UK's Paysend raises $125M at a $700M+ valuation to expand its all-in-one payments platform

·5 min read

With more people than ever before going online to pay for things and pay each other, startups that are building the infrastructure that enables these actions continue to get a lot of attention.

In the latest development, Paysend, a fintech that has built a mobile-based payments platform -- which currently offers international money transfers, global accounts, and business banking and e-commerce for SMBs -- has picked up some money of its own. The London-based startup has closed a round of $125 million, a sizable Series B that the company's CEO and founder Ronnie Millar said it will be using to continue expanding its business geographically, to hire more people, and to continue building more fintech products.

The funding is being led by One Peak, with Infravia Growth Capital, Hermes GPE, previous backer Plug and Play and others participating.

Millar said Paysend is not disclosing valuation today but described it as a "substantial kick-up" and "a great step forward in our position ahead toward unicorn status."

From what I understand though, the company was valued at $160 million in its previous round, and its core metrics have gone up 4.5x. Doing some basic math, that gives the company a valuation of around $720 million, a figure that a source close to the company did not dispute when I brought it up.

Something that likely caught investors' attention is that Paysend has grown to the size it is today -- it currently has 3.7 million consumer customers using its transfer and global account services, and 17,000 small business customers, and is now available in 110 receiving countries -- in less than four years and $50 million in funding.

There are a couple of notable things about Paysend and its position in the market today, the first being the competitive landscape.

On paper, Paysend appears to offer many of the same features as a number of other fintechs: money transfer, global payments, and banking and e-commerce services for smaller businesses are all well-trodden areas with companies like Wise (formerly "TransferWise"), PayPal, Revolut, and so many others also providing either all or a range of these services.

To me, the fact that any one company relatively off the tech radar can grow to the size that it has speaks about the opportunity in the market for more than just one or two, or maybe five, dominant players.

Considering just remittances alone, the WorldBank in April said that flows just to low- and middle-income countries stood at $540 million last year, and that was with a dip in volumes due to COVID-19. The cut that companies like Paysend make in providing services to send money is, of course, significantly smaller than that -- business models include commission charges, flat fees or making money off exchange rates; Paysend charges £1 per transfer in the U.K. More than that, the overall volumes, and the opportunity to build more services for that audience, are why we're likely to see a lot of companies with ambitions to serve that market.

Services for small businesses, and tapping into the opportunity to provide more e-commerce tools at a time when more business and sales are being conducted online, is similarly crowded but also massive.

Indeed, Paysend points out that there is still a lot of growing and evolution left to do. Citing McKinsey research, it notes that some 70% of international payments are currently still cash-to-cash, with fees averaging up to 5.2% per transaction, and timing taking up to an hour each for sender and recipient to complete transfers. (Paysend claims it can cut fees by up to 60%.)

This brings us to the second point about Paysend: How it's built its services. The fintech world today leans heavily on APIs: Companies that are knitting together a lot of complexity and packaging it into APIs that are used by others who bypass needing to build those tools themselves, instead integrating them and adding better user experience and responsive personalization around them. Paysend is a little different from these, with a vertically integrated approach, having itself built everything that it uses from the ground up.

Millar -- a Scottish repeat entrepreneur (his previous company Paywizard, which has rebranded to Singula, is a specialist in pay-TV subscriber management) -- notes that Paysend has built both its processing and acquiring facilities. "Because we have built everything in-house it lets us see what the consumer needs and uses, and to deliver that at a lower cost basis," he said. "It's much more cost-efficient and we pass that savings on to the consumer. We designed our technology to be in complete control of it. It's the most profitable approach, too, from a business point of view."

That being said, he confirmed that Paysend itself is not yet profitable, but investors believe it's making the right moves to get there. To be clear, Paysend actually does partner with other companies, including those providing APIs, to improve its services. In April, Plaid and Paysend announced they were working together to power open banking transfers, reducing the time to initiate and receive money.

“We are excited by Paysend’s enormous growth potential in a massive market, benefiting from a rapid acceleration in the adoption of digital payments," said Humbert de Liedekerke, managing partner at One Peak Partners, in a statement. "In particular, we are seeing strong opportunities as Paysend moves beyond consumers to serve business customers and expands its international footprint to address a growing need for fast, easy and low-cost cross-border digital payments. Paysend has built an exceptional payment platform by maintaining an unwavering focus on its customers and constantly innovating. We are excited to back the entire Paysend team in their next phase of explosive growth.”