Thunes, a Singapore and London-based fintech that has built a payments platform for businesses to send money to each other internationally by tapping into the growing network of mobile wallets and other alternatives to bank accounts, has closed its Series C round of funding to expand its business. The startup has raised $72 million, money that it will be using to continue adding more providers to its network, and to bring more customers onto its platform. We’ve confirmed that Thunes now has a valuation of over $900 million with this latest round.
Its platform has been on a fast growth curve since its last big funding round in 2021. Thunes currently has 3 billion mobile wallet accounts (compared to 720 million previously), plus another 4 billion bank accounts connected through its network of partners, which include the likes of M-Pesa in Kenya, WeChat across Asia, Uber, PayPal, MoneyGram, Remitly and many more that are enabling their customers to make and take payments using Thunes’ rails. In all, Thunes currently covers some 300 payment methods across 80 currencies and allows payments out in 132 countries, with collections in 70 markets. And to date it’s processed more than $50 billion in transactions.
It’s something of a moving target, and fittingly the Series C has been, too. It’s some months in the making, with a first close of $60 million announced in June. The bigger round is being led by Marshall Wace (a hedge fund in London), with Bessemer Venture Partners and 01Fintech, Visa, EDBI (the venture arm of Singapore’s Economic Development Board) and Endeavor Catalyst (a co-investment fund of Endeavor) all participating. Today is the first time that the startup is confirming its new, bigger valuation, which previously had been just over $794 million before this round, according to data from PitchBook.
The issue that Thunes is addressing in the market is one that businesses transacting internationally will recognize.
Remittances — cross-border payments, typically between individuals — have come a very long way in the decade with the rise of mobile phones and wallets, digitized payment rails and a competitive landscape of providers working to improve pricing, speed and transparency.
But when it comes to businesses, a lot of the market remains stuck in an earlier era: SMBs and bigger organizations often still work through banks and face challenges with varying fees, changing rates and indeterminate time frames.
“When we started the business in 2016, it was because we saw an inefficiency in cross-border payments, specifically around how one business can pay a supplier or another business,” CEO Peter De Caluwe told TechCrunch in an interview. Going to a bank and asking to wire £100 was just not that simple, or cheap, he continued. “You have cable fees, wire fees, questions about whether the sender or recipient pays, the exchange rate. And you don’t know when the money might arrive. It could be one day, or seven days.”
So that is essentially what the company set out to fix. Mobile wallets are not the only channel that can be tapped through Thunes, but they are an important part of the equation because of how popular they are in certain parts of the world as a channel for making and taking payments — especially emerging markets where traditional bank services remain hard and expensive to access (and therefore not used as much), and mobile phones have become proxies for computers for many people and businesses.
De Caluwe cited figures from McKinsey that estimate there are some 3.5 billion individual users or businesses using mobile and digital wallets currently — people who are using these “instead of banks,” he added, and that the figure is estimated to rise to between 6 billion and 7 billion in a few years.
It’s apt, but also a little ironic, that Thunes is named as it is. The term is French slang for money, and the use of it here speaks to the idea of the startup taking a very modern approach — part of the bigger trend around the consumerization of fintech — by using a channel that was originally focused on consumers and individuals, to enable bigger transactions for businesses.
But on the other hand, the company is anything but casual: It’s done the hard work of connecting up a number of fragmented players, and creating new channels for money to move from one business to another, channels that create, arguably, more efficiency in the market and most certainly more competition and choice for users.
In that vein, Visa is very much a strategic partner with this investment. The two have been working together since October 2022, when Thunes was only connected to 1.5 billion digital wallets. Visa uses Thunes’ platform to let its customers transfer funds by way of Thunes’ “send-to-wallet” functionality, which covers 78 digital wallet providers; and Thunes also has an API integration with Visa Direct so that Visa’s business customers (these are bigger neobanks, money transfer operators, governments and other financial institutions) can offer their own small business customers the ability to send money to digital wallets in emerging markets across Africa, Asia and Latin America.
“Digital wallets play a key role in providing underserved communities with greater economic empowerment and financial inclusion by penetrating previously unreached regions,” said Ruben Salazar Genovez, global head of Visa Direct, in a statement. “Visa is proud to take part in Thunes’ Series C investment round and we look forward to continuing our collaboration aimed at providing more customers around the world with quick and simple access to the financial system through digital wallets.”