This is my weekly column. I will be publishing this every Sunday, so be sure to listen to the Equity show, as well as my other shows. Once it becomes a newsletter on May 1, you can sign up here to have this hit your inbox directly.

There has been so much expense/spend management news that it feels like we have been over-indexing.

Last week, I covered Brex's big push into software, which means that its revenue generation will be more diversified as it will now be making money off of interchange fees and recurring revenue from subscriptions to its software. It said it is placing more emphasis on moving upscale to serve larger customers.

DoorDash, a $36 billion market cap company, was one of the first customers to bet on Brex's new spend management software product, Empower.

Emburse, a nearly $200 million-in-ARR expense software company, announced it was doing the opposite on the same day. The company said it is going head-to-head with fast-growing startup like Brex and Ramp in the SMB space.

The size of the B2B payments space is considered to be the driving factor by one founder I spoke with, John Thomas. Corporate cards make up 4% of the market, or $1 trillion, in the U.S.

The startup is located in the Wild Wild West of expense management. The requirements of mid-market companies include bank-grade fraud protection, budget controls, approval workflows and accounting integration with flexible payment type and funding support.

Thomas says that lending is an area in which they rely on the banks to do the lending. Aggressive lending is biting many of the credit card providers.

Expense management is only part of a company's non-payroll spend management.

Everything you need as a customer can be achieved through the use of an API.

The choice of card issuing processor, Fiserv, fits in with the bank-grade strategy.

Henrique Dubugras is a co- founder of Brex.

Huh. Interesting. Another example of a different strategy in the space is that of Zact partnering with financial institutions rather than competing with them. It claims to be able to keep all interchange. Some of these companies relied on interchange fees for revenue, others relied on software subscriptions, and now an increasing number are betting on both.

Brex and Ramp are moving upscale to serve larger customers. Emburse claims to be able to serve all of the mid-market with separate products, while Airbase and Zact are focused on the small market. It is enough to make one spin their head. Wait, there is more.

TripActions, a relatively new player in the space, shared with me some statistics about its recent growth. The company pivoted to its general expense management product, TripActions Liquid, when corporate travel stopped because of the Pandemic in March of 2020. In response to demand, it just launched the ability for small and medium-sized businesses to self-sign up, and has had more than a thousand companies sign up. A lot of companies that were customers of its travel expense product have signed on to TripActions Liquid. They include Amplitude, Amplitude, Loom, and Canva.

TripActions, which used to be more focused on enterprises, is now going after growth-stage companies. Like Emburse.

The increase in travel spend was due to business travel bouncing back. The transaction volume processed via TripActions Liquid more than doubled from January to March of this year. When business travel was on pause, the Fintech companies made it easy to build a corporate card company, but now that business travel is back, they will need to have travel if they want to scale and provide true value. Considering 70% of expenses happen in some way shape or form around travel, offering a card with basic spend limits just isn't enough.

His statement is an obvious slam against some of its competitors that have expanded or plan to expand into travel and an implication that since that is what TripActions started out doing, it must be able to do it better.

It does feel like there is a lot of mud-slinging going on, even though most of the players I talk to claim this is not a winner-takes-all space.

Capital on Tap, a company that describes itself as a competitor to Ramp, told me that it has closed a $200 million funding facility so that it can continue to fund small businesses. It has opened a new office in Atlanta. More than 125,000 small and medium businesses in the U.S. and the UK have been helped by Capital on Tap.

Let's add one more to the list. I will say, ring.

Silly skeptics, cryptos for kids!

The section is brought to you by a very talented person.

There are many fintechs that are cashing in on the interest in cryptocurrencies among adults. Some startup are trying to capture a new market: children.

Step, a Series C fintech app that provides banking services to teenagers, announced last week that it will be offering a new product that will allow its 3 million users to invest in equities and cryptocurrencies on its app. The new product, Step Investing, will be launched early this summer.

The CEO and co-founder of Step said that the feature of cryptocurrencies was the toprequested feature from their customers.

Teen banking service Step raises $100M Series C, announces Steph Curry’s investment

Step Investing's offering will allow customers to trade over 50cryptocurrencies and NFTs. The company says it will offer staking and other Defi tools. Each user will have their own wallet address through Step.

The 18-month-old startup already offers bank accounts, credit cards and a peer-to-peer payments platform to teenagers whose parents legally own the accounts. MacDonald said that the company makes revenue through interchange fees on transactions.

Step is not alone in marketing to the under-18 crowd. Onu launched custodial accounts for children with access to 22 cryptocurrencies last month, and children's social network Zigazoo started dropping NFTs last week. According to Noah Kerner, the startup plans to include the option for customers who would like to participate in the project, but no more than 5% exposure.

MacDonald said he isn't concerned about kids on Step Investing making reckless decisions like YOLO-ing all their birthday money into Dogecoin, even though it may raise some eyebrows. He said that parents will be able to set spending and investing limits on their children's accounts.

A big part of our goal with our core product, as well as things like, giving kids access to invest, or learn what it means to invest, is to do that in a responsible way, and put guardrails on it.

Sign up for Chain Reaction, the upcoming newsletter from Lucas Matney andAnita Ramaswamy, to get more news on a regular basis.

On to fundings

I wrote about a new bank called Winden, founded by a former Apple Card designer with the aim of building a neobank that offers deposit banking, spend management and other financial services.

Daniel Sathyanesan is the founder and CEO of Winden.

