Wagestream closes $51M Series A to plug the payday gap without putting workers in debt

Getting your work wages on a monthly (not weekly nor biweekly) basis has become a more widespread trend as the price of running payrolls has gone up, and organizations’ cashflow has gone down. That 30-day shift may be a boost to employers, but not employees, who may need access to those wages more immediately and find it a challenge to stretch out their income month to month.

Now, a startup based out of London has raised a large round of funding for service that’s aiming to plug that gap. Wagestream — which works with employers to let employees draw down a percentage of their income in the month for a small, flat fee — today said that it has closed a Series A round of £40 million ($51 million).

The funding is coming in the form of equity and debt, with Balderton and Northzone leading on the equity side, which makes up £15 million of the raise, and savings bank Shawbrook investing £25 million on the debt side to finance employee draw-downs. Other investors in the round include QED, the Rowntree Foundation, the London Co-investment Fund (LCIF) and Village Global, a social venture firm backed by Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, among others.

The company is not disclosing its valuation but this brings the total raised to just under £45 million and “the valuation is definitely higher now”, according to CEO and co-founder Peter Briffett.

The list of investors is proving to be a useful one for Wagestream as it grows. I asked if Bezos’ company Amazon was working with Wagestream. Briffett confirmed it is not a customer currently, “but we are talking to them.” It does, however, have a number of other customers already signed up, including pest removal service Rentokil PLC, Camden Town Brewery, the Slug & Lettuce pub chain and Carluccio’s chain of eateries, along with the NHS and Hackney Council — covering some 120,000 workers in all.

Amazon is an indicative example of one of the big opportunities for the company, which today is active in the UK but aiming to expand across Europe and the rest of the world.

While it is one of the biggest employers in the tech world, where it might typically pay out six-figure salaries in senior management, operational and technical roles, it’s also building out its business by being one of the biggest employers also of hourly workers in its warehouses, wider logistics operations and similar areas. It’s employees like these who might be considered the first wave of employees that Wagestream is initially targeting, some of whom may be earning just enough or slightly more than enough to get by (at best), and face being victims of what Briffett referred to as the “payday poverty cycle.”

Getting paid monthly today accounts for some 85 percent of all paychecks in the UK today, and the proportion is similar in Europe and also getting increasingly common in the US, Briffett — who has also worked at Microsoft, LivingSocial (when it was still backed by Amazon, and where he started the UK operation and ran it as the CEO for years), and YPlan (acquired by Time Out) — said in an interview. You might ask: why don’t the workers just budget better? But it doesn’t always work out that way, especially the longer the gap is between paychecks, and if you, for example, have an unexpected expense to cover.

Because of that ubiquity, and the acuteness of the problem (if you’ve ever earned just about enough, or been a child in a family whose parents did, you may understand the predicament quite well ), Wagestream is not the first time that we’ve seen a financial services startup emerge to target that demographic.

Some other attempts have been scandalously disastrous, however: recall “Payday Loan” provider Wonga, backed by an illustrious set of investors but ultimately accused of, and hit hard by regulators and the public for, preying on people who were in need of funds with loans that were not transparent enough in their terms and led the borrowers into deep debt.

Wonga itself paid a big price for its practices, and the company is now bankrupt (and apparently still unable to replay creditors, as of the last report in March).

It was the disaster of Wonga — and an article in the WSJ about alternatives to payday loans — that Briffett said got him thinking about the possibilities and building Wagestream. (Ironic note: if you use PitchBook as I do, Wonga is listed among Wagestream’s backers, which Briffett assures me is an error.)

Wagestream positions itself as a “social impact” startup for targeting a very real problem that impacts financial inclusion for a proportion of the population, and it says this represents one of the highest rounds ever for a startup in the UK aimed at social impact.

“We fell in love with the strong product-market fit of Wagestream. We very rarely hear such universal positive feedback from all who have tried a product,” said Rob Moffat, a partner at Balderton, in a statement. “Companies used to take an active role in supporting the financial health of their users but this has slowly been eroded, to the extent where employees paid at the end of the month are effectively subsidising their employer for 29 days a month. Wagestream starts to restore the right balance.”

Wagestream operates by striking deals with employers to offer its services to its workers, who download an app and link up Wagestream with their salary and banking details. Businesses are able to set limits for what percentage of their wages employees can draw down each month, and how often the service can be used. Typically the limit is around 40 percent of a monthly wage, Briffett said.

Employees then can get the money instantly by paying a fee of £1.75 per withdrawal. “We are funding all of the withdrawals up front,” Briffett said. “We are the first company to marry workforce management and financial data.”

Down the road, the plan will be to expand to Europe as well as to the US, where there are already some other services that are trying to tackle the same problem, such as Instant Financial and DailyPay. There are also a number of areas the company could move into, such as working with companies that employ contract workers, and providing additional financial services to workers already using the app to draw down funds.

More expansion, Briffett said, will inevitably also mean more funding particularly on the debt side.

