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FourthRev, a London, UK-based online education company, closed an $8m Series A funding.

The round was led by Educapital, with participation from Reach Capital, Emerge Education and Danner Capital as well as a number of edtech entrepreneurs and executives.

The company intends to use the funds to develop and promote more Career Accelerators focused on key areas experiencing the most acute digital skills shortages such as cybersecurity, AI, analytics, UI and project management skills, as well as double headcount worldwide, expanding operations in the UK, Australia, South Africa and North America.

Led by Jack Hylands, FourthRev has created a new category of education called Career Accelerators to tackle digital skills gaps globally. Its programs lead the way in employer-university collaboration by combining university education with job-focused technical education. The company brings together globally recognised universities, such as the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and now King’s College London, leading technology companies such as Tableau and Github and industry employers such as Thoughtworks and Robert Walters to design globally relevant programmes.

The first FourthRev Career Accelerator in Data Analytics which is currently underway is a six-month program that will train students from a range of different backgrounds and disciplines to develop holistic data analysis skills. It has been designed and developed by LSE’s Departments of Statistics and Department of Methodology, in collaboration with partners to ensure outcomes align with current industry demand. The program will introduce core concepts of data-handling and analysis and will incorporate real-world projects to allow students to apply and challenge their knowledge in authentic business scenarios.

Farfetch announced a big move on Friday as it revealed that it’s to acquire US-based luxury beauty retailer, Violet Grey, for an undisclosed sum. And it also said the acquisition comes ahead of the launch of the Beauty category on the Farfetch Marketplace, which is scheduled for later in the year.

Violet Grey has built up a reputation as a content destination as well as a place to buy beauty products and is known as a launchpad for brands.

Farfetch said its new buy has “a devoted community who love the brand for its expertise and the trust they’ve built amongst customers”. It added that the acquisition “brings industry expertise as well as a curated selection of products to be offered on the Farfetch Marketplace, and expands the beauty curator’s reach to extend to [our] global customer base”. 

Violet Grey will also leverage the Farfetch Platform Solutions’ “expertise in technology, global logistics and operations in continuing to drive its standalone business, comprised of VioletGrey.com and its Los Angeles retail store”.

The purchase allows Farfetch to add on a ready-made beauty business as it expands its operation into the sector and to draw on the expertise of Violet Grey founder, Cassandra Grey, who will become a global advisor for Beauty on the Farfetch Marketplace.

She’s also been designated co-founder of NGG Beauty “where she will work to incubate and accelerate new brands” and will be Chair of Violet Grey, “providing overall strategic and creative direction and continuing to build the community that Violet Grey is known for”. 

Farfetch is also adding a seasoned exec from within its own team with Niten Kapadia, previously VP Operations, taking the role of Managing Director for Violet Grey. 

As mentioned, Farfetch is — like other luxury and mass-market e-tail giants — embracing beauty as a key channel for growth and it said its beauty proposition will offer its “extensive Millennial and Generation Z luxury audience a unique experience for discovering and shopping for beauty. It will allow customers to access insights and expertise from multiple beauty experts and communities, including the Violet Grey community”. 

For brand partners, its expansion into beauty also “provides an opportunity to reach [its] millions of engaged luxury customers through co-branding and marketing opportunities to target the global luxury beauty market, estimated to be almost $69 billion and the second largest category within the global personal luxury market, after leather goods, and ahead of apparel”.

Stephanie Phair, Chief Customer Officer at Farfetch, said: “The acquisition is an important step ahead of the launch of beauty and will form part of our overall beauty strategy ‘palette’. Our aim for beauty is to provide the world’s most expansive, curated edit of the best products to serve customers across ages, races, cultures and genders in an ‘Only on Farfetch’ way. 

“We’ll be able to show our customers an immersive crossover between fashion and beauty, leveraging our innovation capabilities to offer exciting features for our customers. Farfetch will bring together niche and global brands to transform the beauty retail experience, creating an environment that offers beauty without boundaries.”

Swedish “buy now, pay later” company Klarna has launched a physical bank card in the UK that will allow people to delay payments for up to 30 days at high street stores as well as online. 

The fintech company said that 400,000 people in the UK had already signed up for the Klarna Card, which is powered by Visa.

