‘Honestly A Lot of People Don’t Work Hard in San Francisco’: Brex Co-Founder on Why He Moved to LA
Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks. Follow him on Twitter.
Henrique Dubugras, the young co-founder of Brex, says he always wanted to live in Los Angeles, but before COVID he felt he had to be in the Bay Area to tend to his red hot fintech unicorn. But late last year, with everyone working remotely, he and his girlfriend, their dog and his co-founder, Pedro Franceschi, all moved into the same L.A. house.
"I'm having the best time," Dubugras told dot.LA co-founder and chairman Spencer Rascoff during a dot.LA Strategy Session Wednesday. "L.A. has been amazing."
Brex has been one of Silicon's Valley's hottest business-to-business or B2B companies in recent years, reaching unicorn status in 2018 just months after launching its first product and quickly fetching a $2.75 billion valuation last spring. So when Dubugras and Franceschi announced they were leaving San Francisco, it was seen as another blow to the Valley.
Dubugras says it helps that he can still easily fly to San Francisco for meetings. He was attracted to L.A.'s warm weather and its greater diversity of sectors.
"I think there's enough of a tech scene and different industries as well to make it very interesting," he said.
He also disputed the stereotype of San Francisco having a better work ethic, saying tech workers there tend to "rest and vest," meaning they are waiting to cash out their lucrative stock options.
"Honestly a lot of people don't work hard in San Francisco," he said.
Brex is most well-known for offering interest-free credit cards to promising startups that do not yet have enough revenue to get approved by bigger banks. Last week, the company sought permission from federal regulators to open its own bank.
Though Dubugras and Franceschi are running the company from L.A., Brex is still officially headquartered in San Francisco but that is in name only as Brex plans to let its lease expire this year.
Dubugras says the company plans to allow its approximately 500 employees to continue working from home for as long as they want to, though the company will open several offices. Unlike most companies that have said their offices will be built around collaboration, Dubugras says Brex's will be centered around providing employees individual workstations.
"We're going to assume everyone is remote, but if you want to go to an office that's fine," Dubugras said.
About the Speakers
Henrique Dubugras, Founder and Co-CEO at Brex
Henrique Dubugras, Founder and Co-CEO of Brex
Henrique Dubugras is co-founder & CEO of Brex — the first of its kind corporate card for startups. A Brazilian entrepreneur, Henrique built payments company Pagar.me — the Stripe of Brazil — when he was 16 years old. In three years, Pagar.me grew to $1.5 billion in volume of transactions processed.
In the fall of 2016, Henrique sold Pagar.me and enrolled at Stanford University. After eight months, he left school and founded Brex, which raised $215M in funding across three rounds in its first 22 months and was the fastest U.S. business-to-business company to be valued at over $1 billion.
Spencer Rascoff, Co-Founder & Executive Chairman at dot.LA
Spencer Rascoff, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman at dot.LA
Spencer Rascoff is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire and dot.LA, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP of corporate development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003.
Spencer is now an active angel investor in over 50 companies, and serves as executive chairman of dot.LA, a news site covering the Los Angeles tech scene. He is also co-founder and chairman of a stealth startup, and incubating several other startup companies. Spencer is on the Board of Directors of Palantir, and is a former board member of Zillow Group (Nasdaq: ZG), TripAdvisor (Nasdaq: TRIP), Zulily (Nasdaq: ZU), Julep, and several other tech companies.
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Ceres Group Holdings is becoming corporate America's biggest cannabis dealmaker out of its Century City offices.
The venture and private equity firm this week announced that its special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would take Atlanta-based cannabis producer Parallel public in a merger that will value the Canadian-listed company at $1.88 billion.
Parallel has about 42 retail stores outside of California, but has big plans for a big expansion into L.A. sometime in the next year or two.
Joe Crouthers is the CEO of Ceres and head executive of the SPAC that bought Parallel.
As Thanksgiving approached, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti implored residents to stay home and halt all nonessential travel as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed.
But on Thanksgiving Day, Peter Pham, one of L.A.'s most prominent early-stage investors and the co-founder of Science Inc, a Santa Monica startup studio and early-stage venture fund that manages over $100 million and recently launched a $310.5 million SPAC, posted a selfie of himself atop Las Vegas' High Roller ferris wheel.
He was clutching a can of Liquid Death, the bad boy-themed canned water brand that has improbably become Science's buzziest startup. Pham guzzles six cans a day, because he says he does not trust municipal tap water.
"I'm not afraid of dying," Pham told me recently. "There's risk for everything and COVID is a risk that I feel very confident in my ability to deal with. I could be wrong and that's OK. I am OK if I fucked up and I die from it."