Investing in Defacto, an embedded finance platform unlocking credit for SMBs in Europe
Aided by open banking legislation, the rapid penetration of digitalization and the growing demand for more personalized, efficient and secure financial services, embedded finance — the integration of financial services into non-financial platforms — is seeing substantial growth in Europe these days. According to Future Market Insights, the European embedded finance market is expected to reach $24.2 billion by the end of 2023 and could grow to represent a quarter of the global embedded finance market by 2033.
This disruptive trend currently shaping the financial services industry is also a core investing focus for Citi Ventures. That's why we’re excited by Defacto, a French embedded finance solution that helps small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across Europe access working capital almost instantly.
Integrated via APIs with 30+ partner channels including popular fintechs/B2B marketplaces Malt, Qonto, Pennylane and Libeo, Defacto provides SMBs with short-term loans they can use to finance their payables and/or receivables. This helps SMBs using Defacto’s partner platforms navigate payment cycles without burning through their cash reserves, and enables Defacto’s partner companies to provide another service to their users without becoming a credit institution — a win-win proposition for all involved.
Defacto has built a differentiated credit underwriting approach that makes the loan application process simple, seamless and lightning-quick for its SMB customers. By leveraging the abovementioned deep data integrations, the company is able to automate credit scoring and make rapid and accurate underwriting decisions, leading to an average quote-to-capital time of less than 27 seconds. Since its founding in 2021, Defacto has deployed over €300 million in financing to around 15,000 SMBs across eight European countries.
Defacto’s API-enabled integration model also represents a differentiated go-to-market (GTM) strategy for the company. By embedding its solution in partner platforms, Defacto dramatically reduces its customer acquisition costs — its current partnerships alone give it access to over one million SMBs across France, Germany, Italy and Spain — while providing a smooth user experience that remains within the partner’s platform. Defacto can also embed its financing at stages of the customer journey prior to point of sale (POS), whereas competitors like B2B buy-now-pay-later solutions only do so at POS.
Behind Defacto’s unique solution and early success stands a seasoned and impressive founding team with deep experience building and scaling startups. Before launching Defacto, co-founder and CEO Jordane Giuly founded Spendesk, a “unicorn” spend management company. Co-founder and Head of Partnerships Morgan O’hana also cut her startup teeth at Spendesk, joining after its Series A round to spearhead its strategic partnerships team. Finally, co-founder and CTO Marc-Henri Gires has over 10 years of experience as a full-stack engineer and data scientist. By prioritizing automation, Defacto has been able to scale quickly with a relatively lean team, boding well for its future growth potential.
As a sign of Citi's belief in Defacto and its potential, Citi Global Spread Products (in partnership with Viola Credit) extended a €167 million securitization fund to Defacto in July to finance additional SMB loans across Europe. Citi GSP’s venture arm, Citi Spread Products Investment Technologies (SPRINT), is also joining Citi Ventures in a joint venture on this investment, which happens to be our first fintech investment in France.
Given its sizeable opportunity and differentiated solution and GTM approach, Citi Ventures and Citi SPRINT are pleased to announce our investment in an Defacto's Series A round extension, joining existing investors Headline, Northzone and Global Founders Capital. We look forward to supporting Defacto in its mission to accelerate SMB growth in Europe, to helping further its already fruitful partnership with Citi and to making more investments in French fintechs in the future. Congrats to the entire Defacto team!