Apr 21, 2022 - Economy

Plaid co-founder's next fintech act

GIF of a piggy bank with money symbols on top.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

William Hockey in 2012 co-founded Plaid, a fintech company that's since raised over $700 million and was recently valued at $13.4 billion. Now he's back with a new startup called Column, but doesn't want any venture capital investment.

  • Hockey stepped down as Plaid's president and chief technology officer in 2020, but remains on its board of directors.

Why it matters: Hockey has seen hypergrowth up close, and thinks there may be a better way.

  • "One of the terrible things Silicon Valley has done is convince founders that the only way to build a big company is by raising lots of money and hiring people constantly," Hockey tells me. "And it can cloud your perspective, like it maybe did with Fast, because you think you've made it just because you have VC money, even if you don't have many customers paying you."
  • Hockey continues: "I can't go buy a $5 billion company, but I don't think that inhibits our growth. In many ways, it makes us go faster and be more aggressive because we don't have a giant cash cushion to fall back on."

What it does: Column, which Hockey co-founded with his wife Annie, is banking infrastructure for fintech apps.

  • It bought a nationally chartered bank called NorCal for around $50 million last year and has been rebuilding its core tech from scratch — quietly going live around six months ago as an alternative to middleware providers and core processors, for fintechs or shadow banking firms that are otherwise prohibited by Fed rules from providing banking services to users.
  • Hockey claims the company is already profitable, with clients like Plaid, Brex and Oxygen. It has around 65 employees.

As an aside: Neither co-founder sounded too concerned about the potential complications of a spousal founding team, arguing that their incentives are inherently aligned.

  • "We've known we wanted to start a company together since the beginning of our relationship," Annie Hockey says. "Our weekend hikes were filled with ideating companies and ideas."

The bottom line: Column is a bet not only on the future of fintech, but also on the future of unicorn creation.

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