📣 New on Brex — business banking that takes every dollar further >

Blog

Building Brex

Evolving Brex's ...

Journal Home

Evolving Brex’s Co-CEO model

headshot photo of Henrique Dubugras

Henrique Dubugras

·

Jun 12, 2024, 5 min read

Jun 12, 2024

·

5 min read

Pedro and I started working together as co-founders when we were 16 years old, almost 12 years ago. Role definition is always a complicated topic for co-founders, but it was never complicated for us, given our complementary skillsets and the fact that we are also best friends.

We were lucky to be inspired by our early mentors, Jorge, Beto and Marcel, who have been working together for 50 years. Early on, we decided that we wanted to follow a similar path and work together for the rest of our lives. Therefore, we evolved our roles, titles, and responsibilities based on what the business needed at any given moment. We never let our egos get in the way of the business.

The origin story back in Brazil

With our first business Pagar.me, which was a payment processing company in Brazil, we both started coding. Soon, we realized that Pedro was a better engineer than I was, so I started managing everything so Pedro could focus on getting our product up and running. Then as we hired more engineers and engineering leaders, sales became the bottleneck, and Pedro took over some of my responsibilities so I could focus on selling. Turns out, the CEOs of our large customers, investors, partners, and the press wanted to meet the CEO of Pagar.me, and so we decided that my title was going to be CEO. But, we also realized that, for many reasons, it was suboptimal to have half of the organization reporting to me and the other half reporting to Pedro.

So, based on our skills and personalities, we decided that the entire company would report to Pedro. With the organization reporting to him, Pedro was also acting as a CEO, and so our Co-CEO structure was born. But instead of the traditional split of Co-CEOs responsibilities, in which one person manages a part of the organization like product and engineering and the other one manages sales and marketing, we decided to split our duties as external and internal Co-CEOs. It worked great, so at Brex, we repeated history. The upside is that we had twice as much time as other CEOs.

Pagar.me
In our first office in Brazil for Pagar.me, back in 2014

Leveraging our unique talents

Pedro had more time to lead the team to deliver amazing outcomes. These outcomes included our rapid customer adoption and support of the startup community (1 in every 3 startups uses Brex today), building our core financial infrastructure from scratch, which today allows us to have great margins and expand faster globally, and implementing scalable management systems that allowed us to scale to over 1,000 people while still moving very fast. Across the industry, Brex is known for its talent. Pedro led the entire organization over the last 6 years and got us to where we are today, with over 30k customers, from startups to 130+ public companies, with an impressive product suite across corporate cards, banking, expense management, travel, and bill pay.

While he was focusing on leading our teams, I had more time to focus on the external responsibilities, such as raising over $1.5 billion for Brex both in primary and secondary transactions from the best investors in the world, managing relationships with banking partners and regulators, building our brand not only in Silicon Valley but across the world through great marketing and PR, personally selling to our largest customer at any moment in time, and developing relationships and friendships with an amazing network of invaluable board members, like Micky Malka, Anu Hariharan, Neil Mehta, Dalton Caldwell, Victor Lazarte, Saurabh Gupta, Thasunda Duckett, and mentors such as Jeff Weiner, Bill McDermott, Nikesh Arora, Matt Mochary, Paul Daversa, Emil Michael, