Brex Co-Founder on Why He Moved to LA, Startups and Remote Work

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. 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.

Brex Co-Founder on Why He Moved to LA, Startups and Remote Work

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 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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How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
How the 'Thrift Haul' Boosted Secondhand Ecommerce Platforms
Evan Xie

If you can believe it, it’s been more than a decade since rapper Macklemore extolled the virtues of thrift shopping in a viral music video. But while scouring the ranks of vintage clothing stores looking for the ultimate come-up may have waned in popularity since 2012, the online version of this activity is apparently thriving.

According to a new trend story from CNBC, interest in “reselling” platforms like Etsy-owned Depop and Poshmark has exploded in the years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. In an article that spends a frankly surprising amount of time focused on sellers receiving death threats before concluding that they’re “not the norm,” the network cites the usual belt-tightening ecommerce suspects – housebound individuals doing more of their shopping online coupled with inflation woes and recession fears – as the causes behind the uptick.

As for data, there’s a survey from Depop themselves, finding that 53% of respondents in the UK are more inclined to shop secondhand as living costs continue to rise. Additional research from Advance Market Analytics confirms the trend, citing not just increased demand for cheap clothes but the pressing need for a sustainable alternative to recycling clothing materials at its core.

The major popularity of “thrift haul” videos across social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok has also boosted the visibility of vintage clothes shopping and hunting for buried treasures. Teenage TikToker Jacklyn Wells scores millions of views on her thrift haul videos, only to get routinely mass-accused of greed for ratching up the Depop resell prices for her coolest finds and discoveries. Nonetheless, viral clips like Wells’ have helped to embed secondhand shopping apps more generally within online fashion culture. Fashion and beauty magazine Hunger now features a regular list of the hottest items on the re-sale market, with a focus on how to use them to recreate hot runway looks.

As with a lot of consumer and technology trends, the sudden surge of interest in second-hand clothing retailers was only partly organic. According to The Drum, ecommerce apps Vinted, eBay, and Depop have collectively spent around $120 million on advertising throughout the last few years, promoting the recent vintage shopping boom and helping to normalize second-hand shopping. This includes conventional advertising, of course, but also deals with online influencers to post content like “thrift haul” videos, along with shoutouts for where to track down the best finds.

Reselling platforms have naturally responded to the increase in visibility with new features (as well as a predictable hike in transaction fees). Poshmark recently introduced livestreamed “Posh Shows” during which sellers can host auctions or provide deeper insight into their inventory. Depop, meanwhile, has introduced a “Make Offer” option to fully integrate the bartering and negotiation process into the app, rather than forcing buyers and sellers to text or Direct Message one another elsewhere. (The platform formerly had a comments section on product pages, but shut this option down after finding that it led to arguments, and wasn’t particularly helpful in making purchase decisions.)

Now that it’s clear there’s money to be made in online thrift stores, larger and more established brands and retailers are also pushing their way into the space. H&M and Target have both partnered with online thrift store ThredUp on featured collections of previously-worn clothing. A new “curated” resale collection from Tommy Hilfiger – featuring minorly damaged items that were returned to its retail stores – was developed and promoted through a partnership with Depop, which has also teamed with Kellogg’s on a line of Pop-Tarts-inspired wear. J.Crew is even bringing back its classic ‘80s Rollneck Sweater in a nod to the renewed interest in all things vintage.

Still, with any surge of popularity and visibility, there must also come an accompanying backlash. In a sharp editorial this week for Arizona University’s Daily Wildcat, thrift shopping enthusiast Luke Lawson makes the case that sites like Depop are “gentrifying fashion,” stripping communities of local thrift stores that provide a valuable public service, particularly for members of low-income communities. As well, UK tabloids are routinely filled with secondhand shopping horror stories these days, another evidence point as to their increased visibility among British consumers specifically, not to mention the general dangers of buying personal items from strangers you met over the internet.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, 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 Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

How to Startup: Mission Acquisition

Numbers don’t lie, but often they don’t tell the whole story. If you look at the facts and figures alone, launching a startup seems like a daunting enterprise. It seems like a miracle anyone makes it out the other side.

  • 90% of startups around the world fail.
  • On average, it takes startups 2-3 years to turn a profit. (Venture funded startups take far longer.)
  • Post-seed round, fewer than 10% of startups go on to successfully raise a Series A investment.
  • Less than 1% of startups go public.
  • A startup only has a .00006% chance of becoming a unicorn.

Ouch.

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From The Vault: VC Legend Bill Gurley On Startups, Venture Capital and Scaling

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, 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 Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Bill Gurley in a blue suit
Bill Gurley

This interview was originally published on December of 2020, and was recorded at the inaugural dot.LA Summit held October 27th & 28th.

One of my longtime favorite episodes of Office Hours was a few years ago when famed venture capitalist Bill Gurley and I talked about marketplace-based companies, how work-from-home will continue to accelerate business opportunities and his thoughts on big tech and antitrust.

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