “It doesn’t require heroic efforts on our part, nor larger tier-one engagements, I mean just as the business stands today.”

Featured Image: NicoElNino/Getty Images

News Source = techcrunch.com

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