Comma raises £4.4M in seed funding to build the first European open banking bulk payment system for SMEs
6 Aug 2021: Comma, a company dedicated to making payments easy for smaller businesses, today announces that it has raised £4.4 million ($6m) in Seed round funding. The round was led by Octopus Ventures and Connect Ventures. They were joined by investors Village Global, and the founders of Wagestream Peter Briffet and Portman Wills who invested in advance of the round in January.
A huge unmet need
Every year, small businesses spend 137 million hours processing over £1 trillion of payments online – mainly paying staff salaries and supplier invoices. The vast majority of these businesses have less than 10 staff members, and almost none of them have access to corporate banking services. This makes payments a tedious and manual process for over 5.7MM UK sole traders and micro SMEs*, costing the economy £1.3bn annually in time alone.
The incumbent solutions that exist are overly complicated and difficult to set up, especially for very small businesses, which make up the majority of 6m UK businesses. In addition there are 35,000 accountants in the UK who try to help relieve the strain by providing services in the form of bookkeeping or handling payroll. The extent in which they can provide these services is limited by strenuous KYC, DD and the level of risk involved getting access to client bank accounts, setting up BACS, or intermediary accounts.
How Comma works
Comma is the UK’s first native open banking bulk payment system. It saves clients the tedious work of paying bills, salaries, and taxes. Accountants can set up payment runs without bank access, then share with clients for one click payment through their existing business bank account. Comma intelligently groups payments to work within bank requirements. It calculates the minimum combination of bulk and / or single payments to make the process seamless for the user.
Underpinning the platform are a series of accounting system APIs to two-way sync accounting data and complicated Open Banking APIs which allows payments that require far fewer steps for the user and is immediately accessible by 80% of the market. Open Banking requires no KYC or onboarding cost, and does not require intermediary bank accounts.
Comma’s bulk payments platform takes advantage of advancements in Open Banking tech,leveraging connections to accounting platforms such as Xero and Sage, allowing business bookkeepers or accountants to create payment runs from existing accounting data.
Over a year in the making, Comma has found itself alone in tackling bulk payment APIs, with the majority of open banking initiatives focused on replacing card payments, topping up prepaid wallets, and ecommerce. Very few startups have been building open banking solutions to tackle the traditional payments that most small businesses have to make on a daily basis. Comma wants to set the standard in this space.
“We are incredibly excited to support Comma’s vision” said Nick Sando at Octopus Ventures, “They have the potential to automate the trillions of payments made by small businesses each year. Comma’s open-banking bulk payment system is the first of its kind and has the potential to become the Stripe for payroll.”
Comma started running a pilot program in March 2021. 10 accounting firms per month were invited to participate. The first program had firms representing over 6,500 bookkeeping clients of which a few handfuls took part. Through the programs the team could deeply engage with customers, and iron out the complexities that bulk payments bring. By the 2nd program in April with an equal number of businesses, clients were immediately starting to pay salaries and large expenses. In just a few months, Comma has already transacted over £1m in payments – and they are yet to release to the general public.
The £4.4m Seed funding round announced today will support Comma’s plans to expand their team with a series of key hires, continue investing in their engineering capacity and developing the tech stack which makes the magic possible.
Tom Beckenham, Founder and CEO at Comma, said:
“The traction Comma is getting at an early stage is remarkable. It was an extremely competitive round. Nick from Octopus & Rory from Connect were stand out investors who believed thoroughly in what we were doing. Together with Peter, Portman, and Village Global, we have the right team to back the business.”
Rory Stirling, Connect Ventures said:
“Every small business makes payments and every small business owner knows the pain of making them. We love the product-first user experience that Comma has created to make this process delightful. We’re hugely impressed with what Tom and the Comma team have been able to achieve already and we’re delighted to be joining them on the journey.”
Anne Dwane, early investor at Village Global, said:
“We wrote the first cheque into Comma as we were really impressed with Tom and what he was building. Open banking bulk payments are truly exciting. What Comma has developed is poised to overtake traditional BACS and virtual account based payment systems.”
Peter Briffett & Portman Wills said:
“Tom and the Comma team have built something pretty special that is already in use by SMEs across the UK to make thousands of daily bulk payments. Comma has a truly unique solution that is setting the standard in this space”
About Octopus Ventures
At Octopus Ventures we invest in the people, the ideas and the industries that will help change the world. Our investment team is built to specialise in the five areas where we see the most potential for growth and innovation: health, fintech, deep tech, consumer and B2B software. Since 2008 we have backed the founding teams of more than 130 companies including Zoopla, Secret Escapes, graze.com, tails.com, Swiftkey, Elvie, Depop, Sofar Sounds, Big Health, Bought By Many, ByMiles, OLIO and Cazoo, City Pantry, Simply Cook and HAS Technology. With £1.7 billion under management and investing over £200m a year, Octopus Ventures is one of the largest and most active venture investors in Europe. We tend to invest from £1 million for Seed to £10 million for Series B and we can continue to fund the companies we back right through to IPO. We are based in London and New York with a network that spans from San Francisco to China. The companies we back become a part of this network, with access to a formidable resource of experience and expertise.
Our investment focus:
- Health: Transforming the health industry, from digital therapeutics through to biotechnology.
- Fintech: Revolutionising society’s ability to exchange and allocate financial resources and risk.
- Deep Tech: The tools and technologies that will power the next industrial revolution. These include quantum computing, robotics and drones, sensory human augmentation and 3D printing.
- Consumer: Reinventing the everyday, in how we live, work, travel, play, rest and recuperate.
- B2B Software: Investing in companies driving digitalisation and automation across traditional and nascent industries.
About Connect Ventures
Connect is a thesis-led, seed stage venture capital firm. We invest in opinionated products, crafted with love and loved by many.
Our belief is that in both B2B and consumer software companies, product and user experience are at the core of category leaders. We look for founders with global ambitions who put product and user love at the centre of everything they do.
Established in 2012, Connect has backed over 60 startups from a range of industries across both B2B and consumer software. Our current portfolio includes Citymapper, Typeform, Soldo, Truelayer, Curve, Kheiron, Lifebit and Fiit.
To learn more, visit: www.connectventures.co
Comma Support Hub (lots of info about the Comma product)