Previously Published to Benzinga Money.
According to FinTech Magazine, “Not a single bank in San Francisco went bust during the Great Depression. Business in the area thrived, so much, in fact, the Oakland Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge were both constructed.” Maybe that’s why there are so many of the best fintechs in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Use our guide to find out more about the best fintechs in the Bay Area.
Quick Look: Best Fintechs in San Francisco
- Best Cryptocurrency Exchange Fintech: Coinbase
- Best Credit-Scoring Fintech: CreditKarma
- Best Online Personal Finance Fintech: Chime
- Best Stock-Trading Fintech: Robinhood
- Best Payments Fintech: Square
- Best HR Fintech: HireAthena
- Best Alternative Assets Fintech: Alt
- Best Authentication Fintech: Plaid
- Best Real Estate Fintech: Figure
- Best Next Generation Fintech: Step
What is Fintech?
A fintech company is a financial technologies company that “seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services.”
These platforms often use complex mathematical equations and artificial intelligence (AI) to reduce spending, identify opportunities and increase profitability, therein. These systems tend to be more accurate and free of human error while making it easy to identify risks across multiple transactions.
10 Best Fintechs in San Francisco
These Fintechs were chosen based on their unique leadership, value, niche and growth over the last few years. We’ve also rated the best fintechs based on the quality of their products and/or recent IPOs that have driven their demand. And we consider ourselves fairly knowledgeable in this area, too — each year, Benzinga hosts the Benzinga Global Fintech Awards, with the upcoming edition taking place in November of 2021.
1. Best Cryptocurrency Exchange Fintech: Coinbase, founded 2012
Coinbase saw a sharp increase in Q1 earnings after they IPO’ed in April 2021. Coinbase Global reported 56 million verified users, including more than 8,000 institutions and a revenue of $1.8 billion (up from $190.6 million last year).
Coinbase is one of the best cryptocurrency platforms on the market and targets novice traders with its easy-to-use platform. Coinbase allows users to trade both alt and stablecoins. However, it seems to prohibit users from trading those they consider more volatile, unlike the advanced CoinbasePro, which targets experienced users and allows for a more diverse portfolio of cryptocurrencies not found on the former.
2. Best Credit-Scoring Fintech: CreditKarma, founded 2007
Intuit recently purchased Credit Karma in what is considered “one of the biggest fintech deals of 2020” and will integrate Credit Karma into all of its products and services.
Credit Karma made its debut in 2008, offering unlimited free credit score tracking, when other agencies charged. Since then, they have become the go-to solution in credit transparency for those seeking to improve their overall financial health and well-being.
A few years ago, Credit Karma began matching users with the credit cards they’d find the most likely approval. Their Credit Karma Tax service would launch in 2017, saving Americans tens-of-millions of dollars in tax preparation fees, while on its way to becoming a personal finance tool, beloved by many.
In 2021, Intuit’s TurboTax would join Credit Karma and offer users a brand-new Credit Karma Money Spend Account, equipped with the Instant Karma rewards program, where users win cash prizes, as a positive reinforcement of good financial behavior.
3. Best Online Personal Finance Fintech: Chime, founded 2013
Chime was one of the first online-only options for banking in the US. And, although many were apprehensive at first, Chime grew to be one of the most in-demand checking accounts used in 2020.
Unlike traditional institutions, Chime doesn’t use Chexsystems to bar customers with a poor banking history. In fact, no monthly or overdraft fees are charged for their services. Once a good standing is established within the Chime platform, users can borrow against future incoming funds.
An interesting piece of legislation recently emerged that prohibits Chime from using the word “bank” on its website, advertising and/or customer-facing documentation. Chime, nonetheless, is still a respectable institution that serves as a financial stronghold for many.
4. Best Stock-Trading Fintech: Robinhood, founded 2013
Robinhood was one of the first platforms that allowed retail traders to buy and sell stocks right on their mobile devices.
As interest in retail investing and cryptocurrency exploded in 2020 and 2021, Robinhood evolved to accommodate the needs of its retail army and added many new features in 2020, combining tools featured on other retail trading platforms and improving the overall customer experience.
