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This $12 Billion Startup Nearly Imploded. When the Founders Revealed Their Wild Plan to Save It, Their Team Was Like, 'Whaaat?' Brex made a corporate credit card that was a runaway success. But when they started making a bunch of other stuff, things went south. So they came up with an ambitious plan to reverse course.

By Liz Brody

This story appears in the July 2023 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When a handful of Brex executives traveled to Santa Barbara for a leadership offsite in August 2021, instead of enjoying the breezy California beaches, they filed into a windowless, subterranean hotel meeting room. There, they holed up for three days — debating, soul-searching, and hair-pulling, their stress ricocheting off the four walls around them.

They were there to save the company.

Back in 2018, before Brex came along, founders often had a problem: Because many had no personal or business credit history, they were unable to get a corporate credit card — even if they'd just raised millions of dollars. Brex became a very Silicon Valley way of solving that problem: The company was founded by two Brazilian immigrants, one 19, the other 20, who had dropped out of Stanford and practically reinvented the very nature of how a startup credit card could work. Four months after debuting their breakthrough card, they raised over $100 million and achieved unicorn status — then grew to 1,200 employees in three years. "That's when everything started breaking," says cofounder Henrique Dubugras.

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