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Brex’s departure explains his decision to join CRO Founders Fund – Technology Flow

Welcome to the Exchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and for your trust. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Each week, I take a look at the hottest fintech news from the previous week. This includes everything from funding rounds to trends to 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 — and understand — so you can stay informed. Let’s Go! — Mary Ann

Hey, hey — this is a slightly abbreviated version of this newsletter as Monday the 5th is a holiday in the US and news has been a little slower than usual this past 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.

A few hours after the recording on September 1, we got another example of this.

Forbes’ Alex Conrad reports that Brex’s chief revenue officer, Sam Bland, is becoming a partner in Founders Fund.

Now, it’s not uncommon for executives or entrepreneurs to move into full-time investment roles. But there are some things about this news that make our ears twitch.

Earlier this year, Brex reached decacorn status with a $300 million raise. The bustling startup began offering corporate cards to startups and over time evolved its model to include “a big push” in software and serve larger enterprise customers with less focus on SMBs and bootstrapped startups. (The move was somewhat controversial, causing surprise and some dismay in the startup community.)

Now, if you’re the chief revenue officer of a startup on a growth trajectory, this is a bit much Extraordinary Departure time. Especially when Bland was reportedly one of the company’s first 20 employees.

Conrad writes: “At the time, Brex only had a placeholder website and less than $100 in sales… Four-plus years later, the business had annual revenues of several hundred million dollars.”

More importantly, though, Bland left Breaks to join a venture capital firm that invested in Ramp, one of the company’s biggest rivals in the corporate spending space.

For those unfamiliar, brakes and ramps have been at odds for years.

Bland told Forbes he decided to start “full-time startup investing” at the beginning of the year. According to the article: “He interviewed with several firms, but eventually his partner, Midas List investor Keith Rabois, helped usher him into the local tech scene. ‘I’ve always been impressed with Keith and Keerthy’s ambitious Founders Fund,’ says Blond. ‘When I decided to get into VC, it was clear that Founders Fund was the best option for me to explore.’ “

I caught up with Bland to get the news from a fintech lens. He’s about to board a plane but we’ve conducted this quick Q&A:

TC: When exactly did you leave Brex?

SB: I am still a full-time employee of Brex. It was my last day as a full-time employee before I started at FF. We went out and hired a wonderful new CRO, Doug Adamic, to replace me and I’m helping with the transition.

You told Forbes earlier this year that you decided to go into full-scale startup investing. What led you to make that decision and how long have you been angel investing?

I have 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 ton, and believed I could help the companies I invested in scale their way to market. (b) I succeeded in joining two fast-growing technology businesses (Zenefits and Brex) with some of the best entrepreneurs around (Parker, Pedro and Henrik). The combination of (a) and (b) gives me some level of confidence that I’m good at VC (picking the right companies and helping them grow their revenue). (c) Brax was a truly incredible experience, and if I joined another company it would be difficult to replicate the success we had. I am ready and motivated for a new challenge.

What is your vision at Founders Fund? Do you invest in fintech?

Erin Gleeson, head of comms at Founders Fund, answered this question:

eg: Sam is a generalist investing across stages, sectors and geographies like all our partners, but he has a particular interest in early stage enterprise deals.

What do you think about Founders Fund being an investor in Ramp, one of Brex’s biggest rivals? Is this a problem at all?

Coincidentally I think of Ramp as a FF portfolio company. This did not affect my motivation to join and my focus will be on investing in and helping new portfolio companies. I am very loyal to Brecks and everyone I have developed close friendships with there.

You were one of Brex’s earliest employees. What are your thoughts on the future of the company?

I am very bullish on Brex’s future. The team is incredible, and the strategy with Empower is different and has already had early success winning large enterprise customers.


Image Credits: Founder’s Fund

Weekly News

How profitable is the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) market? TC+ prompts the 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 will not be cheap. Two companies, Affirm American and Klarna Swedish, are among the most valuable players in the BNPL market today. They are both now of almost equal value. And both recently reported financial results.

Technology Flow writes Evan Mehta: “Bloc’s (formerly known as Square) Cash app now allows users to make payments on e-commerce sites outside the Square network. Until now, users could only make payments using Cash App Pay at Square terminals or online at Square merchant partners. The company has partnered with American Eagle, Aerie, Tommy Hilfiger, Finish Line and JD Sports to launch with more merchants such as Romwe, Savage x Fenty, SHEIN, thredUP and Wish.

While several interesting funding deals were announced from Africa this week (see next section for more on them), our man on the ground, Tage Ken-Okafor, also writes how a challenger bank, Kuda, based in Nigeria and the UK, has “joined the ranks of tech companies in Africa cutting their workforces. Kuda confirmed via email the news of the layoffs, first revealed to Technology Flow by sources, saying it cut less than 5% of its 450-strong workforce, or about 23 people…last August at the company that offers zero-to-minimum fees on digital cards, account management and transfers and Africa’s Sunnycorns. One bank raised $55 million.

Funding and M&A

Seen on Technology Flow

Solid Banks $63M for easy implementation of embedded fintech products

Fintech startup Alloy leans on fraud prevention to land new $1.55B valuation

Landa can make you a landlord for just $5

Nigerian YC-backed startup Anchor comes out of stealth with $1M+ to scale its banking-as-a-service platform

Duplo Digitizes Payment Flows for African B2B Enterprises, Receives $4.3M in Seed Funding

Kenyan FinTech Pejesha Raises $11M Backed by Women’s World Banking, Cardano Parent IOG

Nigeria’s Gray Cross-border payments game raises $2M for regional expansion

and elsewhere

RentSpree secures $17.3M to expand rental management tools

Wealth management tech startup VRGL raises $15M to help firms acquire clients, manage proposals

Well, that’s it for this week. Once again, thanks for reading! If you’re here in the US, hope you’re enjoying this long holiday weekend and getting some rest and relaxation. And if you’re not in the US, I hope you’re still getting some rest and relaxation. xoxoxo, Mary Ann

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