The financial world has been quietly upended over the past decade. Banks are being disintermediated from their customers by fintech companies, new infrastructure technologies are lowering the barrier to entry for non-fintechs, and a wave of exciting early-stage companies are rising up to tackle complex and meaningful problems. Despite these promising changes, the way that founders, GMs, PMs and other leaders interact with their companies’ finances has been stubbornly stuck in the past: most data is siloed in the CFO’s office, and critical insights about cash flow, margin, and runway often aren’t visible to the individuals who could act on it. This is why we were so intrigued when we heard that Siqi Chen and Arya Asemanfar were working on Runway, a new product with the vision to give every leader in an organization access to valuable financial data and insights. Today we’re excited to share that we’re leading the $4.5 million seed round in Runway.
In many ways, the challenges associated with siloed financial data mirror the challenges that we once faced with siloed product engagement data. Historically, product managers would have to ask the analytics team to design, measure, and report on experiments, which hindered rapid experimentation and metrics driven design. Products like Mixpanel and Amplitude revolutionized product engagement by making key data and data insights available to everyone in the organization. This freed up the analytics team to work on the most meaningful and strategic work, rather than the mundane task of reporting on A/B tests for product managers. Indeed, the increasing sophistication and importance of product-driven growth is a testament to the success of these platforms.
We see a similar opportunity around finance today. The CFO’s office spends so much time closing the books, nagging business unit leaders to fill out resource planning spreadsheets, and manually creating reports that they hardly have the time to be the strategic partner the CEO needs. And those in the company that are empowered to manage spend don’t have access to the data. I witnessed this firsthand as the general manager of US card and consumer at Credit Karma. Despite having sophisticated access to product insights, I had very little visibility into financial information, which limited my ability to invest in efforts focused on expanding margin or extending runway, for example. As we rely increasingly on data to guide important business decisions, it follows that a new set of products will be built for the leaders outside of the CFO’s office (like Runway), while a very different set of tools will empower those within the finance team (some of which we’ve outlined here).
Why Siqi and Arya? They are among the best regarded analytics experts out there. As a former GM at Zynga and Postmates, Siqi helped define many important industry-wide growth practices; Arya was responsible for productizing those practices in his former role as a tech lead at Mixpanel. Siqi has a long history as a founder and investor—indeed, I got to know him in 2008 when he was building his first company, Serious Business, which was an early mover in the social gaming ecosystem (and was eventually acquired by Zynga after amassing millions of users).
In many ways, the important fintech categories are a race between traditional tech teams figuring out finance and financial services teams figuring out tech. Both archetypes of founders are creating incredibly interesting companies with fundamentally different approaches. Many fintech unicorns were started by A+ founders without financial services backgrounds: the benefit is that they could approach problems from a first-principles perspective (the “beginner’s mind”). Indeed, Robinhood, Stripe, Square, Transferwise, Earnin, and many others were built by first-time fintech founders.
In other words, Siqi and Arya are exactly the kind of founders we like to back: product oriented leaders with a consumer mindset, working at the seed stage, who combine expertise with a disregard for past orthodoxy.
In addition to partnering with Siqi and Arya, we’re also excited to be partnering with a strong network of other investors at the table. As the number of new fintech seed companies continue to grow, we are thrilled to continue to partner with founders and seed investors to support the next set of generational companies like Runway.