The fintech wars continue to heat up with another major exit in the space.
Consumer financial services platform SoFi announced today that it is acquiring payments and bank account infrastructure company Galileo for $1.2 billion in total cash and stock. The acquisition is dependent on customary closing conditions.
Salt Lake City-based Galileo was founded in 2000 by Clay Wilkes and was bootstrapped to profitability over the intervening two decades. My colleague Jon Shieber wrote a profile of Galileo back in November after the company announced its second round of external funding, a $77 million Series A check from Accel, which was led by growth partner John Locke. The company had previously raised an $8 million Series A round from Mercato Partners in April 2014.
Galileo provides APIs that allow fintech companies like Monzo and Chime to easily create bank accounts and issue physical and virtual credit cards, among myriad other services. While simple in theory, banking regulations and financial rules place a huge regulatory burden on fintech companies, burdens that Galileo takes on as part of its platform.
The company has found particular success in the United Kingdom, where all five of the country’s largest fintechs are customers. Globally, it processed an annualized $45 billion in transaction volume last month, up from $26 billion in October 2019 — nearly doubling in just six months.
From a strategic perspective, SoFi’s objective is that Galileo will help power its expanding suite of finance products and offer it another revenue source outside of consumer services. While SoFi was founded a decade ago to offer ways to secure better financial terms for student loans, it now offers a bevy of consumer financial options, including loan, investment and insurance products as well as cash and wealth management tools. With Galileo, it now has a clear B2B revenue component as well.
SoFi, which is now led by ex-Twitter COO Anthony Noto, has also raised hundreds of millions of new capital from the likes of Qatar in recent years. The company was most recently valued at $4.3 billion.
Galileo will operate as an independent division of SoFi, and will be continuing its operations with founder Wilkes remaining as chief executive.
As fintech valuations have rapidly expanded in recent years, the companies that empower those fintechs have increasingly become strategic for investors. Earlier this year, Visa bought Plaid for $5.3 billion, in what was considered a key exit for a finance infrastructure company. That exit brought acute investor and strategic interest to the space, interest that almost certainly accrued to Galileo, as well, and helps explain the company’s relatively quick exit from its funding round last year.
As for Accel, the firm has long had a strategy of investing in mostly bootstrapped companies, sometimes a decade or more after their founding, with examples outside of Galileo including 1Password, Qualtrics, Atlassian, GoFundMe and Tenable. Accel also led this type of round into payments platform Braintree, where the firm met the startup’s GM Juan Benitez, who also joined Galileo’s board in November along with Accel’s Locke.
Accel’s valuation of the deal was not publicly disclosed in November, but a source with knowledge of the acquisition today characterizes the firm’s return as more than 4x. Given that Accel held the equity for roughly half a year, that’s quite the IRR multiple in an otherwise challenging global macro context. Given that the acquisition of Galileo was for cash and stock, Accel likely now holds a stake in SoFi, making at least part of the return unrealized.
Galileo was represented by Qatalyst in the transaction.
Updated April 7 to include the $8 million Series A funding round led by Mercato Partners and more context on IRR.