Hi guys, It’s been a rollercoaster of a week in the world of fintech as I published two separate articles on startup layoffs and a nine figure round of funding in the span of a few hours† It was also a week packed with lots of activity on FinTwit, or “Financial Twitter,” as it’s more formally known – thanks to more than just a little back and forth with Stripe and Plaid. So grab your popcorn and sit down on some while I try to fix it for you. Want this in your inbox every Sunday morning? Register here!
I joked earlier this week that when I started covering fintech I expected it to be a pretty dry and calm beat. Now I laugh at my naivety.
Perhaps the biggest news this week in the fintech world was Stripe’s launch of its new Financial Connections product, reported on by TC’s Ingrid Lunden. here† The product launch itself was newsworthy, yes. But what raised it in the world of newsworthiness was that it sparked some controversy† because it’s pretty much exactly what Plaid, a one-time partner of Stripe, does. And that’s it gives Stripe customers a way to connect directly to their customers’ bank accounts, to access financial data to speed up or execute certain types of transactions. Again, that’s what Plaid does.
In a tweet since deleted, Zach Perret, CEO and co-founder of Plaid, responded to a tweet from Stripe PM Jay Shah, essentially questioning the “methods” by which Stripe gathered information about building the product. Shah responded to that tweet with one of his own in defense of his and his company’s actions.
Hours later, Perret recognized on Twitter that he had deleted his tweet, noting:Tweet deleted. Misunderstanding or other styles maybe. Assuming positive intentions.”
Meanwhile, the executives internally at Stripe addressed the brouhaha with an internal memo. In particular, Patrick Collison said his “enthusiasm” about Stripe’s new product had been “damped” by Perret’s “accusations”. Apparently, he was hurt that Plaid might have been a little upset that Stripe had revealed this competing product, even after the two companies had previously worked together on integrations.
He ends his internal note with a confession that Stripe should “definitely be open to the possibility” that it could have handled things better. Great that he admitted this, but it’s also very hard to believe that these executives… no idea that the move would result in the tension it did. Patrick even goes on to say that perhaps Stripe should have given Plaid a warning “so they could privately voice any concerns they had.” He added that while Stripe wasn’t necessarily obligated to do so, it likely could have avoided the public debate that followed had it told Plaid earlier.
Meanwhile, Patrick’s brother and co-founder, John, tweeted that it was “nice” of Perret to delete his original tweet. He added: “We understand that his view of the whole matter may still differ. Anyway, we still do a lot with Plaid. They are a great company and we look forward to finding more ways to work together.”
I contacted both companies to get their respective recordings and both declined to be interviewed. It is true that we may never know what really happened in this particular case. But what I do know is that the controversy sparked a very different conversation, including claims that this wasn’t the first time Stripe has been accused of less than scrupulous behavior. These include (unproven) accusations that the company had previously sparked interest in buying other companies or hiring people in an attempt to milk them for information. It also resurfaced when Stripe reportedly pressured investor Sequoia to pull out of an investment that smelled like competition.
I’m not here to pass judgment, because this story may still be going on, and we don’t know what’s true yet. That said, my humble opinion is that it is not worth acting unethically no matter how big or rich you are, or how small or not rich you are. I would rather not be so rich and know that I was doing well in front of the people I dealt with than rich and have my integrity repeatedly questioned. But that’s just me.
If you want to hear the Equity team’s opinion on this topic, listen here†
In other news
On the topic of fintech drama, Bolt made headlines recently for a number of reasons I outlined last weekk, including a lawsuit filed by a major customer and reporting it is seeing a slowdown in revenue and customer growth. Well, last week the company came out with an indirect response to the latter in the form of a blog post written by CEO Maju Kuruvilla. You can read all about it here.
I wrote a story about how Trustthe sixth largest bank in the US with $488 billion in assets, acquired a startup for 12 people called long game in an effort to attract more GenZ and millennial customers. Led by Lindsay Holden, the startup had a has raised more than $20 million in funding and built a financial finance mobile app that aims to help people “save, learn and engage” with their finances. The purchase is further proof that fintechs and banks can work together. Also proof that many financial institutions see the value of acquiring technology instead of developing it themselves. In other words, incumbents in some cases need fintechs, even if they compete with them.
