The 15 new fintech unicorns of 2023 and who they hired last year
Think 2023 was a bad year for all fintechs? Think again. Despite adverse market conditions, a select few fintechs were able to attain the lauded and elusive unicorn status.
The US is expectedly home to the bulk of these firms, but fintechs in Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea gave Asia a good showing. Europe only has two unicorns to its name, while Saudi Arabia has two of its own. These are the 15 newest inductees to the unicorn club, according to data from Dealroom.co
Location: Hong Kong
Sector: Exchange Group
Proof that 'TradFi' veterans will always have a place in fintech, one of the biggest unicorn success stories, Micro Connect, was founded by former JPMorgan chairman for China, Charles Li. The fintech, which "leverages financial technology to connect global capital with micro and small businesses", raised $458m in August, acheiving a Valuation of $1.7bn.
Micro Connect brought in a number of new executives last year. They include CTO Weihua Lin, formerly a developer for hedge fund Millennium in New York, and CIO Tun Lin, formerly of Chinese private equity firm Hony capital. They joined in March and July respectively.
Going into 2024, Micro Connect's hiring is focused on mid-level talent. It has three openings for associates and two for AVPs across compliance, tech and business development.
One of the hottest rising fintechs of 2023, Sei Labs is a trading focused blockchain fintech founded in 2022 by Goldman Sachs and Robinhood alumni. It opened with a $800m valuation in April and saw its value rocket to $1.8bn with the launch of its native token, Sei.
Some of Sei Labs' hiring has been... unconventional to say the least. It was spotted earlier this year recruiting for a 'memelord' to be a public face of the company.
It's also been pursuing Binance alumni for senior roles. Sarah Chongsy, formerly responsible for scaling Binance's legal team, joined Sei as an operations lead. Yi Lok Li, an influencer marketing manager for Binance, joined in September as the APAC community and growth lead.
Sei is a remote first employer, and its nine current openings are all remote roles. However, most of its listings in engineering and growth require applicants to live in its San Francisco HQ, including the still open memelord role.
Sector: Banking & Cards Infrastructure
Cloud native banking and cards fintech Pismo saw its unicorn status cemented in July when payments stalwart Visa paid $1bn to acquire it. The fintech is based in Brazil and has been poaching talent from its local rivals.
Pismo has bolstered its numbers in engineering in particular, and two Brazilian fintechs have been a source of talent. It's hired engineering manager Otavio Santana and software engineer Vinicius Arambul from Brazilian payments app PicPay, while from challenger bank BanQi it's hired product manager Joyce Ikeda and engineering manager Nielsen Teixera.
Pismo has eight openings at the moment. It's focusing on hiring senior engineers, and all roles are listed in Brazil except for one product role in the US, where ex-McKinsey partner Vishal Dalal runs the show.
KCD (Korean Credit Data)
Headquarters: South Korea
Sector: Finance Management Software
Another fintech from outside the traditional funding hubs to break a $1bn valuation was KCD, which received a $75m funding round from Morgan Stanley in August.
The startup was focused on growing its tech team last year, capped off by hiring a new CTO, Lim Jeong-Gi. He joined from consultancy Woowa Brothers, but was also previously a tribe lead at eCommerce giant Coupang.
It's also one of the more prolific hirers of the new unicorn class, with 26 available openings. It's recruiting across various sectors including data and business, but primarily continuing its focus on engineering.
Sector: Financing Infrastructure
Liquidity Group struck early in 2023, achieving unicorn status back in February. The Israeli fintech, which facilitates growth capital, hit a $1.4bn valuation following a $40m investment. It describes itself as an asset management firm and has $2.7bn AUM.
The fintech's senior hiring capitalized on the Silicon Valley Bank collapse. It recruited Dan Allred, a senior market manager in its fintech team, as North America CEO, joining after two decades at SVB. Josh Mackey who joined with Allred in September, also spent three years at the bank but left for venture finance firm TriplePoint before its collapse.
Liquidity Group has 23 open job postings at the moment. These are predominantly split between its Israel office and a UAE office in Abu Dhabi. It also has a Women In Tech program at its HQ focused on recruiting at all levels.
Think the Metaverse is dead? Tell that to one of the newest fintech unicorns, BFMeta. Founded in 2021, the company is dedicated to enhancing the blockchain of the same name for Web3 and Metaverse applications.
It's difficult to say who and where BFMeta has been hiring, as the company operates like a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization), an organizational structure popular among blockchain and Metaverse companies and employees rejecting the hierarchical systems you might see in traditional finance.
Financial crime is a hot point in fintech, given the ever-changing regulatory landscape and growing number of scandals. Quantexa, founded by EY executive director Vishal Marria in 2016, is a FinCrime focused data platform capitalizing on this, achieving a $1.8bn valuation after a $129m funding round.
