Category: Challenger Banks

Challenger Banks for SMBs

The first pure-play online challenger bank was Security First Network Bank. It launched in 1995 just a year after Over the next 20 years, digital bank startups would gain little traction, especially in the United States. But that changed in the latter part of the 2010s and now there are more than 250 challenger banks worldwide.

But we still haven't seen a breakout small business bank (see definition below). The digital small biz lenders are grabbing share: Kabbage (now part of AmEx), Square, Paypal, Amazon, Brex and others. But there is not a place where small businesses flock to get deposit, payment, and financing services within a single interface.

Challenger of the Month

Mercury Bank

HQ: SF  |  Founded: 2017  |  Raised $136M (including $120M in 2021)  |  Valuation: $1.7 billion | Website visits: 1.3 million/month  | Employees: 383  |  Article citations: 14  |  Linkedin: 13,700 followers | Trustpilot: 4.0 (450 reviews) | iOS app: 4.7 (760 reviews)

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There are now more than a dozen startups aggressively competing to become that spot in the United States (see Table below)

The FAB Score Ranking (Fintech Attention Barometer) is a proxy for the size of a private fintech company.

Learn MoreFAB Score*FoundedFunding $M


307SF2017$152ApplyPNG image92000012032.214000025 August 2021


297NYC2016$136Apply790,00040.71200087503534.820000025 August 2021 Francisco2019$75Apply

Relay FI

57Toronto2018$19Apply11000019.404101601500025 August 2021


44NYC2016$23Apply260,00021142300352.35100025 August 2021


72NYC2018$80Apply16000080020,00025 August 2021


167SF2018$25Apply490,0001716197712,00025 August 2021$77Apply17000145INA25 August 2021


37NYC2016$161Apply120000131.225 August 2021$5.3Applywinden logo 18NYC2020$7.9Apply$4Apply1,200 (Zions Bank)UnlaunchedUtah2022INAApplyzifi logo

Source: FintechLabs, 3 Feb 2022 with data sourced from Crunchbase, SimilarWeb and SEMrush

*FAB SCORE:  The FAB score, Fintech Attention Barometer, is a proxy for the overall size of a private company since they typically do not release traditional metrics (# customers, deposits, AUM, etc). The score is based on VC funding, website traffic, mobile downloads, and the number of employees. It's a work in progress, so expect changes in the formula.

Definition: To qualify, challengers don't necessarily need to be regulated as a bank as long as they facilitate deposits and debit/charge cards under one UI. The company must predominantly focus on small-business financial services (for example, that eliminates Paypal, Amazon, Square) delivered entirely digitally (rules out Wells Fargo, BofA, and the majority of traditional banks). We will also include divisions of traditional FIs if they operate under a separate autonomous brand, such as BBVA's Azlo (which closed earlier this year).

FAB Score*FoundedFunding $M$152$136 Francisco2019$75$19$23
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FAB Score*FoundedFunding $M
National_Funding_logoAd1999105San Diego
Clearco logo3642015682Toronto
Fundera Logo93201318.9NYC
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Last Updated: August 2021
CompanyFAB Score*FoundedFunding ($M)
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Updated June 2021
FAB Score*FoundedFunding ($M)
802017$306Wash DC
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