Fintech

A fintech executive’s message to Silicon Valley: ‘Get a grip’

Simon Khalaf, Marqeta’s new chief product officer, thinks crypto products have wandered away from consumer realities.

A photograph of Simon Khalaf, the new chief product officer of Marqeta

“Rather than shrinking the gap between ambition and reality, we went further and further into la-la land,” Khalaf told Protocol.

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Simon Khalaf, Marqeta’s new chief product officer, said the downturn, particularly the crypto crash, made him think twice about taking the job.

But he decided a time of turmoil was a good occasion to join the payments pioneer.

“This is the best time to build,” Khalaf, who began his role in late June, told Protocol. “In a downturn, the need for innovation doesn’t go away. This is the best time to be here.”

Marqeta announced Thursday that Khalaf was replacing Kevin Doerr, who left in September last year. Khalaf previously served as Twilio’s senior vice president in charge of the communications technology company’s core products.

A tech industry veteran, Khalaf had also served as an executive at major companies, including Yahoo and Verizon. “This is, like, my third decade, and I've seen some downturns and two waves of the internet,” he told Protocol.

Khalaf joined Marqeta at a time when the payments company, which went public a year ago, has also taken a hit from the market slide. Marqeta’s stock has fallen more than 50% this year. The company is a major player in fintech as a pioneer in card-issuing technology, but it also faces heightened competition from rivals like SoFi’s Galileo.

Khalaf said the current economic slump caused him to hesitate in taking the job. He pointed to the crypto crash as “something that gave me pause,” as Marqeta has steadily expanded in that market.

But Marqeta isn’t betting on crypto prices or depending on trading revenue. It’s providing tools to crypto companies, fintechs and banks to help make it easier to convert fiat to crypto and back. One of Marqeta’s biggest customers, Block, previously known as Square, has also made a sharp pivot to crypto; Marqeta issues cards for Block’s Cash App users and Square sellers.

The crypto industry has taken a major hit from a price crash that erased about $2 trillion in the value of all cryptocurrencies in the last seven months.

That crash has underlined crypto’s failures, Khalaf said. “The two products that we promised — as a form of payment on the internet or as a stable asset class — have failed,” he said. But “it does not mean that going forward crypto is going to fail.”

Khalaf said crypto will be a “pillar” in Marqeta’s aim to develop products that offer “instant and on-demand access to money.” There are “trillions of dollars in the existing monetary system and payments — whether it's cross-border between consumers and businesses — that can be optimized,” he said.

“I do believe crypto will play a huge role in this,” he said. “The killer app has not materialized. Honestly, the crash will teach us … we’ll learn a lot from this, and then we'll be able to come up with a killer app.”

Crypto failed because the industry went after ideas that did not fit into reality, Khalaf argued. “In the last 18 months, we started talking about NFTs, DAOs, metaverse, while you are in inflation, you're in a supply chain squeeze, the tightest labor market and a war, right?” he said. “Rather than shrinking the gap between ambition and reality, we went further and further into la-la land.”

It made him want to say, “'Hey, Silicon Valley, get a grip. Come down to reality and solve real-world problems.'”

Khalaf will have an opportunity to do that at Marqeta.

Fintech

Binance’s co-founder could remake its crypto deal-making

Yi He is overseeing a $7.5 billion portfolio, with more investments to come, making her one of the most powerful investors in the industry.

Binance co-founder Yi He will oversee $7.5 billion in assets.

Photo: Binance

Binance co-founder Yi He isn’t as well known as the crypto giant’s colorful and controversial CEO, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao.

