Why Balderton invested in Primer
First off, this isn’t our usual Series A investment. The vast majority of our investments from our venture fund Balderton are at Series A. However we can make the occasional investment a bit earlier or later than this (and we also have our later stage Liquidity Fund taking secondary stakes in Series C+ companies). For example our first investment in Revolut was in a £1.5M round.
We aren’t a prolific seed investor so on the rare occasions we do invest early we have to be super-excited by the founders and the idea. That is definitely the case for Primer.
First off the founders. Paul Anthony (top middle pic above) and Gabriel Le Roux (centre pic) have a uniquely strong combination of tech, product and commercial skills across startups and one of the world’s most successful payments companies. They met at Braintree where they worked with some of the most sophisticated payments clients globally on their payment architecture. Paul was EMEA head of solutions and Gab was head of EMEA startup growth before moving to SF to work as product owner for commerce transformation. Previously Paul was one of the early employees and over time CTO of Deko (formerly Pay4later) where he built the world’s first online retail finance payment method. Gab worked for Rocket Internet in Global Savings Group and Easytaxi. They are also an Anglo-French team which matches well with our équipe at Balderton :-). Both Paul and Gab are incredibly intelligent, driven, ambitious and passionate about solving the pain points in payments.
Secondly the idea. The concept of Primer is abstraction of the entire payments stack. If you are a startup getting going on payments you will start using Stripe, Adyen, Braintree or similar. As you grow your options are to stay locked in to one provider or to start to manage your own set of multiple payment options.
Neither option is a good one. In the first case you are locked in to one provider who probably charges you too much and doesn’t offer all the alternative non-card payment mechanisms you would like to have. This is something we have seen first hand through our investment in Gocardless, and will increasingly become an issue for bank to bank PSD2 payments.
In the second case you need to build time-consuming integrations with multiple PSPs, alternative payment methods and fraud systems. This creates a fragile system which is hard to change and hard to reconcile into business intelligence. It is hard to optimise for cost/conversion/uptime. It also impacts user experience with multiple checkouts with different UX.
Primer will offer a unified payments API which captures and tokenises payments data, routes transactions to the best possible provider and is a single source of truth for BI. This allows the merchant to easily add additional PSPs, payment methods, fraud providers and business logic over time. The very biggest merchants are already building something like this themselves but for 99.9% of merchants it remains an unsolved problem.
Most parts of a modern tech stack are already built in this standardised API-driven way. We need to see this happen for payments as well, so that managing payments becomes friction-free.
Other companies have tried to address this issue in the past but have tended to get acquired before reaching scale (Zooz acquired by PayU, Processout acquired by Checkout, Optile acquired by Payoneer). Our thesis here is that Primer are the company who can go all the way.
We are very happy to lead this round and join our friends at Seedcamp, Speedinvest and some great angels including Taavet Hinrikus the founder of Transferwise.