Crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried backs London spreadsheet start-up Causal in $20 million investment round

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he richest man in cryptocurrency has backed a London start-up aiming to dethrone Microsoft Excel as the go-to program for finance departments and quant traders around the world.

Sam Bankman-Fried, the American-born billionaire founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, has taken part in a $ 20 million funding round for Causal, a startup with offices by St Pauls.

SBF, as he is known in the crypto world, is worth $ 24 billion and is the richest person in cryptocurrency, according to Forbes. Last year his business took over sponsorship of NBA team the Miami Heat’s stadium in Florida from American Airlines in a deal said to be worth $ 135 million.

Causal has built a piece of software that lets people collaborate on complex financial models, rivalling the likes of Excel and Google Sheets. It was founded by two Oxford graduates who ran into problems working with spreadsheets at previous businesses.

“You have all these crazy formulas that are really hard to understand,” said Taimur Abdaal, 26, Causal’s co-founder. “There’s often only one person in the company who gets it.”

Causal lets people write formulas in simple English, such as “profit = revenue – costs”, rather than based on cell locations. It also plugs directly into accounting systems, customer databases and other data stacks. The product launched last year and has over 100 customers.

“We have public companies using us, we have startups using us and everything in between,” Abdaal said.

Investment from Bankman-Fried, made via FTX’s venture capital arm, came about after an introduction from another investor.

“The line between us and them is we have a decent number of crypto companies using Causal,” Abdaal said. “I think we have a very strong crypto use case.”

Abdaal is a cryptocurrency investor himself. He said: “I have a lot of interest in the space, more than dabble I’d say. It is where I put most of my money these days in terms of new investments. “

Others backing Causal in the “Series A” funding round includes: London VC Accel; Coatue Management, the hedge fund run by New York-based “Tiger Cub” Philippe Laffont who cut his teeth at renowned Tiger Management; and Jeremy Stoppelman, the founder of business review site Yelp.

David Cahn, partner at Coatue, said: “We think they have a novel product that’s going to make number-crunching fast, collaborative, and accessible.”

The fresh funds will be used to grow Causal’s staff from 15 to 50, with a particular focus on sales.

Abdaal and co-founder Lukas Köbis, 27, were both working in California before starting Causal but decided to come back to London to set up the business.

“We just prefer life in London,” Abdaal said. “As VC has become less geographically constrained, you can actually stay where you are and still access the capital.”

Abdaal met Köbis, who worked at WhatsApp before co-founding the business, while the pair were both studying maths at Oxford.

“At university there weren’t that many people who were into tech and startups so we very quickly found each other,” Abdaal said. “The goal was aways to start a business together.”

He declined to comment on Causal’s valuation in the round.

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