India-Based Interior Design Startup Livspace Scores IKEA Investment

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A popular interior design startup in India, Livspace, has received an investment from Ingka Investments, the venture capital arm of IKEA, according to reports.  

Last year, Livspace secured investments from Goldman Sachs and TPG Growth, among others. The company acts as an all inclusive interior design service that wants to take the hassle out of interior design by connecting homeowners with designers and the supply chain. It includes 3D renderings of possible renovations, online meetings and even customized furniture. The collaboration allows for cost savings all around, the company says.

Ingka Investments operates about 90 percent of IKEA’s retail footprint, and Livspace Co-Founder and CEO Anuj Srivastava did not provide a figure about the size of the investment. He did say that the stake is a minor one and there were no plans to add a larger number to this funding round.

“There is strong strategic and commercial potential,” said Srivastava, who used to work at Google and started Livspace in 2015. “This is an opportunity to create the best possible omnichannel experience for consumers.”

Retail companies looking to expand into India generally have a tough go of it, but IKEA has had some recent successes in the country. The company opened its first store in Hyderabad and recently won FDI approval to operate retail stores in the country. It plans to open about 25 more.

The Livspace model resonated with IKEA, Srivastava said, and the companies began to talk around the announcement of the Livspace Series C round in September.

“We’ve felt the natural synergy always existed,” he said. “This is an extremely strong endorsement of our vision.”

Srivastava said that although he wants the company to expand, business in India is booming.

“The India business is keeping us really, really busy at this time,” Srivastava said. “We’re engaged in exploratory activities but there’s no immediate plan or timeline.” He said he doesn’t expect a new market launch until at least another year has passed.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2019/livspace-design-ikea-investment/

Data Dive: New Ideas, Expected And Not, Edition

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Some changes, advances and adjustments are expected – they are clearly part of a long-term strategy playing out, or an obviously useful pivot that expands what a brand can do.

And then there are changes that no one could have foreseen, because “pivot” doesn’t quite cover it – in fact, “180-degree turn” doesn’t quite cover it. Sometimes the change is so different that it constitutes teleporting to entirely new ground.

This week featured a little of both.

Among the expected shifts:

The Packing Bots Are Coming to Amazon

After years of speculation about how and when Amazon would begin automating the labor at its warehouse, the world got a big peek at the shape of things to come with the announcement that packing bots will be making their debut at Amazon warehouses sprinkled throughout the U.S. (at first).

Citing two internal sources, Reuters reported this week that new machines called, CartonWraps, are already on the floor at two warehouses, and are headed for more soon. The machines can reportedly pack 600-700 boxes per hour, about five times faster than top human speed. The machines requires three workers: one to load it, one to stock it with boxes and glue and another to handle jams if and when they occur.

Designed by Italian firm CMC Srl, the machines cost about $1 million apiece, and save about 24 jobs per warehouse. Were the machines rolled out at 55 of Amazon’s warehouses in the U.S., they could reportedly replace 1,300 jobs. The machines would pay for themselves in about a year.

“We are piloting this new technology with the goal of increasing safety, speeding up delivery times and adding efficiency across our network,” an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement. “We expect the efficiency savings will be reinvested in new services for customers, where new jobs will continue to be created.”

The goal, according to sources interviewed by Reuters, is not to cut existing jobs; rather, the plan is to allow the workforce to become leaner through attrition. Packing jobs turn over often, and Amazon simply would stop refilling empty jobs. Employees who stay with the company would reportedly be trained for other positions.

BoA Tokenizes the Apple Watch

The Apple Watch will be integrated into the Bank of America (BoA) corporate treasury platform, CashPro, as part of an effort to tokenize the wearable and allow access to the CashPro platform.

The integration, which BoA announced last week, will allow corporate users to obtain a one-time security token directly from their Apple Watch, negating the need to carry a physical token to log into the CashPro platform. The app must be installed in order for users to take advantage of the new feature.

“Many people still carry their physical token on a keychain along with other banking tokens, which are bulky,” said Tom Durkin, Bank of America Merrill Lynch head of GTC channels in global transaction banking services, in a statement. “Now, executives will no longer have to worry about forgetting to take their physical token when they are on the go, traveling for work or vacation. They’ll have everything they need on their iPhone and Apple Watch.”

Julie Harris, head of BoA’s global banking digital strategy, said the latest move comes as part of the bank’s continuing focus on digitization. “Mobility and everything it represents – convenience of doing banking anywhere, anytime – is a critical priority for our clients, and that means it’s a critical priority for us,” she said. “With the CashPro app now available on Apple Watch, we’re pleased to continue our innovative improvements on how and when clients can access tokens.”

Again, given the march of wearables, the Apple Watch and BoA’s digitization efforts, it’s a switch – but one that could have been foreseen for the last few months.