The $5.3 million seed raise included participation from some other high-profile investors, such as the venture fund of spend management startup Ramp, and Lachy Groom, the founder of a number of fintech companies.

Welcome Tech, a startup aiming to build an operating system for immigrant families in the U.S., raised $30 million in new capital to help them. TTV Capital led the raise. The company's initial approach was different than other companies in the space because it first set out to earn the trust of the community it aims to serve.

Dollars continue to flow to African fintechs. Tage Kene-Okafor, our man-on-the-ground, reports that Umba raised 15 million dollars in Series A funding.

Digital bank Umba raises $15M, plans to expand into three new African markets

In Europe, Lunden wrote about London-based Stenn, which applies big data analytics and matching them up against an algorithm to determine eligibility for a loan of up to $10 million, and on the other side taps a network of institutions and other big lenders. The company raised $50 million in equity funding to expand its business.

Wagestream raised $175 million in the UK and will use the money to fuel a big push into the U.S., where it is known for working with employers to enable salary advances for employees by way of an app.

According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, neobank Fi is in advanced stages of talks to raise about $100 million at a $700 million valuation. The terms may change as the deal hasn't closed yet.

Newfront announced a $200 million investment at a $2.2 billion valuation led by Goldman Sachs Asset Management and B Capital with participation from existing investors. Newfront plans to grow its technology teams and focus on data-driven insights for clients. The company plans to expand across the U.S.

Ugami, a startup that offers a financial rewards solution for gaming, has closed a seed round. The startup launched a closed alpha for its first product, the Ugami Debit Card and app. There are 265,000 people on the wait list for gaming.

Splitero, a financial service company providing homeowners options to access their home equity, announced raising a $5.8 million seed round and securing more than $1 billion in financing. Michael Gifford and David Zvaifler founded the company to help consumers combat inflation and rising home expenses with their home equity through lump-sum cash transactions in exchange for a share of their home's appreciation.

I missed a real estate deal the week before here, and it is quite interesting. Vontive, an embedded mortgage platform for investment real estate that just came out of stealth, secured $135 million in a Series B round. The company was founded by a former Palantir engineer and a Freddie Mac executive.

Vontive wants to be the Palantir of real estate investing

As more people moved to remote work over the past few years, there was also an increase in people choosing contract work, leaving companies to figure out how to manage that worker segment. Archie raised $4.5 million in funding to continue developing its financial infrastructure. Christine Hall has all the information.

In other news

Deel, a startup which helps companies pay people remotely globally, has crossed $100 million in ARR. The transparency is something we love. In this piece, Alex Wilhelm breaks down its significance.

Whether as the treasurer of her high school at age 16 or as the founder of her own business, the friend that has always been good with money has always been entrepreneurial. The group-financing platform Braid is trying to make transactions work for various entities, from shared households to side hustles.

Is it cheap to have Stripe? This month, Stripe put out a mostly data-free update letter that includes enough information for us to get dangerous. With some creative math and extrapolation, we can derive valuation calculations for Stripe that should help us better understand how well the payments powerhouse priced its last equity round. Alex looks here.

If you could buy a Peloton with pre-tax dollars, what would you do? What about vitamins and supplements? What are the products for skin care? Is it possible that mattresses and massages are included? You could make purchases through a Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Account. When her mother lost her job during the Pandemic, Ami Kumordzie realized that she was a doctor. Kumordzie helped her mother find ways to spend the money so she didn't lose it entirely, an experience that sparked Kumordzie's idea to last year launch Sika, a fintech marketplace that allows customers to pay for qualified products at the point of sale. The scoop is given by Anita Ramaswamy.

I reported this week that is about to make another round of layoffs. This could be one of the few times I hope I'm wrong. The company will be laying off members of the Better Real Estate team and people who work in the refinance department. It is not yet clear how many staffers will be impacted by the potentially fresh round of layoffs, but it is believed to be in the hundreds.

Lawrence Murata and Alice Deng are the co-founders of Slope.

Slope, which provides businesses an easy way to offer buy now, pay later services, has had a busy six months. Slope saw a 121% growth month over month and signed up enough enterprise customers to grow more than 20 times in the quarter, according to the company's founders.

Customers can use their cell phone number to make a payment with Everyware's Pay By Text function. Through its collaboration with Visa, Everyware is able to act as a token requestor for its clients and enable its customers to pay with just a cell phone number across merchants and payment processors.

Ripsy Bandourian has been hired by Plaid to lead the company's expansion throughout Europe. She joined Plaid from, where she worked for eight years in a variety of senior-leadership roles in product, marketing, strategy and partnerships. You can read about the news on the Plaid website.

Arc launched a new product. Runway uses a proprietary method to analyze net cash burn and cash on hand. The company claims that within 24 hours, it provides flexible, low-cost capital with zero dilution or debt, enabling continued operations and financial stability during volatility. I was told by Arc that it was building a community of premium software companies that would give them a way to borrow, save and spend their money on a single tech platform.

Deserve, a company that transforms credit cards into software that lives on mobile and in the cloud, has launched an offering that allows banks and B2B companies to launch corporate.

An inside look at a Ukranian fintech startup adapting to life during wartime is another piece I couldn't include.

An inside look at a Ukrainian fintech startup adapting to life during wartime

Afterpay may have reason to doubt its decision to pay $29 billion for Square last year because of talk that Australian buy now, pay later giant. The half-year losses of Afterpay were much larger than the group's revenue due to a surge in bad debts and other operating costs.

That is it for this week. I think it was the longest edition of my life. Thanks for reading, I hope you have a great weekend.