In 2018, while cryptocurrencies aiming to disrupt central banks suffered a stunning bear market, many fintech firms trying to make the traditional payments system work better thrived.
Global funding for payments companies jumped from $8 billion in 2017 to $12 billion last year, according to Accenture. And that doesn’t even count the Chinese payments and financial services giant Ant Financial’s $14 billion funding round. In the U.S., the payments category ate up 15% of all financial technology funding deals, more than any other segment of fintech, reports CB Insights.
So it’s no surprise that we had more payments companies on this year’s Fintech 50 list than we’ve ever had in our four years of running it. They run the gamut from businesses making money transfers cheaper and companies reducing ecommerce fraud to smarter point-of-sale credit card readers that, like iPhones, allow applications to be built on top.
Here are the 12 payments companies that made the Forbes Fintech 50 in 2019:
Bolt, San Francisco
Its mobile-ready checkout software for ecommerce sites incorporates sales analysis and fraud prevention, topped by a guarantee to cover any fraud losses. Bolt claims the integrated functions can cut checkout times from more than one minute to 30 seconds. In the year since its early 2018 launch, it has grown from 10 to 75 employees.
Funding: $20 million from Founders Fund, Intuit and others
Bona fides: Already has hundreds of customers and is processing about $500 million in sales a year. Users include tempting targets for fraud such as watch and diamond merchants.
Cofounder and CEO: Ryan Breslow, 24, who dropped out of Stanford’s computer science program in 2014 to start Bolt
Brex, San Francisco
Offers a corporate credit card explicitly designed for startups, with applicants’ approval and credit limits based largely on how much cash a company has rather than an entrepreneur’s personal credit history. Points heavily reward software subscriptions, travel expenses and rideshares.
Funding: $215 million from Y Combinator, DST Global and Greenoaks Capital; latest valuation: $1.1 billion
Bona fides: Reached $1.1 billion valuation in just 22 months
Cofounders: CEO Henrique Dubugras, 23 and COO Pedro Franceschi, 22, both Brazilian-born, Stanford-educated computer engineers
Helps colleges, hospitals and businesses speed up receipt of tuition and other payments made in foreign currencies at a fee of 2% to 3%—about half what banks charge. Its software handles complex currency routing and settles transactions in two days.
Funding: $142 million from Bain Capital Ventures, Fidelity’s F-Prime Capital, Spark Capital and others. Latest valuation: $700 million*
Bona fides: Processed $4 billion in 2018 and has 900 higher education customers, including seven of the eight Ivy League colleges.
Founder: Iker Marcaide
CEO: Mike Massaro, 40, who joined Flywire in 2012 to lead sales and marketing and was named CEO a year later
Forter, New York City
The company’s machine learning software considers everything from the location and browsing history of a would-be buyer to the type of device he’s using to decide whether to reject an online credit card purchase as fraudulent. In 2018, Forter tripled its customer base, passing 100 retailers, including Nordstrom.
Funding: $100 million from Sequoia Capital, Scale Venture Partners, March Capital and others
Bona fides: Processes more than $55 billion in online transactions annually; 180 million shoppers have made a purchase verified by Forter
Cofounders: CEO Michael Reitblat, 36; President Liron Damri, 36; and Chief Analyst Alon Shemesh, 41. All three worked for an Israeli antifraud company acquired by PayPal.
Marqeta, Oakland, CA
Debit card processor that makes it easier for businesses that issue workers cards to manage which transactions are authorized. For instance, grocery-delivery startup Instacart uses Marqeta to control which items its delivery employees can purchase, reducing fraud.
Funding: $116 million from Visa, Iconiq, 83 North (formerly Greylock Israel) and others. Latest valuation: $545 million*
Bona fides: Counts Square and Fintech 50 2019 members Kabbage, Affirm and Brex as customers
Founder and CEO: Jason Gardner, 49, a serial entrepreneur who founded a rent payments startup in 2004, which was later acquired by MoneyGram for $28 million
Plaid, San Francisco
Connects payment apps like Venmo and personal finance sites like Betterment to users6 bank accounts to transfer and track funds and speed up authentication. Plaid now integrates with 10,000 banks. In January it acquired Quovo, a startup that aggregates investment data, for about $200 million.
