U.S. fintechs raised $12.8 billion in the first quarter of 2021, a 220% increase over the same period in 2020, according to data provider CB Insights. True, this number was inflated by Robinhood's emergency $3.4 billion in funding earlier this year, when it ran into a little cash crunch created by the trading frenzy in stocks such as GameStock and AMC Entertainment. But it’s not just investments that are up—U.S. fintechs’ valuations are jumping too. The average valuation of the 11 still-private U.S. fintechs on this list (we were aiming for 10, but there was a three-way tie for No. 9) is $19.5 billion, more than double last year’s average. The cut off valuation to make our list was $5 billion, up from up from $3.7 billion in 2020.
That overall increase came even as some of the most successful fintechs are no longer even eligible. Six of last year’s top 10 have disappeared from our latest Fintech 50 list, four because they went public and one (Credit Karma) because it was acquired. Most notably, Coinbase, which was No. 3 on our top 10 list last year with a valuation of $8.1 billion, now trades publicly with a market cap of $50 billion. (Not all fintechs have done so well on the public markets: car insurer Root, our No. 10 last year with a $3.7 billion valuation as a private company, now trades publicly with a market cap of just $2.4 billion.)
Missing from our ranking is Nubank, a digital bank based in São Paulo, Brazil which is valued at $25 billion. The fintech offers no-fee credit cards and an alternative to the country’s stodgy brick-and-mortar banks. Its operations now extend to Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. So what gives? Forbes’ Fintech 50 ranking requires that candidates either have significant U.S. operations or be based in the U.S. and the eight-year-old startup has yet to reach American soil.
So, from payment processors to NFT marketplaces, here are the most valuable members of the Fintech 50.
1. Stripe: $95 billion
Founded in 2011, Stripe helps process online payments for small businesses and even tech giants like Microsoft and Zoom. It remains the most valuable fintech in the U.S. with a $95 billion valuation, up from $35 billion last year. Stripe is also the second-most valuable startup in the world—eclipsed only by TikTok owner ByteDance. Maybe it’ll get around to going public one of these days.
Cofounders: CEO Patrick Collison, 32, and president John Collison, 30. The Irish-born brothers dropped out of MIT and Harvard, respectively, and have a combined net worth of $19 billion.
2. Klarna: $31 billion
As consumers increasingly opt for debit over credit, “buy now, pay later” trailblazer Klarna has catapulted to riches. The 16-year-old fintech powers financing for customers shopping at stores like IKEA, H&M and Etsy. On the heels of the pandemic’s ecommerce boom, its valuation tripled in March 2021. (Based in Sweden, Klarna qualifies for our list because it has a significant U.S. presence.)
Cofounder and CEO: Sebastian Siemiatkowski, 39, who worked at an accounting firm before starting Klarna and is now worth an estimated $2.2 billion.
3. Kraken: $20 billion
San Francisco’s Kraken is the largest cryptocurrency exchange by transaction volume in Europe, and the second-largest in the U.S., after Coinbase. This fall, Kraken plans to roll out a banking product based in Wyoming, where it became the first crypto firm to receive a banking charter in September 2020.
Cofounder and CEO: Jesse Powell, 40, a Cal State philosophy major and serial entrepreneur.
4. Chime: $14.5 billion
The largest digital quasi bank in the U.S., Chime offers no-fee checking accounts, a debit card and overdraft protection. Annualized revenue surpassed $600 million last year, when it launched a starter credit card and offered early access to federal stimulus checks.
Cofounders: CEO Chris Britt, 48, a Visa alum with a $1.3 billion net worth, and CTO Ryan King, 44.
5. Plaid: $13.4 billion
Founded in 2012, Plaid allows fellow fintechs—including big names like Robinhood, Coinbase and Venmo—to connect to their customers’ bank accounts. Plaid nearly doubled customer count to 4,500 last year. Acquisition by Visa worth $5.3 billion fell through in January 2020.
Cofounders: CEO Zach Perret, 31, and former CTO William Hockey, 33. The billionaires (with $1.5 billion and $1.3 billion fortunes, respectively) worked as junior consultants at Bain before founding Plaid.
6. Robinhood: $11.7 billion
More than 13 million users have signed up for Robinhood, a controversial app that pioneered commission-free trades of stocks (including fractional shares), cryptocurrencies, ETFs and options. More than tripled year-over-year revenue for the first three months of 2021 to $331 million.
Cofounders: CEO Vladimir Tenev, 34, and Baiju Bhatt, 36, former Stanford undergrads each worth $1 billion.
7. Brex: $7.4 billion
The expense reporting company sells products designed for other startups, including Airbnb, Carta and an estimated 20,000 other customers. Key offerings include a corporate credit card with travel rewards, corporate cash management accounts and expense-tracking software.
Cofounders: Co-CEOs Henrique Dubugras, 25, and Pedro Franceschi, 24. Stanford dropouts.
8. Carta: $6.8 billion
Founded in 2012 under the name eShares, Carta tracks capital tables on the cloud for private companies, investors and employees. Recently launched a secondary marketplace called CartaX that allows unicorn startup workers to sell their shares to investors.
Cofounder & CEO: Henry Ward, 45, a graduate of the University of Michigan.
9: Three-way tie:
Gemini: $5 billion
This seven-year old startup was among the earliest cryptocurrency exchanges to launch. Based in New York City, it now processes about $30 billion in transactions each year, and recently purchased NFT exchange Nifty Gateway to expand into the wild west of digital art auctions.
Cofounders: CEO Tyler Winklevoss, 39, and president Cameron Winklevoss, 39, early bitcoin investors and identical twins who are finally billionaires on their own terms after they sued Harvard classmate Mark Zuckerberg a dozen years ago for allegedly swiping their idea for Facebook.
Hippo: $5 billion
Slated to go public via a SPAC deal that values it at $5 billion, Hippo streamlines home insurance applications and claims processes by leveraging AI, satellite imagery, public data and a slew of other factors. The company’s services are now available to more than 70% of U.S. homeowners.
Cofounders: CEO Assaf Wand, 46, and CTO Eyal Navon, 40, serial entrepreneurs from Israel.
Wise: $5 billion
Formerly known as “Transferwise,” Wise offers online international money transfers for consumers at a fee averaging 0.7%, compared with 3-4% from U.S. banks. Revenue grew 70% last year to $420 million, and the company reports 10 million customers, up from seven million in early 2020. Though Wise is based in London, it demonstrates significant U.S. operations.
Cofounders: CEO Kristo Käärmann, 41, and chairman Taavet Hinrikus, 40, both hailing from Estonia.