In November 2015, I made a decision that would forever change the course of my life.
Ever since I was a teenager, I thought I would get an MBA. I worked through high school, college, and for five years post-graduation to save up a sizable sum of money for business school. In the fall of 2015, I decided to leave my hometown of Miami and move up to New York City to warm back up to the education arena by taking classes at Columbia University. I even cross-registered for courses at the B-school in an attempt to ‘improve my application’ ahead of applying for another round of MBA programs. During that same time, one of my good friends, Tyler McIntyre, and I had been talking about building a banking startup focused on small businesses, and the idea of founding a startup was something I couldn’t take my mind off.
So, in December 2015, I decided against spending my savings on an MBA. Instead, I partnered up with Tyler to pool our savings together as the capital to begin building Novo.
When Tyler and I officially started Novo in 2016, we had extraordinarily high expectations for what we could achieve. After experiencing the shortcomings of small business banking ourselves, we set out to build a robust, centralized, no-fee platform that didn’t just keep businesses’ money safe, but actually saved them time and money in all of their banking transactions.
What makes startup life so interesting in the early days is that often, the scope of your expectations is the polar opposite of the size of your budget.
We knew that our savings would have to last us until we built a beta version of the platform. For nearly two years, we lived out of suitcases, working and sleeping in various small apartments, friends’ and families’ houses, and even in a garage, as we hired a small team and built out our platform. Every ounce of our time, energy, and resources were put into turning an idea of “powerfully simple banking for small businesses” into a reality.
Now, five years after our humble beginnings, and only three years after the launch of our platform in 2018, today Novo announced $40.7M USD in Series A funding. To the best of my knowledge, this is the largest-ever Series A financing of any challenger bank, anywhere in the world—ever. I also feel honored to be announcing this funding back in my hometown of Miami.
For me and Tyler, this funding is reflective of the incredible work our team has done in building a banking product that truly helps small businesses, as well as our broader vision for how technology can help small businesses across all areas of their finances.
Looking back over the last few years since we’ve launched, there are a number of great moments that led to this day:
- In February 2016, we brought on our first full-time employee in Ahmedabad, India. From the moment that Tyler and I made this hire, we knew that we wanted to approach scaling our India operations in a very different way from what you’ve seen most startups do. Fast-forward to now, Tyler and I have spent over a year in India building out the offices, culture, and making all of the hires in-person. Now we have a fully-owned subsidiary operating out of India with over 50 absolute rockstars working driving Novo forward every day.
- In 2017, we had secured a bank partner Middlesex Federal Savings, and still joke that the President and CEO John Wiseman is like our 3rd co-founder. The only catch was that they had never done a fintech partnership before, so we quite literally had to start from scratch and build tech from the ground up. This enabled us to build the infrastructure that powers our front-end product today and gives us the ability to customize our offering more so than anyone else.
- In 2018, we participated in the Barclays Accelerator Program, powered by Techstars, which was instrumental in getting plugged into the New York City startup scene and attracting our first investors.
- In 2019, Crosslink Capital led our Seed Round and we got the incredible Jim Feuille to join the Novo board. Jim was the #1 partner that we were aiming to work with given his experience on Chime’s board since also leading their Series A in 2014. He has been an incredible value-add ever since.
- In 2020, we went out to raise our Series A in February, when the pandemic gripped the US and turned the world upside down. We quickly spiraled into the world of lock-downs and quarantines, which made fundraising a bit more challenging, so we made the hard decision to slash budgets and conserve spend to extend the runway as much as possible. At the same time, our growth metrics actually started taking off, so we decided to pause the official Series A fundraising efforts to fully focus on offering the best possible product and service to help our small business customers survive the year.
- In 2021, one of our biggest competitors effectively disappeared overnight due to big bank M&A, which led to another big growth spurt for Novo. We surpassed $1 billion in all-time small business transaction volume, $600M of which were completed in the first three months of 2021 alone. This growth, and our outlook on the future, propelled Valar Ventures, a leading fintech investor, to lead our Series A
Novo is just getting started. While Tyler and I are extremely proud of what our team has accomplished over the last five years, we believe that these accomplishments will pale in comparison to what Novo builds over the next five years.
Onwards and Upwards,
Michael & Tyler