Tech News: 14th April 2022

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Startup Britishvolt — an electric vehicle battery business building what will be the UK’s largest gigafactory — is facing a multimillion-pound court case for allegedly breaching a contract it had with a private equity firm.  Investors have poured millions into the development of these “gigafactories” to accelerate the manufacture of green vehicles. Private equity firm Evans Randall is suing Britishvolt for £10.2m in unpaid fees it claims it’s owed for helping the startup secure £1.7bn in investment. The fees are equal to the 0.6% fee that the firm says it was supposed to receive for any investment it helped Britishvolt land. Britishvolt has enjoyed a speedy rise to fame in the last few months. In January, it received £100m in funding from the UK government — a substantial sum for a direct state investment into a startup. It has also secured the backing of FTSE100 mining conglomerate Glencore. 

Investors in Darktrace took fright today after the cybersecurity company warned of an impending share sale by its employees. Shares in the FTSE 250-listed company dropped by 52¾p, or 11.6 per cent, to 399¾p after it told the stock market to brace for a placing of stock in the coming weeks. Darktrace  has said that staff who wanted to sell would be offered the chance to take part in a placing to help them dispose of their stock. It expects up to 20 million shares — worth about £80 million to be offloaded. The Cambridge-based company, which has more than 2,000 employees and a £2.8 billion market value, also warned that because the end of the lock-up coincides with a bank holiday the sale could take place earlier than May. 

The UK’s space insurance industry grew by quarter in the year the pandemic hit, drawing in some £20m into the more than £16bn sector, according to fresh analysis. Linklaters associate Nicholas Puschman told City A.M. that the growth was “not surprising given that London has a well-established history in underwriting space risks and responding to the risks presented by new types of activities, such as satellite constellations.” Despite contracting slightly over the course of the pandemic, the industry’s manufacturing and ancillary services, such as brokerage, IT and consultancy offerings, increased – recording some £23m and £20m in earnings respectively. The country’s space industry accounted for 0.31 per cent of UK GDP between 2019 and 2020. And the percentage is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade, as the country readies for its first-ever launches from UK soil later this year. In establishing a launch capability, businesses are expected to enjoy boosts to their revenue, a trend that had already been reported by 16 per cent of organisations surveyed for the government’s analysis. 

Wagestream, a financial support app for workers, has raised £135m in a Series C funding round led by Smash Capital. The London-based company gives frontline workers early access to up to 50% of their accrued wages. The app aims to give employees a greater level of control over their finances with a series of services, including options to directly invest a portion of their wages into stocks, control options to help save money and access to financial coaches to give advice. Founded in 2018, Wagestream will be using the latest funding boost to continue adding features to its app, as well as to fuel an expansion into the US market. Payroll on demand has become an increasingly popular option for employees, particularly after the economic turmoil and uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. A study from accountancy firm EY found that 80% of workers would use on-demand pay if given the option. 

London-based SaaS company Cyclr has raised £5.5 million in funding to fuel its expansion across Europe. The round was led by Praetura Ventures and Blackfinch Ventures. The startup has developed an embedded integration platform (embedded iPaaS) that it sells into the software and SaaS economy. Embedded iPaaS is cloud-based integration software that enables SaaS vendors to white label or embed integrations with other products into their own. The platform helps accelerate the integration delivery process and create a frictionless user journey between third parties at scale. This helps software and SaaS innovators to focus on their own development, win new clients, and growing their business. 

Payments fintech Circle has raised $400m in a funding round that included BlackRock, Fidelity, Marshall Wallace and Fin Capital.  The global internet finance firm and issuer of digital stablecoin USD Coin (USDC) said the round is expected to close in the second quarter, and also shared plans to expand its strategic partnership with BlackRock. The investment management company will now have a broader strategic partnership with Circle, which will include exploring capital market applications for USDC. The news follows the UK government's economic secretary to the Treasury John Glen unveiling plans to bring in legislation to embed stablecoins into its payment systems just last week. Circle’s new funding comes two months after its valuation doubled to $9bn when it agreed to new transaction terms with Concord Acquisition Corp.

London-based fintech Capital on Tap has secured a $200m (£153.6m) investment from HSBC and Värde Partners to continue expanding its SME funding service in the US. Founded in 2012, Capital on Tap provides business credit cards that come with spending controls, reporting and rewards. The alternative lender initially focused on the UK market but launched a US business credit card in March 2021. Across both markets, it has provided more than £3.5bn in funding to over 125,000 SMEs. It provides a credit facility of up to £150,000 and doesn’t charge for ATM use in the UK. Capital on Tap’s market includes businesses with a turnover of at least £2,000 per month. As part of its move into the US market, Capital on Tap established an office in Atlanta, adding to its presence in London and Cardiff.