Visa and Plaid called off their agreement this afternoon, ending the consumer credit giant’s takeover of the data-focused fintech API startup.
The deal, valued at $5.3 billion at the time of its announcement, first broke cover on January 13, 2020, or nearly one year ago to the day. However, the Department of Justice filed suit to block the deal in November of 2020, arguing that the combination would “eliminate a nascent competitive threat that would likely result in substantial savings and more innovative online debit services for merchants and consumers.”
At the time Visa argued that the government’s point of view was “flawed.”
However, today the two companies confirmed the deal is officially off. In a release Visa wrote that it could have eventually executed the deal, but that “protracted and complex litigation” would take lots of time to sort out.
It all got too hard, in other words.
Plaid was a bit more upbeat in its own notes, writing that in the last year it has seen “an unprecedented uptick in demand for the services powered by Plaid.” Given the fintech boom that 2020 saw, as consumers flocked to free stock trading apps and neobanks, that Plaid saw growth last year is not surprising. After all, Plaid’s product sits between consumers and fintech companies, so if those parties were executing more transactions, the API startup likely saw more demand for its own offerings.
TechCrunch reached out to Plaid for comment on its plans as an independent company, also asking how quickly it grew during 2020. Update: Plaid responded to TechCrunch noting that it saw 60% customer growth in 2020, bringing it to more than 4,000 clients. If we presume even moderate net dollar retention amongst its customer base, Plaid could have grown by triple-digits last year, in percentage terms.
While the Visa-Plaid deal was merely a single transaction, its scuttling doesn’t bode well for other fintech startups and unicorns that might have eyed an exit to a wealthy incumbent. The Department of Justice, in other words, may have undercut the chances of M&A exits for a number of fintech-focused startups or at least created more skittishness around that possible exit path.
If so, expected exit valuations for fintech upstarts could fall. And that could ding both fintech-focused venture capital activity, and the price at which startups in the niche can raise funds. If the Visa-Plaid deal was a huge boon to fintech companies that used it as a signpost to help raise money at new, higher valuations, the inverse may also prove true.