February 29, 2024
A look at how one fintech CEO's PR decision backfired | TechCrunch


Welcome back to The Interchange, where we take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. If you want to receive The Interchange directly in your inbox every Sunday, head here to sign up! Last week, we chronicled one CEO’s big PR flub, one firm’s new infusion of capital for early-stage fintech startups and much more. Read on!

The Streisand effect

Image Credits: Carta

This past week, Carta CEO Henry Ward took it upon himself to send a letter to customers addressing the company’s recent negative press. The move had many scratching their heads, including many customers and at least one investor.

I first learned about it when I saw one of those customers, Winnie co-founder and CEO Sara Mauskopf, post something on X. In her post, she noted that prior to receiving the email from Ward, she “didn’t actually read any negative press about Carta recently.”

She wasn’t alone.

So essentially what Ward did was notify all of Carta’s customers that the company was the target of lawsuits around allegations of sexual abuse on the part of executives and has been accused of having a toxic “boy’s club culture,” among other things. He did so by pointing them to a Medium post/missive he had shared with Carta employees a few days earlier.

It is obviously not great that Carta has found itself in such a position. But Ward’s decision to address it all directly to his customers makes one question his, well, decision-making abilities. And quite probably, he only made things — including public perception — worse.

As Sara put it, “I think people overestimate how much people notice or are talking about them.” Even one of the company’s investors called the email to customers “weird.”

It also reminded many of when actor and singer Barbra Streisand made a huge deal about some photos taken of her home, only to draw a massive amount of attention to said photos. That incident led to the coining of the term “Streisand effect,” which, according to Brittanica, is “a phenomenon in which an attempt to censor, hide, or otherwise draw attention away from something only serves to attract more attention to it.”

Interestingly, Ward told customers he was sharing his experience since they were founders, too, and might find it “helpful for other CEOs thinking through similar problems.” I would hope that the majority of Carta’s customers are not also the target of such lawsuits.

What I’m most curious about now is how all of this drama might be affecting Carta’s business. — Mary Ann

When opportunity strikes

José Luis López, Nick Grassi, Finerio Connect, open banking, Latin America

Image Credits: Finerio Connect / José Luis López and Nick Grassi, co-CEOs of Finerio Connect

This week, I wrote about Finerio Connect, a Mexico City–based fintech startup, raising $6.5 million in new funding. The company, started by Nick Grassi and José Luis López in 2018, developed an open finance platform to provide compliant sharing and consumption of financial data and data analytics across Latin America. Their goal is better access to personalized financial products and services.

The co-founders recognized how open banking was taking hold in the region and jumped on the opportunity. Mexico is widely known for its citizens’ distrust of the banking system, so what stood out was that while the country passed some fintech regulation around transparency, it hasn’t gone as far as Grassi and López would like.

Here’s some extra comments from Grassi talking about the challenge:

We had a promise of regulation for a long time, but it’s been five years that they have declared they will come out with open banking regulation, and they haven’t come out with anything. That’s been a challenge to getting more adoption and for more companies to take the leap because they don’t want to have to change everything later — they don’t want to have to absorb any risks.

As a result, Finerio has looked at other markets in Latin America that are moving more swiftly in this area and learned about what works and what doesn’t.

“We actually wound up doing workshops for banks and financial institutions about how this is probably going to affect them,” Grassi said. “We were consultants by nature, though that isn’t our business, however, we want to help banks understand how to take advantage of a force where sometimes there’s some fear about it, some misconceptions and myths, and build new business lines off of it and break into new markets without a huge cost burden.”

Today, Finerio works with over 120 financial institutions and fintechs and also launched an API hub with Visa and Ozone API last year for products and services, including digital payments, credit and personal finance management. It also provides a place for financial institutions to comply with new open banking regulations. — Christine

Weekly news

Reporter Aisha Malik wrote about Apple now making its Apple Pay Later product available to all users in the U.S. Users are able to split payments into four installments and have six weeks to pay without penalty. The consumer tech giant is also enabling Pay Later to be used on purchases between $75 and $1,000 made on iPhone and iPad. Having “reasonable” repayment terms like that could be what drives more usage of buy now, pay later (BNPL), according to a new J.D. Power study. The BNPL industry has had its fair share of struggles, much of which prompted the U.S. government to figure out better ways to regulate it, as Mary Ann reported earlier this year.

Earlier this year, Christine covered Candidly’s $20.5 million in Series B funding round to continue developing its employee benefit offering for student debt relief. This week, the company expanded its solutions to include emergency savings, also as a workforce benefit. Employees can set up payroll deduction, auto-enroll and the ability to round up daily transactions to go into an emergency fund.

A lot went on in the credit space this week. Reporter Manish Singh viewed some documents that show one of India’s largest companies, Reliance, is poised to get in on the country’s co-branded credit card market with state-backed lender SBI. Once established, the cards will be called Reliance SBI Card and offer some “exclusive” benefits, such as vouchers of Reliance Retail, the conglomerate’s retail chain, and discounts on spendings at other Reliance properties. This would be another new sector for billionaire Mukesh Ambani, who has been quite active in the past week with some of his entities, including Jio Financial Services, which launched lending and insurance businesses last week. Here’s some other credit card items we spotted:

Money20/20 took place this week, and while neither Mary Ann nor Christine (sadly) could attend, here is a sampling of some of the news announced at the event:

Other items we are reading:

How a fintech reckoning Is rippling through a small bank in Washington

Apple Card architect heads to Lightspeed to hunt for fintech deals

Howard Morgan, tech & VC pioneer — 50 years of shaping the future, from ARPANET to building RenTech, First Round, and B Capital

Nium launches Global FX (Read more about the B2B payments platform in TechCrunch’s coverage of its $200 million Series D in 2021.)

Fintech meltdown, working for Musk, regulating AI: WTF highlights

Riskified and Plaid to enhance risk protection for ACH bank payments

Fiserv touts a link to Melio to reach more banks for payments and acquiring

Konsentus: Open Banking underway or live in 68 countries

Funding and M&A

As seen on TechCrunch

Flourish Ventures, a ‘fintech venture fund with a purpose,’ secures $350M in new capital

Singapore-based fintech YouTrip picks up $50M led by Lightspeed

Nomad Homes adds software for real estate agents following $20M capital infusion

Aleph is building a platform to reconcile disparate financial data

AgentSync raises $50M more in a massive Series B extension (TC+)

Seen elsewhere

Open banking startup Prism Data raises $5M

Preczn rakes in $6.8M to revolutionise SaaS platforms with operational fintech features

Cyber insurance startup Upfort raises $8M

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin



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