Fintechs are under pressure to stop Russian sanctions evasion. This start-up raised $94 million to help

Fintechs have come under increased pressure to address Russian sanctions evasion, particularly amid concerns that their controls may be more lax than that of banks.
Kirill Kudryavtsev | Afp | Getty Images

LONDON — Seon, a start-up that helps fintech companies like Revolut tackle online fraud, has raised $94 million to develop new tools for preventing sanctions evasion by Russia.

The London-based company raised the fresh cash in a funding round led by IVP, the Silicon Valley investment firm that has backed the likes of Netflix and Twitter. IVP Partner Michael Miao has also joined Seon’s board.

Existing investors Creandum, an early Spotify backer, and PortfoLion, also invested, as did numerous angel investors, including Coinbase Chief Operating Officer Emilie Choi and UiPath Chief Executive Daniel Dines.

Seon, which counts the likes of Revolut, Afterpay and Nubank as customers, said its technology is designed to make it easier for firms of all stripes to combat fraud.

Its software analyzes a consumer’s email address, phone number and other data to build up a “digital footprint,” and uses machine learning to determine whether they’re genuine or suspicious.

The Seon team.

The firm is now valued at $500 million after its latest funding round, according to two people familiar with the matter, who preferred to remain anonymous discussing private information.

Stopping Russian sanctions evasion

Tamas Kadar, Seon’s CEO and co-founder, said his company has seen heightened demand for tools that root out transactions from “politically exposed persons” and individuals on sanctions lists amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Part of the cash will be used to address the possible use of fintech apps for money laundering and sanctions evasion.

“We are working on an arm to support this need from our client base,” Kadar told CNBC.

Fintechs have come under increased pressure to address Russian sanctions evasion, particularly amid concerns that their controls may be more lax than that of banks.

In February, PayPal said it removed more than 4 million accounts after finding they were “illegitimate.”

Seon is also working on a feature to verify businesses online and see if their shareholders are on any sanctions lists. Such tools could identify whether someone is “just creating shell companies to launder money,” or “as a fake identity to hide their assets,” Kadar said.

Intensifying geopolitical tensions over the Ukraine war mean “there has arguably never been a more challenging time for international financial institutions,” according to Charles Delingpole, CEO of anti-money laundering platform ComplyAdvantage and an early investor in Seon.

“The pandemic saw a rapid shift to online only activity away from branches which saw fraudsters gain many more opportunities to perpetuate fraud,” Delingpole told CNBC.

U.S. expansion

The funds will also go toward helping Seon expand in the United States, as well as Latin America and Asia.

“We’re going to be scaling up our U.S. team massively,” Bence Jendruszak, Seon’s chief operating officer, told CNBC. “Online fraud is a major issue in the U.S.”

Last year, the company opened new offices in Austin, Texas, and Jakarta, Indonesia, and quadrupled its workforce to 200. Seon expects to roughly double its headcount in the next 12 months.

The company says its annual recurring revenue roughly tripled in 2021, while its customer base more than doubled, to 250 from 100.

Kadar and Jendruszak founded Seon in Budapest, Hungary, in 2017 after completing their university studies. Kadar has since moved the company’s headquarters to the U.K. Seon competes with a number of start-ups, including Israeli firm Riskified and U.S.-based Arkose Labs.

Sophie Tremblay

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