Update on Sunday, March 12, 2023: The Federal Reserve announced that Silicon Valley Bank’s depositors will be fully protected and that cash will be accessible starting Monday for both the insured and uninsured. As a result of this announcement, Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras wrote on Twitter that Brex's"emergency payroll loan offer is no longer required," adding that "this is a far better outcome for those customers."
Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras is currently working to raise over a billion dollars in a weekend to help fund an emergency bridge credit line that he believes will help startup customers impacted by Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse be able to make payroll next week. Dubugras declined to comment on how much capital has been committed for the credit line thus far, but said he’s on back-to-back calls trying to get funds locked down.
“We’re working with a lot of lenders this weekend, to basically raise as much money as we can afford,” Dubugras said. So far, over $1.3 billion of payroll loan requests has been made from over 500 applicants. “The same people who are requesting the $1 billion have around 10 billion in aggregate deposits [at SVB]."
The founder says demand is increasing every five minutes. And while Dubugras said that the final close is “TBD,” he said it’s “very likely” they will close some capital.
One question is if the terms of the deal will be favorable to founders, or, as one entrepreneur ominously suggested to me today, will the sharks come out?
Brex is not disclosing the terms of the deal but said that they are not making money on these loans. “That's where we're working through to kind of get what the right rate is, but think about it this way: there's not a lot of information right now and coming up with over a billion dollars in a weekend, it’s no easy feat,” Dubugras said. “So you know, I think that we're just trying to see if we can figure something out that works for everyone and create an option.”
Another question is on the quality of applicants. As one founder told TechCrunch yesterday, onboarding an influx of people “is the easiest way to invite fraud and get kicked out of the banking ecosystems.” Dubugras said that the quality of SVB’s customer base is “pretty good.”
“Most of the customers that we’re getting are real startups that had real businesses with real deposits — and they’re connecting the data to their SVB account that had real money in it,” he said. “We're verifying that these customers are real customers for sure — that is not what I’m worried about.”
“I hope that the lesson for the industry is not, hey, if it's a bank that is not JP Morgan, it's unsafe. I think that will be terrible for our ecosystem and for America,” he added. The lesson instead, Dubugras thinks, is for founders to distribute their risk. “I think the safest place in my view for your money is not a bank account, it’s in a money market fund, and a cash management account, so that’s why do we do this at Brex.”
While Dubugras focuses on raising and asserts that Brex is operationally ready for this and isn't trying to make money off desperate founders, the company will have to prove they can pull this off.
As SVB fell, Brex was looked at as a formidable competitor seeking to benefit from the shifting of funds. Sure enough, sources tell TechCrunch that fintech was getting billions of dollars in deposits. Then SVB closed the wires, and hours later, was seized by the FDIC.
“The reason we're doing it is obviously we want to support a community, that's very important,” Dubugras said. “The business reason we're doing this is because we'll fund these loans and our business accounts, and we hope people stay our customers right after that.”
Dubugras isn’t the only tech executive rallying others to help extend loans to founders. Another CEO is working to raise money for an emergency fund for climate-specific startups, while others are looking at ways to create funding sources for historically overlooked and marginalized groups of founders.
Talk about a day I'll remember for the rest of my life
— Henrique Dubugras (@hdubugras) March 11, 2023
If you have a juicy tip or lead about happenings in the SVB fall out, you can reach Natasha Mascarenhas on Twitter @nmasc_ or on Signal at +1 925 271 0912. Anonymity requests will be respected.