Plaid launches FinRise, an incubator for underrepresented fintech founders

Natasha Mascarenhas
·3 min read

Plaid is launching FinRise, a nine-month incubator for early-stage fintech founders from underrepresented backgrounds. Inspired by an internal hackathon amid Black Lives Matter protests last summer, the accelerator is explicitly looking at startups led by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).

Plaid Growth Manager Nell Malone and Design Manager Bhargavi Kamakshivalli are spearheading the project.

Malone tells TechCrunch that the incubator is looking to accept three to five post-seed and pre-Series B tech startups with a product in the beta stage. In order to apply, startups need to have a minimum of two employees and a founder to join the program. The startup should obviously operate in the fintech space, but specifically have a part of its business focused on consumer business finance data.

That last prerequisite dovetails exactly into what Plaid does: It’s a software startup that acts as connective tissue between consumer bank accounts and fintech apps. Thus, FinRise feels like a creative extension of these integrations, albeit one focused more on helping founders start companies than simply gaining new customers.

Accepted startups will get mentorship from Plaid leaders, a dedicated account manager who will help with product insights, and a network where founders can go to for advice on the bootcamp sessions. The incubator is longer than an accelerator program like Y Combinator or TechStars, which usually run for three months, but less intensive.

“The three-day virtual bootcamp will be the most intensive part of the FinRise program,” Malone said. “After the workshop, participants will work with their dedicated account managers and have access to ongoing programming support structures … our goal is to provide ongoing support at every stage of our participant’s journey over the course of nine months.”

The announcement fortuitously comes just a week after Plaid announced it would not merge with Visa after running into regulatory hurdles. The deal, which was valued at $5.3 billion when announced, was met with optimism from fintech founders and VCs. That said, it did underscore how private fintech startups will increasingly have to deal with policy issues as the sector continues to grow.

The accelerator’s bootcamp portion, which will be a three-day affair, plans to address this dynamic in the lens of how startups should deal with regulatory and legal pressures in the financial services space. Other topics of discussion will include information security, engineering practices and user-centric design.

The hurdle for underrepresented founders tends to be access to funding instead of access to mentorship. For now, the incubator isn’t taking any equity nor is it giving any capital itself, but FinRise did commit to introducing its cohort to a network of VC firms and accelerators with checkbooks.

Of course, Plaid could also consider investing in any of these startups, taking a classic corporate venture capital approach. When asked if this could happen, Malone said that “this is not part of our plan right now. It’s early, we’re excited to pilot the program and see how it goes.”