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  • Writer's pictureAnli Valdez

FinTech Female Fridays: Meet Tess Bloch, Co-Founder, Operations at Spade

Tess is a co-founder of Spade, where she leads operations, finance, sales, and people teams. Since co-founding Spade, Tess has grown the company headcount 5X, set up key systems and processes, and helped take the company through its latest fundraise. Being in operations means her role is constantly changing as the needs of the teams and company evolve. On any given day, Tess could be a sales engineer, a recruiter, or an event planner. To ensure she can best fill these roles, she constantly learns about various topics by reading up on materials, talking to experts in their respective industries, and listening to her instincts. 

Prior to Spade, Tess worked at various renowned companies where she gained valuable skills and industry knowledge. Her passion for fintech began during her freshman year at Stanford when she interned for Venmo. Having enjoyed the experience, she even took time off to work full-time during her junior year of college. After graduating, Tess went on to work for McKinsey & Company in London, before moving back into fintech at a leading income and employment API company called Pinwheel. At Pinwheel, she started out as the Chief of Staff before becoming Head of Operations. Tess’ experience at fintechs allowed her to see firsthand that merchant intelligence was critical to the future of finance. This realization drove her to create Spade with the intention of bringing enriched transaction data to the card ecosystem. 

Spade is the card ecosystem's fastest and most accurate provider of real-time merchant intelligence. The company helps fintech and financial institution customers such as Mercury, Sardine, and Unit improve their data to authorize more transactions, create innovative card products, and enhance fraud detection. Spade is the only provider that can power an authorization flow with a p99 of under 50ms and only transaction enrichment API backed by real data. The company’s mission is to enable innovators 

within the card issuing space to build the future of finance through cleaner, richer, more actionable data. Spade’s culture values empathy, curiosity, collaboration, fun, and inclusion as the company works together to create a fairer, safer, and more accessible financial system powered by meaningful data. 

Throughout her career, Tess has been purposeful about the companies she chooses to work for, selecting ones with missions that she believes will have long-lasting and positive impacts on the world of finance: Venmo as a global payments pioneer, Pinwheel for unlocking the connectivity to consumer-permissioned income and employment data, and now Spade, which will entirely reshape how card authorization decisions are made. Tess views co-founding Spade as her best career decision so far, but it was not without its challenges and doubts. Tess initially held internalized biases about what a good founder looked like. However, her co-founders and mentors helped her to realize that her operator skillset is uniquely valuable for a startup’s founding team. Building a company, team, and culture has been incredibly rewarding for Tess, and while it is not always easy, it is something she is excited to be able to do every day.

Tess views 2024 as a big year for fintech. In 2023, the industry started to see the impact of AI and large language models, but this year, she expects the use of these models to increase, accompanied by increased scrutiny — particularly on the data used to train the models. She is especially excited about the opportunity for Spade to help companies differentiate on data quality, and to capture the opportunity presented by AI. 

More on Tess

Where you currently live: NYC

Living arrangement: I live in a New York apartment with a rotating roster of roommates …my foster dogs (and full-time cat)!  

Hometown: NYC

Favorite hobby: Being a foster (dog) mom. Currently, I have a 9lb chihuahua dachshund mix, and while I’m typically a bigger dog person, I love him! I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to plug the fantastic organization that I work with: Friends With Four Paws

Favorite show to binge: Nowadays, anything Bravo – special shoutout to previous Fintech Female Fridays guest Lauren Crossett for getting me started on Bravo. 

Favorite fintech media (blog, podcast, newsletter etc) that inspires you: Since we work in the card-issuing space, I love Matthew Goldman’s CardsFTW. 

What is one piece of advice someone told you that resonated with you that can be given to other women in FinTech?     

I feel very fortunate for the great companies I’ve been able to work at. However, for a long time, I let that feeling of gratitude dictate how I made decisions about my career. I accepted lower compensation, higher workloads, and even sometimes treatment that I shouldn’t have because I just felt lucky to be somewhere. Finally, a mentor sat me down and told me, “You’re creating impact and solving problems, and you have to start recognizing how lucky your company is to have you.”  That sentiment totally changed my mindset and gave me more assurance to ask for what I deserved. It’s always important to be appreciative of important opportunities, but it’s equally important to ensure that you’re recognized accordingly for what you bring to the table. 

What is the most important lesson you have learned from a mistake you’ve made in the past? 

Give and ask for feedback early and often. It can seem scary, but feedback is a gift, especially constructive feedback. It’s a two-way street, so if you don’t ask, you may not receive it, and if you don’t give it, you’re not helping the people around you. 

Do you have any productivity hacks?  What keeps you motivated? How do you maintain a work/life balance? 

My team and the people around me keep me motivated. I find energy from them and want to do everything I can to help them succeed. On the work-life balance front, some days are better than others! I try to make some time every day for myself, even if it’s just cooking a meal or watching an episode of reality TV. 

Daily Diary

7:30 AM: Alarm goes off (a few times)

7:45 AM: Get out of bed and walk my foster dog

8:00 AM: Make breakfast – my favorite meal of the day! 

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM: Catch up on emails, slacks, and prep for the day (the benefit of a distributed team with people on the West Coast means not jumping into meetings right away)

10:00 AM - 12:30 PM: Most of my morning is made up of calls. This can range from interviews, to sales calls, or internal 1:1s, and even QBRs or vendor conversations. Typically it’s a mix of all of the aforementioned people, so I do a lot of context switching. In between, I stay on top of my slacks (whether questions from my team or the latest posts in my favorite channel, #fun-pets-and-kids) and emails. I try to leave short breaks between meetings to help with this since I don’t want to be blocking anyone. 

12:30 PM: Lunch - if I’m in the office, usually a BLT from the nearby bodega. At home, I try to be a bit healthier and typically meal prep or eat leftovers.

1:00 PM - 6:00 PM: Alternating between uninterrupted work blocks (one of the benefits of working at an early stage company!) and more calls. As an operational leader marching into a new fiscal year, an “uninterrupted work block” can mean a variety of things; annual planning, updating the financial model, prepping QBRs, creating our performance and comp review processes, analyzing redlines on EOY deals, reviewing resumes, planning for new hire onboarding, and everything in between.

6:00 PM: Break for dinner - If I’m not going out with friends, I try to cook!

7:00 PM: I might sign back online to tie up some loose ends, attend a networking event, or meet up with my friends.

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1 Comment

wayne kunde
wayne kunde
Jul 09

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