Plaid, the non-obvious unicorn

If you follow the fintech/VC scene, there was a huge exit announced yesterday evening, Plaid was purchased for $5.3B by Visa.  There are some really interesting facts about Plaid that should be pointed out.

The Founders, Zach Perret and William Hockey, didn’t go to Stanford/Harvard/MIT/etc or worked at Facebook/Google/etc.  People love to do pattern recognition when picking Founders, but the Founders went to Duke/Emory and were consultants at Bain, great places but not what many VCs consider “top tier”.   If you talk to folks in the Bay Area, consultants is like a four letter word, eeck.

They only have 450 employees.  Much of the headcount was added over the past two years, see below.  You don’t need to have bloated company to create enterprise value, more isn’t better.

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When the Founders started the company in 2013, fintech was NOT a hot sector, see funding history below.  The fintech startups that were considered “hot”, were mainly consumer facing, not those that were B2B and working with banks, which is what Plaid does.

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It was great to see Spark Capital, the first firm to lead a round in the company, give recognition to their departed colleagues, Mo Koyfman and David Haber.  You don’t always see firms doing this.

Kudos to the early investors for making a contrarian bet and returning a lot of money to their LPs.  Per Pitchbook:

“The company raised $2.8 million of Seed funding led by Spark Capital on July 31, 2013, putting the company’s pre-money valuation at $10 million. Amit Avner, Benjamin Cirlin, David Tisch, Nat Turner, Spark Capital, Google Ventures, New Enterprise Associates, Felicis Ventures, Homebrew Capital, Box Group and Zachary Weinberg also participated in the round.”

I don’t know the Founders, but folks say a lot of great things about them and while I take Glassdoor ranking with grain of salt, the employee feedback has been very positive, maybe you don’t have to be an @$$hole to be successful.

The success of Plaid is a boom for the fintech startup scene, which has been yearning for some exits, I expect to see more large exits in this space in 2020.

Side note, I had Plaid speak at a fintech conference I hosted in 2015 in NYC, the lineup was pretty killer IMHO

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