YC Founder Firesides: Brex on spend and speed as a strategy

by Y Combinator4/21/2022

Brex went through YC in Winter 2017, and now serves over 50,000 companies, and 40% of US startups.

Last week they announced the launch of Brex Empower, a software platform that helps scaling companies manage their spend and stay financially disciplined while still moving at startup speed.

They built the product to solve the problems Brex itself faced as they started growing – and launched with DoorDash as one of their first customers.

YC’s Anu Hariharan sat down with Brex Co-CEO Henrique Dubugras to talk about the launch of Empower and Henrique’s advice for startup founders and CEOs.

You can listen here on Twitter Spaces.

12:44 - What is Brex Empower? And why did you decide to launch it now?

  • 40% of US-based startups use Brex, and as Brex and their customers grew, new needs started to arise. Brex wanted to build a product that would serve both Brex and their scaling customers.
  • Henrique talks about how to retain a culture of trust as your company grows.

16:55 - What scaling challenges was DoorDash having that they thought Brex Empower could help them with?

  • DoorDash has 9,000 employees now and they’re constantly testing new things in different markets.
  • Henrique talks about the challenge of balancing speed and operational efficiency with financial discipline. How do you balance team growth and speed?

21:05 - Speed as a strategy at Brex

  • There shouldn’t have to be a tradeoff between speed and quality or speed and financial responsibility.
  • Henrique shares how Brex analyzes processes and tools that help them stay nimble.

24:50 - 3 features Brex Empower customers are excited about

  • Automatic receipts
  • Less expense approval for managers
  • Better budget visibility - keeping teams accountable in real time

28:50 - How spend is changing in the remote work world

  • Brex became remote first during the pandemic.
  • Henrique and Anu talk about how spend is changing for remote companies.

32:35 - Henrique talks about the biggest challenges they faced while building Brex Empower

36:10 - Who is the right customer for Empower?

  • Henrique shares two inflection points that indicate you’re a good customer for Brex Empower.

37:40 - The future of Empower and Brex

42:00 - On Brex’s writing culture

Audience questions

45:37 - What was your process for reaching product market fit at Brex/when did you know you’d achieved it?

48:05 - What convinced you to apply to YC?

49:45 - What happens when blockchain takes hold of the credit card space?

50:55 - Anu shares two early memories about the Brex team.

53:05 - Early on, how much did you focus on rewards vs. the product/platform?

57:55 - How much time did you spend on customer validation?

1:00:02 - Henrique’s super power

1:01:25: - What do you push other YC founders on when encouraging them to dream big?


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