Sqreen wants to become the IFTTT of web app security


French startup Sqreen recently launched a Security Hub with dozens of plugins to put you in control of the security of your web app. In many ways, it feels like enabling tasks on popular automation service IFTTT.

Sqreen participated in TechCrunch’s Startup Battlefield and Y Combinator’s current batch. The vision of the product hasn’t changed. Sqreen lets you protect your web service with little effort from your side.

Big companies have dedicated security teams that protect services, try to run attacks to find weaknesses and more. Smaller companies don’t necessarily have enough time and money to build a dedicated team. But your product is still vulnerable to SQL injections, XSS attacks and brute-force attacks.

Sqreen isn’t a firewall. You just have to install a library package on your server and add a couple of lines at the top your source code to require the Sqreen module in your application.

Once this is done, Sqreen monitors attacks in real time without a big performance hit — the startup says there’s a 4 percent CPU overhead. Sqreen now works for web apps in Node.js, Ruby, PHP, Python or Java.

In addition to protecting you against common attacks, Sqreen makes security recommendations so that you can regularly fix vulnerabilities. And with GDPR coming soon, tech companies have a greater responsibility when it comes to protecting customer data and disclosing hacks.

Customers wanted to know more about what Sqreen was doing. That’s why Sqreen launched a security hub with documented plugins.

“All security vendors are very secretive,” Sqreen co-founder and CEO Pierre Betouin. “Usually, you can’t test the product and you have no information on what they do. We were like this at the beginning of Sqreen. Our positioning was really ‘install our library and we’ll cover a range of security features.’”

“We had a big push back. So we wondered how we could be more transparent, provide something more rational. We explain each plugin completely.”

You can find a plugin to protect you against SQLite injections, vulnerable dependencies, XSS Javascript injections in various frameworks, bot activity, etc.

Sqreen will recommend plugins for your app depending on the technologies and frameworks you’re using. You can then enable or disable each plugin and configure notifications on Slack or PagerDuty for instance.

In the future, you can imagine that third-party companies could contribute to this marketplace and add new plugins. Sqreen is also working on other plugins related to email abuse and payment page protection.

In addition to those new features, Betouin is moving to San Francisco and opening an office there. Companies like Front, Mindbody, BlaBlaCar, Triplebyte, Toptal and Algolia are now using Sqreen.

Assur.com is an insurance aggregator without all the clutter


French startup Assur.com lets you find and compare all sorts of insurance products without having to enter all your personal information. While insurance aggregators are nothing new, they usually ask you for your email address, phone number and more. And chances are those companies are going to spam you with offers.

But Assur.com has a different approach as you don’t have to enter any information in a text field. It’s all about browsing a well-organized database of insurance products. For now, Assur.com is focusing on the French market and French insurance products.

An insurance aggregator makes a lot of sense now that you can subscribe to insurance products without having to go to a brick-and-mortar store to sign a contract. It’s often as easy as signing up to Facebook.

The startup has categorized over 600 insurance products from dozens of companies. You can find an insurance product for your car, your home, your next trip or even a healthcare insurance.

Chances are you might care a lot about your health but not so much about your old and dusty car. There are usually three different levels of coverage for each category.

You can then click on different insurance products. You’ll be redirected to the insurer’s website and Assur.com is going to get some referral revenue.

You can feel that Assur.com is still quite young as you can’t find all the information you need. Eventually, the company wants to automate the listings as much as possible and build an AI-powered search engine for insurance products. It sounds like a promising start with an interesting vision.

Lydia raises $16.1 million to become the PayPal of mobile payments


French startup Lydia is raising a $16.1 million round (€13 million) led by CNP Assurances with existing investors XAnge, New Alpha AM, Oddo BHF and Groupe Duval also participating.

Lydia isn’t the first startup that wants to replace PayPal, and also probably not the last one. But it’s clear that the company is slowly becoming mainstream in France. The company first focused on Venmo-like peer-to-peer payments but is now branching out to cover all sorts of transactions.

The product roadmap is quite simple. First, Lydia grabs new users thanks to free and instant transactions to pay back your friends. And now, the company is letting you use your Lydia account to pay in store, online and more.

For instance, you can pay on Cdiscount with your Lydia account, France’s second e-commerce website behind Amazon.fr. E-commerce websites usually ask you for your phone number for the delivery. When you choose Lydia as your payment method, you receive a push notification on your phone as your Lydia account is already linked to your phone number. After unlocking the app, you can use your Lydia balance or pay with your debit card without having to enter your card information on the e-commerce website.

