TrueLayer: From Day Zero to $1B in 5 Years and 5 Lessons

Posted: 21 Sep 2021

Today, TrueLayer announced a $130m fundraising round led by Tiger and Stripe — at a $1B+ valuation. This news officially places TrueLayer in unicorn status. Bravi, Francesco Simoneschi and Luca! You’ve done an incredible job.

This announcement comes just a few days after TrueLayer’s fifth anniversary.

In those five years, TrueLayer has become a leader in open banking payments. It has been quite a journey — one Connect Ventures has had the privilege of being on from day zero, back in 2016. We were the first ticket, the first lead investor, the first believer. Faced with two founders, a grand vision, and a deck. We were so early that TrueLayer wasn’t even called TrueLayer, but FinPort. Get an inside look into how it all began here, including the original pitch slides with the original vision.

I joined the board and worked closely with Francesco and Luca. I believe the TrueLayer experience combined with the brilliant people and board members I have the fortune to work with are making me a better VC. A better investor, a better board member, a better founders advisor. I am enjoying every moment — the critical turning points and the day-to-day conversations. More importantly, I learned and I am still learning a lot. Looking back, these are my top five takeaways:

1) Assessing founders: invest in lines, not dots. Francesco and Luca’s entrepreneurial journey and past experiences were a prelude to TrueLayer’s success. They crafted their expertise, ambition, obsession for perfection, and business judgement. They co-founded three companies together before founding TrueLayer. It’s such a great story: two nerds who left university and an easy dolce vita in Rome to pursue their first startup dream. They left Italy for Seattle, Seattle for SF, SF for London, constantly doubling down on a bigger challenge at a bigger scale. They trained hard. They were ready for TrueLayer. Maybe in hindsight, it’s easier to say, but TrueLayer’s success was already apparent just based on their trajectory as founders. If you have the chance to back founders with a similarly impressive background and compelling founder-market-fit, lean into it.

2) Creating a new category: be different, not better. TrueLayer stands at the forefront of innovation in the wide Open Banking space. Whilst many other players chased ‘easy’ revenue and competed on a myriad of segments and products, TrueLayer intentionally chose a different and nonobvious product strategy: Open Banking only, payment-first, user-centric, developer-friendly. Easy to say, hard to do; it takes a gigantic dose of courage, creativity, and focus. This is why we invest in opinionated products. TrueLayer’s opinion was, and still is, simple: the world of finance should open up, and open banking should be the default way to move money, instantly and safely.

3) User experience trumps infrastructure in the long term. TrueLayer has built its banking infrastructure layer as a means to provide a seamless and delightful product experience, both to developers and to end-users. While the former will get commoditised sooner, the latter is harder to reproduce and creates a strong competitive advantage. TrueLayer puts the end-user experience at the core of its mission. They exist to impact thousands of developers and millions of consumers to improve their financial life.

4) Invest early and relentlessly in flagship partners to gain a first-mover advantage in innovation. I can not overstate the importance of leveraging early like-minded flagship customers as design partners. While I saw the immense potential of other B2B SaaS businesses, given the novelty of the technology and the solution, counting on tech-forward partners like Revolut and Amazon as early TrueLayer customers was truly transformative. They were key in perfecting the product experience and building trust in the industry.

5) Follow the winner. Obvious, yes, but less straightforward with a seed-focused fund. It takes conviction. After leading TrueLayer’s seed round, we invested in all four subsequent rounds, via the main fund until possible and then via SPVs. We didn’t sell in any secondaries; we’re in it for the long run.

Open Banking Payment is the future. For the whole TrueLayer team and for us, this is just the beginning. Thanks for getting us this far, TrueLayer team. It’s a pleasure to continue this journey with you 🙌🏻

Onwards 🚀!