The marquee hire of Quantexa in 2023 was global head of operations Charlie Tauszky, who joined in September. She was an MD at HSBC, and former COO of the global financial risk team.
It's also buffed its technical and support staff. Engineering manager Stephen Ward joined that same month from Checkatrade.com while Matthew Cheung joined from Dell in December as director of analyst relations.
Ethereum focused blockchain company Scroll focused on speeding up transactions on the blockchain. It was founded among others by Sandy Peng, partner at blockchain VC firm Fission Capital. Scroll's research involves zero-knowledge proofs, an area known to be high paying even at crypto's recent lowest.
Scroll is hiring globally in remote roles. It brought in Ryan Wegner, former head of security operations at Polygon Labs, in October and reliability engineer Sébastien Baizet in August. They work in Canada and France respectively.
One of the oldest in this unicorn cohort, Prove started life as Payfone, and is focused on providing continuous authentication technology used by the likes of Citi and Bank of America.
It's been buffing its executive team, including with a former Morgan Stanley MD. Mitchell Bompey was at the bank for over 17 years and was head of legal for technology, data protection and sourcing. He left three years ago for a different fintech, Addepar, but joined Prove in September as chief legal officer. CIO Amanda Fennell also joined in January; she was previously CSO at DataTech firm Relativity.
A fintech that more than tripled in size in the space of a year, car financing platform Lendbuzz hit a $1.1bn valuation in October after having its last funding round in just August 2022. It was founded by Amitay Kalmar, a VP from Deutsche Bank, and Dan Raviv, a machine learning postdoctorate researcher from MIT.
Its biggest recent hire is CISO Eyal Sasson. He's based in Israel and joined from eCommerce firm Yotpo, but has extensive experience with Israel's military and defence sectors. At his most senior, he was a deputy director of security at the ministry of defence for seven years.
Headquarters: Saudi Arabia
Following some difficult years for firms like Klarna, a new BNPL unicorn emerging felt unlikely. Even more impressive then is it that Tamara, a firm based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, achieving unicorn status just before the final bell in December.
It's been able to do this by building a team full of banking and fintech alumni, with a particular affinity for JPMorgan. Anas Nassar joined as a product manager after four and a half years at the bank, while staff data analyst Himanshi Manglunia joined after stints with Meta and Google in Singapore. The fintech's CFO Stefan Marciniak is also a JPMorgan alumnus.
Tamara is hiring for 14 roles at the moment across its UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt offices. It also has offices in Ho Chi Minh and Berlin.
The fintech with the largest valuation on this list, automated insurance firm became a unicorn back in September, before another funding round in November raised its value to $2.5bn
Singlife enjoys hiring senior staff from OCBC Bank in Singapore. Akhil Baheti, Singlife's head of engineering and architecture, joined in April; he was formerly a lead architecht at the bank. Senior Vice President Lily Mak joined from AIA in October, but had also spent three years at the bank previously.
There are 22 open roles at Singlife at the moment. They're all in Singapore, and encompass all seniorities from intern to senior executive.
Headquarters: Saudi Arabia
Another BNPL unicorn emerges from Saudi Arabia. Tabby is one of the ultra-rare few fintechs still discussing an IPO in 2024, but there's is one of the likeliest to come to fruition, having received a $700m debt financing round from JPMorgan. The fintech will be IPOing in the UK.
Tabby is one of the most prolific hirers on the list because of this. It has 66 open roles with a focus on remote engineers. The rest are in the Saudi Arabia, Egypt and UAE offices.
Sector: Digital Assets
A ray of hope for the trading aspect of crypto is that BitGo, which facilitates custody, borrowing and lending of digital assets, acheived unicorn status in August. It was founded in 2013 by Mike Belshe and Ben Davenport, engineers from Google and Facebook respectively.
Its major hires in 2023 were interestingly non-technical hires. It brought in chief revenue officer Mark Azad last month, who joined from cybersecurity firm Cequence. Within crypto, it hired Matt Ballensweig, a managing director from Genesis Global, who gradually shuttered their trading operations across that year.
BitGo is currently hiring for 29 open roles, including an engineering manager and cryptographer in its Palo Alto headquarters. Those roles list salaries of up to $220k and $240k.
Europe's only new unicorn outside of the UK comes from Germany. Raisin, founded by ex-McKinsey partner Tamas Giorgadse, provides open banking infrastructure for the deposits market was invested in by Goldman Sachs last march, at a valuation of $1.1bn
Raisin's most notable hire shows its interest in US expansion. It hired Cetin Duransoy as its US CEO in April; he was previously president and COO of Californian fintech Fundbox.
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