Mastercard Backs Out of Earthport Deal, Acquires Transfast
Mastercard’s bidding war with Visa for payment-technology firm Earthport intensified in February, capped off by a $320m offer by Visa that forced Mastercard to drop out.
One month later, Mastercard announced that it had agreed to acquire a different cross-border payment startup, Transfast. Transfast does not have the connections that Earthport has—partnerships with companies like TransferWise, Ripple, and BAML made Earthport such an attractive acquisition—but Transfast had already supported Mastercard Send, the bank’s platform for P2P and B2B payment services. In addition, Transfast is integrated with 300+ financial institutions with Private Equity backing from GCP Capital Partners and Apis Partners.
Specific details about Mastercard’s transaction have not been revealed but the deal is expected to close later in 2019.
Revolut Supports Amazon, PayPal, Stripe Integration for Vendors
In March, the UK payments/personal banking fintech Revolut announced that ‘Revolut for Business’ users are now able to connect their accounts to those three major platforms. For vendors that use Amazon, the update will allow all customer payments made on Amazon to be deposited directly into their Revolut accounts. Similarly, any eCommerce platform that supports PayPal, such as eBay, will allow vendors to receive those payments directly to their Revolut accounts after connecting those accounts on the PayPal website.
These integrations come with some restrictions based on currency used, but Revolut announced that full support would be coming to more users in the near future. Revolut is also expected to launch in the U.S. this year.
Apple Reveals the New Apple Card
Apple made major waves in the financial technology space when it revealed the Apple Card last week. Available this summer through a partnership with Goldman Sachs, the card will have no card number, no CVV, no expiration date, and no signature. On top of that, Apple Card will have no late fees, annual fees, international fees, or penalty interest rates. Apple will also offer up to 3% cash back on Apple purchases and 2% for virtual transactions. If the merchant does not support Apple Pay, users can pay with the physical Apple Card and earn 1% cash back.
The announcement is a huge play for Apple, and is generally welcomed by customers and investors alike. Even with interest rates below industry average, the interest income alone should be able to boost Apple’s bottom line numbers. On top of that, Apple Card will bring more users into the Apple Pay system and strengthen the Apple ecosystem amid weaker iPhone sales.
Robinhood Acquires MarketSnacks
On March 25th, Robinhood announced the acquisition of MarketSnacks, a daily financial newsletter and podcast. The firm retained MarketSnacks co-founders Jack Kramer and Nick Martell as Managing Editors of the news, and renamed the platform “Robinhood Snacks”. This move signals Robinhood’s increased desire to develop a presence in financial media and to grow from a pure online exchange into a multi-dimensional financial services institution. Per the company’s announcement, Robinhood plans to implement Snacks as a way to bring “some of the trends and top stories shaping markets to help keep [investors] informed about the news that affects [their] finances, decisions, and lives” in the form of 3-minute newsletters and 15-minute podcasts.
The acquisition comes after a series of moves Robinhood has made to enhance its product. Over the past year, Robinhood has made a variety of improvements in their market news coverage, from enhanced user accessibility via the implementation of discovery tools, to a revamped help center.
Indian Lendtech Spoon Prepares for Launch
The disruptive Indian micro-financing startup plans to launch in India in the near future, according to BankingTech. Primarily targeted at millennials, Spoon aims to become the first of its kind by making micro-loans (ex. loans under $500) accessible and eligible for “anybody who logs into the app” as per the company website. The firm plans to offer these loans with zero collateral, low interest rates, and zero hidden fees.
India’s large population and rapid economic growth has made the country a hotspot for micro-financing startups. It remains to be seen how Spoon plans to differentiate themselves and what value proposition they plan to bring to the marketplace.
A Recap of Brave’s Q1 Partnerships
In the first quarter of 2019, the Brave/Basic Attention Token team announced two new partnerships:
Cheddar: On January 29th , Brave announced a partnership with Cheddar, a media network company that specializes in covering the news. The partnership is structured so that Brave users will get three months of free access to premium Cheddar content. In exchange, Cheddar taps into to the thousands of users on the Brave platform, who can, in turn, contribute Basic Attention Tokens to cheddar. The joint venture will strengthen the BAT marketplace and draw new users to both Cheddar and Brave.
TAP: TAP Network is a marketing and consumer data network that uses blockchain technology to connect over 250,000 TAP partners to consumers, rewarding customers for purchases made directly within the network.
On March 2nd, TAP announced its strategic partnership with BAT that will connect each company’s user base and drive growth for both products.
Notable TAP partners include and Amazon, Starbucks, Apple, Red Bull.
Coinbase Launches Support for Tezos Staking
Staking is offered by Proof-of-Stake (“PoS”) blockchain protocols as an alternative to mining, which is the method of blockchain verification used by Proof-of-Work (“PoW”) blockchains. With staking, users effectively act as stakeholders and govern over the protocol by voting on software updates and validating transactions all while requiring far less computing power than mining. In return, stakeholders are rewarded with new tokens, just like miners, and this represents a way to generate passive income on crypto assets and combat inflation.
Among the protocols that support staking, Tezos (XTZ) has quickly become one of the most popular. Developed by ex-Morgan Stanley analyst Arthur Breitman, Tezos offers an advanced delegated proof-of-stake (“DPoS”) infrastructure as well as support of smart contracts and decentralized applications, or DApps. Coinbase says it had received an overwhelming amount of requests to support staking and Tezos is only the first of several PoS protocols that it will add in the future. According to Coinbase, the recent Tezos integration makes it the first “full-service, regulated, comprehensively-insured, and 100% offline staking provider in crypto.” Beyond the wave of individual investors that this move brings into the Tezos network, the announcement is so significant because it will allow Coinbase’s institutional clients to begin staking on Tezos.
As part of the announcement, the company revealed that Coinbase Custody is used by over 60 institutional clients managing over $600 million in assets—a figure that is rapidly growing. Coinbase anticipates that these clients will be among the biggest adopters of Tezos staking as it is the most secure way thus far for them to generate passive income for crypto asset portfolios. The price of Tezos’ XTZ tokens has soared since the announcement and it is currently the 20th largest crypto asset by market cap.