Announcing Cambrian’s inaugural $20M venture fund to support the next generation of fintech founders!
and how I became an accidental venture capitalist by way of community building
👋 Rex here :)
Today, I’m thrilled to announce Cambrian’s inaugural $20 million fund to back the next generation of fintech founders at the angel, pre-seed & seed with checks up to $500k!
I love fintech and ended up in a venture by way of community building. As Cambrian has grown into one of the largest communities in fintech–with over 15,000 subscribers, 4,000 meetup attendees, and 1,100+ member slack community exclusively for founders–layering on a fund was a natural extension.
The fund’s mission
Our mission is to provide our founders with access to the best networks in fintech. The fund itself reflects a community ethos with some of the top fintech founders who are both investors in the fund and resources for the companies we back. Those founders include:
My Story: from software engineer => community builder => VC at A16Z => to founding my own venture firm
If you’re still reading, below is my story of how and why I went from being a software engineer in fintech, to building a community and, ultimately, starting this fund.
Chapter 1: Building in Fintech
In 2015, I was working as a software engineer in San Francisco with one of the co-founders of SoFi on a new mortgage startup called Sindeo. I built out the backend for a fully-automated online mortgage pre-approval. I still remember when we pushed to production and saw the first customers go through. That day remains one of the most gratifying of my career. As anyone in fintech knows, the difficulties of building in such a highly regulated industry enhances the excitement of getting a new product live that much more.
At that time, fintech was emerging as a meaningful & sizable category, which meant there were many other software engineers, product managers and founders, doing what I was — bringing new technologies to bear on an industry that was painfully out of date. I wanted to meet these people!
After many coffee dates and meetups, I met a lot of great people, but never found a group that really felt like home. I expressed this frustration to a friend, who was herself working for a fintech company that had just graduated from YC, during a hike up Mount Tam in the coastal mountains just north of San Francisco. Her suggestion was “well why don’t you start your own community?” I did and Cambrian was born.
Chapter 2: Building a Community
We held our very first meetup in San Francisco hosted in some space I’d found for free downtown. My goal was to cultivate a community focused on founders and builders in fintech, who were authentic to the space and could talk in depth about a product or feature they’d recently built to allow others to find analogous inspiration in their work.
Our first speakers reflected that ethos perfectly. The theme for the evening was “How APIs Power Fintech” and we had an amazing set of presenters. Including Charley Ma from Plaid demoing the Plaid API, as well as Mitch Lee, the founder of Penny, which leveraged the plaid API to build a chat based financial assistant which he subsequently sold to Credit Karma. And the last presenter was a teammate from Sindeo demoing our automated mortgage pre-approval.
The Cambrian community really resonated with folks and before I knew it we were running monthly events in San Francisco and New York, hosting two annual summits (The Fintech Product Summit & the Fintech Inclusion Summit), along with quarterly job fairs. We have had amazing speakers including founders like Ken Lin of Credit Karma, Shuo Wang of Deel, Jon Stein of Betterment and William Hockey & Zach Perret of Plaid and many others.
Chapter 3: Building the Fintech Vertical at A16Z
While Cambrian continued to grow, the team at Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z) was also planning to expand. When they reached out, it became apparent that it could be a very interesting opportunity– many of the things I had been thinking about scaling with regards to Cambrian were similar to the work A16Z.
We worked on a variety of new initiatives both internal and external as part of growing the vertical. One of my early external projects was starting the A16Z newsletter (which is still running, you should subscribe here!). And, of course, most of my time was spent identifying great companies to invest in and support. Two such companies I had gotten to know through Cambrian. We led the Series C in Tally, a company founded by Jason Brown, one of the best presenters at the most recent Cambrian Fintech Product Summit (you watch the recording here). We also led the Series A in Deel, a few months after Shuo Wang had presented to the Cambrian community (you watch the recording here).
After over two years at A16Z, I felt like it was time to get back to my roots.
Chapter 4: Returning to Cambrian & launching a fund
The venture landscape shifted dramatically during my time at A16Z and fintech was no exception. Fintech had exploded, which is both daunting and exciting for prospective entrepreneurs. I realized that the networks I’d built through Cambrian could help the next generation of entrepreneurs navigate the ever expanding ecosystem.
Building a company requires inspiration, talent & capital. At Cambrian, we’d helped connect through our co-founder matching, hire through our talent and jobs board, and now I’m excited to be able to provide investment capital as well.
As a small fund writing non-lead checks, focused exclusively on the earliest stage of company formation, we’re able to be highly collaborative in the ecosystem, looping other founders (particularly from the funds investor base), seed funds & multi-stage funds to co-invest or lead future rounds.
The best days for fintech and Cambrian are yet to come. See you around!
ps if you’re looking for investment, you can submit your deal here.