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China's digital empire: Alipay and WeChat accounted for nearly $3 trillion in digital payments in China in 2016, China Money Network reports, citing figures from the United Nations. That's 2,000% more than in 2012, and it gives AliPay and WeChat nearly two-thirds of the Chinese digital payments market. The Alliance attributes this spike to the overall popularity of social platforms in China, and suggests it provides a lesson for other countries that wish to migrate people from cash to digital payments. The trove of data these platforms generate is of particular use, since it helps build credit history quickly and can help extend credit and other banking relationships to emerging economies. The U.N. also suggests Alipay and WeChat's scale, plus international ambitions, could pose a threat to European and American financial institutions.

Image: Bloomberg News
Image: Bloomberg News

Plastc goes under: Plastc, a "smart card" that's designed to store other cards, has ceased operations after an early investment of about $3.5 million and a more recent investment of $6.75 million fell through, according to a statement on its site: "At the very last minute, our investor gave us notice that they have decided to rescind their investment offer. The round was a signature away from closing and we were extremely caught off guard when they notified us yesterday they were backing out," the statement read. Engadget reports the company has taken nearly 80,000 preorders that can't be filled, causing people to clamor for refunds online. Plastc isn't the only company in the space that's had problems. Stratos needed an emergency infusion, and Coin was beset by myriad production problems before shutting down earlier this year. Coin also sold some of its assets to Fitbit last year as part of the wearable technology company's effort to target banks.

Techies fight over Brexit impact: Transferwise has been notably bearish on the impact of the U.K.'s departure from the European Union, suggesting it would not start its business in London today as it plans to transfer some offices to the European mainland. Other companies are snapping back at Transferwise, pointing to stats that suggest London's VC culture is holding its own. Calling Brexit bears "fearmongers," Nik Storonsky, founder and CEO of Revolut, told Finextra that "Fintech produces more billion-dollar-valued startups than any other segment in the U.K. and includes financial services, transfers and peer-to-peer loans." Finextra also reports there has been about $210 million in fintech investment since the beginning of 2017, more than any quarter in 2016. Major deals included a $100 million round for Funding Circle, $30 million for Monzo and $24 million for Currency Cloud.

Sionic hires VC vet to be point person with Chase's merchant unit: Sionic Mobile has hired Nat Milburn to be the company's managing director of enterprise development. Part of his role will be as Sionic's primary liaison with Chase Merchant Services to spot opportunities to sell technology to clients from both companies. Sionic's primary product is a cloud-based mobile app and web product that uses a three-digit code to complete payments, as well as a rewards system that works across multiple merchants. Chase Merchant Services is, among other things, part of the foundation of Chase Pay, the bank's merchant-focused mobile payment app. Milburn was most recently a vice president at Revel Partners, a venture capital firm that specializes in digital marketing and advertising technology.

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