Audrey Kim is a Venture Partner at Oak HC/FT, focused on growth equity and early-stage fintech investments.
Prior to investing, Audrey spent more than a decade as a business and product leader in fintech. She served as a General Manager at Stripe, head of product for Square Capital (the lending arm of Square, now Block), and product lead at LearnVest (a consumer fintech acquired by Northwestern Mutual). She started her career at Bridgewater Associates and the Boston Consulting Group. Audrey serves as an independent board member for Latin American neobank Ualá and holds patents in B2B payments and the provision of financial advice.
Audrey holds an A.B., summa cum laude, from Harvard University.
To launch a product, you need a kernel of conviction. If it starts to work, people look to you for more: What’s the North Star, the vision, the plan? Your job is to supply a constant stream of reasons to believe. But new conviction doesn’t come from thin air – it takes time and work to build. As the product gains momentum, that time grows scarcer and the pressure builds. It’s like a train coming up from behind you faster than you can lay the track.
When I was leading product teams at Stripe and Square, I could always count on certain people to provide a safety valve for that pressure. The best conversations were intellectually honest. I could name and scrutinize what wasn’t working, without worrying about the person losing faith. They knew that grappling with uncertainty was just part of building something big. They were also action-oriented and practical - we’d always end with, “So what can we do about that?”
As an investor, my goal is to provide that same kind of safety valve for founders. We get specific on problems weighing on them. I share what I’ve seen work and not work. Most importantly, we always drive to next steps the founder can take right away, whether it’s talking to a specific candidate who would raise the bar, revising an org design that the team has outgrown, or drafting a one-page product vision (no fluffy adjectives allowed). An hour on Zoom won’t divine perfect clarity on hard questions. But if the founder ends the call with more of their own conviction than when we started, I feel like I’ve done my job right.
COVID lockdowns were disastrous for small business. Sales evaporated overnight, which meant missing payroll, losing leases, or even shutting down. While I was head of product for Square Capital (Square's lending arm), I saw this happening to sellers everywhere. No one knew how long it would last.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created to help affected businesses. But big banks could only process applications manually, which limited the number of loans they could give. They reserved those "lifeboats" for their biggest customers, and small businesses couldn't get approved.
We got involved in the program and quickly got authorized to originate PPP loans, even though we weren't a bank. After getting the green light, we had three weeks to build a scaled product from scratch before the funds ran out. Luckily, we were 150 people with laptops, Slack, and nowhere else to go. We didn't sleep for three weeks and shipped it in time. That month, we distributed $1B to 80,000 small businesses. We ranked as one of the top 10 US lenders by number of loans, but with the smallest average loan size, which meant we had opened up access for businesses who were too small to have had a shot otherwise.
Many people spend time searching for big problems to solve with technology. But sometimes the world shifts and creates a natural opportunity for the "tech" part of fintech to make a difference - not just by lowering costs or exposing an arbitrage, but by creating greater access to critical products for the underserved. Those moments are why I work in fintech.