PayPal Ventures to Ramp Up Investments in AI, Cybersecurity, Crypto

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PayPal Ventures, the investment arm of the online payment firm, plans to increase its investment activity to keep up with technological advancements, seeking investment opportunities in fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, employee benefits and stablecoins, James Loftus, managing partner at PayPal Ventures, told Global Venturing in an interview.

Discussing PayPal Ventures’ strategies and investment focuses for the years to come, Loftus said the fund will be shifting towards placing more emphasis on early-stage ventures, especially in Series A rounds. This move aims to gain valuable insights and strategic advantages early on.

Investing in early-stage startups allows PayPal Ventures to stay innovative, agile, and competitive in the dynamic fintech landscape, while also positioning the company for long-term success and growth.

These companies are often at the forefront of innovation, developing new technologies, products or business models that have the potential to disrupt existing industries. They can provide PayPal with access to cutting-edge innovation and emerging trends that drive future growth and which set the online payment company apart from competitors.

Investment focuses

Loftus highlighted some of the investment areas PayPal Ventures is targeting. One significant target is AI, with Loftus emphasizing the necessity for AI tailored for corporate use.

“Right now, there’s an opportunity for true experts to build AI. There’s a gap,” Loftus said. “Open AI has built an amazing tool that has opened up the world’s eyes to AI; but at the enterprise level, there needs to be different layers.”

PayPal Ventures recently launched an AI fund to invest in early-stage AI startups. It’s eyeing applications of the technology in areas such as advertising, customer success, risk, compliance, legal, and personalization. The PayPal Ventures AI Fund made its inaugural investment in February 2024, co-leading Rasa’s US$30 million Series C funding round.

Loftus also noted renewed interest in credit startups. Unlike early credit startups, which attempted to reduce lending risks by leveraging innovative credit scoring methods, the newer generation of credit startups is adopting a different approach, using instead credit as a strategic starting point to introduce customers to a wider range of financial products and services, like B2B payments or consumer fintech solutions.

In the cryptocurrency space, Loftus said PayPal Ventures seeks to invest in the ecosystem around its stablecoin, PYUSD, and in the solutions that would support and encourage usage. PayPal launched its US dollar stablecoin in August 2023. The cryptocurrency is designed for use in Web3 and digital native environments, promising most efficient and frictionless transactions.

Cybersecurity is another area of interest for PayPal Ventures, recognizing the importance of understanding and combating cyber threats, especially for businesses handling financial transactions. PayPal Ventures also sees potential in expanding fintech innovations into new markets like Latin America and Southeast Asia, as well as in startups focusing on employee benefits programs.

Finally, PayPal Ventures is interested in reconciliation, highlighting the need to improve and streamline finance operations post-transaction. Reconciliation is an accounting procedure that aligns data between internal records and external sources like banks and payment partners. It plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of financial data and supporting regulatory compliance.

According to PayPal Ventures, reconciliation can also help set the underlying data layer for various financial applications to be built upon, making it a strategic entry point for companies looking to expand across finance departments.

An increase in investment activity

Set up in 2017, PayPal Ventures is the corporate venture arm of PayPal. The unit focuses on six areas of high strategic relevance to the payment firm: fintech, payments, commerce enablement, AI, blockchain and cryptocurrency, and regulatory/cyber technology.

Since its inception, PayPal Ventures has made more than 70 investments, Loftus told Global Venturing. Data from Crunchbase reveal a heightened investment activity this year. Since the start of 2024, PayPal Ventures has participated in nine rounds of fundraising, including a follow-on investment in local payment platform PPRO. This nearly matches the total number of investments made in 2023, which stood at around ten.

Among the investments made in 2024 are Pliant, a B2B payments credit card platform from Germany; SingleInterface, an Indian hyperlocal marketing-to-commerce software for multi-location brands; Qoala, an Indonesian omnichannel insurtech startup; NX Technologies, a Germany-based company that operates the payment management platform bezahl.de; Rasa, a generative conversational AI specialist based in San Francisco; Seal Security, a cybersecurity startup from Israel; Mesh, an embedded finance solution from the US; Prometeo, an embedded banking software platform from Uruguay.

Featured image credit: Edited from freepik

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