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Fintech funding flocked to investment tech in April

During the month of April, financial technology investors pulled out their checkbooks for U.S. startups focused on investments and capital markets applications. As a whole, companies in that space closed on $152 million in funding, the highest among subsectors that S&P Global Market Intelligence covers.

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Digital lenders were not far behind, however, at $143 million, the bulk of which went to Wunder Co. Based in Boulder, Colo., Wunder offers an online platform for the financing of solar energy projects. It completed a $112 million round led by Cyrus Capital Partners LP, a deep-value-focused investor that manages more than $4 billion in assets. The round also had participation from existing investors, including fellow Boulder native Techstars Central LLC. Its fund, Techstars Ventures, invests in companies that take part in the Techstars accelerator program. Techstars Ventures has $265 million in assets under management, according to the parent company's website.

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But while Wunder's was the largest single raise, there were only two other digital lender transactions during the month. Meanwhile, nine investment and capital markets companies closed funding rounds, which, when combined, made for a bigger aggregate amount. The largest of the investment and capital markets deals was a $67 million raise from Symphony Communication Services LLC. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup, which provides messaging services for financial services professionals, has been gaining attention for its roster of big-name investors, which includes Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., to name a few.

Symphony has also received media attention for its bold ambition of taking on Bloomberg LP. Symphony's strategy centers around offering a stand-alone messaging platform, since Bloomberg's chat service has traditionally been bundled with a terminal subscription. For smaller institutions, buying a full Bloomberg subscription might be too expensive. That is where Symphony comes in, offering its service for $20 per license per month to small businesses. At the same time, Symphony might also be able to snag some large customers through its enterprise plan, particularly clients that only use Bloomberg's chat function.

But Bloomberg is not sitting idly by. It has not only started offering a chat-only service but has made the price point $10 a month per user, according to a Financial Times report from October 2017.

The next largest raise from an investment and capital markets technology company was Harbor Platform Inc.'s $28 million funding round. The San Francisco-based startup "tokenizes" illiquid assets, such as real estate, by converting the asset rights to a digital token on a blockchain. As Harbor shows, the ongoing buzz over blockchain-focused companies remains strong. The month of April saw funding for several other blockchain-related U.S. fintech companies as well: BitPay Inc., which offers a blockchain payment platform; Templum Inc and CoinList Capital LLC, both of which help companies perform initial coin offerings; and Nino Finance Inc., doing business as CoinTracker, which provides tax management services for cryptocurrency portfolios.

We recently published a report on how financial services companies are using distributed ledger technology. It details, among other things, how Citigroup has been a particularly active investor in blockchain-related startups among publicly traded U.S. financial services companies.

Citi did not close on any investments in fintech companies during the month of April, however, blockchain-related or otherwise. The most active investors we found in April were Andreessen Horowitz, Raptor Group Holdings LP and SBI Holdings Inc. Raptor and SBI stood out in that they invested in the same companies: the aforementioned Templum and DriveWealth LLC, which offers application programming interfaces to brokers and wealth managers. There does not appear to be any relationship, however, between Raptor Group, a U.S.-based private investment company that invests in a variety of sectors, and SBI, a publicly traded, Japan-based venture investor focused on technology.

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