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Top 10 leading Fintech companies you must know

date: 20 September 2022
reading time: 7 min

$1 billion worth - this is what earns a start-up the ”unicorn” status. When the term was first coined in 2013, only about 6% of all privately-owned software and internet companies made that elusive list.

Although in 2022, those “unicorns” are no longer as rare as the mythical creatures, it’s still an impressive milestone to reach in the investors’ world.

Considering an enormously successful wave of seed funding in 2021 and the rate at which innovative digital products and tools are developed these days, industry sources state there are approximately 1,100 start-ups with that status in mid-2022. Roughly 20% of them are in the fintech game.

Here are ten of the American ones we’re keeping a close eye on: from powerful giants to wave-making leprechauns.


Stripe – Payments infrastructure for the internet

Valuation: $95 billion (March 2021)

Practically every fintech ranking includes Stripe. Because ignoring this groundbreaking start-up would mean not acknowledging the historic example it set for the “unicorn” club. The company was founded in Silicon Valley in 2010. 12 years later, it is the most valuable American private fintech and the fourth one globally.

At Stripe, everything is about effective payment processing online.

Nasdaq chose it because of its robust security and reliability. Urban mobility company Lime, on the other hand, was looking for improved accuracy and speed of financial reconciliation. In January 2022, Spotify partnered with the start-up “to help creators easily monetize subscription content.” And those are only three examples from Stripe’s impressive client list.

Unicorn fact: The company’s founders are Irish. Hence, the HQs are in Dublin and San Francisco. This duality emphasizes the start-up’s presence in two big financial markets on both sides of the Atlantic.


Chime – The mobile banking everybody loves

Valuation: $25 billion (August 2021)

What’s the most annoying thing when keeping your money in the bank? We bet it’s the associated fees (speaking from experience).

Chime‘s founders thought so, too. So they decided to offer free checking (current) accounts instead. They chucked in zero overdraft fees with cash advances in the bundle, too. And you don’t even need a minimum balance to open a free mobile bank account.

Today, it might not sound so unusual anymore. However, when the company was founded ten years ago, it was still very much a novelty.

Unicorn fact: Chime boasts 13 million active accounts in 2022, compared to eight million in 2020. That’s more than New Zealand’s and Hong Kong’s populations combined. Not all customers have free checking accounts, but that number tells you a lot about the bank’s rising popularity.


OpenSea – How many NFTs have you already minted?

Valuation: $13.3 billion (January 2022)

If you’re still not well-versed in the NFT subject, can you truly call yourself a 21st-century entrepreneur? The market for this digital asset is growing as quickly as the temperatures are rising in the UK in summer 2022.

OpenSea brags about being the original peer-to-peer platform providing a marketplace for NFT buyers. Its history is fairly recent (it was established in 2017), but it already processes “about $3 billion in NFT transactions monthly.”

While not without its challenges, OpenSea has made a free minting tool available to virtually any user. So if you’ve ever wanted to give it a shot, it’s your once-in-a-lifetime opportunity before everyone is an NFT owner.

Unicorn fact: The platform’s founders will go down in history books as the first NFT billionaires, too. They reached that status in January 2021 already.


GoodLeap – A sustainability marketplace

Valuation: $12 billion (October 2021)

Renewable energies, and especially solar power, are hot topics these days.

As more businesses and individuals embrace environmentally-friendly initiatives, switching from traditional fossil-fuel sources to more sustainable methods of energy production is a necessity if we want our children to have a future on this planet.

GoodLeap (fka Paramount Equity from 2003-2017 and Loanpal until 2021) is well aware of that. The start-up’s execs bring the combined forces of solar energy generation systems and mortgage broker experience. The company makes it easier for homeowners to secure financing for greening their households. Some eco-friendly solutions they back are battery storage, smart home devices, energy-efficient windows, or water-saving turf.

Unicorn fact: In January 2021, the company was the top solar lender in the US. If this statistic doesn’t impress you, we don’t know what else can.


Deel – International payroll made easy

Valuation: $12 billion (May 2022)

Before the pandemic, remote work was a privilege. In 2022, it is normality. Businesses have learned that geographically-dispersed teams and hiring experts abroad are no longer obstacles to getting the job done well. Chances are your staff are also partially based elsewhere.

Until Deel came along in 2018, the only challenge remaining was hiring and remunerating overseas employees. The start-up’s comprehensive platform provided a practical solution for that, “built for today’s world of work.

Deel offers a range of other useful services: ensuring compliance with local laws, non-traditional payment options, including Revolut, PayPal, or cryptocurrencies, facilitating access to health insurance, or helping with visas for foreign workers.

Unicorn fact: Due to the nature of its business, Deel is, obviously, a remote-first start-up as well.


