Read the 21-page pitch deck a fintech that helps small businesses get banking services used to nab $12 million
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- Wise, a business banking-as-a-service platform, just raised a $12 million Series A.
- The startup offers banking services through apps available on business management platforms like Shopify.
- With the fresh funding, Wise is catering its platform toward different small business use cases, from e-commerce businesses to marketplace sellers.
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Banking can often be a challenge for small businesses. As a result, there’s no shortage of fintechs looking to offer small-business owners cheaper and more digital ways to manage their finances.
Startup Wise is looking to make banking as seamless as possible for small businesses by offering those services via the software they’re already using, like Shopify and Fundera.
“Wise was built on the thesis that no business should ever have to go and apply for a bank account. It just didn’t make any sense to us,” Arjun Thyagarajan, co-founder and CEO of Wise told Business Insider. “Banking should be built into your experience of the business.”
As an embedded banking provider, Wise doesn’t market directly to small-business owners. Instead, it accesses clients through services like Shopify and Fundera.
In late October, Wise raised a $12 million Series A to expand on the ecosystem of services it works with. The round was led by e.ventures, which has backed fellow fintechs Acorns and Recurly, with participation from seed investors including Base10 Partners and Techstars. Wise declined to disclose its latest valuation.
Marketing to platforms, not customers
For an e-commerce business running on Shopify, for example, most parts of managing that business happen within Shopify’s own ecosystem, from order management to shipping to inventory. But the banking piece, for the time being, is still outside of the Shopify platform. That means businesses are managing money moving between Shopify and their external bank accounts.
“With Wise built inside the Shopify ecosystem as an app that’s available to a Shopify business owner, the banking piece is inside your Shopify dashboard, and with that money moves instantly,” Thyagarajan said.
In addition to its distribution, Wise works with partners to power its banking platform. BBVA acts as its partner bank, providing the FDIC insurance, its payments are powered by Stripe, and its cards are issued by Visa.
Before launching Wise, Thyagarajan debated whether to launch a banking platform marketed directly to small businesses instead of the startup’s banking-as-a-service model via established platforms.
“In the small business world, acquiring [customers] in the wild is very hard because, as you can imagine, these small businesses thrive in certain ecosystems,” Thyagarajan said.
By distributing through specific services, Wise is able to cater its product to a more targeted audience.
“It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. When you know exactly who your target is, you can position your product for that use case,” Thyagarajan said.
To be sure, Wise’s positioning does put it at risk of getting cut out of the equation altogether if a platform chooses to launch its own banking service. Shopify spoke to Business Insider in May about plans to unveil its own business banking product, Shopify Balance, later this year. There is currently a waitlist for Shopify Balance.
Details on the Shopify Balance are sparse, but the e-commerce giant told Business Insider in May it will include a checking account, digital and physical debit cards, and real-time access to cash earned on sales through Shopify’s platform.
While Wise is available to any Shopify merchant through its app store, Thyagarajan said it doesn’t have an exclusive agreement or revenue-share model with the e-commerce platform. He also said the products are differentiated enough.
“Wise Banking is complimentary offering as we offer an FDIC Insured Checking Account, which is where the deposits reside,” Thyagarajan said.
A spokesperson for Shopify did not immediately return a request for comment.
Beyond a bank account and spending card, Wise helps businesses with fraud management, disputes, and chargebacks.
With the fresh funding, Wise is building out more use cases catered toward different types of small businesses, from e-commerce companies to marketplace sellers on platforms like Telehealth.
“We’re trying to get to a world where small businesses can bank, pay, and get paid effortlessly, versus having to make a conscious effort, which they have to do today,” Thyagarajan said.
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