That could soon change. The 35-year-old executive is taking on a new, higher-profile role at the world’s largest crypto exchange as head of Binance Labs, the company’s venture capital arm. With $7.5 billion in assets to oversee, that instantly makes her one of the most powerful VC investors in crypto.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Sponsored Content

How cybercrime is going small time

Blockbuster hacks are no longer the norm – causing problems for companies trying to track down small-scale crime

Cybercrime is often thought of on a relatively large scale. Massive breaches lead to painful financial losses, bankrupting companies and causing untold embarrassment, splashed across the front pages of news websites worldwide. That’s unsurprising: cyber events typically cost businesses around $200,000, according to cybersecurity firm the Cyentia Institute. One in 10 of those victims suffer losses of more than $20 million, with some reaching $100 million or more.

That’s big money – but there’s plenty of loot out there for cybercriminals willing to aim lower. In 2021, the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received 847,376 complaints – reports by cybercrime victims – totaling losses of $6.9 billion. Averaged out, each victim lost $8,143.

Keep Reading Show less
Chris Stokel-Walker

Chris Stokel-Walker is a freelance technology and culture journalist and author of "YouTubers: How YouTube Shook Up TV and Created a New Generation of Stars." His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian and Wired.

Policy

Trump ordered social media visa screening. Biden's defending it.

The Knight First Amendment Institute just lost a battle to force the Biden administration to provide a report on the collection of social media handles from millions of visa applicants every year.

Visa applicants have to give up any of their social media handles from the past five years.

Photo: belterz/Getty Images

Would you feel comfortable if a U.S. immigration official reviewed all that you post on Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter or even YouTube? Would it change what you decide to post or whom you talk to online? Perhaps you’ve said something critical of the U.S. government. Perhaps you’ve jokingly threatened to whack someone.

If you’ve applied for a U.S. visa, there’s a chance your online missives have been subjected to this kind of scrutiny, all in the name of keeping America safe. But three years after the Trump administration ordered enhanced vetting of visa applications, the Biden White House has not only continued the program, but is defending it — despite refusing to say if it’s had any impact.

Keep Reading Show less
Anna Kramer

Anna Kramer is a reporter at Protocol (Twitter: @ anna_c_kramer, email: akramer@protocol.com), where she writes about labor and workplace issues. Prior to joining the team, she covered tech and small business for the San Francisco Chronicle and privacy for Bloomberg Law. She is a recent graduate of Brown University, where she studied International Relations and Arabic and wrote her senior thesis about surveillance tools and technological development in the Middle East.

Policy

The US plans to block sales of older chipmaking tech to China

The Biden administration will attempt to roll back China’s chipmaking abilities by blocking tools that make a widely used type of transistor other chipmakers have employed for years.

By using a specific, fundamental building block of chip design as the basis for the overall policy, the White House hopes to both tighten existing controls and avoid the pitfalls around trying to block a generation of manufacturing technology.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

The Biden administration has for several months been working to tighten its grip on U.S. exports of technology that China needs to make advanced chips, with the goals of both hurting China’s current manufacturing ability and also blocking its future access to next-generation capabilities.

According to two people familiar with the administration’s plans, President Joe Biden’s approach is based around choking off access to the tools, software and support mechanisms necessary to manufacture a specific type of technology that is one of the fundamental building blocks of modern microchips: the transistor.

Keep Reading Show less
Max A. Cherney

Max A. Cherney is a senior reporter at Protocol covering the semiconductor industry. He has worked for Barron's magazine as a Technology Reporter, and its sister site MarketWatch. He is based in San Francisco.

Entertainment

Netflix Games had its best month yet. Here's what's next.

A closer look at the company’s nascent gaming initiative suggests big plans that could involve cloud gaming and more.

Netflix’s acquisitions in the gaming space, and clues found in a number of job listings, suggest it has big plans.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Netflix’s foray into gaming is dead on arrival — at least according to the latest headlines about the company’s first few mobile games.

“Less than 1 percent of Netflix’s subscribers are playing its games,” declared Engadget recently. The article was referencing data from app analytics company Apptopia, which estimated that on any given day, only around 1.7 million people were playing Netflix’s mobile games on average.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.

Latest Stories
Bulletins