Kraken – A crypto exchange for everyone

Valuation: $10 billion (projected – June 2021)

If you’re an investor, you know what’s crackin’ anyway. So this leading platform would be your go-to place for 120+ cryptocurrencies, amongst them Bitcoin and Ethereum, that you can exchange for fiat (regular) money.

Not only is it one of the most trusted online marketplaces in the world, but it’s also one of the oldest. Investopedia called it “a good choice for new and experienced crypto investors.” And Forbes Advisor gave it a 4.6-star rating, citing sophisticated features, good customer service options, and relatively low Bitcoin withdrawal fees as its main advantages.

For a company entering its teenage years (11 in July 2022), Kraken has already proved its “wisdom” beyond its age. The start-up doubles down on cybersecurity and is particularly uncompromising about protecting its users from potential hacks.

Unicorn fact: Kraken reports its pricing to the Bloomberg Terminal, which makes it that much more credible in the trading world.


Cedar – It pays to care

Valuation: $3.2 billion (March 2021)

When you recover from being unwell, the last thing you need is another headache related to payments for your treatments.

Enter Cedar, a start-up that strives to alleviate some more pain from that traditionally cumbersome process.

The New York company, started in 2016, is in the business of removing obstacles in “today’s fragmented healthcare system [that] frustrates everyone.” It’s a payment and engagement solution used by hospitals and other medical organizations to interact with their clients.

Cedar’s consumer-friendly platform, labeled “The Cedar Advantage”, takes the clients through the whole process: from pre-service (appointment booking) to post-visit (billing breakdown). Like many other innovative products, it was birthed after the co-founder’s “nightmarish personal journey through the healthcare system led to confusion, frustration, and disappointment.”

Unicorn fact: In the sector brutally tested in the pandemic times, we hope that investment in digital health solutions will continue to improve patients’ journey. Cedar is a perfect example of necessity turned opportunity.


Caribou – Car payments under control

Valuation: $1.1 billion (May 2022)

Americans love their cars. The country is so big that an automobile is often the best, if not the only, means of transport. Hence, insurance and other car-related payments are probably a common worry for the US population.

Caribou wants to change that. It claims that if “cars offer flexibility and freedom, payments shouldn’t hold you back.” As a result, it aims to make car owners aware that their best deal is not always the best one. Secondly, it wants to educate them on how to make savings next time.

Although the company has only recently joined the “unicorn club”, its innovative angle leverages the value of local lenders. Thanks to that partnership, the start-up can offer its clients a more competitive rate portfolio.

Unicorn fact: Goldman Sachs is one of the investors behind Caribou. We’ll just leave it at that.


Human Interest – Helping employees save for retirement

Valuation: $1 billion (August 2021)

In a world driven by purchasing power and hedonism, hardly anybody thinks of retirement. We’re used to spending our earnings here and now. That avocado on toast story, “blaming” the millennials for not knowing how to invest money, might be slightly exaggerated. But the truth is that, as a global society, we’re not very good at saving up for the future.

Human Interest noticed that worrying trend already in 2015. This 401(k) (pension-oriented) has developed a digital retirement benefits platform that allows the employees of small and medium-sized companies “to launch a retirement plan in minutes and put it on autopilot.”

And it seems to have gained the traction it deserves. Since the pandemic has taught people how important it is to have a financial buffer, Human Interest’s client base and revenue have significantly grown in recent years.

Unicorn fact: The start-up is currently preparing for an IPO in 2023. So this is probably the final call to get on the bandwagon.

You are expecting number ten now, correct? But instead, there’s an honorable mention:


Klarna – Buy now, pay later

Valuation: $46 billion (with an estimated drop to $30 billion – May 2022)

While not exactly a US company, we can’t omit this post-purchase payment start-up in this ranking, either.

Established in 2005 in Stockholm, it began operations in the States ten years later. Along with enormous success on the other side of the Atlantic, it is also “Europe’s most valuable private tech company” to date.

The Swedish start-up speaks to every consumer’s dream, regardless of their country of origin. Klarna’s core business ponders the question: Wouldn’t it be nice to buy something but not have to pay for it right away? And the answer is “yes”.

Unicorn fact: The start-up doesn’t make money from those postponed payments. Instead, it charges “retail partners for affiliate marketing and payments services.”


Conclusion

Although they are now public companies, Airbnb, PayPal, and Google are sometimes considered 21st-century “unicorns” as well.

Their story is almost like a fairy tale. It’s a little about fighting dangerous dragons, seeking the advice of wise wizards, and gradually gathering the riches to become “kings” of their respective “territories”.

And if that “fantastic” journey is any indication of where being a “unicorn” can ultimately take a start-up in the future, smart investors should pay even closer attention to progressive fintech companies in 2022. Like the ones we presented above.

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