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Founder of $14B startup Bolt calls Silicon Valley ‘boys club’ full of ‘mob bosses’

The founder of a tech company now valued at $14 billion told The Post that navigating the startup world of Silicon Valley is like dealing with a “boys club” full of “mob bosses.” Ryan Breslow built payments company Bolt from the ground up — and it now competes with the likes of Stripe, Square and Clover. But the 27-year-old Breslow isn’t your typical tech bro basking in success. He’s now hitting out at just how difficult he says it was to get funding for his firm, which lets people pay for purchases at some 3,500 online retailers with one click. He told The Post that bigwigs of venture capital in Silicon Valley who had backed one of his biggest competitors, the $95 billion online payments colossus Stripe, acted like “mob bosses” and threw up obstacles when it came to investors interested in his company. He singled out venture capital heavyweights — and Stripe backers — Sequoia and Y Combinator — in a Twitter post last week that sent tongues wagging. And he told The Post this week that Stripe used its institutional muscle in Silicon Valley to dissuade investors from backing Bolt, which he started in 2014 and which now has 10 million users. “We were doing something pretty revolutionary and for some reason couldn’t get anybody to invest that was a brand name,” he said. “And so we would literally have investors come to me and say, ‘Hey, we talked to some folks at Stripe and we think we’re going to pass.’” Breslow claimed that investors were spooked at giving his firm money for fear of antagonizing Stripe. “Their name would come up constantly as investors would go and back-channel,” he contended. Stripe, Y Combinator and Sequoia didn’t immediately return requests for comment from The Post, but some tech observers took issue with Breslow’s comments and his characterization of the venture capital scene. Garry Tan, a tech investor, defended Y Combinator and Stripe, noting that Y Combinator has funded firms that have been in direct competition with Stripe. “Come on Ryan,” Tan wrote. “How about competing with good product?” But Breslow is sticking to his guns. On the potential investors, Breslow said: “It was almost like because we were in payments, they felt they needed to call Stripe either to get permission to invest, or get their take on us, and they would go from saying they want to invest to either disappearing or saying they don’t want to invest anymore.” On the surface, Breslow has plenty of reasons to be satisfied. He is the largest shareholder of the company, which is privately held, that was recently valued at $14 billion. Bolt also just concluded a Series E funding round with $355 million committed by investors like BlackRock and Activant Capital. And earlier this month, Bolt basked in the glow of positive press when it announced it has permanently shifted to a four-day work week. Meanwhile, Breslow revealed to The Post that he plans to promote Maju Kuruvilla, Amazon’s former head of global logistics, to the position of chief executive officer just a year after hiring him away from the online retail giant. According to Breslow, Bolt also plans to expand its work force in San Francisco from its present level of 600 employees to three times that amount by the end of the year. Breslow said, there are no plans to take the company public, though he said that could come sometime down the line. For the moment, Breslow he says he is on a mission to “empower the next generation” of tech entrepreneurs and make them aware of “the games that go on behind closed doors” so that they won’t be “naive as to what they’re going up against” and be “severely disadvantaged” as a result. “I wouldn’t do the things that Stripe is doing, but that’s their choice,” Breslow said of what he claims were Stripe and its investors’ hard-edged tactics. “But the world needs to know how fierce they are so that when somebody gives up their life to come to Silicon Valley and start a fintech company, they know what they’re up against.”

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