Currently ranked: 14
Previously ranked: 14
As part of an aggressive technology and innovation strategy, Spain’s Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria in 2011 began investing in fintech start-ups, hiring Jay Reinemann in San Francisco to, essentially, continue the work he had done as head of Visa’s corporate ventures and strategic alliances group. In February 2016 the name on the door changed from BBVA Ventures to Propel Venture Partners in a restructuring that gave Reinemann and his two partners, Ryan Gilbert and Thomas Whiteaker, more flexibility than they had had when they were more closely tethered to the bank. And BBVA, which remains the sole limited partner, added $150 million to the original fund’s $100 million.
“We help them from a strategic perspective as an adviser,” Reinemann says.
He notes that Propel is “something of a start-up ourselves.” Post-restructuring, the venture capital group is freer to be a lead or co–lead investor, typically in series A and B funding rounds. With a portfolio that currently includes personal finance site Earnest, home insurer Hippo, wealth manager Personal Capital, and marketplace lender Prosper, Propel is now plotting overseas expansion. Rohit Bodas, formerly of American Express Ventures, came aboard at the end of the summer as Propel’s fourth partner and is fully dedicated to seeking out opportunities around the globe.
Not only is Bodas a technologist who has obtained patents for mobile video and security inventions, he has also invested in such areas as artificial intelligence, data analytics, and enterprise security, Reinemann says. And no region is off-limits. Germany, Israel, the U.K., and parts of Asia have great potential, Reinemann notes, and Latin America is particularly intriguing because of BBVA’s presence there and the fact that the continent’s biggest market, Brazil, has “a sizable and profitable banking system that is ready to be disrupted.”
In the cryptocurrency space, Propel owns a stake in wallet and transaction platform Coinbase and is an interested observer of the recent crowdfunding spike known as initial coin offerings. Two of the firm’s 2016 seed investments, browser developer Brave Software and identity theft protection company Civic Technologies, each raised more than $30 million in ICOs.