The FGB Digest brings you the latest news on the world’s fastest growing direct-to-consumer and challenger brands. In today’s edition: Playbook raises USD$3m in changing exercise market; Chipper Cash raises for African cross-border finance; and Upgrade completes Series D round to become Unicorn.
Playbook raises USD$3m in changing exercise market
Playbook, aiming to be the Patreon of fitness content, announced the close of a USD$3m seed round from several notable angels today. The investor roster includes Giphy founder Alex Chung, StyleSeat founder Melody McCloskey, and Eventbrite co-founder Renaud Visage.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing, the fitness space has gone through a transformation. Peloton has surged, ClassPass has pseudo-pivoted and traditional gyms have struggled to find their groove in this new world.
Playbook looked to these fitness ventures, as well as broader entertainment communities, to model its business. The company offers consumers an unlimited subscription for either USD$15/month or USD$99/year to consume as much fitness content as they’d like.
Playbook isn’t really built with a focus on the end user, but rather starts from the premise of giving creators the tools they need to foster their own community of users. The startup focuses the vast majority of its energy on offering creators a space where they can create and monetize their content on their own terms.
The startup, co-founded by Jeff Krahel, Michael Wojcieszek and Kasper Odegaard, takes a 20% cut of customer fees, with the rest going to creators.
Chipper Cash raises for African cross-border finance
African cross-border fintech startup Chipper Cash has closed a USD$13.8m Series A funding round led by Deciens Capital and plans to hire 30 new staff globally.
The raise caps an event-filled run for the San Francisco-based payments company, founded two years ago by Ugandan Ham Serunjogi and Ghanaian Maijid Moujaled.
After launching Chipper Cash in 2018, the duo convinced 500 Startups and Liquid 2 Ventures — co-founded by American football legend Joe Montana — to back their company with seed funds.
Two years and USD$22m in total capital raised later, Chipper Cash offers its mobile-based, no fee, P2P payment services in seven countries: Ghana, Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Africa and Kenya.
“We’re now at over one and a half million users and doing over a USD$100m dollars a month in volume,” Serunjogi told TechCrunch. The company will use its latest round to hire up to 30 people across operations in San Francisco, Lagos, London, Nairobi and New York, according to Serunjogi.
Upgrade completes Series D round to become Unicorn
In its Series D, Upgrade managed to update its valuation from USD$500m set during its 2018 Series C. Santander InnoVentures, the CVC associated with the banking giant Santander, led the latest investment.
The company is a fintech startup with a credit-focus today, though it intends to add more neobank-like tooling, such as digital checking accounts, in Q3. Instead of starting with a checking-and-savings structure like so many neobanks, Upgrade kicked off with personal loans and credit cards.
Upgrade saw USD$60m in revenue in 2019 and expects USD$160m this year. Upgrade has a different philosophy than some credit card providers, in the view of its CEO, Renaud Laplanche. “Banks have an incentive to keep customers in debt as long as possible,” Laplanche said during an interview with TechCrunch. Upgrade, in contrast, offers lower rates — cards starting at 6.9%, under what the CEO described as a market-normal entry rate of 12% to 13% — and set repayment periods for debts so that customers don’t wind up in a credit cycle that never ends, sapping them of financial health.
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