Wharton FinTech
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Wharton FinTech

Arvind Purushotham, Managing Director and Global Head of Venture Investing at Citi Ventures

In today’s episode, I’m joined by Arvind Purushotham, Global Head of Venture Investing at Citi Ventures. Arvind leads Citi’s efforts to identify, invest in, and partner with leading startups as a way to bring cutting-edge technologies and capabilities to Citi’s businesses and functions. Additionally, he serves as a partner to Citi’s business leaders and helps identify market trends based on the 1000+ startups the Venture Investing team meets every year.

Arvind and I cover a range of topics, including:

Arvind’s early career:
Arvind received his BSEE from the Indian Institute of Technology, and an MSEE from Case Western Reserve University. Subsequently, he spent 4 years in Intel as a design engineer, helping the team nearly double in headcount. After that, Arvind received his MBA from Harvard University and later joined Menlo Ventures. While working at Menlo he became intrigued by the intersection of financial services and technology, noticing that most large banks needed significant back-end and front-end technology upgrades. Looking to help drive this trend, Arvind joined Citi Ventures in 2011.

The Evolution of Fintech Investing:
When Arvind first started at Citi Ventures, he had no way of predicting the hyper-growth that fintech investing would see over the next 10 years. In fact, fintech as a term didn’t even exist yet, and the industry as a whole had a much narrower focus. Investors were highly concerned about regulatory change and balance sheet finances, making it harder for fintech companies to raise a significant amount of capital. At the time, much of the industry's focus was on mobile payments and mobile wallets. Fast forward to now, and the landscape is unrecognizable. Digital assets and cryptocurrencies are dominating headlines, and total investments in fintech companies are higher than ever.

Citi Ventures:
At Citi Ventures, Arvind hopes to bridge the worlds of institutional banking, commercial banking, and the startup ecosystem. To make this possible, the Citi Ventures team spends a significant amount of time with business leaders within the bank, understanding their pain points and facilitating introductions with innovative companies. Arvind also helps his portfolio companies meet Citi’s clients, opening access to some of the largest corporations in the world. Arvind mentions one partnership he’s especially proud of with HighRadius — a leader in automating accounts receivable. Citi and HighRadius have gone to market together with Citi Smart Match, which uses AI and Machine Learning to help enterprises reduce the time-intensive cash application process.

Arvind and I dive deeper into four additional investments the team has made:

  • Doconomy: Doconomy is an impact-tech startup that has an ecosystem of financial tools to tackle climate change. Doconomy’s transaction impact product analyzes consumer spend data to keep consumers aware of their carbon footprint. The company has its own proprietary algorithm called the Aland Index, a world-leading climate impact index. Doconomy partners with banks, financial institutions, and other fintech players to gain the granular data it needs to help inform and change consumer behavior.
  • DriveWealth: DriveWealth is an API-based infrastructure for investing. Their software helps with fractional investing, portfolio management, robo-advisory, rewards & loyalty, and more. Their software gets embedded into other brands and financial institutions, allowing more companies to seamlessly bring wealth management products to their consumers.
  • TRM Labs: TRM Labs is a crypto and financial crime detection tool. The team has developed the first blockchain intelligence platform that combines cross-chain data with threat intelligence, advanced analytics, and intuitive visualizations to help organizations detect crypto fraud and financial crime.
  • Greenwood: Greenwood is a black-founded, tech-enabled, financial banking platform built for African Americans and Latinos. The company is named after the early 1900s Greenwood District, where black businesses thrived. The Greenwood team is developing a suite of financial products that support sustainable entrepreneurship, empower wealth creation, and promote financial literacy.

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Arvind Purushotham:
As Global Head of Venture Investing, Arvind leads Citi’s efforts to identify, invest in, and partner with leading startups as a way to bring cutting-edge technologies and capabilities to Citi’s businesses and functions. Additionally, he serves as a partner to Citi’s business leaders and helps identify market trends based on the 1000+ startups the Venture Investing team meets every year. Under his leadership the group has partnered with category-defining startups such as Square, Plaid, DocuSign, Honey, Betterment, Braze, Netskope, and Tanium. In his capacity as head of venture investing for the company, he also co-leads the Citi Impact Fund.

Prior to Citi, Arvind spent nearly a decade as a Managing Director at Menlo Ventures, where he was an investor and Board member at companies including Kazeon Systems, Cavium Networks, Solidcore, nCircle Network Security, Intelligent Results, and Vhayu Technologies. Previously, Arvind was a design engineer and a Program Manager at Intel Corporation.

Arvind obtained his BSEE from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, an MSEE from Case Western Reserve University, and an MBA with Distinction from Harvard Business School. He enjoys running, photography, and reading in his spare time. Arvind is passionate about golf — a passion, sadly, that his skill level does not match. He lives in Palo Alto, CA with his wife, two sons, and their black lab Rocky.

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About the Author:
Anirudh Singh is a second-year MBA Candidate at The Wharton School, where he is part of the Wharton FinTech Podcast team. He has a passion for economic development, venture capital, financial services, and all things FinTech. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, comments, feedback, and opportunities at singhan@wharton.upenn.edu.

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