Some of these features included a debit card that would allow customers to cash out of stocks immediately, fractional and options trading capabilities, and even tiered memberships for margin-ready accounts.
5. Best Payments Fintech: Square, founded 2009
Founded by the now-CEO of Twitter, Square started as a mobile point-of-sale solution, allowing sellers to transact via mobile credit card scanners and providing businesses with more payment options than they ever had before. Due to its nature of business, Square caught on with independent business owners, who once relied on nearby ATMs for payments at local fairs, flea markets and swap meets.
Today, Square is taking over e-commerce while making its presence known in the offline setting. It provides its users with powerful data analytics, online stores and payment processing.
6. Best HR Fintech: HireAthena, founded 2010
HireAthena describes itself as a “tech-enabled, US-based, all-in-one back office solution focused on small businesses, high-growth startups and micro-funding funding campaigns. Kristen Koh Goldstein started this company under the realization that “using technology, we could bring moms across the US back to work.”
As an “on-demand labor marketplace,” HireAthena focuses on the accounting, payroll and HR associated with businesses so that owners don’t have to. Providing opportunities to those who work from home, this company lends its talent to the corporate arena, providing HR and accounting services to the business it serves.
7. Best Alternative Assets Fintech: Alt, founded 2020
Alt’s platform encourages users to take advantage of alternative methods for investment, allowing users to buy and sell cards in ways similar to the stock market. Users send in their cards for valuation and authentication purposes but are provided with storage and safe-keeping at no additional charge (free for all PSA and BGS graded cards, all others pay $5). Users only pay 1.5% to transact and will be able to build a viable portfolio of fully-insurance assets they can borrow against.
8. Best Authentication Fintech: Plaid, founded 2013
Plaid simplifies two-way banking transactions, verifying and authorizing ownership of accounts and connecting through secure sign-on integrations. Their APIs allow banks to connect to consumer and retail-ready financial organizations, including outside fintechs, such as banks and stock-trading platforms.
9. Best Real Estate Fintech: Figure, founded 2018
Figure’s innovative business model allows users to access cash, integrating AI to leverage blockchain as an asset, when buying a home, obtaining an equity line of credit or lowering mortgage rates during the refinance process. Users take advantage of Figure’s awesome features when considering personal loan alternatives for essential home improvements, debt consolidation and long-term retirement planning.
Figure allows users to take advantage of the assets they have without forcing them to cash out early. They may continue earning on existing assets while paying for the things they need right now.
Bitcoin rose from $7000 during the heat of the pandemic and moved between $49,000 and $63,000 on any given day. Imagine selling off your Bitcoin due to unemployment, because you needed to pay the mortgage. Figure helps you make the most from your financial decision-making while throwing you a bone at your most inconvenienced time.
10. Best Next Generation Fintech: Step, founded 2018
According to the International Trade Administration, “FinTech companies can create a more diverse and stable credit landscape by gathering data from social media and other sources to assess the needs of young businesses and borrowers on the fringes of the banking system.”
One of these solutions was Step, a company recently purchased by Stripe.
If you’ve used a program like Greenlight from Green Dot Bank, you probably have an idea of how this works. Your teenager earns his or her allowance (or receives direct deposit from a job), you load it on an FDIC-insured debit card.
The only differences between Step and Greenlight is that Step is designed with the teenager in mind. They have more freedom over their own money, can send money directly to their friends and will build credit, as they enter into the world as an adult.
In April, Step secured “a $100 million round of Series C funding after growing to more than 1.5 million users.” They’re currently gaining an average of $100,000 new customers a day, ages 13 and 18.
Invest in the Best Fintechs In San Francisco
The San Francisco and Bay Area are some of the best fintechs in the world. If you pick the right time to invest in fintechs, you could see yourself having stock in a startup that sees major success, like many of the selections on our list.
Imagine what would happen if you could jump in a time machine and invest in fintech by getting in early into one of the companies on this list. Luckily, there’s still plenty of time. These companies set new trends all the time, opening up the door to further innovation and even better fintech. And if you’re interested in learning more about fintech, take a look at these fintech courses.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How many San Francisco Fintech companies are there?
A. There are currently about 101 fintech companies located in San Francisco.