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Weavr

Full stop for Comma as payments firm is snapped up

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Embedded finance provider Weavr has acquired payments platform Comma in a bid to bring Open Banking to the embedded finance space. Is this the start of a new trend in accounting technology, or a sign the payments boom is coming to end?

9th Mar 2023
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While the terms of the deal were not disclosed, a release announcing the acquisition stated it was “largely equity-based”. Weavr will retain most of Comma’s current workforce, including the company’s CEO and founder, Tom Beckenham, and its chief technology officer, Gianluca Pengo.

Founded by Beckenham in 2019, Comma developed an Open Banking-based integration that allows accounting systems to embed payments into their solutions. Businesses, accountants and bookkeepers can use the tool to pay invoices and salaries to suppliers and staff, and make payments to multiple suppliers at once without manually keying in details or relying on corporate banking services.

London-based fintech Weavr offers API connections that allow businesses to embed banking products and payments into their platforms or mobile apps, potentially boosting revenues by making purchases easier.

Through the Comma acquisition, Weavr claims to have become the first embedded finance provider to bring together Banking as a Service (BaaS) and Open Banking-enabled payments solutions for B2B applications ranging from payroll, accounts payable and other forms of mass payments.

Founded in 2019, Weavr secured a $40m Series A funding round in February 2022, following a £7m seed funding injection in July 2021. The company claims to have more than tripled its user base and experienced a 340% rise in transactions through its platform as demand for embedded finance solutions surges.

What is embedded finance? 

The term embedded finance refers to services or tools stitched into non-financial businesses’ infrastructures, often provided by white-label developers without the need to redirect to traditional financial institutions. 

Generally provided at point of sale, examples of these types of services include payments, insurance or loans/buy-now-pay-later tools such as Klarna.

While many accounting software platforms offer reporting, forecasting or analytics solutions embedded within their platforms, few have embedded finance solutions, preferring to integrate with third-party vendors.

Embedded finance has seen some action in the accounting tech world over the past 12 months, with embedded finance provider UNIPaaS partnering with practice suites IRIS, Capium and Nomisma.

Is the payments juggernaut slowing down?

Traditionally an underserved area in accounting technology, the past two years have seen an influx of bulk payment apps that link to leading online accounting platforms such as Xero, Sage, QuickBooks and FreeAgent.

In a recent AccountingWEB Tech Stack webinar, panellists referred to the growing client need for payment services. Businesses facing staffing and overhead cost pressures, seeing hours of their time eaten up by manually logging into bank accounts to make multiple payments, are increasingly turning to accounting firms for help, and in turn, firms are seeking out technology that makes this process more efficient. 

As more practitioners add client payment services to their portfolios, payment tech firms such as Libeo, Pleo, Modulr, World First, Crezco, Comma, Airwallex, Telleroo and Nook have all garnered interest in their solutions.

However, across the technology world, investor belts have been tightened and startups have seen their “runway” – the amount of time a business has to remain solvent, provided it doesn’t raise any additional funds – shortened.

In an interview from September 2022, Beckenham himself referred to “extremely tough decisions” he had to make as the market turned, with the company having to pare back its workforce through redundancies.

“One mistake we made as we were fundraising was ramping up too quickly, assuming we had found product-market fit because we had really strong data points indicating we were there,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was still quite early traction, and our hypothesis turned out to be very different from reality.”

Whether Comma is an outlier in a growing space or the canary in the payments coalmine, remains to be seen, but as the recent cashflow forecasting tool boom and contraction has shown, the world of accounting technology rarely stands still for long.

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