Welcome to our Member Spotlight series where we give a profile overview of our many diverse members. For this deep dive, we spoke to Ben Cukier and Eric Byunn, Co-Founding Partners of Centana Growth Partners.
Tell us about your firm. What makes it different?
Founded in 2015, Centana Growth Partners is a specialized growth equity firm investing in the future of finance. We collaborate with companies across the entire financial services ecosystem, from institutions to fintech disruptors, to add strategic and long-term value to our portfolio companies.
The Centana team has decades of deep sector-specific expertise, from investing in, partnering with, and working for companies in financial services, fintech, and related enterprise software. With this experience comes our highly relevant strategic network. Centana not only empowers entrepreneurs with capital, but we connect our partners to a diverse community of industry influencers to accelerate their growth.
Our thematic investment approach targets rapidly growing companies in our core sectors: asset management, insurance, banking, wealth management, payments, capital markets, as well as fintech and enterprise software companies that sell into these verticals.
Our team has a tried-and-true formula for finding the real change-makers among the noise. We draw on our relevant sector experience, theme-based sourcing and industry network to help our investments spur existing growth.
Where did your firm’s name come from?
We wanted a name that would connect with the future of financial services. The name is inspired by the word “Cetana” which is a Buddhist term that means intention – a mental factor that moves the mind towards a goal. The word “cent” brings a connotation with finance and fintech. Together, the roots of our name are about how we help empower finance and fintech companies to move towards their goals.
What defines your portfolio?
We partner with entrepreneurs who are tackling complex problems and generating real value in the financial services industry. We look for growing companies with meaningful customer traction, good unit economics, and a talented management team that values collaborative partnership. Our portfolio companies consist of financial services, fintech and enterprise software companies that sell into financial verticals (e.g. banking, insurance, closely related areas like digital identity) and demonstrate historical and ongoing growth. They are forward-thinking companies that are challenging the status quo, but also understand the complex financial services ecosystem in which they are participating.
How is the firm different today than when you first started?
Since our inception, the Centana team has grown – in size and reach – while staying true to our agility and focus. We remain deeply committed to listening to entrepreneurs, understanding their companies’ needs, and helping our portfolio companies accelerate their growth. We founded Centana because we recognized how rapidly the financial services industry is evolving and adapting to new economic, regulatory, and innovative technological realities. We look to support the companies driving this change. Our unique investment approach – and ability to look past the hype – has brought us substantial growth as a firm. In just five years, we’ve forged partnerships with over ten portfolio companies, realized our first exit, and raised an oversubscribed second fund of $375 million. This growth has enabled us to expand our network and deepen support for companies that value our unique approach to investing.
Why is your firm a part of NVCA?
At Centana, we understand the value of network and being connected with industry influencers. Being part of NVCA, one of the most collaborative and significant platforms for VCs, allows us to invest and collaborate alongside like-minded peers, share best practices and look to build valuable companies solving some of the biggest challenges in industries. Furthermore, NVCA membership helps us stay at the forefront of thinking on topics of importance to the entrepreneurial and venture community.
Tell us about the current VC landscape in your geography/region.
With offices in Palo Alto and New York City, our team works at the heart of entrepreneurship and investing, but we are also finding exciting companies outside these areas, because the risk-taking ethos that was originally associated with Silicon Valley has spread. We collaborate with other investors in fast-growing ecosystems, wherever they may be.
What’s ahead for your firm in 2020?
We’re always looking forward to what’s next, and we will continue to apply our thematic approach to investing in companies shaping the future of financial services. As the world transitions into a “new normal,” our team will continue to strengthen our existing partnerships, support our portfolio companies in meeting their goals, and look to invest in innovative entrepreneurs who are forging the future of finance.
Describe your firm’s culture in 5 words or less.