Sequoia, 120 angel investors back former Google execs’ consumer finance startup Arbo Works – TechCrunch
A team of Google executives, many of whom worked with one another for years, left the company earlier this year to launch a startup. The fintech firm, Arbo Works, has raised a financing round led by Sequoia Capital India, the two said Thursday.
Arbo Works, spearheaded by Caesar Sengupta, said on Thursday 120 angel investors, many from Google, participated in the seed financing round. “This group includes CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, founders of successful startups, senior executives from tech and financial institutions, and deep practitioners of AI and ML,” he said.
The startup isn’t disclosing the size of the round, but two sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that it’s an eight-figure investment.
Sengupta, who previously led Google’s Next Billion Users program and is pictured above, told TechCrunch in an interview that the funds give Arbo Works runway for several years. “It’s a very significant round,” he said.
Arbo Works has eight co-founders, all of whom previously worked at Google. In fact, on its website, Arbo Works has listed 21 teammates, 20 of whom previously worked at Google (and many worked on the company’s payments product).
“We all have enjoyed working with each other. It sounds weird to say this, but I would continue to work with them anywhere, even if it is selling bananas,” he said laughingly. “Even as Google is a large company, a lot of this group formed around Sundar (Pichai, the company’s chief executive), working on Chrome OS. The group stayed together; in fact, many moved to Asia when I came here,” he said.
So what is Arbo, which has set up headquarters in Singapore and the U.S., working on? Sengupta is hesitant to share just yet. But he offered some context around the opportunity the startup sees. Sengupta, who worked and launched peer-to-peer payments app Tez in India, said the startup has identified an open space in the world of consumer finance.
“We think the general world of finance itself can be dramatically improved. With payments, we are seeing a sliver of that getting reinvented, but when you think about your money, the consumer experience there has a lot to be developed. It’s a new space in consumer finance. We want to bring great consumer experiences with deep tech,” he said.
“We are starting with the U.S. market, because the space we are going after is more open there,” he said. “But we are building a global product. We will bring it to India fairly soon.”
Shailendra Singh, managing director at Sequoia India, said Arbo Works has chosen a “massive unsolved problem in the global fintech space.”
He added, “Caesar and team are uniquely accomplished in having built multiple cutting-edge products that are used by billions of internet users on the planet. It’s rare that a team with such achievements will join forces to startup. Similar to many other consumer fintech companies we have backed, this one also requires a more user-centric approach, a more delightful user experience and a more seamless and scalable platform than likely exists today. Team Sequoia India and I could not be more grateful to be a part of this journey and join forces with the dozens of ultra talented Arbonauts that are assembling to pursue a very inspiring mission.”
I asked Sengupta why he couldn’t build what Arbo Works is attempting to create within Google.
“Large companies are a different kind of beast,” he said. “We are product builders. I want to build products rather than deal with complex partner issues, external regulators, political issues. Google is such an iconic company now that it can’t take one step without six people externally having six different opinions.”
“We left [Google] on a very, very friendly note. Sundar is more than a mentor or boss … he is a brother to me and he is always going to stay that way. I owe so much of my life to him,” he said. Has Pichai invested in Arbo Works? Sengupta declined to comment, but said many Google leaders have backed the startup.
Arbo Works is beginning to hire more people and is looking to recruit those who are focused on building a product with a long-term focus and share similar sensibilities. “We want people who want to work with amazing people and build something that when they’re 70 years old, they can look back and say they played a role in building it.”