by Y Combinator10/17/2018
YC posted a list of top alumni companies by valuation, as of October 2018. You can see the full list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.
Here’s a Q&A with Henrique Dubugras and Pedro Franceschi, the founders of Brex, one of the companies featured on the list.
What does Brex do?
Brex is the first corporate credit card for startups. We provide corporate cards with no personal guarantee, a best in class rewards program, 10-20x higher spending limits than traditional cards, and built-in expense management software.
How many employees does Brex have?
We have 48 employees and are rapidly expanding.
How many founders?
Brex was founded by myself and Pedro Franceschi. We previously founded Pagar.me, one of the largest payment processors in Brazil.
What is your most impressive recent product milestone?
We are very excited about the launch of our Rewards program. We worked with our members to identify the best rewards for their business needs and then launched a rewards program that caters specifically to them. Our members can use their points for exclusive deals at WeWork, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, and many other companies that cater to startups. Points can also used to erase transactions from statements, similar to cash back.
What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?
Access to basic financial services can be a make or break it moment for many entrepreneurs. Pedro and I could not get a credit card for our startup despite having $120,000 in funding from Y Combinator. We are motivated to make it easier for all founders to have access to the financial services that they need in order to build and grow their company. A great example of this is by underwriting businesses and not people, which allows us to do so without require a personal guarantee or credit score.
What’s an interesting element of Brex’s company culture?
We’re an international crowd– you can often hear our employees chatting in German, Spanish, and of course, Portuguese.
Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?
We actually started YC working on a virtual reality concept — but we quickly pivoted to corporate cards. Our first name was “Veyond”, which was actually on some of our first cards as it took some time to change our name.
Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.
Yes. Our goal isn’t to build a niche product. We’re going up against AmEx and other big players. That takes courage and a desire to push back against conventional wisdom. In the beginning, we weren’t sure if we could get a bank to work with us or to lend to us, and it took a lot of meetings, analysis and hard work to get Brex off the ground.
What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?
Being the founders of two startups, we know what founders need. They want a corporate card that makes their life easier and offers rewards that they care about. Signing up for Brex is easy– we have a fast, simple, online application, and you can get approved and issued a virtual card in minutes. We have an integrated software suite that makes expense management, accounting, and budgeting simple and efficient; just snap a picture of your receipt and text it to Brex.
What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?
Mentorship is super important — it’s the mentors that Pedro and I had both in Brazil and here in Silicon Valley that have helped guide us through some of the toughest decisions around hiring, product and fundraising.
Y Combinator created a new model for funding early stage startups. Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($150k) in a large number of startups (recently 200). The startups move to Silicon