Taco Bell, on the other hand, is boldly going where it has never gone before.

The Tacocation: The Innovation the World Didn’t Know It Needed

There are many innovations once might have expected out of Taco Bell, the majority of which would probably have involved nacho cheese. But until this week, it is doubtful anyone ever sat in a Taco Bell and wondered to themselves whether their next luxury vacation could be more like the fast-food restaurant.

But then, Steve Jobs always believed that truly successful brands taught people to want things, instead of just giving them what they want.

It’s in that Jobsian spirit, we assume, that Taco Bell is opening The Bell: A Taco Bell Hotel and Resort in Palm Springs, California for a limited time this summer.

The property’s amenities, from poolside cocktails to guest rooms to breakfast choices, will boast a “Taco Bell twist,” the quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain said in an announcement, which described the concept as a “tacoasis.”

The Bell stands to be the biggest expression of the Taco Bell lifestyle to date. It will be fun, colorful, flavorful and filled with more than what our fans might expect. Also, just like some of our most sought-after food innovations, this hotel brings something entirely new for lucky fans to experience and enjoy,” Taco Bell’s Chief Global Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg said in the announcement.

The hotel will have a gift shop with exclusive apparel, as well as a Taco Bell-inspired on-site salon for fades, nail art and a braid bar. There will be cocktails – which we assume will add a lot to this experience, particularly because the brand promises to “deliver beloved, iconic flavors and introduce new menu surprises only available at the hotel.” Ever wanted to know what it would be like to drink an alcoholic chalupa? It seems the time is now to find out.

Reservations will reportedly open in June.

So, what did we learn this week? There are new ideas – and there are NEW ideas. New ideas get attention. NEW ideas get attention as well, but it’s only good attention about half the time.

Until next week, have fun planning your next tacocation.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/data-dive/2019/amazon-packing-bots-boa-apple-watch-taco-bell/

Czech Banks To Invest $260M Into National Development Fund

https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2019/czech-banks-national-development-fund/
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Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has proposed a national development fund to help invest in social issues, digitization of the economy, education and transportation, according to a report by Reuters.

On Monday (May 20), the Czech Banking Association said it welcomed the proposal, and Babis said big banks in the country have agreed in principle on a starting capital of six billion Czech crowns ($259.92 million) to put into the fund.

The fund will be established as soon as possible, and how much it accomplishes depends on the total amount of funding. The association said the fund should be independent and fully professional.  

In other Czech news, Wirecard, the digital financial technology company, announced in April that it is expanding its partnership with O2 Czech Republic, the largest telecommunications player in the Czech market. In a press release, the companies said more merchants will be able to use a completely integrated mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) solution focused on fully digitized payment options. Under the new deal, the two companies will extend their current project in the Czech Republic and will enter Slovakia.

The partnership will enable Wirecard and O2 to help retailers in the Czech Republic and Slovakia to comply with upcoming changes in fiscal laws covering payment acceptance and processing. Wirecard said its platform enables secure acceptance and processing of digital payments, as well as online completion of transactions that meet new compliance rules.

“The collaboration with telecommunications companies is a key driver of our business in Central Eastern Europe,” Wirecard CEE Managing Director Roland Toch said in the press release. “The expansion of our partnership with O2 is a testimony to the value we have brought to many thousands of merchants in the Czech Republic so far, by allowing them to quickly and easily capitalize on the countless benefits digitalization has brought to large and small businesses alike.”

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2019/czech-banks-national-development-fund/

Auth0 Becomes Latest Unicorn With $103M Funding Round

https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2019/auth0-unicorn-funding/
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Auth0, an Identity-as-a-Service company, announced Monday (May 20) that it closed a $103 million venture funding round.

In a press release, Auth0 said the Series E round of funding was led by Sapphire Ventures. Other investors to participate include existing investors Bessemer Venture Partners, K9 Ventures, Trinity Ventures, Meritech Capital and World Innovation Lab.

Auth0 said it will use the funding to fuel its innovation pipeline. It said the investment propels it into unicorn status with a valuation of more than $1 billion. To date, the company has raised $210 million in venture funding. Sapphire Ventures led its $55 million Series D round in May of 2018.  

“Auth0 has demonstrated incredible momentum and continues to be a shining model for unparalleled technology, leadership, and growth,” Anders Ranum, managing director at Sapphire Ventures, said in the release. “You can see Auth0’s ethos in the product itself — a highly sophisticated cybersecurity platform that’s universal, scalable, and extensible. The company is changing the approach to business by offering a platform that any company can use to protect digital identities.”

Auth0 currently has 7,000 customers worldwide, providing identity management for their customers, business partners, employees and devices. The funding comes on the heels of the company growing internationally and expanding existing offices in Bellevue, Buenos Aires, London, Sydney and Tokyo. The company said it continues to double customer growth and revenue each year and is able to attract top talent.

