In January, business travel and spending management platform TripActions reeled in a Series E round of $155 million that boosted the company’s valuation to a whopping $5 billion. To date, the Palo Alto, California-based startup has raised more than $790 million in funding.
One of the executives helping propel TripActions’ impressive growth is Ipsheeta Furtado, director of financial operations at TripActions Liquid, the startup’s fintech offering for corporate travel payments and expenses. Customers of TripActions Liquid include Lyft, Wayfair and Zoom.
Furtado joined TripActions in June 2019, following stints as head of operations at Divvy Homes and as co-founder and CEO of Fluid Financial, a provider of financial services for small businesses. She earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics from the University of California, Berkeley.
FinLedger spoke with Furtado about the growth of TripActions Liquid, the “bro culture” in the tech sector, her advice for women in fintech and more.
You oversee financial operations for TripActions Liquid. What does TripActions Liquid do, and how does it stand out from competitors’ offerings?
TripActions Liquid is TripActions’ all-in-one payments and expense solution that gives finance teams real-time spend visibility and control, empowering them to drive cost savings, productivity and compliance.
With TripActions Liquid, proactive policies are built into smart virtual and physical cards so that expense management is automated from swipe to reconciliation — whether employees are paying for travel, routine expenses, on-the-spot purchases or recurring subscriptions.
Since spend controls are automatically enforced at the point of purchase, finance teams can prevent out-of-policy spend while streamlining approval flows and eliminating expense reports. Through granular, interactive dashboards and enterprise resource planning (ERP) integrations, finance teams get a single real-time view of all business spending to make smarter decisions.
How do you plan to grow TripActions Liquid over the next couple of years?
We have already experienced so much growth. In the first year, monthly expense volume across TripActions Liquid grew 599x. This year, TripActions Liquid has averaged 41% month-over-month growth in spend volume. It’s been an exciting journey so far, and as we begin to see a return to in-person events and business travel, corporate travel spending will only continue to ramp up.
Looking forward, we have plans to grow our footprint geographically, but that all starts with creating a seamless solution that reduces friction while increasing transparency and communication between administrators — travel managers and finance teams — and employees.
How did you become interested in working in fintech?
Earlier in my career, I ran a product consultancy that served clients primarily in the education, medical and financial sectors. I wanted to help build technology solutions for businesses that truly impacted people’s lives. My guiding light was — and continues to be — helping communities and creating a positive impact. The fintech industry has a unique advantage in that, whether you’re working on the B2B or B2C side, you’re able to work on products and services that create a large impact on communities and individuals.
So many fintech businesses are led by men. What do you think should be done to increase the number of women leaders in fintech?
Coming from an engineering discipline in school, my personal experience has always been shaped by being a minority. The advantage of this is that I know a ton of fintech businesses led by women! I’ve even had the opportunity to be part of those teams — notably Divvy Homes, which recently reached unicorn status. That said, it takes courageous founders, dedicated investors and outspoken financial institutions to continue to recognize and support women in fintech.
What’s so cool about my role at TripActions Liquid is that I’ve been able to recruit and train people who don’t come from finance or engineering backgrounds and to develop their knowledge and expertise in the payments industry. Financial operations is an awesome field where systems-oriented thinking and masterful communication are key components to making sure the financial service runs smoothly.
Finally, I think it’s critical to reshape the reputation of the financial industry. There are innovators from all backgrounds and creeds building amazing solutions across fintech verticals. There’s too much opportunity to do good through fintech to normalize “tech bro” culture or companies driven by greed or predatory practices. There needs to be an increased focus on creating a welcoming community that offers support, resources and educational tools, and is — above all — approachable.
What advice can you offer to women who might be interested in fintech careers or who are trying to advance their fintech careers?
Build relationships with people in the industry, especially those who’ve dedicated their careers to companies you think are exciting or even whose tweets you find humorous. My advice would be to push aside shyness and reach out, whether the ask is for suggested reading materials or feedback on an idea you want to pursue as a startup of your own.
Personally, I’ve found that people, especially those from technology disciplines, within the fintech ecosystem are willing to have deep conversations about complex topics. Reach out via social channels and attend events — even virtual conferences. A network not only helps in skill-sharing and job recommendations but also in developing your support system.
This Q&A has been edited to read clearly and concisely.