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Credit-card startup Brim Financial Inc. is shifting its focus to quickly build tailored cards and rewards programs for financial institutions, fellow startups and retailers, capitalizing on a boom in e-commerce spurred by the pandemic.

Toronto-based Brim has raised $25-million in a funding round led by Quebec-based Desjardins Group and U.S.-based Epic Ventures, with participation from investors including goeasy Ltd., White Owl Capital and Impression Ventures. The new funding pushes Brim’s valuation close to $100-million, and signals a new phase in its efforts to break into a crowded market for cards and loyalty rewards.

Brim is also one of just a handful of early-stage companies led by women to complete a funding round in excess of $20-million in Canada, as female entrepreneurs still face added barriers. Founder and chief executive officer Rasha Katabi started the company after nearly two decades working in banking and consumer finance, and may be at the vanguard of a new wave of support for female-led technology companies.

“There are many more women-led startups who are following in her footsteps in Canada who are on the verge of closing similar size funding rounds over the next 12 months,” said Michelle McBane, managing director of Toronto-based StandUp Ventures, which is not an investor in Brim.

In 2018, Brim shipped its first cards to customers, with ambitions as a challenger to Canada’s big banks in consumer credit. The company seeks to stand out by offering loyalty points that can be redeemed on any purchase, added benefits at hundreds of partner merchants such as Indigo, Apple, Nike and Avis Budget Group, as well as instalment financing for purchases of more than $500. But after amassing a customer base in the hundreds of thousands, it is still a small player in a market where more than 76 million Visas and Mastercards are in circulation.

“Maybe we were a little under the radar,” Ms. Katabi said.

Yet by late 2019, Brim was fielding “a lot of inbound interest” from potential partners looking to use its proprietary technology as a platform to launch their own credit cards and loyalty programs. Providing white-label or co-branded cards became a key focus in 2020, and Brim is getting ready for the public launch of its first partnerships in the coming weeks, starting with a mid-sized Canadian bank.

Online shopping and e-commerce have become far more common amid lockdowns, while travel restrictions have shifted customers’ preferences toward cards that earn cash back or allow them to redeem points on everyday purchases such as groceries. As merchants race to adapt, one of Brim’s major selling points is speed: The company says it can roll out a credit card offering with built-in rewards in as little as eight weeks.

“We have many [partnerships] under way and in the pipeline,” Ms. Katabi said. “You’re going to see that pipeline come to life.”

That has fuelled growing interest from investors. The participation of Epic Ventures in this latest funding round is a sign of Brim’s potential outside Canada, said Christian Lassonde, managing partner of Impression Ventures, an early investor in Brim since 2016. By the end of this year, Brim expects to launch similar U.S. partnerships, giving it a toehold in a much larger market.

“This is not just a Canada-only play,” Mr. Lassonde said. “Where they are today is a smart evolution of where the business goes.”

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