As BNPL startups raise, a look at Klarna, Affirm and Afterpay earnings

As the e-commerce market grows, startups are racing to help online retailers sell larger items to consumers with so-called “buy-now-pay-later” options. Via BNPL, consumers turn a one-time purchase into a limited string of regular payments.

Terms vary, but the space is very active. TechCrunch covered Scalapay’s January $48 million round, what the Italian BNPL described as a seed round. Also this year, we’ve seen France’s Alma raise a $59.4 million Series B for its BNPL efforts. And I recently covered Wisetack’s aggregate $19 million fundraise as it looks to make more noise about its service that focuses on real-world transactions like home improvement.

But unlike some burgeoning startup niches where we lack visible results from leading players to use as a lens for vetting the market, we do have a number for the BNPL space. This morning, to better understand what’s going on with the younger companies hoping to help you finance your next mistaken purchase, let’s check out earnings results from Klarna, Afterpay and Affirm.

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Klarna, based in Sweden, is said to be considering a direct listing. Its 2020 results are here. Afterpay, based in Australia, went public a few years ago. Its H1 fiscal 2021 results are here. And then there’s Affirm, the recently public U.S.-based BNPL company that had a recent direct listing. Its fiscal Q2 2021 (calendar Q4) results are here.

Let’s see how the three are doing, yank learnings for the mix and then check our gut about what their results might mean for BNPL startups the world ’round.

BNPL results

The BNPL cohort of startups is showing signs of pursuing verticalization to find veins of market demand that remain untapped by the largest players in their market. So, while Affirm wants to check you out everywhere online, providing you with repayment options wherever you travel digitally, Wisetack wants to integrate with a particular set of merchants. The latter model could provide startups pursuing similar, narrower market targets the ability to better understand their economics and perhaps generate more total margin on their loans.

That’s a long way to say that even with the information at our disposal, we’re thinking directionally. But doing so is both good fun and illustrative, so let’s get into it. First, Klarna.


This morning we’ll look at Klarna’s Q3 2020 report and its Q4 report from the same year.

The gist is that Klarna had a super-solid 2020. In its Q3 update, Klarna wrote that it saw 43 percent growth in gross merchandise volume during the first nine months of the year. In its Q4 report, it noted a full-year number of 46 percent GMV growth. From that, we can intuit that Klarna had a great fourth quarter.

Turning to the U.S. market, Klarna first reported “10 million total consumers by [the Q3] period end, and 11 million by the end of October.” And for the full year, it wrote that it had seen “15 million consumers choosing to shop with Klarna by January 2021” in the United States. Again, those look pretty great.

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