Currently ranked: 29
Previously ranked: 22
To raise its profile in the fintech sector, Andreessen Horowitz brought Alastair (Alex) Rampell on as a general partner in October 2015. A serial entrepreneur who had been funded by the Silicon Valley venture capital giant — his most recent start-up, TrialPay, was sold to Visa — Rampell seeks out overlooked opportunities outside of mainstream finance. TrialPay, a platform that enabled consumers to get products free in exchange for trying ones that are advertised, is an example of alternative e-commerce. Of particular interest to Rampell are services like payday lending and check cashing, which generally cater to low-income or unbanked populations.
“With all the new banking technology that has emerged, this area has been left behind the most, but it’s a massive industry,” he notes. “It impacts tens of millions of people.”
In September, Andreessen Horowitz led a $39 million investment round in Activehours (subsequently renamed Earnin), a mobile app that makes it possible for workers to get their wages in advance of payday, but without the fees and interest rates of a payday loan. Earlier in the year, Rampell invested in a seed round for Propel, a start-up that helps food stamp recipients manage their benefits.
“These are actually very good investments, but they also have the very good side effect of doing well by doing good,” Rampell says. “You’re able to tap into this huge profit pool and build something that’s very good for people.”
Other fintech companies in the portfolio include Cross River Bank, a New Jersey–chartered community bank that partners with and underwrites for leading online lenders such as Affirm (an installment credit company that Rampell co-founded and Andreessen Horowitz backed), and crowdsourced quantitative hedge fund Quantopian, of which Rampell is a board member. “Fintech for many people is building a new version of something that’s been around for a long time,” Rampell points out. “It’s not just lending companies anymore, but all areas of finance.”