Checkout startup Fast is shutting down, the company’s CEO said in statements posted on the company's website Tuesday, abruptly shuttering a business that had lured $124 million in investments since its founding three years ago.
“After making great strides on our mission of making buying and selling frictionless for everyone, we have made the difficult decision to close our doors,” Fast CEO Domm Holland said in the statements. “While you’ll no longer see the Fast button at checkout, we are incredibly proud of the team we assembled and our work to democratize commerce through Fast’s one-click checkout experience.”
A spokesperson for San Francisco-based Fast did not respond to requests for comment beyond sharing a statement from Holland (there were two nearly identical statements posted on the company's web site for different audiences).
In a message to sellers on Fast’s website, Holland wrote the company "will permanently discontinue service of Fast Checkout on April 15" and will try to “make this uninstalling/offboarding process as seamless as possible.”
The company’s downfall was swift, following a report last week from the trade publication The Information that Fast was exploring a sale after attempts to raise more capital were unsuccessful. The publication also reported last week that Holland had told prospective investors the company planned to lay off hundreds of staffers.
In an interview with Payments Dive in January, Holland said that the company had nearly 400 employees. It had grown quickly since its founding in 2019, thanks partly to the capital infusion from investors. Holland also said at that time that the company might seek another round of funding this year as he spearheaded growth.
Not even three months later, those plans have evaporated. Holland said in the Tuesday statement that he’d be “forever grateful to the Fast team, our investors and the sellers who shared our vision for improving the system of buying online.”
Stripe, Index Ventures were Fast investors
The startup had been backed by digital payments darling Stripe and Index Ventures; neither responded to requests for comment Tuesday. Stripe led a $20 million round of investing in Fast in March 2020, and a $102 million investment round in January 2021.
Stripe itself has landed capital investments quickly. Founded by two Irish brothers, with dual headquarters in Dublin and San Francisco, Stripe raised $600 million last year, giving a $95 billion valuation. An earlier notable investor in Fast was Index Ventures, which also invested in the fintechs Revolut, Adyen and Plaid, among others.
The speed of Fast's fundraising stands out even among Silicon Valley's successes, said Jeff Fortney, a senior associate at payments consulting firm The Strawhecker Group. "The guy’s a great salesman," Fortney said of Holland. "He sold Fast fast.”
That can create an aura that attracts other investors, Fortney said. “Sometimes investors will say 'Look Stripe’s invested in it—it must be good,'” Fortney said in an interview. Now, he's wondering, "Where was Stripe in all this?"
Plenty of competition
Fast faced rivals that similarly soaked big investments. One of them was San Francisco-based competitor Bolt, whose CEO blasted Fast in a Twitter tirade in January. Bolt CEO Ryan Breslow unleashed a Twitter thread calling out global payments fintech Stripe and startup accelerator Y Combinator for making his company's start difficult and singling out Fast for criticism.
They're not the only startups in the checkout arena going at each other. Checkout.com and Rapyd are also vying for merchant customers in the rush to sell digital payment tools that ensued with an e-commerce surge spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, Holland asserted that his company was rising above the fray. In the January interview, he said investors "are really pleased" with the company's progress. Fast had grown "over 650% as a company, and this year we’ll grow even more, as a percentage," he said at that time.
He also said Fast's checkout services were available on about 1,000 e-commerce sites and contended Fast was outpacing checkout rival Bolt "in virtually every way."
Some Fast employees headed to Affirm
The “vast majority” of Fast’s engineers are being offered the chance to work at buy now-pay later provider Affirm, according to Affirm Spokesperson Matt Gross. He declined to comment on how the arrangement came to be and wouldn’t specify how many of the workers were being absorbed.
“We look forward to welcoming many of Fast’s talented engineers to Affirm,” Gross said.
A Fast employee in a non-engineering role who requested anonymity said employees would be paid through Friday. Still, he noted they had already lost access to Fast's work systems.
The employee, who joined Fast in February along with more than a dozen other new hires, said it appeared any employees not within the engineering department were on their own to find new jobs. “That’s just absolutely crazy, that they were continuing to hire when they were sub-two months away from being acquired-slash-running out of money,” the employee said.
Within the last week, “we all kind of knew,” the employee said. Staffers shared their concerns in Slack channels regarding rumors circulating, and compensation adjustments kept being pushed back, the employee said. On Friday, a senior vice president hinted to staffers they should update resumes, the employee said.
“I hold no ill will towards any person in the company besides basically the CEO," the employee said.
Fast CEO turns to Twitter
Holland took to Twitter to expand on his company statement, saying “Start-ups fail for many reasons, of which Fast obviously was not immune." He added: "But decisions made that lead (sic) to this outcome which I take responsibility for…”
He also praised Fast employees and encouraged others to hire the startup’s staffers.
As recently as March 28, Fast announced it had partnered with The Honest Company to place its one-click checkout option on that marketplace's website, referring to itself as "the world's fastest online checkout experience."
In his letter to sellers Tuesday, Holland suggested those looking for a replacement turn to Shopify. "If you're looking to continue improving conversion rates with one-click checkout, we encourage you to explore Shopify's platform at Shopify.com," the company website post said.
Clarification: The article was updated to reflect Affirm's spokesperson having referred to welcoming "many" of Fast's engineers.