- Daily Zen
Revolut, the fintech company, has raised $800 million in series E funding, raising its valuation to $33 billion and making it the biggest private technology company in Britain.
The new funding round for the business has also seen two new investors – SoftBank and Tiger Global. Revolut’s co-founder, Nokolya Storonsky, will be happy with the new valuation as last year, the company’s valuation at $5.5billion was way below his expectations.
Revolut is now one of the largest digital banks of the world. It was hailed by the UK’s chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak as a “great British fintech success story”.
Storonsky, 36, was an equity derivatives trader and studied physics in college. He co-founded Revolut with chief technology officer Vlad Yatsenko, in 2015. Revolut initially started as a prepaid debit card offering cheap foreign exchange for frequent travellers, but has since expanded into services from commodity trading to business banking. It has offices in 30 countries now.
Storonsky celebrated his company’s elevation by going on a kitesurfing holiday to Rhodes. “Even when it’s super intense, that’s his way of keeping straight under pressure,” said Martin Mignot, an early Revolut investor with Index Ventures. “He is totally unflappable . . . I don’t think he ever doubted his success.”
The former investment banker has a reputation for hard work and a hands-on approach, with no interest in showmanship and courting publicity. “I never agreed with the role of CEO as salesperson, or just a person with vision,” Storonsky told the Financial Times. “You need to have a vision we all want to achieve . . . [but] every manager needs to know the details. If they don’t, they can’t change the direction of the company, they can’t distinguish what is good and what is bad.”
He wants to create a “superapp” that would provide all the financial services a customer might need in a single place. “People in Britain are very conservative,” Storonsky said. “People don’t make big, ambitious goals. It’s preferred to set moderate goals with a high probability of success. But in order to be really large, you really need to strive for huge goals, which seem like they’re low probability.”
His ambitious drive has been the key to attracting investors. The latest round of funding was completed within just three weeks, according to him. Storonsky said the company beat its competition because it “outworked everyone else”.
One former staff member said: “Does what Revolut do at the moment justify the number? Hell no. But they produce so much new product so rapidly . . . it’s a bet that Storonsky is a beast who has created this product machine that’s going to take over Europe or the world.” But not all are enthusiastic about this driven approach. Some say that this has translated into exhausting workplace culture at Revolut.
Storonsky says his mentor and guide is Martin Gilbert, founder of Aberdeen Asset Management and Revolut’s chair. His style of working is in total contrast to Storonsky’s. Gilbert’s way of working is more old-school. He believes in wining and dining and old boys network.
Storonsky says he takes Gilbert’s advice as he has decades of experience founding and running a large financial company, in contrast to many “expert” investors in the technology industry who have little real experience of building companies.
Gilbert says, “People misunderstand [Storonsky] quite dramatically”. “He’s got a great sense of humour . . . [and] he’s a good listener, which a lot of people don’t see. He doesn’t make the mistake of saying too much — he has the ability to just answer a question, and won’t then fill an awkward silence. People mistake that for other traits.”
This week’s fundraising has pushed Revolut’s valuation ahead of NatWest, one of the UK’s largest high street banks with £453bn in customer deposits to Revolut’s £4.6bn. But bankers say this comparison is way off as NatWest is a traditional set up.
Storonsky is happy to trudge his own path and wants no comparisons.. “It makes our path much easier if people and banks don’t take us seriously, we can be hidden and steal in and move faster. Hopefully, one day they wake up and don’t have a business.”
The company serves 16 million customers worldwide and the new funding will help it to expand to new markets in India and the US.