Circle, Brex, Stripe: Payments companies are attracting supersize funding deals

September 11, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

It pays to be a payments company right now.

Venture capital money is flowing into transaction-focused fintechs at exhaustive levels right now. In the U.S. alone, $2.4 billion of funding poured into payments fintechs in the second quarter of this year, according to a S&P Global Market Intelligence report. That’s more funding by far than any other fintech sector: nearly $1 billion more than what banking tech companies managed to raise.

A few major deals have put this sector of the fintech world at the forefront this quarter. In late May, the crypto-focused company Circle raised $440 million from Fidelity’s mutual funds, crypto exchange FTX, and other venture capital investors. Circle said earlier this year that it is planning to go public via a SPAC merger; its U.S. dollar-backed coin, USDC, is one of the most popular stablecoins on the market. One month prior to Circle’s raise, corporate card and bill pay software company Brex raised $425 million in a funding round from Tiger Global, TCV, Ribbit Capital, and others. Then there were the funding rounds for ReCharge and SpotOn.

Of course, it’s worth mentioning that the European payments startups have become some of the most valuable in the world. Irish payment processing company Stripe, for instance, is valued at $95 billion. Earlier this year, Swedish pay-later fintech Klarna got a fresh new valuation of $46 billion after its latest funding round. 

This sector of financial technology is surely benefiting from the pandemic-induced uptick in online spending. A Fortune and SurveyMonkey poll found that nearly half of consumers are spending more online than they were before the pandemic. Nearly four out of 10 U.S. adults said in March they were making online purchases—that’s up 11 percentage points from 2019. 

While it may be payment tech companies at the forefront of the VC gold rush, the entire financial technology sector is having a great year. Funding for fintech companies grew nearly 70%—194 deals totaling $7.5 billion in private funding—in the second quarter of 2021 from the year-ago period, according to S&P Global. If you were to exclude Robinhood Market’s emergency funding round in early 2020, fintech companies have raised approximately 50% more private funding in the first half of this year than they did in 2020. Looks like the pandemic has proven to be a gold rush for financial tech.

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