Wharton FinTech Goes West: Industry Trek to the Bay Area

For two sunny days in late February, students from Wharton FinTech visited the San Francisco Bay area for our second FinTech Industry Trek. Building off the [successful trip to New York City’s Silicon Alley](http://www.whartonfintech.org/blog/silicon-alley-growing-fintech-nyc/), we ventured out of the icy northeast and caught up with some of the world’s most exciting FinTech startups. The trek was oversubscribed with 24 participants and included 11 company visits in San Francisco and two in Palo Alto. The following is a brief rundown of our itinerary - including some tidbits of advice that the founders, investors and operators had for students and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Asset Management

Personal Capital seeks to provide better financial services to consumers with a client-centric business model that with a client-centric business model that combines a human advisor with financial software.

*Life advice:* Bill Harris, [Founder and CEO of Personal Capital](http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/20/bill-harris-launches-personal-capital), suggested that young entrepreneurs should “know your own strengths and weaknesses. It’s ok to have weaknesses as long as you find team members that supplement the weaknesses.”

Wealthfront is an algorithmic wealth management platform that aims to provide investors with investment products that are low on both cost and human intervention. They also offer tax-loss harvesting and Single-Stock-Diversification, helping technology employees intelligently diversifty the exposure they have to their respective companies.

*Life advice:* If you are thinking about working at a startup check out the [list of mid-sized start-up companies](https://blog.wealthfront.com/107-career-launching-tech-companies/) compiled annually by Wealthfront Chairman and Co-founder, [Andy Rachleff](https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/faculty-research/faculty/andrew-s-rachleff). If you’re in the Philadelphia area, don’t miss [our interview with Andy](https://www.facebook.com/events/985716934779655/) live at Wharton on April 10th.

Cryptocurrency

Chain is an enterprise-grade blockchain infrastructure company that enables developers to build on the internet’s open financial protocol. Their goal is “to make it so simple, secure, and intuitive to build with the bitcoin protocol that ever-greater numbers of creative entrepreneurs and enterprises launch products that could not have existed just a few years ago.”

 

*Life advice:* Adam Ludwin, Founder and CEO of Chain, talked about the importance of founders who are creating new technology to focus on “serving people and being humble.”

 

Coinbase is a bitcoin services company that serves 24 different countries and over 2.5 million consumer bitcoin wallets (the most in the world). Coinbase recently opened a bitcoin exchange in the US and had received the most venture funding amongst cyrptocurrency startups until the [recent funding round](http://www.wsj.com/articles/big-names-put-cash-in-bitcoin-startup-21-inc-1426029318) closed by [21, Inc](https://21.co/).

 

Ripple Labs is a technology startup that developed the Ripple protocol, which enables disparate financial institutions and payment networks to communicate on a simplly, safely and openly.

 

Data

 

Mattermark is the definitive source for information about startups and private companies, with information sourced from multiple databases and information providers.

 

*Life advice:* Mattermark CTO, Kevin Morrill, believes that more wealth will be created in the private markets than the public markets in the future, because companies are less willing to go public and deal with transactional investors and SEC regulations. He also suggested picking up *The Possibilities of Organizations* by [Barry Oshry](http://www.powerandsystems.com/) for a good read on organizational and leadership development.

 

AltX aims to become the most accurate and comprehensive database of information on alternative investment managers. The firm wants to research ways to match funds with the right investors, not only by strategy and return profiles, but by behavioral characteristics as well.

 

Education

 

NerdWallet is a financial education website that aims to be the neutral party in providing information on financial products like credit cards and insurance to customers. NerdWallet’s revenue model is structured around referral fees from financial institutions who issue the financial products.

 

*Life advice:* According to NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen, who was a [finalist for EY’s 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year](http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/ey-announces-finalists-for-ey-entrepreneur-of-the-year-2014-in-northern-california-1906897.htm), “consumer mindshare and trust is more important than having a specific business model.”

 

Lending

 

Prosper is a leader in the peer-to-peer lending space. Its platform connects investors willing to extend loans to entrepreneurs and other borrowers that are lower than pay day lender and traditional institutional rates.

 

*Life advice:* [Ron Suber](https://www.prosper.com/about/management/management/ron-suber/), President of Prosper, recommends [Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence](http://www.danielgoleman.info/topics/emotional-intelligence/) for learning one of the most important professional and personal traits that many people neglect.

 

Payments

 

Braintree is a collective of online payment platforms that accepts Paypal, Apple Pay, Bitcoin, Venmo and traditional cards. The company was [acquired by Payal in late 2013](http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/26/paypal-acquires-payments-gateway-braintree-for-800m-in-cash/) and has been rapidly evolving to support payments processed through companies such as OpenTable, StubHub, Uber and Airbnb.

 

Square, the company behind products like Square Cash, Square Order, Square Capital and Square Feedback, emphasized the culture difference between Square and other companies. The vibe at the company is one of transparency, camaraderie and open-mindedness.

 

Stripe is a developer-friendly platform for accepting payments online and in mobile apps. Stripe processes billions of dollars per year for companies such as Kickstarter, Lyft, Reddit, Shopify, TaskRabbit and Twitter.

 

*Life advice:* Stripe’s managers emphasized the importance of being a self-starter and driving your own workstreams and projects. “There’s so much work that needs to be done and so many battles that have to be fought at a young company such as Stripe”, one manager told us. “Our teams are expected to go out there and fight these battles with little oversight or direction.”

 

Venture

 

Citi Ventures was launched five years ago with six investment professionals. The team is positioning itself between corporate and financial VCs and only invests in companies that makes strategic sense for Citi. The team sees the following as enduring themes: enterprise security, data analytics, financial services & technology and commerce and payments.

 

*Life advice:* The Citi Ventures team recommends that aspiring venture capitalists should develop deep domain knowledge, work at a startup in a field that they are interested in and potentially do some pro-bono work for a fund in order to develop a track record of experience.

 

Looking Forward

 

We feel really grateful to have had the opportunity to meet with such exciting companies on the two days we were in the Bay Area. It is clear that FinTech companies are attracting some of the brightest talent in the Bay Area and it will be exciting to see how these companies evolve in the future. Thank you to all the founders and execs that took time to speak with our group - we can’t wait to see all the success you have in the future!