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Brex refocuses on startups with hire of SVB veteran, ex-a16z operating partner

Just over one year ago, spend management decacorn Brex declared that it was “less suited to meet the needs of smaller customers” in an announcement that caused shock waves in the startup community.

While Brex soon clarified that by smaller customers it meant small to medium-sized businesses and non-funded startups, the move still felt like a stunning reversal, considering the company had started its life as a credit card company for startups. The announcement came about two months after Brex announced a big push into software” and that it was placing greater emphasis on moving upmarket to serve larger, enterprise customers.

But then in March, Silicon Valley Bank imploded

Brex was one of the bidders for the early-stage and growth portfolios of the bank, which was known for providing a swath of financial services to the startup community. Ultimately, First Citizens Bank took over, but some of those former clients shunned the idea of working with such a large bank and opted to move their accounts to fintechs such as Brex, Mercury and Arc. While Brex declined to share specifics on just how many former SVB customers in total have migrated their accounts, it did say that it opened 4,000 new accounts and received $2 billion in deposits in the first week after the SVB shutdown alone.

That influx of new customers led Brex to rethink its priorities, and strategy.

Today, the company told TechCrunch exclusively that it has tapped Jason Mok, a former Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) operating partner and more than 16-year veteran of Silicon Valley Bank as its new head of startups. In his new role, which he assumed in April, Mok will be helping founders navigate both today’s macroeconomic environment and the recent banking crises, as well as the promise of exciting technologies like generative AI. 

Via email, Brex co-founder and co-CEO Henrique Dubugras told TechCrunch that “founders and startups have always been at the core of Brex.”

He added: “The community needs our support more than ever given the broader macro and collapse of SVB. When it came to hiring someone to lead our startups organization, it was crucial to find someone who shared Brex’s pride and passion for startups; Jason fits the bill.”

At a16z, Mok managed the firm’s seed fund. And at SVB, he served as the managing director and sector head of consumer internet. Interestingly, Mok’s father also worked at SVB in the early 1990s, in a similar capacity as Mok did.

“So I grew up around SVB,” Mok recalls. “I just grew up around Silicon Valley Bank, founders and entrepreneurs, scaling with companies and venture capital.”

While at the organization, Mok said he worked on everything from early stage to growth to venture to warehouse facilities to lending.

“I learned a ton. SVB was like the best place to get your ‘MBA’ for everything about technology, finance, startups and venture capital,” he said.

In 2020, Mok was recruited by a16z to serve as an operating partner to oversee corporate development before overseeing the firm’s seed fund strategy. He left the firm in September 2022, he said, to focus on family before getting recruited by Brex this spring to help lead its renewed focus on startups.

Admitting that he was “heartbroken” by what transpired at SVB, Mok said he was drawn to the opportunity of helping the startup community in a new capacity.

“SVB was a stalwart that enabled so much of what currently is the tech and innovation ecosystem. It was amazing to see so many different people and companies come out of the woodwork to really do their part in helping prop up the innovation system,” Mok said. “Specifically, it was amazing to see Brex step up the way that it did.”

Image Credits: Jason Mok / Brex

In his new role, Mok said he will be helping guide the post-SVB opportunity for Brex and how the company is “thinking about delivering for startups in the future.”

“Brex is the only non-bank alternative offering a full financial stack, including banking, bill pay and credit cards,” he told TechCrunch. “I’ve joined to add some additional leadership strategy and reaffirm Brex’s commitment to delivering to startups. Over time we have expanded to serving enterprises but startups and founders are at the core of what we do and we want to make sure we continue to iterate, evolve and grow with founders as they scale beyond startup.”

Part of that, Mok said, will include discussing with founders what they need in terms of products so that they can “scale faster and iterate better.”

The company also wants to be more present physically, by hosting events in various cities such as San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, for the startup community and offering more “Brex ambassadors” that can serve as the face of the brand that founders, operators and VCs can go to for advice, perspective and connections to other founders.

“I’ll be overseeing all of that and really our go-to-market function,” Mok said.

He’ll also help with the further building out of Brex’s business accounts as well as “further optimizing and improving” the company’s onboarding process.

Brex said it has also named Nadav Lidor as the company’s lead for banking products catered to startups. Lidor, who leads Brex’s Israel office, will be focused on Brex business accounts — cash management accounts with FDIC insurance through partner banks and a suite of money movement tools across ACH, wires and checks. 

In late May, Brex shared that two of its products — Empower, its spend management platform, and Brex business accounts — had “each achieved $100 million in ARR,” or annual recurring revenue.

The company added that since launching Empower last year, Brex has signed on companies such as Coinbase, Indeed, SeatGeek, Lemonade and DoorDash, among others. It also said that its business accounts, which it describes as cash management accounts with a suite of money movement tools across ACH, wires and checks, had seen “rapid growth due to the ease of use and up to $6M in FDIC insurance coverage.”

Brex also recently announced it was going global.

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Brex refocuses on startups with hire of SVB veteran, ex-a16z operating partner by Mary Ann Azevedo originally published on TechCrunch

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