Highnote: The Right Idea & The Right Team

October 7, 2021

By Matt Streisfeld, Partner, FinTech

In May 2020 – long before Highnote was Highnote – we first met Co-Founders John Macllwaine and Kin Kee. Leah Scanlan, our Talent Partner, first synced with John when he was thinking about life after Braintree, and we collectively huddled on a few ideas that John found interesting and some ideas that Oak HC/FT had been cooking up as newcos. 

When we first met the team, it was an immediate “ah-ha” moment. Lots of investors in this seat say the same thing when you meet the right team at the right time –it's the perfect match! As Braintree and LendingClub alum, John and Kin had an intimate knowledge of payments. Over their decades long careers in the sector, they watched as new capabilities emerged and new players entered the market, creating an increasingly complex payments ecosystem. And while card issuing platforms and acquiring platforms emerged (and modernization occurred in both segments), these limited approaches did not address the full market need.

There are tremendous companies focused on acquiring and issuing, and we believe those companies are only going to get bigger. But from our first meeting, John and Kin saw a clear (and massive) opportunity – to unify two historically distinct processes and create an end-to-end payment processing platform that provides both modern card issuance and merchant acquiring services. By capturing both issuance and acquiring on one API-set, Highnote will significantly reduce complexity, giving customers access to faster funds, a single source of reporting for all payments activity, a single streamlined process for under writing and onboarding, and more.

Before we started, we knew one thing in particular had to be done right – this was going to be a developer-friendly platform, where product and engineering team sat digital enterprises of all sizes could easily embed virtual and physical payment cards, ledger, and wallet capabilities into their products. This would enable an efficient, seamless launch for payment products to help digital enterprises grow revenue and, more importantly, empower them to build their own unique, differentiated brands. 

At Oak HC/FT, we understood the many challenges enterprises were facing in embedding payments capabilities. Consumers and small and mid-sized companies that need immediate access to wages and funds face similar challenges. Like John and Kin, we saw a massive opportunity emerging to whomever was able to crack the code, and we thought there was no one better to do it than Highnote. It was the right idea and the right team, and in November 2020, we co-led Highnote’s Seed alongside our fantastic partners at Costanoa Ventures and XYZ Ventures.

Since day one, we’ve been working behind the scenes with the remarkable team at Highnote to develop the most modern card platform purpose-built for embedded card experiences, enabling companies of all stages and sizes to deliver a world-class digital payment experience. We’ve backed many of the leading entrepreneurs in the fintech space and believe there is something really special about Highnote. That’s why we’re proud to have helped build Highnote from the beginning, and we’re thrilled that the company has emerged from stealth with $54 million in Seed and Series A funding. We’re excited to continue our partnership with John, Kin, and the team as they roll out access to the Highnote platform and execute against a really ambitious growth plan.