“This Series E funding is validation that what we are doing and the platform we are providing are imperative for the success of our customers,” Auth0 CEO and Co-Founder Eugenio Pace said in the press release. “Businesses cannot afford a data breach, and this investment is a key indicator that identity management is an industry worth investing in. We are truly grateful for the continued support from our investors for Auth0.”

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2019/auth0-unicorn-funding/

Lyft Gets Hit With Class Action Lawsuit By Investors

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Lyft’s stock inched lower in trading Monday (May 20) after investors filed a class action lawsuit against the ride-hailing startup.

According to a report in CNBC, citing the lawsuit, investors contend Lyft misled them in its initial public offering (IPO) with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The the class action lawsuit, filed Friday (May 17) by Boston-based law firm Block & Leviton in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California, contends Lyft committed securities fraud. In addition to Lyft, underwriters, directors, and executives including CEO Logan Green, President John Zimmer and CFO Brian Roberts were named in the suit, reported CNBC.

The investors contend in the lawsuit that Lyft made misleading and false statements about its business in the IPO filing, which drove the stock higher. Lyft reportedly didn’t disclose known safety issues with its bicycle rideshare program. The lawsuit contends Lyft didn’t disclose that more than 1,000 of the bicycles in its rideshare program had safety issues that would result in recalls.

The investors also contend Lyft overinflated its market share in its IPO filing. Citing Uber’s IPO filing, the investors said Lyft claimed to have 39 percent market share in the U.S. but Uber stated in its IPO filing it has more than 65 market share in the U.S. and Canada. That, says the lawsuit “further undermined Lyft’s purported claim” of market share. On top of that, the lawsuit contends Lyft failed to warn investors of the chance of a labor dispute, pointing to a 25-hour strike by drivers in Los Angeles ahead of its IPO at the end of March.

The lawsuit is just the latest of bad news to hit Lyft since it went public. The stock is way off its IPO price, with its market capitalization now around $16 billion. That is lower than the $20 billion it was valued at when its IPO priced.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/legal/2019/lyft-lawsuit-investors-ipo/

In China, Forced ‘Tech Transfers’ Gain Ground

https://www.pymnts.com/news/regulation/2019/china-technology-transfers-chamber-commerce/
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According to the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, incidences of European companies being “forced” to transfer technology in China are on the rise.

That’s despite the denials of Chinese officials and executives that such transfers – where companies wind up transferring their tech and know-how in order to do business in that country – are not a problem.

As reported in Reuters and elsewhere, the Chamber of Commerce has described the outlook toward the regulatory climate in China as “bleak.” The data form the chamber shows that, per an annual survey, 20 percent of its member firms report they have been “compelled” to hand over technology in return for access. That is twice the 10 percent tally reported two years ago. Of those who said they had transferred technology, a quarter said the practice still continued, and 39 percent said such transfers had occurred within the last two years.

As noted in a statement by Charlotte Roule, vice president of the European Chamber, the transfers “might be due to a number of reasons … either way, it is unacceptable that this practice continues in a market as mature and innovative as China.” Breaking down the data, the reports were relatively higher in chemicals and petroleum, at 30 percent, and 28 percent in medical devices.

The Chamber said the members surveyed had a “bleak outlook” on the regulatory environment in China, with 72 percent stating that obstacles would stay in place or increase over the next five years.

In reference to the tech transfers, the People’s Daily, the country’s top Communist paper, wrote this past weekend that complaints have been “fabricated from thin air,” and that there is no policy in place to force foreign firms to hand over technology. As Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lu Kang has said, if there were concrete evidence of such transfers, China would work to “resolve” those issues.

Earlier this year, as noted in this space, and as has been specific to tech companies – particularly U.S. tech companies – China had been gearing up to stop demands for such tech transfers, and overseas firms would be treated as “equals” in China. In March, the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing – gathering the opinions of hundreds of U.S. firms operating in China – said that tech transfers, done across joint ventures, remain a “non-issue.”But as many as 53 percent have said that transparency and fairness tied to the regulatory environment are either “very” or “extremely” significant when gauging whether to invest in China.

Getting a bit more granular, at least one payments giant has been trying for a while – years, in fact – to more fully enter the Chinese market. As noted by Visa CEO Alfred Kelly in the company’s latest earnings call, “In China, we continue active dialogue with regulators and government to understand how to best move forward in the application process. But we have nothing new to share.”

