In Q1 2018, FinTech Startups Raise Record Amounts While Deal Counts Fall

Crunchbase News has covered the U.S. FinTech space a great deal since the start of the quarter. From looking at FinTech’s early-stage stars of 2017 and 2018 to NYC’s growing fintech scene, to traveling down south to Atlanta, which has a FinTech startup scene of its own.

To get a hold on the space in Q1 2018, we take a look at venture dollar invested into U.S.-based FinTech startups quarter by quarter since 2016.

Inside The Numbers

Crunchbase News’s definition of FinTech encompasses a broad range of startups that leverage deep learning technology and big data in order to streamline tax processes, make paying friends easier, and provide better insurance options.1

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Since 2016, more than $15.6 billion has been invested in seed, early, and late-stage U.S.-based FinTech startups. 2017 accounts for more than $7 billion of that total. Total dollar volume saw an increase of 25 percent year over year from 2016 to 2017.

According to Crunchbase data, known dollar volume has grown by approximately 92 percent from $1.3 billion in Q1 2016 to $2.5 billion in Q1 2018. Meanwhile, the number of deals decreased by 37.1 percent during the same period.

Looking at the data by known investment type, as is typical of most industries, the majority of known investments were directed toward early-stage startups, with Seed, Angel, Series A, and Series B deals making up nearly 66 percent of all 136 FinTech deals of disclosed investment type in Q1 2018.

In Q4 2017, late-stage deals accounted for nearly 63 percent of total known dollars raised, while early and seed-stage deals made up 31 and 6 percent respectively. By comparison, in Q1 2018, late-stage deals accounted for nearly 76 percent of venture capital directed toward deals of known dollar volume. Early and seed-stage deals accounted for 22 and 2 percent of the total.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the seed, early and late-stage startups that raised last quarter.

Seed Stage: Meritize

One startup that picked up funding in Q1 2018 was seed-stage private student loan startup Meritize. It was founded in 2016 by CEO Chris Keaveney and CFO Phillip Stegner and launched in January 2017. A little over a year after its official launch, the startup raised a $6.8 million Seed round led by Chicago Ventures, Cochis Capital Management, ECMC Group, and Cube Financial Holdings.

The startup aims to offer student loans by taking into consideration individual academic performance data. The company’s mission is based on an understanding that individuals who have a history of high performance are more inclined to pay off their loans on time.

“Students pursuing education for highly specialized and skills-based jobs offer solid ROI, not only for their own employment prospects, but also from a lending perspective,” said Keaveney in Meritize’s announcement.

According to the company, prior to its funding round, Meritize had experienced month-over-month growth of 30 percent in the number of loan applicants. It plans on using the capital from its seed round to grow its team and increase support sales and marketing efforts.

Early Stage: Branch International

Mobile lending company Branch International (Branch) raised the largest known round for early-stage startups with a $70 million Series B led by Silicon Valley-based Trinity Ventures.

Other backers included CreditEase Fintech Investment Fund and International Finance Corporation. Andreessen Horowitz, which led the company’s previous $9.2 million Series A in March 2016, also participated. The company has raised $80 million to date.

Branch was founded in 2015 by Matthew Flannery, co-founder and former CEO of microloan startup Kiva, and Daniel Jung. The startup aims to provide individuals in emerging markets with lines of credit through its branchless mobile banking product.

Branch started off in Kenya, a place that is home to what the Economist has called “the world’s leading mobile money system.” It has since moved on to Tanzania and Nigeria. With its focus on emerging markets in Africa, the company has tapped into a potentially lucrative, yet neglected, mobile credit market.

Branch offers loans that start at just $2. According to TechCrunch, that amount in areas of Nigeria and Kenya has the equivalent spending capacity of about $40 in the U.S.

At the time of its funding, Branch reported processing tens of thousands of loans daily with 20 percent month-over-month growth. In 2018, it expected to disburse $250 million in loans. With its latest funding, Branch is aiming to expand in Africa and launch in India. The startup will also offer more products like savings and payment accounts.

Late Stage: Oscar Health

Founded by Jared Kushner’s brother, Josh Kushner, along with Kevin Nazemi and Mario Schlosser, Oscar Health is a late-stage health insurance company that originally intended to provide plans in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. The New York-based company raised $165 million in March 2018 in a round led by Founders Fund. CapitalG, an investment arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, also participated.

Before this capital investment, the company’s most recent funding event was a $400 million private equity investment led by Fidelity Investments in February 2016. The latest round brought the company’s valuation up to a reported $3.2 billion, and its known total funds raised to over $892 million across seven rounds from 19 known investors.

With obvious political changes affecting the company’s platform, it shifted focus by beginning to charge higher premiums for a smaller network, while adding mobile features and accessibility to its users. The company reportedly cut its healthcare network by 20,000 in New York in 2017, and from 778 hospitals to 31, according to Bloomberg. It succeeded in reducing its network and staying afloat by leveraging big data like insurance claims to provide users with a list of what the data concludes are the “right” doctors.

According to its press release, the company enrolled nearly 250,000 members in 2018 and projects a gross premium revenue of more than $1 billion. It will use its fresh funds to continue expansion “at a rate of 4-5 cities every year, in individual, small group, and other market segments.”

Moving Forward

A decline in the number of deals over recent quarters, combined with an increase in total capital directed toward late-stage deals, could indicate growing sector maturity.

Even so, the landscape of the FinTech startup ecosystem will likely continue to shift. With more companies like Meritize attempting to help the Snapchat generation break into traditionally opaque systems like student loans and car insurance, we may see more funding for more FinTech startups in the future.

  1. Companies considered in this analysis are those in categories including FinTech, insurance, InsureTech, payments, mobile payments, lending, banking, credit cards, credit, credit bureau, personal finance, financial services, and financial exchanges.

Illustration Credit: Li Anne Dias