Everyone likes money.
But technology that handles money is what’s really popular these days.
The rise of “fintech,” or, financial technology, has unleashed a new breed of apps, sites and services designed to help consumers pay for goods, get loans and manage their retirement accounts.
Fintech is a multi-billion dollar industry, with startups in the US raising around $US18 billion since 2015, according to PitchBook and nearly 1,400 venture capitalist-backed deals. Two of the most valuable startups in the country — Stripe and SoFi — are in the fintech sector. And there are 11 fintech startups valued at more than $US1 billion.
To get a sense of why fintech is so hot right now, we took a look at the 11 most valuable VC-funded US fintech startups, as compiled by PitchBook.
Like any fast-growing industry, fintech hasn’t been without its bumps. Some companies on the list have had layoffs and scaled back from their initial success. One in particular — SoFi — forced out its CEO over summer following allegations of sexual harassment at the company.
But all 11 startups have made a dent in the space and give credence to venture capital’s multi-billion dollar bet that fintech isn’t going away anytime soon. Here’s why:
Correction: An earlier version of this article identified First Data’s Clover as number 11, instead of Clover Health. The article has been updated to reflect this change.
Clover Health is valued at $US1.2 billion since its $US130 million financing round in June 2017.
The health insurance company is backed by Alphabet Inc.'s investment arm GV and focuses on customers with Medicare Advantage.
For customers, it's just another insurance company. But Clover also aims to use data to improve its users' health. The company analyses patient data to identify gaps in care and potential medical issues, in order to prevent emergencies which might be costly to the insurance provider.
The company has raised a total of $US425 million since it launched in 2013.
Kabbage is valued at $US1.3 billion, according to PitchBook estimates, thanks to a $US250 million investment round in August 2017.
Founded in 2009, Kabbage is an automated lending platform for small businesses. It's since raised $US1.35 billion in investments and debt financing -- making it the most well-funded startup in the state of Georgia.
The company currently has more than 100,000 clients, and has lent more than $US3.5 billion to small and medium sized businesses since it launched.
Who said Robinhood only gives to the poor?
The zero-commission, US-focused stock brokerage is valued at $US1.3 billion following a $US110 million funding round in April 2017.
Robinhood, which was founded in 2012, is popular with Millennials who appreciate the $US0 commission fee on its trades. Despite rejecting the common revenue model of its legacy competitors like Charles Schwab and E*Trade, the company makes money on interest from dollars and cents left in its customer's accounts, and it also offers a premium product called Robinhood Gold, which has additional perks, like extended trading hours, in exchange for a $US6 monthly subscription fee.
Avidxchange also joined the unicorn club this year, with a value of $US1.4 billion following a $US300 million funding round in June 2017.
Since its launch in 2000, the enterprise tech company, which offers services as banal as accounts payable and on-demand invoice management, has raised a total of $US545 million in traditional venture capital investments and private equity.
Avidxchange is interesting for several reasons, one of which is its latest funding round, which was remarkably high for a company which is nearly 20 years old. It's also the most well-funded startup in North Carolina.
Coinbase gained unicorn status this summer with a $US1.6 billion valuation, thanks to a $US108 million funding round announced in August 2017.
Coinbase, which launched in 2012, is a leading cryptocurrency exchange which allows users to buy and sell digital currencies like bitcoin and ether. Altogether, the company has raised $US217 million in funding.
Its success comes at a time of transition for cryptocurrencies from a side project for hackers to a mainstream investment option. Bitcoin just hit an all-time-high of $US6,000, yet many users are still intimidated by cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology behind it, so they rely on companies like Coinbase to authenticate their investments, and bring a bit of old school establishment to the Wild West of digital exchanges.
Apttus is worth $US1.9 billion following a $US55 million investment in September 2017.
The company, which was founded in 2006, specialises in what it calls 'quote-to-cash software' -- essentially, Apttus uses artificial intelligence to make the sales contract process go more smoothly.
Perhaps most intriguing is that Apttus didn't even raise money during its first seven years. It waited until 2013. It's since raised a total of $US329 million.
Avant was valued at $US2 billion after a $US325 million funding round in September 2015.
The personal loan company, which uses a mix of artificial intelligence and consumer data to establish interest rates for customers, first launched in 2012 and has since raised $US1.779 billion in investments and debt financing.
Though its valuation makes it the fifth most valuable fintech startup in the US, it's seen some rocky shores in the years since. In June 2016, the company reportedly laid off staff and lowered its monthly lending by half.
Oscar garnered a $US2.7 billion valuation from its February 2016 funding round of $US400 million.
The company sells individual health insurance plans on a user-friendly digital interface with branding that screams lifestyle brand, rather than the more stodgy safety-net vibe from brick and mortar insurance vets.
Oscar launched in 2013 and gained momentum as Obamacare and the gig economy left many people with the need for quick and convenient healthcare plans. It's come around at a time in which the quality of health insurance is at the forefront of national debate in the US, leaving Oscar with a huge opportunity to disrupt in areas like customer service and transparency of coverage.
Credit Karma scored a $US3.5 billion valuation on a $US175 million funding round in June 2015 which brought the company's total funding to $US368 million.
The personal finance company, which specialises in issuing free credit scores and reports, launched in 2007. It's since taken over the digital credit monitoring space, thanks in part to large scale data breaches like Equifax, which have left consumers concerned about fraudulent credit activity.
SoFi was valued at $US4.4 billion during its most recent round of funding in February 2017, which brought the company $US500 million from investors. In total, the company has raised over $US2 billion, including a $US1 billion round led by SoftBank in 2015.
SoFi -- short for Social Finance -- is an online lender which focuses on refinancing student loans and mortgages for low-risk borrowers. It's made a dent in the financial service space as a new type of lender outside of the traditional banks.
Still, SoFi has a few hurdles ahead. The company has been on shaky ground since its co-founder and CEO Mike Cagney stepped down in September following claims of sexual harassment at the company from current and past employees.
Stripe was valued at $US9.2 billion in its most recent $US150 million funding round in November 2016. The company has raised a total of $US440 million since its founding in 2010.
Stripe is a payments processing startup that lets any business accept credit cards, Apple Pay, and other similar services. Some of its biggest customers include Lyft, Salesforce and Amazon.
It's quickly become the standard for online payments, though the company still faces some competition from startups like Braintree and longtime power players like PayPal.