The startup funding round: Fintechs galore, records broken and a $1 billion cash injection

Deferit co-founders Mat Blas and Jonty Hirsowitz. Source: supplied.

Startup funding has been coming thick and fast in 2021 so far. While here at SmartCompany we cover as much as we can, there are always raises we don’t get to report on in depth.

So, here’s the first of your new weekly wrap-ups of all the capital raises we saw closed this week.

Did I miss anything? Let me know.


Fintech Deferit has raised $15 million in an oversubscribed Series B round, for yet another take on the buy-now, pay-later trend.

Founded by Mat Blas and Jonty Hirsowitz, the tool allows users to defer payments on their utility bills.

Over the past 12 months, Deferit has grown its user base by about 150%, and according to a statement, it’s already saved users about $10 million in late fees.

The round was led by existing investor Carthona Capital and a new backer Alceon group.

“We believe [the founders] have the product and vision to make Deferit a lead player in the $211 billion pay-later vertical of everyday bills,” Carthona Capital Partner Dean Dorrell said.


Accounting software startup Karbon has reportedly secured US$10 million ($12.9 million) from US VC firm Five Elms.

Founded in 2014 by Aussie entrepreneurs Stuart McLeod and John Freeman, who are now based in the US, the startup saw a period of strong growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small and medium businesses became more inclined to adopt accounting software, Mcleod told the Australian Financial Review.

“Accountants were very happy with relying on being together every day to work out where everybody was up to, but all of a sudden that wasn’t a suitable mechanism for workflow,” he said.

The co-founders weren’t necessarily looking for capital, but the uptick in adoption led to a flurry of inbound VC enquiries.

“We wanted to take advantage of the inbound interest and work with a partner who would be with us from a $10 million to a $30 million run rate range and beyond.”


Marketplace and procurement platform VendorPanel has raised $4.5 million in Series B funding as it gears up for growth in the US.

Founded by James Leathem back in 2018, the business has secured repeat funding from Aconex co-founder Leigh Jasper, as well as from Five V Capital and Equity Venture Partners.

Private wealth management group Ord Minnett also reportedly participated, as well as investor Andrew Sypkes.

The round reportedly followed a successful ‘soft launch’ in the US. That international expansion represents a huge opportunity for the startup, and it’s something the investors latched on to.

“I initially invested in VendorPanel because of the strong network effects demonstrated in the business model,” Jasper reportedly said.

“The team has delivered ever-accelerating growth since then, and I’m doubling down as VendorPanel gains traction in the US.”


VendorPanel founder and chief James Leathem. Source: Supplied.


In more fintech news, Melbourne-based personal loan startup Symple has secured $15 million in Series D funding, bringing its total capital raised to $130 million, in equity and debt funding.

The funding is pegged for accelerating the startup’s growth strategy. Founder and chief Bob Belan says he anticipates an increase in demand as the Australian economy starts to recover following the COVID-19 crisis.

Aussie fintechs had a role to play in supporting the recovery, by offering alternative lending options and meeting an “inherent consumer demand”, he said in a statement.

“We remain focused on building on our momentum to date and doubling-down on our vision to redefine how personal lending ought to work.”


Last week, in yet more fintech funding news, SME financial admin startup Thrive hit its equity crowdfunding goal of $3 million in just three days.

The Birchal campaign had previously been the fastest startup to reach the $1 million benchmark through equity crowdfunding.

The total figure also equals the biggest ever funding round through this method of funding, equalling women-only rideshare startup Shebah, which bagged $3 million back in April 2019.

Speaking to SmartCompany after the business banked its first $1 million, Thrive co-founder and chief Michael Nuciforo said the campaign’s success “blew our expectations”.

“We were gobsmacked. We literally couldn’t believe it,” he said.

The product has clearly already resonated with the small business community. There are already more than 7,500 people on the waiting list, ahead of the planned launch in the second half of this year.

Thrive co-founders Ben Winford (centre) and Michael Nuciforo (right), with chief technology officer Warren More. Source: supplied.


And finally, just in case you haven’t had quite enough of fintech news, European BNPL player Klarna has closed a whopping US$1 billion funding round, valuing the business at US$31 billion.

The Swedish startup launched Down Under last year, with founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski wasting no time in getting into a war of words with Anthony Eisen, co-founder of Aussie competitor Afterpay.

Siemiatkowski took aim at Afterpay’s 4% merchant fees, which account for about 80% of the fintech’s revenues.

Fran Ereira, Klarna’s country head for Australia and New Zealand, also said she was “surprised” at the costs incurred by merchants offering BNPL services in Australia.

“This is a particular burden on a sector that is so critical to our economic recovery,” she added.


Klarna country head for Australia and New Zealand Fran Ereira. Source: supplied.


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