In past years, both Visa and Mastercard had submitted applications to process payments in local currency. The transfer debate comes in the wake of a 2012 ruling by the World Trade Organization that China had been discriminating against foreign firms in the payments industry. The Chinese government had agreed two years later to open markets to those payments firms; the initial applications were submitted in 2017.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/regulation/2019/china-technology-transfers-chamber-commerce/

UK Startup Wagestream Raises $51M To Help Workers With Payday Gap

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Wagestream, a U.K. startup, has raised $51 million (£40 million) to help U.K. workers who only get paid once a month but need to draw funds from their wages, according to a report.

About 85 percent of all paychecks in the country are disbursed monthly, and the trend continues to rise in popularity as employers deal with rising payroll costs. Wagestream works with employers to allow workers to pull out a percentage of their income for a flat fee of  £1.75 per withdrawal.

“We are funding all of the withdrawals up front,” said CEO and Co-founder Peter Briffett. “We are the first company to marry workforce management and financial data.”

The funding comes packaged as equity and debt. Balderton and Northzone are leading the equity side, making up about £15 million.

Savings bank Shawbrook invested £25 million on the debt side to finance the worker draw-downs. Other investors include the Rowntree Foundation, the London Co-investment Fund (LCIF), QED and a social venture fund called Village Global, which is backed by Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

The company’s valuation was not revealed, but Wagestream has raised a total of almost £45 million so far, and Briffett said “the valuation is definitely higher now.”

He added that the company is currently in talks with Amazon, and has signed up a number of U.K. companies. It covers a total of around 120,000 workers.

Amazon would be a boon for Wagestream, as the company aims to expand through Europe and potentially the rest of the world. The retail giant has many six-figure-earning employees, but it also has one of the biggest caches of hourly employees in logistics operations in and around its warehouses. These would be the employees who Wagestream could potentially help – employees earning just enough or slightly more than what is needed to get by, and could be victims of what Briffett calls the “payday poverty cycle.”

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2019/uk-startup-wagestream-funding-payroll-wages/

Warburg Pincus In Talks To Buy NCR

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NCR, the payments company that makes self-service kiosks, point-of-sale terminals and automated teller machines, among other payment devices, has reportedly tapped Bank of America Equities to find a buyer.

Seeking Alpha, citing a DealReporter story, reported that Warburg Pincus has been in discussions with NCR during the past few weeks about a deal. Other private equity firms, including Apollo Global Management, have expressed interest. Warburg Pincus appears to be in the lead in terms of talks, given that NCR’s new management team has an existing relationship with the private equity firm.

This isn’t the first time talk of an NCR sale has surfaced this month. At the start of May, Bloomberg reported that the company had started exploring options after receiving interest from would-be suitors. At the time, it was said that NCR was working with a financial adviser. Investors reacted to the news at the time, sending the stock up to reach a value of $3.5 billion. If NCR’s debt was included, it would be valued at $7 billion.

Back in 2015, Blackstone Group acquired a minority stake in NCR after the ATM maker considered a leveraged buyout for the entire operation, reported Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter.

For its first quarter, NCR was able to report earnings of $0.48 a share, which was higher than the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $0.47 a share. In the year-ago first quarter, NCR weighed in with earnings of $0.56 a share, marking the fourth quarter in a row the company was able to beat analyst estimates. Revenue during its first quarter was also higher than expectations, coming in at $1.54 billion. In the year-ago first quarter, NCR had revenue of $1.52 billion.

During May, the company also inked a deal to acquire Texas P.O.S., a Houston-based provider of point-of-sale (POS) solutions for restaurants and merchants.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/partnerships-acquisitions/2019/ncr-warburg-pincus-deal-talks/

Azlo Partners with Kabbage on Small Business Loans to the Underserved

https://bankinnovation.net/2019/05/azlo-partners-with-kabbage-on-small-business-loans-to-the-underserved/
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Business banking startup Azlo and digital lender Kabbage are teaming up to offer loans to small business customers, including those underserved by the big banks. The two companies inked the partnership, called Mission Street Capital, late last week. Their pitch is a fully digital tool that offers access to working capital for gig economy business …Read More

https://bankinnovation.net/2019/05/azlo-partners-with-kabbage-on-small-business-loans-to-the-underserved/

Wells Fargo Taps TransferMate for Cross-Border B2B Payments

https://bankinnovation.net/2019/05/wells-fargo-taps-transfermate-for-cross-border-b2b-payments/
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Cross-border B2B payments provider TransferMate announced today that Wells Fargo will use its Global Invoice Connect platform to provide the bank’s U.S.-based commercial banking clients the ability to receive payments in U.S. dollars from their global customers. TransferMate, founded in 2010, collects funds from customers located in more than 50 countries around the world through …Read More

https://bankinnovation.net/2019/05/wells-fargo-taps-transfermate-for-cross-border-b2b-payments/

Paris Metro To Launch Paperless Tickets, Cashless Payments Rise In Russia

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Welcome to The Axis, your late look at payments news from around the world. Coverage includes the coming rollout of a paperless ticket option for public transportation in Paris. In addition, travelers at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are tapping into WeChat Pay’s commerce ecosystem in the Netherlands, and cashless payments reportedly made up half of total expenses during Q1 2019 in Russia.

