March 12, 2021

127: Money Talks #30 | Starling Goes Unicorn | Roblox Goes Public | Walmart Feeling Super | Square Goes Tidal | Ireland Accelerates

127: Money Talks #30 | Starling Goes Unicorn | Roblox Goes Public | Walmart Feeling Super | Square Goes Tidal | Ireland Accelerates

In this Money Talks segment, Pete and Eoin trip through the wires of Starling Bank’s latest fundraise, investing in Roblox’s direct listing, Walmart’s SuperApp vs. ‘The Bank of Walmart’, the Square-Tidal / Jack Dorsey-Jay Z tie-up, and Ireland's new national startup accelerator, international startup accelerators and pre-accelerators.

MoneyNeverSleeps is sponsored by PAT Fintech, the training partner that demystifies fintech and digital finance for financial services professionals.


Starling raises £272mn at £1.3bn valuation (Sifted, 8-Mar-21)

Pete’s overall thoughts on Starling Bank: “Monzo, Revolut and N26, have all raised at higher valuations than £1.3bn. Starling now outpaces all of them in terms of value per user at £650 per user. Out of this entire story, after reading Anne Boden’s book ‘Banking on IT’, I think that’s the thing that she would point to and be the proudest of.”

Roblox direct listing gets $45 reference price from NYSE (Marketwatch, 9-Mar-21)

Pete’s musings: “Simon Taylor said ‘Everything is fintech’, but is everything crypto?  Roblox developers can get paid in Robux, and are now making a living off of this, as you can convert Robux back into fiat in a game with 36 million average users up from 13 million in 2019.”

Eoin’s goes down the metaverse rabbit hole channeling Packy McCormick: “In the metaverse products will be developed purely online in a gaming setting and lots of money will be flowing towards that. When you have a metaverse like Roblox with 32 million users every day, the opportunity to build new products has massive potential.”

Eoin’s parallel between Robux and crypto: “Something like Robux, which is the in-game currency, to me is the prime example of a digital currency's potential usage. You see Bitcoin becoming more widely adopted, but here's a currency within a game that's being used by 32 million people every day – it’s the potential for that, and to me, is what digital currency could become.”

Walmart’s Fintech Ambition: A Super App, Not The ‘Bank Of Walmart’(8-Mar-21, Forbes, by Ron Shevlin)

Pete reading between the lines: “I wonder what the deal is for Ribbit Capital. This isn't about building a digital bank, and this is a heck of a lot more like WeChat than it is Revolut. One of the things about WeChat is that it's all based on these things called mini programs that are running inside a super app. You don't need to download a new app from the app store for each new service that you want to plug into WeChat. And I'm trying to think about Ribbit Capital’s role in all of this as there are 20-some-odd faces on their team page, and there are probably another 30- 40 max in-house. They're not going to have the bandwidth to build anything. Will they just be advising? Or if you look at their investments – Affirm, Brex, Chainalysis, CreditKarma, Figure, Revolut, Robinhood - lots of good names, lots of knowledge in-house. I think they're going to farm the development of these mini programs out to their portfolio companies as side gigs.”

Eoin thinking laterally on Affirm: “I thought Affirm’s announcement of their debit card for buy-now-pal-later (BNPL) was a bit strange because BNPL on a debit card is just a credit card.  But even so, if Affirm were working with Walmart via the Ribbit Capital relationship, and they white-label Affirm to integrate BNPL into your Walmart experience, that’s just one of multiple options for Walmart to slot in those solutions.  This could be huge for some of those underlying portfolio companies.”

Pete on a WeChat-Walmart-style SuperApp in Europe: “You’re not going to get too far. What do we have, Tesco? But that's just the UK and Ireland, and Brexit has complicated that.  Carrefour in France?  That’s not going to happen either - cross border retail in Europe just isn’t big enough.”

Square acquires Tidal(TechCrunch, 4-Mar-21)

Eoin’s thoughts on the Square-Tidal Jack Dorsey/Jay Z tie-up: “Focusing on the creators, Tidal enable artists to make money and control their own rights and how their music is distributed. The Tidal deal means Square can provide financial services to creators who then have that massive distribution network and access to their fans.

“I thought that $300 million for Square to pay for Tidal is a fairly low price in the scheme of things, when you think about the hundreds of millions of fans that Square now have access to through the creators that Tidal are partnering with.

“If we look at the different segments of the market that might be underserved, there really isn't a digital bank for the creator economy, on the basis that they don't fit the normal type of bank customer. If you drill down to the smaller artists and musicians, maybe this deal leads to the bank of choice for artists, musicians and creators.”


Applications for the Expert Dojo accelerator are open with the next cohort kicking off on 5th April, and they invest up to $100K in ‘international companies looking to take over the world’.  Expert Dojo is based in Southern California and the accelerator is an 8-week virtual program helping early-stage startups with investment, scaling, growth hacking, branding, marketing and more.

Applications are now open for NDRC’s new accelerator (Silicon Republic, 5-Mar-21)

The all-Ireland accelerator has two phases over a six-month period from 21st June through September’s demo-day program capper, and applications are open until Sunday 2 May. To quote Jenny Darmody from Silicon Republic, “NDRC will be one of the first European accelerators to adopt a ‘founder friendly’ €100,000 investment using a SAFE (simple agreement for future equity) instrument with an uncapped valuation with a 20pc discount.”

Applications are now open for the Startup Boost 2021 Spring cohort (StartupBoost, Spring 2021)

Startup Boost is a mentorship driven pre-accelerator program aimed at guiding pre-seed/seed stage startups to accelerators, investment, and/or revenue. Their nearly 265 alumni in the last 4 years have raised $55m+ and gotten into a majority of the top accelerators.

Programs for this cohort are based in Detroit, Kenya, LA, Pittsburgh, Toronto, UK, and Vancouver; with new programs launching in South Florida and Washington DC.

Startup Boost doesn’t charge fees or take equity from the startups that they select. They partner with accelerators, incubators and organizations including Techstars, Global Accelerator Network, and more. Applications close on 22nd March, and for questions, hit them up at:

JPM Kills ChasePay (Finextra, 9-Mar-21)

Sam Hinkie, the Philadelphia 76’ers ex-GM turned VC who featured in our weekly MoneyNeverSleeps newsletter, likely would have had some insight for Jamie Dimon before he originally signed off on ChasePay in the last decade.

Sam was on ‘Invest Like the Best’ with Patrick O’Shaughnessy, and told a story about a 10-person startup being asked by the boss to build some payments infrastructure, and his response was:

“Your developers should logically revolt, and be like ‘what are you talking about?’ Have you been to Townsend Avenue, have you seen Stripe's headquarters? Do you know what they're doing? They're building this infrastructure that will go all around the globe, and they're great at it, and they have an advantage and they have a head start. They've thought more about payments infrastructure than we ever will. And it's not like we have 150 engineers just standing around with nothing to do. We have so many things to do. Let's focus on the thing we're amazing at and spend all of our time, or as much as our time as we can, on the thing that we're wildly good at and trade our money for time.”


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Pete TownsendProfile Photo

Pete Townsend


Web3 & fintech investor, MD @Techstars Web3, founder of Norio Ventures, mentor, non-executive director, podcaster and bad guitar player.

Eoin FitzgeraldProfile Photo

Eoin Fitzgerald


Fintech investor, podcaster, wannabe VC