FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Li Ka-shing, one of Asia’s richest men, is backing the expansion of German mobile financial services firm Number26, a darling among Berlin’s technology start-ups, which has ambitions to become a pan-European bank.
Number26 offers cash withdrawals, deposits and overdraft services and has attracted more than 200,000 mobile phone users in eight countries since launching its smartphone-based banking app early in 2015, the Berlin-based company said on Tuesday.
Li’s venture capital firm, Hong Kong-based Horizon Ventures Ltd, is leading the new financing, a $40 million investment round with the co-founders of Zalando (ZALG.DE), Europe’s top online retailer, and Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel.
Number26 aims to recreate retail banking on smartphones, offering consumer services without bank branches or cashpoint machines. It operates through the German banking license of technology partner Wirecard (WDIG.DE).
It has begun to expand the range of financial products it offers through partnerships, including one with UK-based cross-border money transfer specialist Transferwise.
Number26 said in a statement it will use the new funding for further geographic expansion and to allow it to add phone-based products for savings, investment and credit.
Li’s Horizon Ventures is joined by new investors Battery Ventures, a Boston-based venture firm, and Robert Gentz, David Schneider, and Rubin Ritter, the three co-founders of Zalando.
Existing investors joining in the latest financing round included Valar Ventures, the venture funding arm of German-American entrepreneur Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook. Berlin-based Earlybird Ventures and Zurich-based Red Alpine, also took part.
The company, which has 140 employees, has raised more than $53 million (46.8 million euros) to date, it said.
Editing by Alexander Smith