In France, tourists, as well as occasional riders of the metro network in Paris will be able to buy contactless and reusable cards in what has been described as “its version of London’s Oyster Card” beginning in mid-June, The Local reported. Passengers will be able to buy the card for €2. Valérie Pécresse, head of Ile-de-France’s network, said per the report, “It will work like an e-wallet.” The fare will reportedly stay at €14.90 for 10 trips, or €1.90 for a ticket for a single trip. According to the report, the digital system will let riders top up using a smartphone instead of a ticket machine by September 2019.

And, in the Netherlands, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol travelers are accessing a commerce ecosystem via the WeChat Pay mobile payment platform, TR Business reported. Passengers can tap into the WeChat Official Account, WeChat Pay in store and WeChat Mini Program. The Mini program, for instance, enables the payment and pre-ordering for all sorts of goods from fashion to watches and Dutch souvenirs. Travelers then don’t have to browse and line up for the checkout counter for payments. It was also reported that Schiphol is Europe’s first WeChat Pay Smart Airport and the flagship platform is already in existence at Hokkaido, Japan’s New Chitose Airport.

In Russia, cashless payments comprised almost half — or 49.4 percent — of total expenses during this year’s first quarter and above last year’s result, according to reports. Residents of just under 30 regions reportedly made more cashless payments than they did through cash, with the Karelia, Murmansk Region and Komi serving as “three leaders.” And cashless payments were reportedly growing the fastest in the Belgorod Region’s Stary Oskol, the Sverdlovsk Region’s Verkhnyaya Pyshma and Belgorod. “This indirectly means that these cities are creating cashless infrastructure,” the report noted. When it comes to the country’s 300 most populated cities, “the leader” in cashless payments was Petrozavodsk, and cities in 15 regions made the top 20.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/international/global-payments/2019/paris-metro-cashless-russia/

Conversational AI Fintech Clinc Raises $52 Million in Series B

https://finovate.com/conversational-ai-fintech-clinc-raises-52-million-in-series-b/
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In a round featuring participation from Insight Partners, DFJ Growth, Drive Capital, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and other investors, conversational AI innovator Clinc has raised $52 million in new funding. The Series B round brings the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based fintech’s total capital to $60 million.

“We’ve had phenomenal growth and built unbelievable momentum in a very short period of time,” Clinc CEO Jason Mars said. “Now we’re adding more world-class investors to support our growing team as we work to accelerate the pace of innovation and to reshape the conversational AI landscape, one industry at a time.”

Mars, who recently participated in FinovateSpring’s AI Summit Day conversations on AI in financial services, noted that the new investment would help the company add to its team and expand to new, larger offices in Ann Arbor. He also suggested to TechCrunch that this funding, which dwarfs the company’s $6.3 million Series A round from two years ago, could be the firm’s last financing before pursuing an IPO.

Clinc’s technology leverages natural language processing, advanced machine learning, and neural networks to decipher and respond to not just the meaning, but also the context and intent of human speech. In addition to being able to comprehend unstructured speech, the technology’s ability to learn and improve itself with every interaction allows it, for example, to quickly support new languages after being introduced to as few as 500 utterances.

Clinc demonstrated its conversational AI technology at FinovateFall 2016, winning Best of Show honors. Earlier this year, the company proved its technology could be used to provide in-game assistance for gamers, enabling them to communicate with the game using natural language, including slang, without requiring the use of specific commands.

In 2018, Clinc announced that it was expanding its technology to the automotive industry to give developers the ability to add natural language-based interaction and control functionality to vehicles. Also last year, the company teamed up with Turkey’s Isbank to launch the world’s second biggest mobile banking voice assistant.

With customers including USAA, Barclays, S&P Global, OCBC Bank, and US Bank, Clinc was founded in 2015. The company has achieved 300% year-over-year revenue growth, and anticipates tripling its business in 2019. Via its partners, Clinc estimates that more than 30 million people are using its conversational AI technology.

https://finovate.com/conversational-ai-fintech-clinc-raises-52-million-in-series-b/

ATM numbers shrink as cashless trend grows in major markets

https://bankinnovation.net/2019/05/atm-numbers-shrink-as-cashless-trend-grows-in-major-markets/
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As a growing number of consumers swap out cash for mobile or card payments, ATM numbers globally have begun to fall. U.K.-based consultancy and research firm RBR reported today that the number of ATMs worldwide fell for the first time. It claims global ATM numbers fell by 1% in 2018 to 3.24 million, driven by …Read More

https://bankinnovation.net/2019/05/atm-numbers-shrink-as-cashless-trend-grows-in-major-markets/

AI Startup Clinc Raises $52M In Venture Funding

https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2019/artificial-intelligence-startup-clinc-funding/
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Clinc, the AI startup, has raised $52 million in venture funding in a Series B round of venture funding.