It means UK customers will be able to use Klarna’s buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) service – previously only available at checkout online – in physical stores.

Klarna said it intends to add more payment options to the card in future, such as splitting purchases into three monthly payments.

The Klarna Card, available in pink or black, is already available in Sweden and Germany, with plans to launch it in the US. 

“Consumers are rejecting credit products which charge double-digit interest rates while allowing repayments to be put off indefinitely,” said Alex Marsh, head of Klarna UK. “For online purchases where credit makes sense, buy now pay later has become the sustainable alternative with no interest and clear payment schedules.” 

BNPL products are not currently regulated in the UK but the government is currently conducting a review into the sector due to the risk of potential harm to consumers.

Klarna was founded back in 2005 by Niklas Adalberth, Sebastian Siemiatkowski, and Victor Jacobsson. The platform offers ecommerce payment solutions for merchants and shoppers. 

Klarna surpassed a $30bn valuation in February last year and has most recently been valued at $46bn. It has been backed by investors including Sequoia Capital, Dragoneer, Bestseller Group, Permira, Visa, Atomico and Ant Group, among others.

Ian Bradbury, CTO of financial services at Fujitsu UK&I, said: “Digitally native apps continue to infiltrate the online and offline space, and force traditional banks to innovate and update their historically dated services.

“However, it’s vital that BNPL schemes are transparent and work with leaders in the sector to introduce safety measures, and further regulation if necessary, to avoid millions of UK shoppers taking on debt from delayed payments.”

  • Amazon on Thursday announced the launch of its first physical clothing store, dubbed Amazon Style, according to information sent to Retail Dive. The store will open later in the year at The Americana at Brand in Los Angeles and will feature women's and men's apparel, shoes and accessories. 
  • Customers can use the Amazon Shopping app to scan a product's QR code to access information including sizes, colors and ratings. Items can then be sent to a fitting room or directly to the pickup counter. 
  • The company will use its fulfillment centers to frequently update store merchandise, and customers can shop "millions" of apparel items on Amazon's website to be delivered directly to the Amazon Style store.

By merging online and offline operations through the company's latest store concept, Amazon apparel shoppers won't have to guess about fit. 

Amazon Style brings technology to the forefront, primarily by using its app to allow customers to direct a personalized shopping experience. The app allows users to access products, send items to a fitting room and provide personal information that allows for real-time recommendations and in-store deals. 

Moreover, items that are scanned in the store will be saved in the shopping app so customers can revisit their selections and make purchases at a later time. 

Understanding fit while shopping for apparel online has been an e-commerce friction point, and that has become especially apparent as returns continue to be costly for retailers. According to Coresight Research survey findings, clothing made up 46.5% of returns. Bracketing, where shoppers buy multiple sizes, colors or styles of an item, knowing they will return some of what was purchased, has become a common purchasing strategy for consumers.

And those costs add up. A report earlier in January from RetailMeNot said that 38% of shoppers plan to return holiday gifts this year, and UPS announced it anticipates handling more than 60 million return packages during its peak shipping season (Nov. 14 through Jan. 22), an all-time high for the company. 

But, Amazon's apparel store concept allows customers the benefit of the e-retailer's deep inventory, again by using tech. 

"Amazon Style uses the same technologies and processes as Amazon's fulfillment centers to store more items that can be delivered from back-of-house to customer within minutes," the company said in a FAQ about the store concept. Other tech used at the physical location includes inventory management systems, customer service technology and Amazon One for checkout. 

Through Amazon Style, the e-commerce giant will be testing a variety of innovations, which could challenge department stores and other mid-market retailers, according to Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData. That includes, he says, examining if it can become more well known in fashion, widening its customer base and gleaning knowledge about shopper behavior. 

"It will also give Amazon more data and insights which may elevate its efforts in the apparel space," Saunders said. 

Fly Now Pay Later, a London-based fintech company that helps consumers spread the cost of their travel over a flexible duration, has secured a $75m (​​£55.2m) debt funding package from Atalaya Capital Management. 

The company will use the capital to expand its operation into the US. As a part of the funding package, the New York-headquartered financier has also provided an equity investment into the business. 

The funding round comes a year and a half after raising £35m funding in Series A round by Revenio Capital. To date, the company has raised a total of $150m (£110m) in debt and equity funding.

