The Danish corporate card issuer Pleo raised its A-round about a year ago. This week, it has just finalised its B-round at $56m. For a Danish fintech company that was founded in 2015 and launched its first product as late as the beginning of 2017, this is moving fast.
“When we started raising our B-round we hadn’t even started using the money from our previous round,” says Pleo’s chief executive Jeppe Rindom to Sifted.
Pleo issues company cards, with accompanying software, that allow both employees and managers to automatically match receipts and track all company spending in real-time. With the company cards all connected to the same Pleo account, it is no longer necessary for employees to charge expenses to their own credit cards and then claim back from the company.
“When we started raising our B-round we hadn’t even started using the money from our previous round”
“We are not trying to be a bank. It is very hard to serve customers with a full banking experience in the best possible way. What we have done is to zoom in on a little piece of that value chain which is paying for stuff. It’s a bit of a new category. Just as Slack is the tool when you communicate if you are a modern company, Pleo is a product you use for spending money.”
So far, Pleo has been able to attract customers in Denmark, Sweden and in its biggest market, the UK.
With backers such as Swedish investors Kinnevik and Creandum as well as the American private equity firm Stripes, which lead the B-round, the company is set to increase its speed of growth in Europe, more than doubling its headcount, and add on other services such as credit, invoices, a vendor marketplace and open up for reclaiming VAT.
“What we have done is to zoom in on a little piece of that value chain which is paying for stuff”
But why raise a new round of capital when the money from the last round still has not been touched?
The cons are obvious: with the opportunity to grow with the money from round A, the valuation of the company could increase substantially until it is time for the next round. Then the founders would not need to dilute their shares and could go on owning a bigger part of the company.
According to Rindom, the next round would eventually be raised either way, and he says the money was available — so they took it.
“We feel that there is no such thing like Pleo in the market today and there is a massive opportunity to make this into an industry standard. That requires a push in terms of marketing and branding and when setting up in new countries,” Rindom says.
“We could have grown in a little more humble way with the money we had, or raise a lot of money now and see if we can win this market faster. We decided on the latter.”
For Rindom and his cofounder Niccolo Perra, this is not their first startup journey. Both were early team members of the Danish fintech success Tradeshift.
“I have seen what it does to an organisation when you get close of running out of money. It stresses the organisation and at best you slow down a lot. The worst is when you have to destroy stuff. That is why with Pleo we have always raised money way ahead of time.”
“I can see that giant wall ahead of me and this is an element of that”
For most parts, earlier startup experience is of great value when beginning a new startup, however, according to Rindom it also has some disadvantages.
“You are slightly more aware of the risks and raising money way ahead of time is right, but part of it is also that I feel that I need to be responsible while you see founders at 21 and they go 130 miles per hour towards the wall,” Rindom says.
“They don’t even realise that there is a wall in front of them and sometimes magically they jump over it. They didn’t even see the risk. I can see that giant wall ahead of me and this [raising money ahead of time] is an element of that.”
Rindom prefers to compare Pleo with communication tools such as Slack, Asana, and Trello rather than with fintech companies such as Tink or Klarna.
“Fintech is a little bit of an overvalued term and a misleading term. In essence, we don’t see ourselves as a fintech company, we are about helping companies lead and have better workflows and automation. Then it just happens to be that we need to be a financial institution to solve that problem,” Rindom says.