For now, the emergence of Wavestream is an encouraging sign of how VCs are not just interested in tapping their coffers to bet on tech companies that they think will be hits. They also want to hunt for those whose returns may well be strong, but ultimately are made stronger by the longer-term effect they might have on the wider landscape of consumers, how they interface with fintech, and continue their own progress in the world.

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Robin picks up $20 million Series B to optimize the office

Robin Powered, a startup looking to help offices run better, has today announced the close of a $20 million Series B funding. The round was led by Tola Capital, with existing investors Accomplice and FirstMark participating in the round, along with a new strategic Allegion Ventures.

Robin started as part of an agency called One Mighty Roar, where Robin Powered cofounder Sam Dunn and his two cofounders built out RFID and beacon tech for clients’ live events. In 2014, they spun out the tech as Robin and tweaked the focus on the modern office.

The office stands to be one of the least efficient pieces of any business. As a company grows, or even if it doesn’t, it’s particularly difficult to understand the ‘inventory’ of the office and how it is used by workers throughout the day.

“Before, if I asked you what you needed out of your next office, you might go around and survey employees or hire an architecture firm,” said Dunn. “I heard a story where a manager sent around an intern every Thursday at 3pm to talk to employees about the office, and that was one of two pieces of information handed over to the architecture firm. At the end of the day, it’s hard to know if there’s a shortage of meeting rooms, or teleconference-enabled rooms, or collaborative workspaces.”

That’s where Robin comes in. Robin hooks into Google Calendar and Outlook to help employees get a sense of what meeting rooms and activity spaces are available in the office, complete with tablet signage out front. Meetings are the starting point for Robin, but the company can also offer tools for seating charts and office maps, as well as insights. The company wants to offer insights about how the space in this or that office is being used — what they lack and what they have too much of.

Robin charges its clients per room ($300) and per desk ($24 – $60). The hope is to build out the same technological backbone for clients’ offices as WeWork provides alongside its physical space, giving every business the opportunity to optimize one of their biggest investments: the office itself.

Robin has raised a total of $30 million.

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Vote now in #TheEuropas Awards to find its hottest startups, and join Europe’s key players

In partnership with TechCrunch, The Europas Awards, recognising the hottest tech startups in Europe since 2009, is now open for its public vote.

We’ve sorted and sifted through a record number of entries this year to compile an editorially driven long list of some of Europe’s most exciting startups and investors.

Voting is now live, so please go and vote. The public vote will close on 29 May 2019, 11:59 PM BST.

Vote in the awards by individual category by clicking the links below.

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS TO THE AWARDS.

As the public vote takes place, our all-star panel of judges will be deliberating on the list as well. Their vote is combined with the public vote to come up with the shortlist. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on the evening of 27 June 2019 in London, UK.

This year’s ceremony will be in the setting of a garden party across the front lawn of Hoxton’s Geffrye Museum.

We’ll have editorial content as well – with panels looking at this year’s themes of tech + society, a view of what next for European startups, and a special fireside with Founder’s Forum’s Brent Hoberman.

With free-flowing drinks, great food from Kin, a long British summer’s evening, and VIPs and startups mingling and networking, this is the one event in the tech startup calendar you won’t want to miss. Grab your tickets here.

TechCrunch is once more the exclusive media sponsor of the awards, alongside new “tech, culture & society” event creator The Pathfounder. Those attending The Europas will get deep discounts to TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin, later this year.

The Europas Awards 2019 is sponsored by: Bizzabo, iHorizon, Fieldhouse Associates, CommsCo, and Isotoma.

Interested in sponsoring The Europas or exhibiting at the awards? Get in touch with Claire Dobson // claire@thepathfounder.com

VOTING:

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TO VOTE IN A SPECIFIC CATEGORY CLICK ON A LINK BELOW. To vote in the entire awards click here.

Please note, you can vote only once.

Thanks for participating in the public voting stage in The 2019 Europas Awards. Please pick your winners from the following entries. For all other information about the awards see the site These votes will be combined with those of our expert judges and the winner will be announced on the evening of 27 June 2019 in London.

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

Vote in the entire awards here.

Vote in the awards by individual category:

Hottest AgTech / FoodTech Startup

Hottest CleanTech Startup

Hottest CyberTech Startup

Hottest EdTech Startup

Hottest FashTech Startup

Hottest FinTech Startup

Hottest GovTech, CivTech, PubTech, RegTech

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Hall Of Fame Award

The Europas Grand Prix Awards: No public voting, picked by judges.

ABOUT THE AWARDS

The Europas Awards celebrates the most forward thinking and innovative tech & blockchain startups and the hottest investors across over some 20+ categories. Startups can apply for an award or be nominated by anyone, including our judges.

For the last ten years The Europas has grown into a fun and fantastic awards ceremony and an awesome daytime conference. The Europas is a chance for you and your team to celebrate a year of hard work in one incredible night in London.