When you want to pay in store, you first enter the amount and show a QR code to the cashier. For instance, it works in all Franprix supermarkets in France. The cashier can use the same barcode reader as they would use to scan products.

The idea is that you’re already using your phone when you’re waiting in line. With Lydia, you don’t have to put your phone back in your pocket or bag to find a card.

But what about Apple Pay and places that don’t accept Lydia? Lydia has launched a good old plastic card that is connected to your Lydia account. You can top up your Lydia balance with your personal IBAN, activate or deactivate features in real time and more. And if you don’t want yet another card, you can just enable the virtual card and add it to Apple Pay.

Overall, Lydia processes around 1 million transactions per month, or around €25 million in monthly volume. While newer users still mostly use the peer-to-peer payment feature, older users and card users use Lydia more and more to pay businesses.

With more than a million registered users, Lydia is the leader in this space in France. The company has recently launched its product in the U.K., Ireland, Spain and Portugal. More importantly, over 2,000 people sign up to Lydia every day.

“We’ve never grown so fast,” co-founder and CEO Cyril Chiche told me. “In 2018, we’re probably going to grow more quickly than PayPal in France.”

“What’s interesting in particular is that the growth rate for transactions is higher than the user growth rate,” he added. In other words, the number of transactions per month per user is growing.

That’s an impressive growth rate for a European fintech startup. In November 2017, Revolut had around 3,000 to 3,500 signups per day. In August 2017, N26 reported 1,500 signups per day. While those numbers are outdated, it’s interesting to compare Lydia to N26 and Revolut.

And Lydia still plans to expand beyond its five current markets. Germany and Austria are next on the list, with more European countries to follow. Lydia hires native country managers who fly back and forth between the main office in Paris and those new markets.

There are now around 40 employees at Lydia. The startup plans to be working with 60 employees by the end of 2018, and 90 employees by the end of 2019. When it comes to product, Chiche told me the startup would have more to share in the coming weeks.

Disclosure: I share a personal connection with an executive at CNP Assurances.

Adikteev raises $12 million for its mobile marketing platform


French startup Adikteev raised a $12 million funding round led by Ring Capital and BNP Paribas Développement, with existing investors ISAI, Ventech and Laurent Asscher also participating. It’s also worth noting that it represents Ring Capital’s first investment after raising its initial $170 million fund.

Adikteev is an adtech startup that previously acquired Motion Lead, a startup that worked on interactive and creative ad formats for mobile apps, and Trademob, a startup specialized on the demand-side so that advertisers can reach a ton of users to foster installs and retention. Trademob can even retarget users from one app to another.

In other words, Adikteev looks like a complete mobile marketing platform to targets users at all steps. Around 100 people work for Adikteev in Paris, Berlin, and more recently New York and San Francisco.

With today’s funding round, Adikteev wants to grow in the U.S. In particular, the startup can predict the lifetime value of a user and adjust advertising bidding price accordingly. This way, if an intensive user stopped using your app, you can allocate more advertising budget on this user to bring them back.

Overall, Adikteev has worked with 500 clients to create 3,000 campaigns. Customers include Audible, Marvel, Yelp, CCM Benchmark and others.

As for all adtech companies, data and reach are key. Adikteev is competing with advertising giants and has done a good job so far. Let’s see if it can manage to grow on its own and acquire smaller companies on the way or if it’ll end up getting acquired by a bigger company.

Featured Image: Smartline/Shutterstock

Cityscoot raises $50 million for its European electric scooter service


French startup Cityscoot announced a $50 million round of financing yesterday (€40 million). RATP Capital Innovation and Inventure Partners are leading the round, with existing investors Caisse des Dépôts and LeasePlan also participating. Cityscoot operates an electric scooter-sharing service in Paris and plans to expand to other cities in France and Europe.

You can now find around 1,600 scooters in Paris or some cities next to Paris. With your phone, you book a scooter in a few of seconds and type a code on the scooter to unlock it. When you’re done, you just have to park the scooter and end the ride.

And if you live in Paris, chances are you’ve seen countless of Cityscoots over the past year or so. They’re completely silent and they come with a helmet in the storage space under the seat.

While Cityscoot is leasing its scooters, it’s a capital-intensive industry. For instance, Cityscoot’s (electric) cars change the batteries when they’re about to die so that they don’t have to plug the scooters themselves. It’s hard to compare Cityscoot with a tech startup that works on a digital product.

The startup now says that it plans to operate a fleet of 5,000 scooters by the end of 2018. The company had already raised $18 million (€15 million) in 2016.

