Stripe loses ex–Goldman Sachs exec to corporate card startup

March 16, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

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Stripe just became the most valuable U.S. startup—but that’s not stopping executives at the high-flying digital payments firm from seeking greener pastures.

Colin Kennedy, who most recently worked as Stripe’s global head of partnerships, is leaving the company—recently valued in a private investment at $95 billion—for a younger up-and-comer. He is joining Ramp, a two-year-old corporate card startup that aims to disrupt the clunky world of business-expense–reporting software, as chief business officer.

Earlier in his career, Kennedy worked for more than a decade at American Express. While there, he was in charge of the credit card giant’s close relationship with—and $251 million investment in—Concur, an expense-management tool that has since become widely used across the business world.

Kennedy says it’s “striking” how quickly Concur displaced Microsoft Excel spreadsheets as the go-to corporate accounting tool for expense management in the past decade or so. But it is also disappointing “just how far it fell short,” he adds.

Ramp has an opportunity to take on incumbents, like AmEx and Concur, by offering products that apply more automation, analytical software smarts, and tools to help companies reduce spending, Kennedy says. Other challengers with similar plans include Brex, another corporate card startup, and Divvy, maker of an expense management tool.

Bringing clarity to expense reporting

Kennedy notes that his move to Ramp brings his career “full circle” as it returns his focus to the technology behind credit cards and expense reporting. But the circumference of that journey involves some of the greatest recent hits of the financial tech, or fintech, world.

After his stint at AmEx, Kennedy became a top lieutenant at Clarity Money, a personal finance management app, in 2017. As the company’s chief commercial and operating officer, he worked closely with its founder, Adam Dell, brother of billionaire PC tycoon Michael Dell.

Just a year later, in 2018, Goldman Sachs bought Clarity to beef up its upstart consumer bank, Marcus, for $100 million. Kennedy rose up to become Marcus’s chief revenue and operating officer. (Earlier this year, Marcus folded the stand-alone app and rebranded Clarity’s technology as Marcus Insights.)

Kennedy left Goldman Sachs after a year to join Stripe in February 2019. There he spearheaded tie-ups with banking partners such as Goldman and Citigroup on a product that enables Stripe to offer bank accounts to business customers. Kennedy also helped open Stripe’s New York office until the coronavirus pandemic interfered and halted plans.

In joining Ramp, Kennedy is, in a sense, remaining within the family. Marc Atiyeh, formerly Clarity’s chief strategy officer, brought the fledgling startup to Kennedy’s attention in 2019. At a fintech meetup event hosted by Marcus, Atiyeh introduced Kennedy to the Ramp team, including his brother, Karim Atiyeh, Ramp’s cofounder and tech chief.

Kennedy isn’t the only Goldman Sachs alum to climb aboard at Ramp. In November, Srinath Srinivasan, Goldman’s head of credit strategy for Apple Card, a product jointly developed with the tech giant, became Ramp’s head of risk. In February, Srinivasan helped the startup clinch a $150 million debt financing round led by Goldman Sachs.

Eric Glyman, Ramp’s cofounder and chief executive, says he has long admired Kennedy and his professional career. Glyman, who sold another business, Paribus, an online price tracker, to credit card giant Capital One in 2016, says he is particularly interested in Kennedy’s expertise and deep relationships in the fintech and banking worlds.

“We’re gonna be working much more closely with a lot of new partners over the coming months, and it just felt right,” Glyman says of the new hire. Excluding the recent debt financing round, Ramp has raised a total of $55 million in venture capital funding at an undisclosed private valuation to date.

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