VentureBeat, citing the company, reported the $52 million was more than eight times its Series A raise in February of 2017, when it raised $6.3 million in funding. The Series B round was led by Insight Partners and included participation from DFJ Growth and existing investors Drive Capital and Hyde Park Venture Partners. Clinc told VentureBeat that the $52 million was among the largest single investments made in a company focused on conversational AI.

Proceeds from the round of funding will go to hire more employees and open a new office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the company is based. Currently, Clinc is focusing on its automotive platform, which it announced last fall. It enables drivers and passengers to use natural language to control their vehicle systems in Ford‘s connected car lab. Drivers can request via voice to adjust the air conditioner, check how much gas they have or find out if there is enough gas for a specific trip, for example. Clinc uses a combination of natural language processing engines, AI machine learning and deep neural networks to recognize and interpret human speech. The technology can learn and improve on its own over time, as well as recognize new follow-up questions.

According to the report, investors appeared drawn to the significant growth at Clinc. In 2018, revenue increased 300 percent, and the company is predicting business will more than triple in 2019. Clinc boasts more than 30 million users, with its customers including USAA, Ford, Isbank and Barclays, among others.

“We’ve had phenomenal growth and built unbelievable momentum in a very short period of time,” CEO Jason Mars told VentureBeat. “Now we’re adding more world-class investors to support our growing team as we work to accelerate the pace of innovation and to reshape the conversational AI landscape, one industry at a time.”

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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/investment-tracker/2019/artificial-intelligence-startup-clinc-funding/

Wells Fargo Taps TransferMate For Global Invoicing

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TransferMate Global Payments, the cross-border B2B payments provider, announced Monday (May 20) it inked a deal with Wells Fargo to deliver its Global Invoice Connect platform for U.S.  based international businesses.

In a press release, TransferMate said its Global Invoice Connect Platform enables U.S. businesses to receive payments from global customers for a lower cost. Global Invoice Connect provides electronic bill presentment in U.S. dollars or in the customer’s local currency. TransferMate collects funds from customers located in over 50 countries around the world through local funds transfer in customers’ local currency.

“With this relationship, TransferMate and Wells Fargo are leading the charge in reducing the friction between borders for international businesses, and those aspiring to expand abroad,” Terry Clune, co-founder and CEO of TransferMate, said in the press release. “Global Invoice Connect is a prime example of two innovative financial services companies coming together to deliver a powerful new payments technology that helps businesses stay ahead of the curve in an increasingly fast-paced world.”

The platform by TransferMate reduces administrative overhead by automatically matching the payment received to the invoiced amount, eliminating the need for manual reconciliation. The platform also reduces the payment cost in many locations and provides competitive foreign exchange rates that may be better than at a customer’s local bank.

By partnering with TransferMate, Wells Fargo can meet the demand of its global business customers, it noted in the press release. “The pace of globalization in the digital economy continues to grow and opens a wide variety of new opportunities for businesses around the world,” Judd Holroyde, head of global product management at Wells Fargo, said in the same press release. “Collaborating with a leading FinTech like TransferMate to bring Global Invoice Connect to market is a powerful demonstration of how partnership and collaborative design can result in real value for customers by significantly reducing the costs and complexities associated with managing international receivables.”

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/cross-border-commerce/2019/wells-fargo-transfermate-invoicing/

Worldwide ATM Installations Declined In 2018

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The number of ATMs installed during 2018 declined by 1 percent on a worldwide basis, found RBR, the research firm.

In a press release, RBR said the number of ATMs stood at 3.24 million at the end of 2018 and that the decline was due to branch closures and growing popularity of mobile payments. In RBR’s new Global ATM Market and Forecasts to 2024 report, it found the number of ATMs declined in four of the five largest markets last year. More than half of the ATMs are in China, USA, Japan and Brazil, which all saw a decline in machines installed. In India, RBR said growth “slowed considerably.”

According to the report, while the outcome was the same in each of the countries – a decline in ATMs – the reasons were varied. In China, for example, RBR said growing adoption of non-cash payment methods has resulted in a rapid decline in new ATMs being installed. In the U.S., branch closures are to blame for the decline, as well as retailers deciding to withdraw ATM machines rather than upgrade to EMV standards. In Japan, the ATM market declined for the first time since 2009, and was hurt by banks’ efforts to improve efficiencies by sharing ATMs. Brazil saw that trend in years past, but the decline of about 1,200 terminals in 2018 was attributed to banks removing the machines as consumers increasingly favor digital payments.