As mentioned above, there were also layoffs in the world of fintech as main Street † a startup that helps other startups discover tax breaks – about 30% of the staff let go. We don’t really know why, or exactly how many people were affected, but it’s not good news for a company valued at $500 million in January 2021 and especially not good news for the employees affected. The company did not return a request for comment about the layoffs, but in a tweet, CEO Doug Ludlow acknowledged “an incredibly rough market”. He also hinted that this may be just the beginning, saying: “There’s a very good chance that today’s incredibly rough market will only get worse, possibly staying for months, if not years.”
Speaking of layoffs, Robin Hood recently laid off about 9% of its workforce, and it’s clearly not ready to increase its cash flow yet. Anita Ramaswamy wrote about how the trading platform was rolled out a feature that allows users to lend their shares in hopes of earning passive, recurring income from borrowers. The company already makes money by lending stock to customers who buy it “on margin,” and this new stock-lending program is expected to deliver one to two times the revenue of its existing margin lending offering, said CFO Jason warnick. On the company’s earnings call last week†
On a more positive note, Tage Kene-Okafor wrote about how: Rali_cap, a venture capital startup focused on fintech investments in emerging markets, launched a $30 million fund. Last month, the company, formerly known as Rally Cap Ventures, hit its first close of $20 million (its original target) before increasing its fund size, signaling a strong LP appetite.
The two-year-old venture capital fund invests in B2B and API-first fintechs in Africa, Latin America and South Asia in pre-seed and seed stages. It expects to reach a second close at the end of June
Startup Technology Investment Company Picus launched a Venture Partner Network and engaged Gerry Giacomán Colyer, co-founder and CEO of Mexican corporate spend management startup Clara, as its first partner. Colyer, according to Picus, will “support founders in the Latin American tech ecosystem to accelerate their growth journeys and serve as an expert on fintech-related topics for founders worldwide.”
Start up Fintech-as-a-service rapyd launched Virtual Accounts, a product intended to give businesses a way to expand globally while supporting local payments. In his words, “This new offering enables organizations around the world to securely and reliably accept local bank transfers in more than 40 countries in more than 25 currencies, including the US, UK, EU and APAC regions.”
BNPL’s crackdown has not been crushed Walnut and the latest $110 million financing – the startup has raised $10 million in equity and $100 million in debt financing, as told by Natasha Mascarenhas, which I am so happy to share, will cover more fintech when it comes to inclusion and access!
An example: she also wrote this beautifully executed piece line’s $7 million equity and $25 million debt increase: Inclusive fintech is hard to do well, so Line has a different direction
Fundid injects prime funding into providing capital, small business credit – Christine Hall
Chilean fintech Xepelin wants Latin American companies to get paidbecause it raises a $111 million Series B – Christine Hall
Google backed neobank Open Become India’s 100th Unicorn With New Funding – Manish Singh
Concerto raises $21.2 million to bring co-branded credit cards to more brands – Kyle Wiggers
Zenda gets $9.4 million to streamline tuition payment and management – Annie Njanja
Kevin raises $65 million as it pre-charges bill-to-account payments through POS terminals – Ingrid Lunden
masa gets $3.5 million pre-seed to build its decentralized credit protocol – Tage Kene-Okafor
Canada’s Neo Financial closes on a $145 million Series C as it surpasses 1 million customers and achieves unicorn status
Tactics wants to reinvent accounting software for the web3 era – Founders Fund and Ramp co-led the $2.6M seed-raise startup
Point closes on $115 million to give homeowners a way to cash in on the equity in their home – Andreessen Horowitz GP Alex Rampell co-founded the company and is now an investor in it
Another company in the same space, home pace recently raised $7 million for its own home equity product
realtooperator of an automated, web-based marketplace for secondary trading in illiquid real estate and alternative securities, $4.5 million raised in a round led by Firebrand Ventures†
Dallas-based Backflip raises $8 million in seed for local financing of real estate investments
assign tothat says it is developing an approach to investing in venture capital funds that offers investors of all sizes a way to participate, Raised $15.3 Million in Series A Financing† Christine Hall handled the corporate films $5 Million Seed Yield last July.
That was very much of the financing, as we are supposed to undergo a market correction! Maybe they closed a while ago and are only now being announced. At least that was it for this week. Thanks for reading, and if you’re a mom like me, have a happy Mother’s Day!