Welcome to The Interchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your vote of confidence. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include 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 on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann
Hey, hey, Mary Ann here, feeling all sorry for myself because I have COVID for the first time when I should be grateful that it took so long for me to get it, right? Thankfully you can't catch my germs through a computer or phone screen. I'll be okay but as a result...you're stuck with another slightly abbreviated version of this newsletter! Huge credit to, and gratitude for, TechCrunch's Kyle Wiggers, who once again saved the day by writing up all the blurbs (and there were many to cover) here. Kyle, you're the best.
Since Thanksgiving is less than a week away, I'll take this opportunity to say how truly thankful I am to be given the trust and confidence to draft this newsletter and for you all to take the time to read and share it. I do not take this lightly because without your support, I would not be doing this. I know there are a ton of fintech-focused newsletters out there, so it really does mean the world. Okay, now that I'm done with the cringe part of this newsletter (to quote my children), let's go straight to the news.
Image Credits: John Anderson, head of payments / Plaid
Plaid announced it has hired John Anderson, a former Meta exec, to serve as its first head of payments. The move comes as the fintech startup leans into payments, both in terms of facilitating them itself and aiming to help others do so better and faster. Our first thought is that it was taking another swing at Stripe, but interestingly the two remain partners -- for now. Plaid also announced that its Signal offering is out of beta with early users such as Robinhood, Webull and Uphold. It claims that by using Signal, companies can "unlock instant ACH."
In contrast to crypto, some segments of the lending market appear to be robust -- at least presently. Nu Holdings, the Warren Buffett–backed Brazilian banking firm that offers credit cards and personal loans and that is more commonly known as Nubank, posted a nearly threefold jump in Q3 revenue on Monday. While publicly traded Nu has seen its U.S. shares lose over half their value this year, its customer base has grown to over 70 million following a dramatically expanded footprint in Mexico. Nu's total revenue in Q3 reached $1.3 billion, up 171%, while profit climbed to $427 million, up 90%.
Five years ago, Revolut, the British fintech company with an expanding portfolio of banking services, made the news when it reached over a million customers across Europe. That seems quaint now; this week, Revolut hit 25 million customers globally as the firm prepares to expand into new markets, including India, Mexico, Brazil and New Zealand. Revolut was last valued at $33 billion, but as of last year at least, the company wasn't yet profitable; Revolut reported a £167 million (~$197.94 million) net loss in 2021, its largest ever.
Are valuations retreating and the backlog of IPOs growing in fintech, as chatter across the Twitter-verse implies? Silicon Valley Bank says yes on both counts in its State of Fintech report out this week. According to the firm, the steepest declines in valuation have occurred for late-stage fintech companies; "enterprise value" to "next 12 months" revenue multiples for public fintechs have dipped 55% since the market peaked in early January. Meanwhile, since the end of 2021, the number of U.S. fintech unicorns has grown by 38% to 159 — standing at a staggering $656 billion in aggregate valuation, highlighting the massive backlog looking to exit.
According to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health, 72% of startup founders are affected by mental health issues. Stepping out of its lane somewhat, fintech giant Brex launched a program, Catharsis, which is designed to provide resources dedicated to mental health. Brex says it'll facilitate access to therapists via a partnership with Spring Health as well as extend a discount on the sleep-tracking Oura Ring. Seems like a worthwhile cause, but part of us wonders whether the effort is intended to distract from Brex's poorly received pivot away from supporting small businesses.
Charge cards are big business. According to Research and Markets, the segment could be worth over $2 billion by 2026, growing from $1.96 billion this year. That's probably why banking-as-a-service startup Unit is investing in it -- the company on Tuesday launched a service that'll allow customers to build custom charge cards for their own end users. Unit handles nearly all aspects of the back end, including card printing, compliance and transaction tracking. In this way, it's a different approach than corporate card issuers Brex and Ramp, Unit CEO Itai Damti argues, which are strictly business-to-business -- Unit sees its offering as more "business-to-business-to-consumer."
If you’re itching for reading material on the forecasted economic woes in the tech sector, Ukraine-based fintech investor Vadym Synegin wrote an excellent piece for TC+ on what founders can do to help their companies prosper in times of crises. Among other steps, he suggests that founders double down on developing and proving the quality of their products, manage risk and look for ways to shore up their company's ranks with high-performing talent.
Just over a year ago, Wise -- the company formerly known as TransferWise -- went public on the London market. Now, in search of new growth avenues, Wise is inking an expanded partnership with up-and-coming remote hiring startup Deel to enable companies to pay employees faster (ostensibly). Wise and Deel's new feature lets customers send funds via Deel using just an email address, opening up new currencies in Deel's existing payments infrastructure. To take advantage, Deel customers simply need to open an account with Wise and connect it to the Deel platform.
In another post for TC+, fintech consultant Greg Easterbrook lays out four moves he believes fintech firms must make to set themselves up for success over the coming months. He urges startup founders to ensure their tech stacks support fintech's cutting edge, and he warns of competition from traditional financial firms offering more of a "super app" experience with strong member benefits and perks. The fintechs that outperform the market will either specialize in specific services or embrace a strategy to build compelling new products and perks, Easterbrook says.
Despite being the world's largest prepaid debit card company by market cap, Green Dot usually flies under the radar. But the firm has faced challenges in recent months, disclosing that it's in a dispute with Uber -- one of its contract customers -- and that "several" of its banking-as-a-service clients declined to renew their contracts this summer. In a shake-up aimed at righting the ship, Green Dot named a new CFO, COO and chief revenue officer this week and said it was focusing on tech modernization, including a move to a cloud-based core banking platform and card management system.
Fintech startup Bump and Mastercard are collaborating on a new card aimed at musicians and content creators (think TikTok influencers). How does one build a card for creators, you might ask? Well, in Bump's case, they do away with monthly fees and credit checks, factoring in things like a customer's web3 assets (e.g., cryptocurrencies, NFTs) when determining credit limits. There's plenty of other cards out there that don't require a credit check, and at least one startup, Spectral, is attempting to create a system of web3 "credit scores." But Bump's offering is intriguing nonetheless.
StellarFi, a credit-building service that makes bill payments on your behalf and reports them to the major credit bureaus, is on the upswing. The company announced this week that it has surpassed $1 million in annual recurring revenue just five months after launch and that its customer base has grown 83% during the past month. The current economic climate likely has something to do with StellarFi's success -- U.S. inflation remains above 7% and short-term borrowing rates are at their highest level since January 2008.
Funding and M&A
Image Credits: Co-founders Carolina Nucamendi and Brenna Curran / Waivr
Seen on TechCrunch and beyond
That's it for now. I'm taking off next week and hope many of you are too! This newsletter will be back on December 4. Wishing you all the best, and a safe and healthy holiday week. xoxo, Mary Ann