“To have secured another landmark amount during one of the worst slowdowns in travel history after it ground to a halt is testament to the efforts of the whole team,” said Fly Now Pay Later founder and chief executive Jasper Dykes.

He added that the US market, which it entered in 2020, has been a “big part” of its “resilience plan” while domestic leisure travel has been more affected in Europe.

“There’s always a temptation to put the brakes on in times of significant headwinds, but with consumer expectations continuing to shift from traditional lending towards alternative convenient digital experiences, we upheld our investment commitments into developing our technology and threw ourselves into bolstering our partnership network in the states, which is really gaining momentum,” Dykes said. 

Dykes founded Fly Now Pay Later in 2015 when he was shopping for a holiday and was frustrated by the lack of payment flexibility within the travel sector.

Currently, the company has a presence in all core BNPL markets, including the UK, US, and EU. Hundreds of travel companies use Fly Now Pay Later to offer finance to holidaymakers, who can make repayments in scheduled instalments. 

The merchant partnerships range from SME travel operators to leading operators like Malaysia Airlines, TravelUp HotelsOne, Air Serbia, and Azores Airlines.

The platform can be used to book flights, hotels, package holidays, car hire, and more. It enables customers to spread the cost of a trip over up to 12 monthly instalments by partnering with travel merchants or directly to consumers through its Anywhere app.

Last year, Fly Now Pay Later entered into new commercial partnerships, including Malaysia Airlines and the airline payments network Universal Air Travel Plan (UATP).

In July, the alternative travel payments provider signed a deal with Cross River Bank to fuel its rapid growth internationally. 

Currently, the UK company employs 90 staff in the UK, United States & Latvia. It will onboard an additional 250 personnel across the three territories in 2022.

London-based digital solutions provider Softline has acquired an 85% stake Academy IT, a Russia-based edtech company. The move will help Softline provide corporate training and learning management solutions in tandem with its existing technology education and training business.

Sergey Chernovolenko, Softline’s CEO, said: “We are excited to soon welcome Academy IT to the team. Our mission is to guide our customers through their digital transformations, so that they are able to keep doing business as efficiently as possible in this ever-changing world. Customers around the world can now rely on Softline to deliver a one-stop-shop for their bespoke technology training requirements.”

London-listed Softline’s primary offerings include solutions and services for digital transformation and cybersecurity projects. It claims to connect over 150,000 companies with over 6,000 IT vendors, in addition to delivering its own services and solutions.

The company employs over 6000 people worldwide and operates in around 60 countries.

Academy IT was founded in Moscow, Russia back in 1993 and it achieved a turnover of US$ 1.8bn in the fiscal year of 2020. It develops and offers corporate training solutions, and over 300,000 IT specialists are claimed to have trained at its learning centre over the past 18 years.

It is registered as an education provider with the Project Management Institute (PMI) with over 10,000 clients across 10 Russian cities that are from oil and gas, financial and transport sectors.

Igor Morozov, CEO of Academy IT, said: “We are very proud to be becoming a part of the Softline family. The merged business will offer customers an unprecedented level of variety and specificity in their choice of training solutions. With courses from leading vendors on digital professions and technological solutions for online education and training, Softline’s educational ecosystem has never been better equipped to meet the needs of corporate customers.”

Investors put more than £150m of capital into UK virtual reality (VR) companies in 2021, making it a record year of funding for the sector.

Analysis by institutional stockbroking firm Arden Partners shows private investment in UK VR firms increased by 72% from 2020 levels.

It was bolstered by an unprecedented surge in investment in Q4, with the £72m raised during that period smashing the previous record of £46m in the final quarter of 2018.

Total UK VR investment stood at £154m in 2021 versus £90m in 2020.

According to Arden Partners, the video gaming industry is set to record exponential growth over the long term on the back of growing interest in the metaverse, the latest tech buzzword used to describe a future internet that is made up of a network of virtual and augmented worlds.

Buoyed by tech giants such as Facebook moving into the metaverse space, VR companies have found renewed interest from investors following the mixed success of previous VR technologies.

