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On a mission to be the ‘Affirm for B2B,’ Vartana secures $57M in debt, equity – TechCrunch

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While buy now, pay later startups have largely focused on the consumer, a growing group of them are now focusing on the B2B space.

The premise behind that is that after all, businesses need more flexible payment options, too.

For example, in December, Affirm spinout Resolve, which specializes in “buy now, pay later” capabilities for B2B transactions, announced that it had raised $25 million in equity funding. Across the pond, Berlin-based Billie closed on a $100 million Series C funding round. And, in Latin America, TruePay, a one-year-old São Paulo-based “buy now, pay later” startup, recently raised $32 million in a Series A financing.

The latest BNPL startup seeking to target the B2B space to secure financing is Vartana, which aims to be the “Affirm for B2B.” For the unacquainted, Affirm — started by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin — was one of the earliest players in the consumer BNPL sector.

Founded in June 2020 by two former KeepTruckin employees, Vartana was selected as the company name because it is the Sanskrit word for “financial wellness,” according to CEO Kush Kella. And today, the startup is emerging from stealth with $7 million in equity funding and $50 million in credit.

Put simply, co-founders Kella and Ahmed Sharif say they are building a buy now, pay later and checkout platform designed strictly for business to business purchases. 

“We saw the inefficiencies in the process and the time it took to complete a transaction and that helped us realize that you can digitize the entire process rather than relying on email and manual paperwork,” Kella told TechCrunch. “We want to bring the same level of flexibility Affirm has brought to consumers to businesses.”

Specifically, Vartana’s target customers are mid- to late-stage technology companies and their resellers. The company was in private beta since last June and is now launching to the public after seeing transaction volume grow by 100% quarter over quarter. It works by pre-approving customers in the sales funnel for payment plans through “real-time” automated underwriting technology. Customers can then choose their preferred payment options and complete transactions “within minutes” through what the company describes as an “integrated checkout experience.”

For example, say a business is trying to purchase 50 Salesforce licenses. Typically Salesforce would want to charge that business $50,000 upfront. Some companies might not have that kind of extra cash and rather than take out a loan, they may want to spread out their payments. (Note: Salesforce is not a Vartana user.) Vartana offers terms ranging from 12 to 60 months.

“Many businesses don’t have the budget to pay for that kind of thing upfront,” Kella said.

As in many areas of fintech, the B2B BNPL space is hardly a winner takes all scenario. There seems to be room for many startups, targeting different types of businesses. For example, Resolve focuses on marketplace and e-commerce transactions where buyers are looking to get relatively shorter payment terms “in a self-service fashion,” Kella noted. Vartana, he said, instead focuses on the technology sales market where sellers and buyers need to collaborate to complete the purchase and buyers need financing of greater than 12 months to purchase software or hardware.

“Our technology is focused on helping buyers and sellers collaborate and deal with more complex transactions,” Kella, who was a founding engineer at KeepTruckin, told TechCrunch. “We focus on businesses trying to acquire a technology product that could range in price from $10,000 to $1 million.”

Vartana charges a fee (a percentage depending on the length of the contract) from the seller of the tech product. In some cases, where sellers aren’t “comfortable” paying, they pass on the fee to the buyers, Kella said.

Image Credits: Vartana

Audacious Ventures led the equity portion of the financing while i80 Group provided the credit. Flex Capital and several angel investors — including KeepTruckin CEO and co-founder Shoaib Makani, Google Ventures partner and former Lime president and former Google Ventures partner Joe Kraus, Rubric CEO and co-founder and former Lightspeed Ventures Partners partner Bipul Sinha, Slack CFO Allen Shim, Rippling CFO Adil Syed and others — also participated in the funding round.

Vartana plans to use its equity funding to work on its product roadmap, which involves adding more staff to its current headcount of 17 across engineering, operations and sales.

Nakul Mandan, founder and partner at Audacious Ventures, said that every enterprise business his firm has invested in “cares about cash flow and getting paid upfront from their customers, but also benefits in sales velocity by giving better payment terms to its customers.”

Vartana, he believes, solves the problem for both the vendor and the customer “in an elegant solution, and is accordingly relevant to almost every B2B company.”

Audacious, Mandan added, was particularly impressed by the team’s vision around building an “end to end checkout solution that combines tech, customer financing and closing process management for an enterprise sales team.” The company’s closing process management and collections offering integrates within a sales reps’ existing tech stack — another differentiator in the investor’s view.

“It’s truly a holistic approach to solve what sales reps need to get their customers to quickly close deals,” he said.

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Dune: Awakening is an open world survival MMO

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Dune: Awakening made its debut at The Game Awards as an open world survival massively multiplayer online game.

The game from Funcom and Nukklear looks beautiful, full of very detailed imagery of the desert planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. The game asked for beta signups, but we got no other information. Survival is the key word. Dune is a very deadly world, with sandworms and an unforgiving climate.

You can see places in the trailer like the city of Arakeen by day and night, as well as desert biomes and more. It’s not clear when it is coming. With luck, it will be close to the second Dune movie coming in late 2023.

