Sensibill Inc., a Toronto-based startup that offers digital receipt technology for banks, has raised $17.3-million to supercharge its global expansion and dig deeper into artificial intelligence.
It's one of the largest series A early-stage financing rounds for a Canadian technology startup and signals the growing quality and influence of financial technology (fintech) companies in the market.
"Generally, anything over $10-million has been a bit of a challenge in Canada," says Salim Teja, executive vice-president for Ventures at Toronto's MaRS Discovery District. "To me, what this signals is that the quality of our ventures and the problems they're trying to solve are important and being validated. ... This is a very important transaction given the scale it will allow Sensibill to grow to."
The financing is being led by fintech-focused Information Venture Partners of Toronto, which is throwing in more than $5-million, followed by Toronto-based OpenText Enterprise Apps Fund and San Francisco-based Operative Capital, among others. Toronto-based Impression Ventures, which was a key investor when Sensibill raised $2-million in 2015, is also committing more funds to this round.
Sensibill, which was founded in May, 2013, offers digital receipt technology for mobile banking apps, such as Scotiabank's eReceipts and TD Bank's UGO Wallet.
Corey Gross, Sensibill's co-founder and chief executive officer, says the new money will help the company expand its services in Canada and expand internationally including into the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Mr. Gross says the company's ability to crack the financial services sector in Canada, where there are only a few big banks, gives it the experience and clout to do business in other countries.
"If you can make it in Canada, you can make it anywhere," says Mr. Gross. "It's so hard to penetrate the Canadian banks."
The financing will also help Sensibill improve its products using artificial intelligence (AI) and so-called "deep learning" technology, which is when algorithms can make decisions about data.
Sensibill is working on ways to get its software to further categorize consumer products. For instance, pineapple on a receipt wouldn't just be listed as "fruit," but "tropical fruit." The company is also working on software that will allow consumers to split items on a restaurant bill by singling out and then summing up which items each person ordered.
The new financing will also be used to expand Sensibill's staff from about 50 today, to more than 100 by the end of the year, Mr. Gross says. The bulk of the jobs will continue to be based in Toronto, with sales and marketing positions in other countries where Sensibill is expanding.
David Unsworth, cofounder and general partner at Information Venture Partners, says the funding is one of the largest first cheques it has written for a fintech.
"It's a reflection of the way that we feel about the opportunity in front of Corey and plus our comfort with watching him execute over the last couple of years," says Mr. Unsworth, who believes fintech is still "in the early innings" of market expansion.
"The next decade represents just massive opportunities in how financial institutions change the relationship with their customer," says Mr. Unsworth. "By investing in B2B [business to business] fintech, we can help power that innovation."
He also highlighted the growing AI market and Toronto's position as a global leader in the technology.
The funding from Information Venture Partners comes a few months after it surpassed a $100-million fundraising goal, with backing from Manulife Financial Corp as well as RBC and Power Financial Corp., among others.
Information Venture Partners was spun out of the Royal Bank of Canada two years ago and has also backed a handful of fintechs including Toronto-based investor relations software and analytics firm Q4 Inc., anti-money laundering and fraud protection platform Verafin Inc. of St. John's, and Cambridge, Ont.-based eSentire, a cyber security startup.
"It's not just about money," says Mr. Unsworth about the Sensibill investment. "It's about mentorship and guidance as well."
Special to The Globe and Mail