The Europas “Diversity Pass”

We’d like to encourage more diversity in tech! That’s why we’ve reserved a tranche of free tickets to ensure that we include more women and people of colour who are “pre-seed” or “seed-stage” tech startup founders. If you are a women founder or person of colour founder, apply here for a chance to be considered for one of the limited free diversity passes to the event.

Amazing networking

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We’re also shaking up the awards dinner itself. Instead of a sit-down gala dinner, we’ve taken feedback for more opportunities to network. Our awards ceremony this year will be in the setting of a garden lawn party, where you’ll be able to meet and mingle more easily, with free-flowing drinks and a wide-selection of street food (including vegetarian/vegan). The ceremony itself will last approximately 75 minutes, with the rest of the time dedicated to networking.

Instead of thousands and thousands of people, think of a great summer event with the most interesting and useful people in the industry, including key investors and leading entrepreneurs.

The Europas Awards have been going for the last 10 years, and we’re the only independent and editorially driven event to recognise the European tech startup scene. The winners have been featured in Reuters, Bloomberg, VentureBeat, Forbes, Tech.eu, The Memo, Smart Company, CNET, many others — and of course, TechCrunch.

• No secret VIP rooms, which means you get to interact with the speakers

• Key founders and investors attending

• Journalists from major tech titles, newspapers and business broadcasters

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Want to save €200 on passes to Disrupt Berlin 2019?

Around here at TechCrunch we like to reward action with savings, and right now, the earlier you act the more money you save. Do we have your attention?

Here’s the deal. Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December, and you can’t buy passes until the official registration opens in June. But by taking one simple action now, you’ll save an extra €200 off the super-early-bird price for any pass. Just sign up for our mailing list before registration opens. Boom. Act now, save more. Simple.

Once you sign up, we’ll email you a discount code to use when you purchase your pass. Just think about what you’ll do with the €200 you saved — and all the cool stuff you’ll see and do at Disrupt Berlin.

Network with the more than 1,200 attendees — technologists, founders, investors, media, potential customers and possible employers. CrunchMatch, our free business match-matching platform, simplifies networking. It makes connections based on your specific criteria, goals and interests, so you don’t just meet people — you meet the right people. You never know when goals might align, and opportunity might strike.

Startup Battlefield, TechCrunch’s famous pitch-off competition, is an absolute roller coaster ride as teams of exceptional startups compete head-to-head for $50,000 cash, the Disrupt cup and life-altering media and investor exposure.

You’ll find hundreds of early-stage startups showcasing the very best tech products, platforms and services in Startup Alley, the exhibit hall and the heartbeat of every Disrupt. Don’t miss the TC Top Picks — a group of outstanding startups curated by TechCrunch editors — camped out in the Alley.

We’ll have more information in the coming weeks on how you can apply to both the Startup Battlefield and the TC Top Picks program, so keep checking back.

That’s just for starters. We’re hard at work building the roster of speakers — top tech founders, investors and entrepreneurs who will share their stories, insights and maybe a prediction or two along the way. Plus, we always feature panel discussions, workshops, demos and so much more. Stay tuned for more information!

Disrupt Berlin 2019 takes place on 11-12 December. Sign up for our mailing list before registration opens, and you’ll save an extra €200 on passes. Act early, save more — and we’ll see you in Berlin!

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Several chip companies, including Qualcomm and Intel, have reportedly stopped supplying Huawei after blacklist

Several key suppliers are reportedly cutting off Huawei after the Trump administration added the Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone giant to a trade blacklist last week. According to Bloomberg, semiconductor companies Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx and Broadcom will no longer supply Huawei until further notice. This follows another report earlier today that Google has suspended some trade with Huawei, leaving it with access only to the open-source version of Android.

In addition to impacting Huawei’s business, the blacklisting has ramifications for telecom providers who are getting ready to launch 5G networks. In China, the three big telecoms (China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom), which are all heavily reliant on Huawei, may be forced to delay 5G rollout. Meanwhile, U.S. carriers, especially smaller ones, may have to spend millions of dollars replacing Huawei equipment they have already installed or looking for new suppliers.

In tweet last week from the account Huawei Facts, the company called the blacklist a “lose-lose” situation. In a more recent tweet, it said “Oops! The U.S. is already coming to its senses over a ban on #Huawei, with a government official admitting that it cannot distance itself from the tech giant as easily as it might like. #HuaweiFacts” in response to a report that the administration might grant Huawei a temporary license to prevent service interruptions.

Meanwhile, Google’s ban, first reported by Reuters, would give Huawei, the second-largest smartphone brand in the world after Samsung, access only to open-source version of Android, leaving it with a significant disadvantage to other handset makers.

According to Bloomberg, Huawei stockpiled three months worth of chips in anticipation of action by the U.S. government, which it has been at odds with since a 2012 Congressional report deemed it a potential threat to national security (accusations the company has repeatedly denied).

A Xilinx spokesperson told TechCrunch “We are aware of the Denial Order issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce with respect to Huawei, and we are cooperating. We have no additional information to share at this time.” TechCrunch has also contacted Huawei, Broadcom, Qualcomm and Intel for comment.

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