Investment banking, PE, Google or fintech: Which would you choose?
Not everyone can say, after graduating from Harvard, they became an investment banking analyst, private equity associate and senior manager of corporate development at a financial technology startup, then joined a Google venture capital fund and before jumping back to fintech. However, Ana Sirbu, vice president of finance and capital markets at BlueVine, can.
Sirbu, a native of Moldova, seemed to be on the fast track to a successful career on Wall Street after going from the investment banking analyst program at UBS in New York to the PE firm Silver Lake Partners. However, the allure of Silicon Valley was too strong, and she joined the Paysafe Group’s payment startup Moneybookers, now known as Skrill, where she worked in a business development role focused on the company’s expansion into the U.S. market, first in London and then in San Francisco.
"Operating and investing experience complement each other nicely over time, as both sides strengthen each other,” she said. “Investment banking and PE are good training grounds to gain skills and understand how businesses work from the inside, how to grow a sustainable business.”
Deciding to leave Google for a fintech startup
Sirbu went on to join Google Capital, the late-stage growth venture capital fund now known as CapitalG, as a senior associate, eventually earning a promotion to manager.
“At Google Capital, I met more than 400 businesses, mostly fintech, so I acquired a special point of view into the sector,” Sirbu said. “Over time, if you challenge yourself to think about a lot of different companies, you develop pattern recognition – it’s helpful to understand the needs of a business having looked at a large number of startups.”
One of the fintech firms she came across during her time there was BlueVine, which provides working capital and growth financing to small businesses. She sensed a fit and an opportunity, so she decided to leave Google, never an easy decision, and dive head-first back into startup world.
“I lead finance, capital markets and analytics – I’m tasked with figuring out how can we grow as a metrics-focused organization and make good data-informed decisions, which includes automation and data science, and for finance, how do we grow into a large and profitable business?” Sirbu said. “For capital markets, how do we build and scale our capital markets availability? That means securing large amounts of financing, then using that to lend to our customers.
BlueVine has raised $68m of equity financing from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Menlo Ventures, Citi Ventures, 83North Venture Capital and Rakuten Ventures, including a $49m series D round announced in December. It has warehouse lines of credit with Silicon Valley Bank and Fortress Investment Group.
The firm has 110 employees across various departments, including engineering, risk, underwriting, revenue, account management, marketing, business development, legal, operations, analytics, finance and capital markets. BlueVine is growing quickly – it did $200m in loan volume last year, and this year projects to surpass $500m.
“We have done a fair amount of hiring, but a lot of our focus is building out the technology – we’re very much emphasizing the scalability of our tech platform, with a focus on automation and tech-based streamlining within all our processes,” Sirbu said. “In the future that will amount to the scalability of our business without needing to grow our team that much – we’re expecting to do a lot with a pretty small team.
“That said, we will continue to grow headcount, and I would expect we will add a few more folks in the first half of the year, probably reaching 130 or 140 employees by the end the year,” she said.
Photo courtesy of BlueVine