Financial Venture Studio (FVS) has named Cameron Peake, a former startup founder and advisor, as its newest partner.
Peake will work out of Austin — where she recently moved from the Bay Area — and focus on early-stage investments in fintech companies.
Previously, Peake was CEO and co-founder of Azlo, a digital banking platform for small businesses in the United States. There, before stepping back from the company in January of 2021, she grew it to 150 employees and $1 billion in deposits. Inclusion has always been a part of Peake’s mission. She started her career in emerging markets, helping to launch mobile money and banking products in countries such as Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines and Zimbabwe.
“I’ve spent the majority of my career launching, building and scaling different fintech products and companies, both in the U.S. and around the world,” Peake, 36, told TechCrunch. “And overall, the theme for me has been a drive to make financial services better, more affordable, more efficient and immediate for new and underserved markets.”
Unfortunately, female partners at venture firms are more rare than we’d like. And fintech, in particular, has been historically male-dominated. Another recent example of a female founder joining a venture firm lies in Alexa Von Tobel, who founded personal finance site LearnVest.com, and co-founded Inspired Capital in 2019, which has backed a number of fintech firms.
More recently, Christina Melas-Kyriazi, a former Affirm executive and angel investor, in December joined Bain Capital Ventures as its newest partner.
Peake’s background as a founder will be crucial for FVS when identifying potential investments and helping portfolio companies grow, said Ryan Falvey, FVS co-founder and managing partner.
“Our goal with FVS is to create a home where exceptional founders are able to quickly plug into the networks that are important to building and scaling fintech companies,” he said. “As such, we’ve always optimized our own team to bring both founder empathy and broader connectivity so that we can provide strategic guidance but also bring practical advice to the teams with whom we partner.”
Falvey and Tyler Griffin founded the firm in 2018. They first worked together at the Financial Solutions Lab (FSL), which was a startup-focused incubator developed by the nonprofit Center for Financial Services Innovation and funded by JPMorgan Chase. Falvey founded the lab to extend digital financial services into more areas of the economy, along the way funding such heavyweights as Digit, Nova Credit, Even, Dave and Point.
Falvey and Griffin spun out of the program to build their own venture firm, with the goal of capturing the same spirit of helping founders make connections and accelerating their way through the thicket of challenges in fintech. Falvey has a background in banking, having worked at Silicon Valley Bank, while Griffin co-founded Prism Money before joining FSL and eventually leaving to start the Financial Venture Studio. They announced their $13 million debut fund in November of 2020.
Today, the firm has $80 million in assets under management and 47 portfolio companies. So far, it’s seen a number of notable exits including Dave going public, Digit being acquired by Oportun, Roger being purchased by fleetcore, Harvest acquired by Acorns, Sheltr bought by Hippo, Joust purchased by ZenBusiness, Pillar by Acorns and Flannel by Plaid.
Looking ahead, Falzey believes that Peake’s experience building Azlo “gives her one of the freshest and most sophisticated perspectives on what it takes to build a fintech company in this market.”
Overall, FVS seeks to back “high potential founders who want to transform financial services.” While the firm has historically had more specialization in consumer-facing technology, Peake is excited about helping guide the firm into more infrastructure work and expand more into backing B2B companies and those who work with SMBs.
“I’m passionate about anything that just fundamentally rewires traditional models in financial services,” she told TechCrunch. “I had the opportunity to like lift up the hood on banking and see the back office checks piled like feet high on top of a table. Anything that can re-conceptualize that is really exciting to me.”
“I think we can add a lot of value particularly in companies that may have one foot in the traditional financial services world and one foot in the other [like crypto],” Peake added. “And I’m excited to see where that goes.
Just a little over a month into her new role, Falvey said Peake has had an immediate impact on the firm’s ability to better source, evaluate and support enterprise fintech.
And over time, he expects that she’ll help FVS scale into new verticals and geographies.
“I can see us becoming much more comfortable scaling our approach outside of the U.S. and going even deeper into crypto and web3 — an area we’ve been much more active in since late last year,” Falvey told TechCrunch. “Our investment strategy is unlikely to change as the portfolio’s performance has been consistently strong — but Cameron will definitely help us open the aperture of where we focus and, most importantly, help us move even faster to support our founders.”
The new partner also believes her own approach as a startup leader will benefit her as an investor.
“This theme of authentic leadership has been something that was really transformational for me in running my own company,” she said. “There’s often this stereotypical idea of what leadership should look like. Particularly for me as a female founder, that didn’t really feel accessible to me.”
Leading authentically, in her view, unlocked her own potential, which she says had the snowball effect of “spilling over into culture, which spilled over into recruiting and retention and the sort of relationship we had with our customers.”