Visa makes strategic investment in card processing startup Marqeta

Since 2010, Marqeta has quietly established itself as the underlying tech provider for businesses that are looking to issue virtual and physical debit and credit cards to employees, partners and customers alike. As it looks to expand internationally and sign up customers around the globe, the company has taken $25 million in strategic investment led by payments heavyweight Visa.

Unless you’re a fintech geek, you’ve probably never heard of Marqeta. But it’s one of those companies that has been behind the scenes enabling businesses to process credit and debit card payments, as well as issue their own.

By taking a developer-centric approach to card processing, Marqeta has built a tech stack that third parties can use to solve a wide range of problems. As a result, Marqeta has been able to sign up a number of companies you have heard of as customers — including companies like DoorDash, Instacart, Kabbage and Square.

When an on-demand company like DoorDash or Instacart wants to give a debit card to its contractors to pay for the goods they buy on behalf of users, it uses Marqeta. Doing so allows those businesses to make “just-in-time” payments that match up with the cost of goods, so contractors aren’t running around with pre-paid debit cards.

Meanwhile, companies like Affirm might use Marqeta to create virtual card numbers to facilitate payments at an online vendor’s point of sale. And if you’re Square you can use Marqeta to issue a branded debit card like this one:

The company also enables marketplace platforms to disburse funds self-employed workers make, and allows other businesses to build virtual and physical corporate expense cards. All of which is to say, there are a number of ways in which Marqeta has helped other companies by building a flexible tech stack that democratizes credit and debit card processing.

It’s also done so with very little financing raised to date. Since being founded in 2010, Oakland-based Marqeta had raised just $46 million in outside funding before striking its strategic relationship with Visa. In that time, Marqeta has grown to more than 100 employees, thanks to “very significant revenues,” CEO Jason Gardner told me in a phone conversation.

The company probably could have continued funding operations off its revenues, but the chance to work with Visa was just too much to pass up. While Visa led the round, it also included participation from previous Marqeta investors Commerce Ventures, 83 North, Granite Ventures, and CommerzVentures GmbH, as well as new investor CreditEase, the world’s largest alternative lender.

Visa doesn’t invest often, but it has a pretty good track record of backing growing fintech companies like Chain, DocuSign, Klarna, LoopPay (acquired by Samsung), Square and Stripe. And when it invests, Visa does so with the intent of opening doors and helping companies grow significantly.

As it relates to Marqeta, Visa is poised to aid the company in three significant areas, according to Gardner: For one thing, the global payments company will instantly give Marqeta greater distribution by promoting its developer-centric products to Visa partners and customers. Given its global footprint, Visa also will be able to help Marqeta expand internationally. And finally, Gardner sees an opportunity for Visa and Marqeta to benefit from a technology exchange.

“We’re building things here at Marqeta that Visa can use and Visa is building things we can use,” he told me. Mostly, though, the funding and strategic partnership is about being able to take advantage of an opportunity to enter a stage of hypergrowth.

“If you look at the number of transactions happening globally, the sky’s the limit,” Gardner said. “They want to build on modern platforms and through this partnership we can provide that.”