Switched off over Christmas? Here’s the startup news you might have missed

Airwallex

Airwallex founding team. Source: supplied.

At StartupSmart, we’re firm believers in the benefits of switching off for a few weeks — especially at Christmas when you really should be busy napping, swimming and munching on prawns.

So, if you’re just getting ready to hit the New Year running, and you haven’t been keeping up with business headlines, that’s nothing to fret about. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the big news you may have missed.

A tainted unicorn

Aussie fintech darling Airwallex has had $US18 million ($26 million) of its funds frozen, in connection with an alleged fraud in Hong Kong, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

According to a statement from Airwallex, two former clients allegedly defrauded an Uruguayan company, Ciklus, and used their Airwallex accounts to complete the transactions.

A spokesperson said the fintech is an “innocent third party” in the situation, that it is an isolated incident, and that it has not had an impact on the everyday operations of the business.

They also said Airwallex was not aware of the fraud at the time of the transactions, and had conducted due diligence and know-your-customer procedures of the two accused companies.

“Since being informed of the fraud, we have been cooperating and assisting the police in their investigation of the matter, and are in frequent discussions with the police,” the spokesperson said.

Money, money, money

The end of the decade saw a flurry of funding activity in Australia, with several startups closing their funding rounds just in time to clock off for the Christmas break.

Most notably, coding startup Secure Code Warrior raised $69.2 million in Series B funding. The round was led by Goldman Sachs and also included ForgePoint Capital, Cisco Investments and existing investors AirTree Ventures and Paladin Capital Group.

biggest raise

Pieter Danhieux, co-founder and chief of Secure Code Warrior. Source: supplied.

Harrison.ai raised a massive $29 million in its first-ever funding round, securing funding from Blackbird Ventures, Horizon Ventures, Skip Capital and Ramsay Health Care.

Buildxact raised $8.5 million, including from Aconex co-founder Leigh Jasper, and food ordering app me&u raised $8 million.

And if that wasn’t enough, we also saw mortgage marketplace startup Funding.com.au bag $3.7 million, while energy IoT startup Aurtra secured $2 million, and Fable, the meat alternative startup founded by Shoes of Prey co-founder Michael Fox, nabbed $1.5 million. Phew.

Did we miss any? Let us know.

All the fun of the fintech

Just before Christmas, Fintech Australia released its submission to the fintech and regtech Senate inquiry, outlining some of the most pressing concerns from the community.

We would forgive you for not having this on your holiday reading list, so here are the headlines.

The ongoing confusion around the R&D tax incentive was highlighted as an issue of high priority, with the submission calling for guidance on how the scheme applies to software development in fintech.

The industry body also called for a review into the treatment of companies that have made software claims, and for a review into how the application process could be made simpler.

There was a focus on the new consumer data right (CDR) regime in Australia, and suggestions the government should conduct a campaign helping the public understand the new rules, and the opportunities they could bring.

However, there was also a call for clarity and certainty that the timelines for CDR and open banking, and assurance that they will meet the needs of everyone in the industry, not only the big four banks.

R&D

The paper raised concerns about the fragmented nature of regulatory responsibility, and made a suggestion that the government should reexamine the roles of each individual regulator.

Predictably, there were also concerns raised about access to capital for early-stage startups, and calls for the government to foster an educated network of angel investors.

The paper also addressed the Fintech Bridge, designed to help fintechs expand from Australia to the UK, and vice versa. Currently, the scheme is more beneficial to UK-founded startups, the paper suggested⁠ — something that should be rebalanced.

Fintech Australia also recommended establishing similar relationships with Asia Pacific countries with equivalent regulatory regimes, such as Singapore.

Uber news

On Christmas Eve, the news broke that perpetually problematic Uber co-founder and former chief Travis Kalanick has completely exited the business, selling the last of his stake in the company.

While the value of that stake wasn’t clear, in the most recent public filings, it was worth about $2.5 billion.

Uber also announced Kalanick was resigning from his position on Uber’s board, and would be gone by 2020.

Elsewhere in the land of tech giants, Facebook has been fined $US1.6 million in Brazil for ‘improperly sharing’ the data of 443,000 users for what the Ministry of Justice called “questionable purposes”.

And, prominent equities analyst Trip Chowdry has predicted Tesla shares could hit $US4,000 per share by 2030, as global demand for its products spike.

Google is also likely to be a winner of the decade, he said, but Uber, Lyft and US cycling sensation Peleton are on “life support” and will likely become ‘zombie companies’. Ouch.

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