RBR said that despite the decline of ATMs on a worldwide basis last year, installations are growing in most countries. The ATM installations are being helped by efforts to broaden financial inclusion in developing markets across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Even with more installations expected in developing markets, growth should still continue to decline over the next few years. By 2024, RBR predicts there will be 3.22 million ATMs around the world.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/cash/2019/atm-installations-decline-financial-inclusion/

5G Finds A Friend In Facial Recognition Biometrics

https://www.pymnts.com/innovation/2019/5g-biometrics-gobox-china/
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As 5G deployments start, retailers and other companies and organizations around the world are striving to find what works. One of the latest such projects combines the new mobile network technology with facial recognition and vending machines — a possible glimpse of the 5G future.

The effort reportedly involves China-based UTStarcom and China Mobile Group, and a “refrigerated vending machine” called goBox.

According to the report, the “goBox will make a facial recognition scan to identify the customer before they open the door of the refrigerator. After that, sensors and cameras will make note of the items the customer removes from the machine, at which point the user will be charged for their purchases.” The 5G-enabled facial recognition process reportedly will take “less than a second, while the tech itself can be deployed in virtually any retail environment. According to UTStarcom and China Mobile Group, facial recognition will create a seamless shopping experience that eliminates the need to carry a physical object like a credit card or a mobile phone.”

5G Speed

The goBox is not the first vending machine to rely on biometrics, but the technology shows how retailers are looking to the increased speed of 5G to bolster their own commerce offerings.

The deployment of this 5G-enabled vending machine is the latest retail 5G push that is helping to show the path forward for commerce and payments that uses the emerging mobile payments technology. Much of that innovation is coming from Asia in these early days for 5G, where South Korea and China are, judging by virtually all reports on the matter, far ahead of other markets when it comes to 5G deployments. (A recent report also says the U.S. has moved past South Korea and is roughly even with China when it comes to 5G development.)

For instance, recent news from South Korea said the country’s SK Telecom and retail conglomerate Shinsegae Group “have joined forces to develop new business models and innovative services in the logistics and distribution sectors powered by 5G networks.” The deal calls for the companies to develop what the report called “5G-based business models that can be applied to Shinsegae’s department stores and discount store chain E-Mart as well as various shopping malls.”

That effort will apparently involve virtual reality (VR) along with augmented reality (AR). The plan is to use VR technology to enable consumers to shop via digital platforms instead of inside brick-and-mortar locations, though no further details were immediately available.

U.S. 5G Gains

That’s not to count out the U.S. when it comes to the potential and reality of 5G technology for commerce. The wireless industry association CTIA released a report that said the U.S., in terms of readiness, deployments and spectrum allocation, is leading the transition to the new telecommunications standard. However, it does struggle in two areas: mid-band spectrum and national strategy. Even so by the latter part of 2019, the U.S. should have 92 commercial 5G deployments, versus south Korea’s 48, 16 in the U.K. and none in China.

Further evidence of the promise of 5G — along with the quick manner in which 5G deployments will happen — came earlier this year from the Mobile World Congress in Spain. According to a report from that conference, “the consensus message seems to be that with the worlds of artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing aligning, the momentum behind 5G is almost irresistible.” For example, Mickey (Hiroshi) Mikitani, CEO of Japan-based Rakuten, told conference attendees, “We are building the first end-to-end, fully virtualized, cloud-based 5G network. New services can be deployed in a very nimble manner. We don’t have specialized hardware. Everything is software and virtualized and put in the cloud.”

Various estimates have expressed the commerce- and payments-related stakes involved in 5G deployment, and a recent analysis from Adobe Digital Insights stands as a relatively reasonable prediction at this point: Over the next three years or so, 5G deployment will result in an additional $12 billion in mobile commerce revenue for U.S. retailers. That, of course, “assumes a smooth, scheduled rollout of 5G networks. Nonetheless, it’s a clear statement that when friction is removed from the user experience, people respond.”

So much of 5G is yet to come, but the pace of progress is speeding up, and the recent news out of China shows how the mobile network technology can be combined with biometrics, certainly a foreshadowing of what’s ahead.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/innovation/2019/5g-biometrics-gobox-china/

Commerce Dept: eCommerce Sales Jump 12.4 Pct In Q1

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Sales done digitally continue to gain ground across U.S. commerce.

The Commerce Department reported Friday (May 17) that eCommerce sales were up 12.4 percent from last year to $127.3 billion, measured in terms of non-seasonally-adjusted data.

The department said that, in terms of data adjusted for seasonal variability but not for price, eCommerce sales hit an all-time high of $137.7 billion in the first quarter.

The 12.4 percent pace of growth far outpaced that of total retail sales, which gained 2 percent in the quarter. The most recent eCommerce numbers show that for the first quarter, online commerce was 10.2 percent of total sales.