“We have seen a wave of companies in this space turning to the public equity markets and expect this to continue,” said Alex DeGroote, research director at Arden. “Significant technological developments in virtual reality and the metaverse are laying the foundations for the advent of new disruptors challenging the likes of Facebook, Apple and Google that are putting a lot of energy and investment into taking advantage of the potential returns from the virtual reality space.”

Every quarter in 2020 broke its respective revenue record, with the stay-at-home restrictions of Covid-19 helping to spark significant growth of VR in the games market, shattering revenues, user and growth records.

Arden said it believes VR is the fastest-growing market segment in the UK gaming industry, with revenues set to have grown by 31.7% in 2021 and projected to increase at the same rate over the next five years.

With the surge in M&A activity in the UK, 2021 was a successful year for gaming companies’ making their public debuts. Some of the highlights were the acquisition of Sumo Group by Tencent and Codemasters from EA for a combined $2.5bn, flotation of Devolver Digital that raised $261m and became the largest ever US-based company by market capitalisation to be admitted to the London Stock Exchange, and the second-largest company ever to trade on AIM and TinyBuild that raised £36m, with the market valuing the video games publisher and developer at £340m on Admission.

iProov, a London, UK, Catonsville, MD- and Singapore-based online biometric face authentication company, raised $70m (USD) in growth funding.

The round was led by Sumeru Equity Partners. In conjunction with the funding, Kyle Ryland, Managing Partner of Sumeru, is joining the iProov board.

The company will use the new capital to build on its leadership in the United States and expand its international customer base, accelerate the growth of its global partner network, and maintain its position at the forefront of technology innovation while hiring top-quality staff worldwide. 

Launched in 2013 by Andrew Bud, Founder and CEO, iProov is the world leader in online facial biometric authentication, working with governments, banks and other enterprises to securely verify customer identity. Used for effortless onboarding and authentication, customers include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the UK Home Office, the UK National Health Service (NHS), the Australian Taxation Office, GovTech Singapore, Rabobank, ING, and others. iProov’s technologies include Liveness Assurance and Genuine Presence Assurance, which ensures that an online customer is the right person, a real person, and is authenticating right now. This protects against spoof attacks from photos, videos, masks and digital injection attacks and the emerging threat of deepfakes.

PayFit, a French provider of a payroll and HR management solution for SMEs, raised €254M in Series E funding. 

General Atlantic led the round with participation from existing investors Eurazeo, Bpifrance and Accel Ventures.

The company plans to use the funds to deepen its penetration in existing markets, invest in its core automated payroll software offering, and continue to expand its SME-tailored solution across HR management by complementing leaves/absences and expenses with interview assessment functionality, among other features to be launched in 2022.

Launched in April 2016 by Firmin Zocchetto, Ghislain de Fontenay and Florian Fournier, PayFit provides a next-gen payroll solution that automates complex and time-intensive HR processes, particularly for underserved small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Its proprietary technology platform enables HR managers, finance managers and business owners to conduct payroll calculations in markets with complex regulatory requirements.

Since its founding in 2015, the company has gained over 6,000 clients. Based in France, PayFit has expanded into three additional major European markets – Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom – and plans to scale from more than 700 current employees to over 1,000 within the next 12 months.

CellPoint Digital, a London, UK-based global provider of digital commerce and payment solutions, received $25M in equity financing.

Toscafund and its private equity arm, Penta Capital, made the investment, which brought total funding to over $56M.

The funding will be used to extend the company’s global reach and penetrate new market verticals.

It also marks a strengthening of the relationship between the businesses. As a market leader in payment orchestration for travel, CellPoint Digital is now offering its platform to new markets including retail, gaming, crypto and digital content.

Led by Kristian Gjerding, CEO, CellPoint Digital is orchestrating payments across regions and payment methods to allow merchants to increase top-line revenue utilizing intelligent routing, increasing authorizations, and providing system uptime transparency. The system also adds value at checkout by delivering a frictionless payment experience, presenting customers with the payment methods they want to use, no matter where they are in the world.

Merchants can scale their own payment ecosystem across the world, unify the customer payment experience across their website, mobile apps and other channels, optimize the routing of each transaction, increase conversion rates and minimise payment costs.

CellPoint Digital has offices in Copenhagen, Dallas, Dubai, London, Miami, Pune and Singapore.