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Rumors confirmed, Street Fighter 6 kicks off in June 2023

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Fighting Game fans are excited now that Capcom announced that Street Fighter 6 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and PC on June 2, 2023. The game was initially announced in February 2022, but that reveal did not include a specific release date beyond 2023.

The trailer at The Game Awards focused on new mini games and the international setting. In addition to the 18 previously announced fighter, the trailer also confirms that several new fighters — Dee Jay, Manon, Marisa and JP — that will join the game’s roster.

Notably, the June 2 release date for Street Fighter 6 may be a strategic choice for Capcom. June is the very beginning of Q3.

The last installment of the franchise — Street Fighter V — released nearly seven years ago so fans have been eager for another installment. A day before The Game Awards, the game’s June release date was leaked via the PlayStation Store.

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5 Things to Do Now to Propel Your Business in 2023

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurship is a daily leap of faith. In times of economic uncertainty, that leap may feel like a dive off a cliff. We are in one of those times. It likely will take months to fully re-adjust to the forces that have pummeled the world’s economy, and to entrepreneurs, months can feel like years.

With the right playbook, entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in whatever economic scenario. Here are five things you can do to propel your business ahead now and through the difficulties of business cycles for years to come.

1. Learn the lessons of more challenging times

A rocky economy presents a unique opportunity to make tough decisions about the business plan. Everything is open to reexamination. How has the market changed? Are your customers facing challenges that create new opportunities for your solutions? How do new conditions change your assumptions, and what actions do you need to take in response?

Critically evaluate your product roadmap. Is this the time to pivot or become more aggressive with your current plans? Prioritize the highest margin features that are achievable in the next twelve months. Push out projects that don’t make that list, and re-assign resources accordingly. Re-assess pricing. Even as inflation tiptoes back from the highest levels in forty years, raw material and transportation costs remain way up. What will impact your customers if you adjust the pricing or add surcharges to offset these costs, at least temporarily?

It’s been a rough year for hiring. Many companies took the talent they could get. If there are employees or gig workers who would fare better in a different job, now is the time to let them go. Make tough-minded corrections that will pay off overall — corrections that might be avoidable in less challenging times.

Related: How to Turn Inflation and Recession into Your Largest Business Opportunity

2. Tighten your grip on cash

Venture capitalists are pulling back. In the third quarter, Crunchbase reported that funding for startups in U.S. and Canada fell 50% year-over-year. Valuations are down across the board. If you are fortunate enough to be a later-stage startup that benefited from VC largess in 2021, make your last raise last longer than intended.

Keep your dry powder dry, and put off going for another round until the markets even out. Reemphasize the basics for early-stage companies with less market validation and greater distance between now and a potential exit. Delay all capital expenditures. Leverage the hybrid work model if possible, to reduce rent and other office expenses. Continue with Zoom or Google Meet. Now is not the time to rack up travel costs. Re-negotiate fees and terms with service providers. Seek credit terms with key suppliers, in a word, bootstrap.

3. Talk to customers, in person. Now.

How have the business needs of your customers — whether paying or beta — changed over the last 18 months? Are there benefits to your solution that have more recognized value now? Nearly every business, for example, from corporates to startups, has been forced to re-learn the lessons of supply chain management. Startups that can help their customers make better business decisions based on artificial intelligence (AI), reduce costs by improving inventory management or protect against out-of-stock scenarios by identifying and building relationships with new, more local sources of supply will have an edge.

Related: Finding Validation in Serving Customers

4. Non-dilutive capital

According to PitchBook, venture capitalists are showing greater interest in portfolio companies “whose satellite, robotics and software tools can do double duty” in military and commercial markets. International conflicts are one reason, of course.

Another is that the defense and military security industries are generally viewed as recession-proof. Our firm routinely encourages portfolio companies to consider non-dilutive funding from the Small Business Administration — grants to support cutting-edge technologies range from $150,000 to more than $1 million.

Navigating the application process isn’t for the faint of heart. A startup must be realistic about the work involved, but in many states, there are resources to help. Besides the funding, severe responses to agency requests for proposals are reviewed and evaluated by technologists. At a minimum, this can be terrific feedback and a great source of industry contacts.

5. Blue-chip cultures attract blue-chip talent

Company culture can be an asset or a liability. An inclusive, rich culture helps key hires say yes. Finding stakeholders that believe what you believe and are aligned with your team’s values significantly improves the odds that they will stick with you in good times or bad.

After months of “great resignation” fever, the over-heated demand for talent may be cooling off. Maybe offers aren’t as fast or grand as they were a year ago. Maybe Twitter won’t be the only advanced technology business to let people go. Regardless, the search for great talent isn’t a faucet that a young company turns off and on. A startup might modulate the timing or the number of hires but stand at the ready to recruit and filter for culture fit.

Related: 3 Ways to Stay Competitive in the War for Talent

With the right mindset and intentional approach, an entrepreneur can make 2023 a year to strive and thrive. As Yogi Berra, my favorite baseball player of all time, said, “Swing at the strikes.” In business, like baseball, the right swing can turn even the most challenging pitch into a hit.

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URGENT: CYBER SECURITY UPDATE