And eCommerce sales have doubled through the past five years, noted Seeking Alpha, reaching a recent threshold last year of more than $500 billion.

The Commerce Department also said in its Friday release that as measured against fourth-quarter data, eCommerce sales gained 3.6 percent (down 19.7 percent on a non-adjusted basis), while retail sales were unchanged (down 11.8 percent unadjusted).

In anecdotal evidence of the traction that digital sales are gaining at marquee retailers — and where general trends echoed the aforementioned Commerce Depart data during earnings season — Walmart stated that its eCommerce sales grew by 37 percent. Management said on the earnings call with investors that online sales were driven largely by gains in apparel and home goods. The latest tally for Walmart represents an acceleration of growth in online sales compared to the 33 percent growth Walmart logged a year ago. It also marks a decline in the 43 percent growth logged during the holiday season in the fourth quarter.

As measured as a percentage of total retail sales, eCommerce has steadily gained bigger slices of the pie. The Commerce Department reported that, before the latest 10.2 percent, the tally was 9.9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, and 9.4 percent a year ago in the first quarter of 2018, as measured in seasonally-adjusted terms.

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Latest Insights: 

Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. The May 2019 AML/KYC Tracker, provides an in-depth examination of current efforts to stop money laundering, fight fraud and improve customer identity authentication in the financial services space.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2019/us-commerce-department-online-sales/

Press Coffee Roasters roll out mobile ordering with SpeedETab, Epson

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Press Coffee Roasters, a Phoenix-based cafe chain, has implemented a mobile ordering system with SpeedETab Inc. and Epson America Inc. printers at its seven area locations, Epson officials said in a company release.

Press Coffee Roasters selected SpeedETab for its enterprise-class ordering, analytics and engagement tools, according to officials, in the release. Epson America is providing its TM-m30 mPOS printers to the coffee chain to provide receipts to customers.

“Until very recently, having your own mobile ordering application was reserved for enterprise brands that had the resources and capital to build a quality mobile experience,” Adam Garfield, chief executive of SpeedETab, said in the announcement. “We make it easy for SMB’s and mid-market brands to compete by giving them an out-of-the-box digital ordering solution that lets customers skip the line while personalizing the ordering and pickup experience.”

Press Coffee customers can reorder drinks by tapping a button. The ordering system automatically flashes and alerts staff with a beep. Approved orders are sent to the Epson printers for receipts and alert customers that an order is in process. Customer names and photos are sent to baristas to make sure they have the correct customer.

The app uses the Press Coffee brand and customers can add credit or debit cards as their method of payment, Garfield said via email. 

SpeedETab now provides mobile ordering at about 1,500 cafes and other locations around the U.S., including Barnes & Noble, Panther Coffee, Gregory’s Coffee and Toby’s Estate.

Officials at Press Coffee Roasters, which originally opened in 2008, said that many of their  technology decisions are driven by the customer experience. In the six months since implementation, thousands of customers are using the mobile ordering system and adoption rates are continuing to increase.

“Our goal with a mobile app was to give our customers another way to order and know they were still getting the same great Press drinks and food,” co-owner Jason Kyle said in the release. “We needed a reliable way to funnel mobile orders into our existing workflow so that baristas could streamline order-ahead tickets without interrupting service to in-store customers.”


Topics: In-App Payments, Mobile Apps, Mobile Payments, POS, Restaurants

Companies: Epson America Inc.


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Toast expands integrations with partner firms to enhance restaurant POS

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Toast Inc. has announced that several companies will join its partner ecosystem, including Appfront, Como, Envysion, Homebase, PourMyBeer, Say2Eat and UT&I Solutions. This will bring to 70 the total number of partners whom Toast is now helping to enhance the restaurant guest experience and streamline in-house operations for restaurant customers of all sizes.

“At Toast we’re passionate about providing our restaurant community with access to an open ecosystem of leading technology applications that are certified to work with Toast point of sale,” Toast co-founder and president Aman Narang said in a company release.

Among the new partner firms, three specialize in enhancing the guest experience:

  • Appfront, a digital restaurant platform to enhance online ordering.
  • PourMyBeer, a self-pour beverage system that lets customers pour their own beer, wine, cocktails and other beverages.
  • Say2eat, a social media and messaging engagement tool that connects guests to restaurants.

The remaining companies focus on helping restaurants streamline operations:

  • Como provides data insights to help companies increase customer visits and spending.
  • Envysion helps restaurants with loss prevention, matching real-time video with transaction data.
  • Homebase offers scheduling software to help restaurants save time and money.
  • UT&I Solutions connects restaurants to accounting software such as Quickbooks and Microsoft Dynamics.

Topics: POS, Restaurants, Technology Providers

Companies: Toast, Inc.


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