Finance

CleverCards, a configurable payments startup, raises $8.6 million

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A startup that uses technology to stop employees from abusing corporate expenses just raised 8 million euros ($8.6 million) of funding from investors, defying a slump in investment for the financial technology industry.

CleverCards, a Dublin-based firm, uses a digital platform linked to configurable expense cards to give companies control over how their employees use their corporate payment cards.

According to a 2016 global survey of CFOs by human resources firm Robert Half, employees have made several improper expense report requests including a doggie day spa, taxidermy services, dance classes, a side of beef and even a welder.

These requests, though odd, reflect a tough reality for many companies when it comes to corporate expenses: sometimes they can’t trust an employees’ judgment.

CleverCards CEO Kealan Lennon says his platform aims to tackle exactly that.

Rather than handing employees corporate credit cards they can go out and use for purchases anywhere in the world, CleverCards allows businesses to deliver prepaid cards that can be configured to only be used by certain members of staff and block certain transactions if they’re viewed as inappropriate.

“Businesses want to make sure the right employee is the one that gets the card, and that it’s only used for certain purposes,” Lennon told CNBC in an interview.

“It’s finance control,” he added. “The idea of a configurable payments platform hadn’t been done before. And by doing it digitally, that allowed customers come along and say, I want to be able to do this with the press of a button.”

CleverCards told CNBC exclusively Friday that it raised new funds in an investment round led by strategic investor Pluxee. The fresh investment takes the total money raised by CleverCards to date to over 28 million euros.

Pluxee is an employee vouchers and benefits platform that spun off from French food catering firm Sodexo earlier this year.

It is listed on the Euronext stock exchange in France with a valuation of 4 billion euros.

Taking business from Adyen, Stripe

Founded in 2019, CleverCards has signed up over 10,000 businesses as customers. It counts the likes of eBay, PaddyPower, Betfair, Accenture, Microsoft and Apple as clients.

Besides these businesses, CleverCard also works with public sector organizations.

In 2022, CleverCards partnered with the U.K. government to help release social welfare payments to people on smart meters who usually pay their bills through direct debit, but have been forced to seek additional financial help due to rising fuel prices. The cards could only be used to pay bills on select utility companies’ websites.

CleverCards deployed artificial intelligence to conduct identity verification checks on recipients, helping to avoid fraud, according to Lennon.

Lennon said that CleverCards’ funding round stood out in what has been a brutal market for dealmaking and fundraising in fintech.

“It is a tough environment,” he said. “In the current market logjam, it has been pretty impressive now to raise money because nobody’s raising capital.”

He said CleverCards is increasingly snatching business away from the likes of payment tech giants Adyen and Stripe.

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“It’s been remarkable in that, as a smaller company, right, we were looking at the Stripes and Adyens and powering ahead,” he said, adding that, now, “we’ve won business against them.”

CleverCards will use the fresh funds to expand its business, scale its products and explore broader opportunities, it said.

In addition to the fundraise, CleverCards appointed five new non-executive directors to its board with experience in payments technology.

They include industry veterans Patrick Waldron, Donal Daly, Marc Frappier, Garry Lyons and Viktoria Otero del Val.

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