During a challenging year for startups and financial institutions, these entrepreneurs, traders and investors are navigating tough terrain and making an outsized impact.
When Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in early March, some panicked entrepreneurs found refuge in Brandon Arvanaghi’s fledgling digital bank, Meow, which let businesses earn interest on their cash through short-term U.S. Treasuries. By the end of the month, the then-two-year-old, 12-person company saw $500 million in inflows.
Arvanaghi and cofounder Bryce Crawford–who had worked together as software engineers at cryptocurrency exchange Gemini–have since launched a high-interest business checking account, partnering with traditional banks like Nashville-based FirstBank to hold customer deposits. Meow also offers a loan marketplace and helps founders get mortgages. Today, the New York startup has more than 500 corporate customers and $1 billion in assets on its platform.
Arvanaghi and Crawford, both 29, are just two of the honorees on the 30 Under 30 list in finance for 2024, which covers traditional financial services, fintech and crypto. The winners were selected from more than 800 nominations and were evaluated by four judges: René Lacerte, the founder and chief executive of publicly traded fintech company Bill; Shivani Siroya, the founder and CEO of fintech lender Tala; Ida Liu, the global head of Citi’s private bank, which manages nearly $750 billion in assets; and Jeremy Allaire, the cofounder and CEO of Circle, which oversees the issuance of USDC, the second-largest dollar-pegged cryptocurrency by market value.
Over the past year, while the digital-asset market continued to suffer from waning interest among consumers and venture capitalists, crypto entrepreneurs continued to innovate, and they had strong representation on this year’s list. One example is Aya Kantorovich, 29, who helped cryptocurrency brokerage FalconX build a trading desk supporting more than 700 clients. She’s now the cofounder and co-CEO of Fractal, whose software helps large investors take out loans for and execute digital-asset trades.
Jayendra Jog and Jeff Feng, both 27, left their jobs at Robinhood and venture capital firm Coatue, respectively, to start Sei Labs. After watching Robinhood impose trading restrictions at the height of 2021’s GameStop trading frenzy, they created Sei Labs to build software for decentralized trading platforms. They claim their blockchain’s time-to-finality–meaning the time needed to fully confirm a transaction–beats Ethereum’s by orders of magnitude: 500 milliseconds versus several minutes for Ethereum. Sei launched in August 2022 with $35 million in funding, and the startup estimates that it already has seven million active wallets.
Fintech founders also claimed several spots on our list. Kennedy Ekezie, 25, did stints in consulting at Accenture and marketing and growth at TikTok before starting Kippa two years ago. The startup aims to be a QuickBooks for Sub-Saharan Africa, offering bookkeeping software and payments services to businesses with four to seven employees (especially food vendors, clothing shops and grocery stores). It has on-boarded 800,000 businesses, has 250,000 monthly active users and is processing about $400 million in transactions on an annualized basis. It brought in $1.5 million in revenue in the first 9 months of 2023, says Ekezie, who splits his time between San Francisco and Lagos.
Nico Simko, 29, worked for three years in JPMorgan’s payments division on mergers and acquisitions and partnerships before starting Clair in 2020. It’s a digital bank that offers earned-wage access: employees can withdraw their earnings as soon as they clock out. Clair makes money on interchange–the fees merchants pay when consumers swipe their Clair debit cards–and on instant transfers (it charges a 1.5% fee). It has 250,000 registered users. Fifty thousand of those are active monthly, and 15,000 get their paycheck directly deposited into their Clair account. Clair sells its product to businesses, who then offer it to their staff; it’s available to employees of Hilton-owned hotel DoubleTree and Marriott-owned Sheraton, among others. Its most recent valuation is $105 million, and it had $1.2 million of revenue in the first nine months of 2023.
Leaders in traditional financial services made up the biggest chunk of our 30 Under 30 list this year. Carter Frazee, 29, is a principal for KKR’s global impact strategy, a $3.5 billion initiative focused on making private equity investments centered around climate, sustainability, education and inclusion. Frazee also leads KKR’s Pride Philanthropy initiative, helping coordinate ways for KKR to share its resources with queer organizations globally.
Megha Gupta, 29, is a graduate of the highly competitive Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai. During an internship at IBM Research several years ago, she earned a U.S. patent for a cybersecurity method. Today, as a portfolio manager at WorldQuant, a $7 billion quantitative hedge fund spun out of $60 billion Millennium Management, Gupta develops and deploys systematic financial strategies by leveraging machine learning, statistics and artificial intelligence.
Nikki Stokes-Thompson, 28, leads operations and investor relations for Ariel Alternatives, the first private equity fund launched by Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based asset management firm with $17 billion under management. She was previously chief of staff to Mellody Hobson, Ariel’s co-CEO and president, and is the youngest member on Ariel’s risk committee. After joining the firm in 2020, Stokes-Thompson led Ariel Alternatives’ fundraise of $1.45 billion earlier this year for its inaugural “Project Black,” one of the largest private equity fund closings for a first-time manager globally. Sovereign wealth funds including the Qatar Investment Authority and former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s family office have invested.
This article was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.