Welcome to The Switch! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and trusting us. If you’re reading this as a message on our site, please sign up here so you can get it right away in the future. Every week I watch the hottest fintech news from the past week. This includes everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there, and it’s my job to stay up to date – and understand – so you stay informed. Let’s go! — Mary Ann
Hey, hey – this will be a slightly condensed version of this newsletter as Monday the 5th is a public holiday here in the US and the news was a little slower than usual last week. But there is no rest for the weary, so here we go!
On Friday’s episode of the Equity Podcast, Natasha, Alex and I discussed what a small world this venture community is.
Just hours after the recording on September 1, we got wind of yet another example of this.
Forbes’ Alex Konrad reported that Brex’s Chief Revenue Officer, Sam Blond, will become a Founders Fund partner.
Now it’s not uncommon for executives or founders to take on a full-time investment position. But there were a few things about this news that made our ears perk up.
Earlier this year, Brex reached decacorn status with a $300 million raise. The buzzing startup started life offering corporate cards to startups and over time has evolved its model to take “a big push” in software and serve larger enterprise clients with less focus on SMBs and bootstrap startups. . (The move has been a bit controversial and has been taken by surprise and somewhat disappointed by the startup community.)
Now, if you’re a Chief Revenue Officer at a startup that’s on a growth trajectory, it seems like a bit of an unusual time to leave. Especially when Blond was reportedly one of the company’s first 20 employees.
Konrad wrote, “At the time, Brex only had a temporary website and less than $100 in sales…more than four years later, the company has hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue.”
But even more striking, Blond left Brex to join a venture capital firm that invests in one of the firm’s biggest corporate spending rivals, Disaster.
For the unfamiliar, Brex and Ramp have been battling for years.
Blond told Forbes that he had made the decision to start “investing full-time in startups” early in the year. According to the article, “He interviewed several companies, but eventually went along with the one whose partner, Midas List investor Keith Rabois, had helped welcome him to the local tech scene.” I have always been impressed with Keith and, reputation-wise, Founders Fund,” says Blond. “When I decided I wanted to get into VC, it was clear Founders Fund was the best option for me to explore.” ”
I reached out to Blond to get his opinion on the news from a fintech lens. He was about to board a plane, but we managed to get this quick question and answer:
TC: When exactly did you leave Brex?
SB: I am still a full-time employee at Brex. My last day as a full-time employee is just before I start at FF. We went out and hired a great new CRO, Doug Adamic, to replace me, and I helped with the transition.
You told Forbes that earlier this year you decided to start investing full-time in startups. What prompted you to make that decision, and how long had you been investing?
I’ve been angel investing for about four years. I decided to do VC full-time for a few reasons: (a) I really enjoyed angel investing, learned a lot and believe I’ve been able to really help the companies I’ve invested in to find their way to the market. (b) I have had success joining two of the fastest growing technology companies (Zenefits and Brex) with some of the best founders (Parker, Pedro and Henrique). The combination of (a) and (b) gives me a degree of confidence that I will be good at being a VC (choosing the right companies and helping them increase sales). (c) Brex has been a truly incredible experience, and the success we’ve had will be hard to match when I join another company. I am ready and motivated for a new challenge.
What do you focus on at Founders Fund? Are you going to invest in fintechs?
This question was answered by Erin Gleason, Founders Fund’s head of communications:
EG: Sam will be a generalist investing in different stages, sectors and regions, like all of our partners, but he is especially interested in early stage business deals.
What did you think of Founders Fund being an investor in Ramp, one of Brex’s biggest rivals? Is that a problem at all?
I see Ramp is an FF portfolio company as a coincidence. It didn’t affect my motivation to join, and my focus will be on investing in and helping new portfolio companies. I am very loyal to Brex and everyone I have developed close friendships with there.
You were one of Brex’s first employees. What is your opinion on the future of the company?
I am very optimistic about the future of Brex. The team is incredible and the strategy with Empower is differentiated and already seeing many early successes in winning larger corporate clients.
How lucrative is the buy now, pay later (BNPL) market? asks TC+ editor Alex Wilhelm. “New data from Klarna and recent earnings results from Affirm make it clear that building a global business in the fintech space is far from cheap. The two companies, Affirm American and Klarna Swedish, are currently among the most valuable players in the BNPL market. They are now both almost equal in value. And both have recently reported financial results.”
Writes TheTechWarrior’s Ivan Mehta: “Block’s (formerly known as Square) Cash App now lets users make payments on ecommerce sites outside the Square network. Until now, users could only make payments with Cash App Pay on Square terminals or online Square merchant partners. The company has partnered with American Eagle, Aerie, Tommy Hilfiger, Finish Line and JD Sports for the launch, with more vendors such as Romwe, Savage x Fenty, SHEIN, thredUP and Wish to follow in the coming months.”
While several interesting financing deals out of Africa were announced this week (see the next section for more on that), our man on the ground, Tage Kene-Okafor, also wrote of how Kuda, a challenger bank in Nigeria and the UK, has “joined the ranks of tech companies in Africa that are cutting their workforces. The news of the layoffs, first disclosed to TheTechWarrior by sources, was confirmed by email by Kuda, saying it has laid off less than 5% of its 450-strong workforce, or about 23 people… bank, which offers zero to minimal fees for cards, account maintenance and transfers and is one of Africa’s fastest-growing, has raised $55 million.”
Financing and M&A
Seen on TheTechWarrior
Solid banks $63 million for easier implementation of embedded fintech products
Fintech startup Alloy leans on fraud prevention to hit new $1.55 billion valuation
Landa can make you a landlord for just $5
Nigerian YC-backed startup Anchor emerges from stealth with $1M+ to scale up its banking-as-a-service platform
Duplo digitizes payment flows for African B2B companies and receives $4.3 million seed funding
Kenyan fintech Pezesha raises $11 million backed by Women’s World Banking, Cardano parent IOG
Nigeria’s Gray raises $2M for cross-border payments and regional expansion
RentSpree Raises $17.3M to Expand Rental Management Tools
Wealth management technology startup VRGL raises $15 million to help companies acquire clients and manage proposals
Well, that’s it for this week. Thanks again for reading! If you are here in the US hope you enjoy this long holiday weekend and get some rest and relaxation. And if you’re not in the US, I hope you get some rest and relaxation. xoxoxo, Mary Ann