Cityscoot is about to launch in Nice and in three other cities — one in France, one in Switzerland and one in Italy. Cityscoot is also competing with Coup in Paris.

More interestingly, Cityscoot has 70,000 clients and handles 7,000 to 9,000 rides every day. Each ride lasts 15 minutes on average. Users pay €0.20 per minute if they buy a pack of minutes, so Cityscoot makes around €3 per ride, and 4 to 6 rides per scooter per day. That’s some encouraging numbers.

ProcessOut chooses the best online payment service for each transaction


Meet ProcessOut, a French startup that automatically routes transaction to the best payment provider. This way, big online services can start using multiple payment providers, pay less fees and reduce the number of declined transactions.

The startup has just raised $1 million from various business angels, such as BlaBlaCar CTO Francis Nappez, former PayPal Director of Global Business Development Benjamin Blasco, Logmatic CEO Amirhossein Malekzadeh and Amadeo Brenninkmeijer. ProcessOut is also backed by Techstars and 50 Partners.

“Look at how companies, such as Airbnb and Dropbox, handle payments. Those companies have teams of 10, 15 or 20 people who work full time on optimizing the technical and economical performance of payments.” co-founder and CEO Cyril Chemla told me. “ProcessOut acts like those payment teams for Datadog, BlaBlaCar or Vente-Privée.”

Behind the scene, ProcessOut has built a smart routing service that works with dozens of payment service providers. The startup’s biggest clients save a ton of money by using ProcessOut.

These days, many small startups start accepting payments by signing up to a developer-friendly payment provider, such as Stripe or Braintree. But using Stripe doesn’t necessarily make sense when you’re processing millions of transactions a year. You want to optimize and create some redundancy.

For instance, banks often have their own payment service providers. They are often hard to deal with and quite ugly, but they are also much cheaper than modern alternative service.

But that doesn’t mean you should switch altogether to a bank’s payment service provider. Many transactions fail because of a technical reason, or because the payment service provider or the customer’s bank have deemed the transaction too risky — it’s a non-negligible parameter.

ProcessOut has built two different services. First, Telescope lets you monitor all your transactions in a few minutes and give you recommendations. For instance, the service can tell you that you’re overpaying for transactions in the U.S., that your decline rate has been going up lately and more. This service is free and a great way to attract new customers.

Second, ProcessOut has built its own checkout module to act as an intermediary between your client and your payment service providers. The startup can store credit card information, which makes it easier to switch to a new payment service provider.

ProcessOut customers can then hook the service with multiple payment service providers and let the startup handle payments. While it’s easy to figure out the cheapest provider, it’s much harder to understand if the bank that issued your customer’s credit card is going to accept or decline the transaction. That’s why ProcessOut is slowly learning how each bank works.

The startup takes 1c to 5c per transaction. ProcessOur says that it represents less than 10 percent than what you save on fees and failed transactions. It should be an easy sell.

Amazon settles tax optimization dispute with French authorities


Amazon has signed an undisclosed deal with the French tax authorities, Amazon told the AFP. From 2006 to 2010, Amazon operated in France using its subsidiary in Luxembourg. This way, the company could pay less taxes. But French authorities think French sales should be taxed in France. That’s why they were asking for $252 million in unpaid taxes (€203 million).

Both Amazon and the French government didn’t comment on the amount of the fine. It’s possible that Amazon eventually paid less than $252 million.

According to the company, Amazon has created a subsidiary in France since then so that French revenue is taxed in France. So the Luxembourg issue shouldn’t come up again.

The company also told the AFP that it has spent quite a bit of money in France. 5,500 people work for Amazon in France. Amazon has invested $2 billion in France in total.

It’s interesting to see that tax authorities managed to avoid a public fight. The main issue with those big fines for tax optimization is that they can damage the reputation of a country. It’s hard to invest in a country where you get fined.

And yet, if only big tech companies paid taxes in each country where they operate… European Finance Ministers have been working on a new piece of legislation to force tech companies a bit.

According to the AFP, we’ll hear more about this new regulation in March 2018. Early drafts suggested that European tax authorities will look at overall revenue and not just profit.

For instance, if a big tech company such as Google, Amazon or Facebook reports $2 billion in revenue in Germany but only $10 million in profit, it doesn’t add up — when you look at earnings report, you can see that tech companies have quite a big gross margin. So tax authorities will use the bigger figure to calculate fair taxes.

With that upcoming change and today’s news, Google is probably relieved. The company has been facing a huge $1.3 billion fine for tax noncompliance in France. It seems like the French government now wants to settle those issues behind closed doors.

Featured Image: David Ryder/Getty Images