Funding: $310 million from Mary Meeker, Andreessen Horowitz, Spark Capital and others; latest valuation: $2.65 billion
Bona fides: One in four Americans with a bank account now uses Plaid (probably without realizing it). Plaid customers include Square, Goldman Sachs and Coinbase.
Cofounders: CEO Zach Perret, 31, a former Bain consultant who started Plaid just two years after graduating from Duke; president and CTO William Hockey, 29
Poynt, Palo Alto, CA
Its point-of-sale software and hardware turn dumb credit card readers into smart devices that allow third-party developers to build applications on top, e.g., loyalty reward programs that don’t require shoppers to flash a card or enter a number.
Funding: $132 million from Matrix partners, Oak HC/FT, GV and others. Latest valuation: $450 million*
Bona fides: Has shipped and deployed 100,000 devices and is on track to process $20 billion in transactions over the next year
Founder and CEO: Osama Bedier, 43, the founder of Google Wallet
Enables those living in rich nations such as the U.S. and U.K. to make low-cost money transfers to relatives in Mexico, India and other developing countries—even if the recipients don’t have bank accounts. Remitly’s coverage grew to 56 nations in 2018.
Funding: $175 million from Naspers’ PayU, Bezos Expeditions, Stripes Group and others. Latest valuation: $480 million*
Bona fides: Processing more than $6 billion in transfers annually with more than one million customers sending money
Cofounder & CEO: Matt Oppenheimer, 36, who came up with the idea while working for Barclays in Kenya
Stripe, San Francisco
Originally a service to help small online sellers process payments, today Stripe serves tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon, too. In 2018, the company announced three new high-profile products, including credit card issuing technology, point-of-sale software and a billing platform for subscription businesses.
Funding: $785 million from Sequoia, General Catalyst, Tiger Global Management and others. Latest valuation: $22.5 billion
Bona fides: The most highly valued private fintech company in the U.S.
Cofounders: CEO Patrick Collison, 30, and president John Collison, 28. Irish-born brothers, dropouts from MIT (Patrick) and Harvard (John) launched Stripe in 2011.
Started in 2011 by three MIT grads, it makes point-of-sale devices for restaurants that can also handle such complex tasks as managing food inventory. Third-party developers can build apps on top of Toast—apps for staff scheduling and sales analytics. Toast has grown from 600 employees in the fall of 2017 to more than 1,000 today.
Funding: $248 million from Bessemer Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price, Tiger Global Management and others. Latest valuation: $1.4 billion
Bona fides: Tens of thousands of customers, including Jamba Juice and Pieology, a pizza chain with 150 locations
Founders: Co-presidents Aman Narang, 36, and Steve Fredette, 35; CTO Jonathan Grimm, 33
CEO: Chris Comparato, a business software veteran.
Tradeshift, San Francisco
Processes payments for supply-chain transactions, handling everything from “know your customer” (KYC) regulatory checks to running cash flow analytics and recommending how quickly a customer should pay a supplier.
Funding: $400 million from Goldman Sachs, Public Sector Pension Investment Board, HSBC and others. Latest valuation: $1.2 billion
Bona fides: Processes $500 billion annually in supply-chain payments and has 500 customers across 19 countries
Cofounders: CEO Christian Lanng, 40; SVP and head of Asia Pacific region Mikkel Brun, 50; and general manager of Tradeshift’s R&D and investment arm Gert Sylvest, 47
Founded by two Estonian entrepreneurs, TransferWise makes money transfers cheaper by shrinking the distance it travels. Its average fees are 0.5%, compared with roughly 5% for banks. Its top five markets are the U.S., the U.K., the euro zone, Australia and Brazil, and the London company brought in $149 million in revenue in its last fiscal year.
Funding: $397 million from IA Ventures, U.K. investment management firm Baillie Gifford, Andreessen Horowitz and others; latest valuation: $1.6 billion
Bona fides: $4 billion processed monthly, more than 4 million customers and live in 72 countries
Cofounders: CEO Kristo Käärmann, 38 and chairman Taavet Hinrikus, 36
For full Forbes Fintech 50 2019 coverage, see: