Their companies do everything from taking some of the drudge work out of accounting to helping Americans maximize their credit card rewards. Seven are founders.
By Rina Torchinsky, Forbes Staff
Each year, for the Fintech 50, we evaluate hundreds of startups to identify the most promising and innovative, keeping an eye out in particular for companies that haven’t earned a slot on the list before. Despite the drought in venture capital funding, 13 newcomers made our 2024 list. The CEOs of eight of them are profiled below.
Seven of the eight are also cofounders of their companies, while one, Vidya Peters, was recruited from her job as chief operating officer of Marqeta to lead the expansion of list newcomer DataSnipper. It’s a startup in The Netherlands that is already making life easier for hundreds of thousands of auditors, many of them in the U.S., and counts the Big Four accounting firms among its customers.
The seven founder/CEOs compete in a variety of fintech categories, but most earned their chops at other more established companies before taking the entrepreneurial leap. For example, Cordel Robbin-Coker spent a decade in investment banking, the last half of it helping to create and deploy a $700 million Africa fund for the Carlyle Group, before cofounding Carry1st. His startup develops mobile games for Africa and enables established game franchises, including Call of Duty, to take payments across Africa. Lauren Myrick, an accountant by training, spent eight years at Square before creating Found to help owner-operators and small businesses manage their finances.
Caesar Sengupta worked at Alphabet for more than a decade before leaving in 2021 to start Arta Finance, a digital “family office” that provides high earners with advice and alternative investments that are typically only available to the very wealthy. And then there’s Tikue Anazodo, the 32-year-old Nigeria-born founder of Kudos Technologies, who worked at Microsoft, Google and Affirm before starting Kudos Technologies, a web browser extensiondesigned to help online shoppers maximize their credit card rewards.
Here are the paths taken by eight CEOs whose startups made the Fintech 50 list for the first time in 2024.
Location: Mountain View, CA | Category: Investing | CEO: Caesar Sengupta, 48
Nearing his 15th year at Alphabet, where he worked alongside CEO Sundar Pichai on ChromeOS and led the development of Google Pay, Sengupta had a high net worth, but not high enough to start a family office to help him manage his money. He and a few other executives left the tech giant in 2021 to found Arta, a digital family office that provides the garden-variety wealthy access to alternative investments and financial strategies typically available only to the ultrawealthy. The two-year-old firm has raised $92 million from investors including Pichai, Peak XV Partners (formerly Sequoia Capital India), Ribbit Capital, Coatue, banking pioneer Betsy Cohen and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. In October, Arta opened to accredited investors in the U.S. and reached $100 million in assets under management. It plans to launch soon in Singapore.
Location: New York City | Category: Payments | CEO: Cordel Robbin-Coker, 37
When he was 5, Robbin-Coker’s family fled war-torn Sierra Leone and settled in the U.S., where he got a top-flight education, first at the Milton Hershey School (an elite boarding school for low-income kids), then at Stanford. There, he majored in political science and resolved to make an impact on Africa. That translated into spending the last half of his decade in investment banking helping create and deploy a $700 million Africa fund for the Carlyle Group. In 2018, Robbin-Coker and two cofounders started Carry1st to develop mobile games for Africa. That’s still a goal, but the trio also moved into the quicker-to-payoff business of helping established video game franchises, including Call of Duty, accept payments across Africa. The startup has secured $60 million in venture funding from investors including Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), Google and Riot Games; last year it brought in $25 million in revenue.
Location: Amsterdam, the Netherlands | Category: Wall Street and Enterprise | CEO: Vidya Peters, 43
Former Marqeta chief operating officer Peters was recruited last year to run DataSnipper, which uses AI to make auditing and accounting more efficient. Its technology “snips” numbers from loose reams of receipts, bank statements or handwritten notes and matches them with records of expenses, checking to ensure the numbers add up. “That work is absolutely mind-numbing,” Peters says. “We’re not displacing an existing software product—we’re displacing all of the evenings and weekends that [accountants spent] doing this manually.’’ Earlier in her career, Peters spent seven years at Intuit, primarily marketing QuickBooks, after earning her MBA at Northwestern. DataSnipper now counts 1,400 accounting firms, including Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC, as clients. Revenue grew 150% last year, finishing at a run rate of $45 million. In January, it raised $100 million at a $1 billion valuation.
Location: San Francisco | Category: Business-to-Business Banking | CEO: Lauren Myrick, 39
After starting out as an accountant, Myrick spent eight years at Square, five of them managing its payroll product. Seeing a growing army of self-employed people and owner-operators struggle with invoices, bookkeeping and taxes, in 2020 she launched Found, which she describes as “almost like a business bank account with QuickBooks or a bookkeeping software built in.” Customers can use her software to create invoices, manage contractors and track projects. Found has more than 120,000 active customers, ranging from restaurant owners and Etsy sellers to gig workers and independent business consultants. It has raised $73 million (most recently in 2022 at a $350 million valuation) from the likes of Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Location: Los Angeles | Category: Personal Finance | CEO: Tikue Anazodo, 32
After Nigeria-born Anazodo moved to the U.S. in 2009 to attend Columbia University, the computer science student found applying for his first credit card complicated. He now has 11 cards, creating a different sort of complexity. In 2022, after stints working at Microsoft, Google and Affirm, he launched Kudos, a browser-based smart assistant that helps shoppers pick the best rewards card in their wallet for each online purchase. The app also offers special rewards from thousands of participating merchants (including Walmart, Priceline and Lowe’s), all of which pay a commission to Kudos. The startup, which has raised $17 million, also makes money recommending new cards to its 150,000 registered users.
Location: San Francisco | Category: Wall Street and Enterprise | CEO: Shensi Ding, 31
Ding, who started coding at age 12 and has a computer science degree from Columbia, did the customary stint in investment banking before taking a chief of staff job at a cybersecurity startup. In 2020, she cofounded Merge, which sells a platform that helps companies integrate their cloud-based accounting, payroll, budget, tax and human resources systems. She has raised $75 million, most recently at a $325 million valuation. Ding likens the concept to a one-stop shop for takeout that allows you to order Chinese, Indian or Italian without having to deal with each restaurant’s quirky website. Merge’s 300 customers include ByteDance, Korn Ferry and Ramp.
Location: San Francisco | Category: Wall Street and Enterprise | CEO: Kyle Mack, 33
A plethora of startups help financial institutions comply with know-your-customer regulations and detect if individuals are fraudsters, but few aim to do the same vetting for businesses. During his four years at Checkr, which runs background checks on job candidates, Mack noticed that gap and in 2018 launched Middesk through YCombinator. Using data from primary sources like secretary of state offices in all 50 states, Middesk helps its customers verify that businesses trying to open accounts, take out loans or get onboarded as vendors are legit. Its 600 customers include traditional national and regional banks, plus business banking fintechs like Mercury. Middesk clients ran 2.5 million checks last year, up from 1 million in 2022, with Middesk receiving a small fee for each one. It has raised $80 million from investors including Sequoia and Insight Partners and was valued at $760 million in 2022.
Location: San Fransico | Category: Wall Street and Enterprise | CEO: Yin Wu, 35
Cap tables can be complicated. Pulley’s robust fundraising model tells founders exactly how much their stakes will be diluted in complex early-stage rounds, and an offer letter tool automatically updates the cap table when a new employee accepts and is offered equity. Pulley benefited when the category leader, Carta, suffered blowback for sharing sensitive information about startups’ cap tables with secondary market investors. The startup, which was cofounded in 2019 by Wu, a Stanford computer science dropout, has 4,600 companies using its software, double its customer count of a year ago. That’s a long way from Carta’s 40,000, but Wu is capitalizing on Carta’s woes by offering to cover the remaining cost of defectors’ contracts if they switched to Pulley by the end of January. Plans start at $1,200 per year for companies with up to 25 stakeholders. So far, it has raised $50 million from Founders Fund and Stripe, among others, and was valued at $250 million in 2022.
Nina Bambysheva, Emily Mason and Hank Tucker also contributed to this report.