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Freelancers turned fintech entrepreneurs: How these French founders got €15M funding to solve late payment crisis for B2B SMEs

Freelancers turned fintech entrepreneurs: How these French founders got €15M funding to solve late payment crisis for B2B SMEs

Late payment stands out as a major challenge when it comes to settling invoices for freelancers. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, late payments in the UK contribute to the closure of 50,000 firms each year. Tackling this financial crisis, one French fintech – Aria– plans to come to the rescue and has raised €15M in a Series A funding round

The round was led by UK-based VC 13books Capital, which invests in seed and Series A fintech startups in Europe like Banxware. The round also saw participation from Adevinta Ventures, Ankaa Ventures, Otium Capital, and notable angel investors, including Laurent Ritter (Purple), Mark Ransford, and Guillaume Princen (former Stripe exec). 

This strategic funding aims to further Aria’s deferred payment infrastructure, particularly focusing on enhancing B2B payments across the platform economy and B2B marketplaces.

Founded in 2019 in Paris by Clément Carrier and Vincent Folny, the French startup initially gained prominence by addressing the payment challenges faced by freelancers. However, fintech is now shifting its focus towards embedded digital B2B payment structures, aiming to simplify B2B payments to the level of ease experienced in B2C checkout processes.

Aria: How does the platform work?

Imagine you’re a business owner and you sell products to other businesses. Aria is like a helpful friend that gives you money right away when you issue an invoice, instead of waiting for your customer to pay. This means you have cash on hand to invest in your business and grow faster.

Think of Aria as a bridge between you and your customers. You send an invoice to your customer, and Aria instantly pays you the money. Then, they collect the money from your customer later. It’s like a short-term loan that helps you avoid cash flow problems.

Aria also makes sure your customer is reliable and can pay the bill before they give you the money. They’re like a financial detective, protecting you from bad deals.

The startup claims using Aria will benefit businesses since it will get you paid faster. Moreover, it will also improve cash flow, and reduce risks as the platform itself checks the customers’ creditworthiness to protect businesses from bad debts. Lastly, Aria also handles all the paperwork and collections, so businesses can focus on running their businesses. 

In the same line, Clément Carrier, CEO and co-founder of Aria, tells TFN: “Most online business purchases today are completed by credit cards, while transactions via preferred methods for most businesses — like wires, checks, and online banking — remain offline and have to be conducted elsewhere. This is because the process is incredibly challenging, often involving offline quotes and invoices, multiple phone calls and emails, and long payment delays. Aria manages all of this complexity behind a slick checkout experience and makes offering flexible payments methods and terms as easy as using a credit card.”

Both the founders of Aria were freelancers and they did face late payment issues. Clement adds, “When you are a freelancer or an SMB, the B2B payment experience is quite a nightmare. Specifically, if you work with larger clients, because you have many, many people involved in the process of payment on the buyer side on the data side, and you have to wait a long period, like long payment terms, 60 days… So basically, we face this issue with Vincent, my co-founder, and this is how we decided to work on and this is the ignition of the project.”

The Series A round 

Discussing the funding round, Carrier highlighted the significance of partnering with investors who align with Aria’s mission. “It’s very important to have someone that you are fully committed with and you have a strong fit. In the end, it’s a very human business,” he remarked.

Michael McFadgen, Partner at 13books Capital, also expressed enthusiasm about Aria’s potential, stating, “There is so much to like about Aria. Amazing team, exceptional growth, clear PMF across multiple verticals – they have it all.”

Stefan Grabmann, Principal at Adevinta Ventures, added, “Aria has developed a powerful solution enabling businesses and freelancers to receive payments on their terms. We believe that the future of B2B marketplaces is fintech-enabled, and Aria is spearheading this transformation across Europe.”

Aria has secured a total of €19 million in equity funding thus far.

The embedded finance solution

B2B payments represent $120 trillion in volume annually around the world but only 7% of this is conducted digitally. Aria believes it has spotted a gap in the market for an embedded invoice finance solution for platforms that helps businesses upgrade their payment infrastructure and get paid instantly. Unlike its competitors in the market like Stripe or Mollie, Aria believes its approach differs as its invoice finance service primarily targets B2B platforms. Further, their USP is that their technology can also be implemented into software-as-a-service models, or even into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software of large businesses. This allows them to white-label the service and tailor the customer experience according to their preferences.

Carrier adds, “We’re highly focused on B2B transactions, a key differentiator from larger platforms like Stripe, which operate in both B2B and B2C realms. Our specialisation involves developing a comprehensive suite of API automation tailored specifically for B2B transactions, addressing nuances like defaults and payment terms. Unlike Stripe, we offer embedded financing solutions for transactions, not merchants themselves. This distinction opens up diverse go-to-market opportunities for us. While we complement existing tools, our emphasis on B2B and transaction-focused financing sets us apart, providing unique value in the market.”

Over the last 12 months, Aria has processed over €0.5 billion in payments for more than 30,000 businesses and freelancers, establishing itself as a leader in deferred payments for contingent workforce platforms in Europe. Fintech, supported by a €150 million facility from investors, including M&G Investments, aims to advance payments and has already partnered with Europe’s largest freelance platforms and marketplaces.

Further, the company plans to focus on developing new features to address the needs of different verticals, particularly ERPs and SaaS companies. Additionally, Carrier emphasised the importance of internal development and automation to enhance operational efficiency.

As Aria looks ahead, its main focus is to expand in France and the UK and acknowledges the significance of building a team that shares the company’s values and highlights the ongoing emphasis on diversity and equality within the organisation. “We have approximately 80% of the team based in France, 20% in the UK, and about 40% working remotely. Our team is a blend of individuals in Paris, London, and remote locations,” notes Carrier.

With a clear mission, strategic funding, and a commitment to innovation, Aria is poised to reshape the landscape of B2B payments in the digital age.

Interview by Akansha Dimri

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