​NAB takes slice of cloud startup Wave in $24m round

The bank's venture capital arm has led a $24 million Series D funding round in Canadian cloud fintech firm Wave.

Cloud fintech company Wave has secured $24 million in a Series D funding round led by NAB Ventures, the venture capital fund of the National Australia Bank.

The Series D funding round also included cash injections from Royal Bank of Canada, Silicon Valley venture firms CRV and Social Capital, global funds OurCrowd and HarbourVest, as well as Canadian investors OMERS Ventures, BDC IT Venture Fund, BDC Capital, and Portag3.

As part of its investment, NAB Ventures gets a stake in the startup, and also has the right to appoint an observer to the Wave board.

Toronto-based Wave delivers cloud-based financial management software including accounting, invoicing, and payroll for small businesses with up to 10 employees.

The Wave platform is free; the startup makes money by embedding financial services within the software, such as credit card processing and payments, lending, and payroll, as some as examples.

"Everybody believes they're the backbone of the economy, but at the same time, they're having a difficult time, and you see a high failure rate within the small business community and we think a lot of that has to do with the financial literacy that they have when running their small business," Wave co-founder and CEO Kirk Simpson said.

"We see an opportunity to give them better visibility into what's happening in their business so they can run the business more successfully."

Wave was introduced to NAB through another investor. Melissa Widner, general partner at NAB Ventures, commented that the startup caught the bank's eye with its "laser focus" on the experience for the small business owner.

"We found this company that had literally tens of thousands of very happy customers in Australia without doing any marketing here so we thought they were obviously onto something," she said.

"We're targeting markets globally as long as they have a very strong Australian strategy."

The bank's venture capital arm also led a $24 million Series B investment round for foreign exchange startup Veem in February, with the San Francisco-based startup also securing funding from Google Ventures, American VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Silicon Valley Bank, and Japanese fund SBI Investment Co. Ltd.

Veem uses blockchain technology to perform cross-border business-to-business payments that are settled and sent in respective local currencies.

Previously, NAB Ventures, alongside Qantas Loyalty and Westpac's ReInventure Fund, invested in Sydney-based startup Data Republic's AU$10.5 million Series A round.

Data Republic was co-founded in 2014 by Paul McCarney and Danny Gilligan, who is also the co-founder of Westpac's Reinventure.

The startup offers a marketplace for data exchange between organisations and is currently in use by governments and not-for-profits, in addition to private enterprise.

NAB announced in February it was working with health-tech startup Medipass Solutions -- which the bank also seed-funded in February -- to develop a new digital platform to connect patients with healthcare practitioners.

Although the "Uber-like" platform is currently in testing and development phase, NAB expects it will allow users to also receive upfront cost estimates, make appointments, and take care of payment or claiming for the consultation. It will also leverage the NAB-owned health claims and payments system (HICAPS).

For the initiative, NAB has also partnered with Melbourne-based tech startup Localz, which won NAB Labs' inaugural Hackathon in December 2014 and received funding from NAB Ventures.

Last year, NAB chief Andrew Thorburn said the bank was looking to make faster, bigger, better changes, and to do that, it needed to embrace the hunger found within fintech companies.

"I actually think we are a fintech company ourselves. I think we have the mindset of a fintech company, and I actually think we have a lot of the assets of a fintech company," he said previously.

"Fintech companies -- the smaller, emerging ones -- they're hungry, they want to make an impact, they find an opportunity, and they go after it. And that's the sort of hunger we need inside our own company.

"They should be respected, but not feared."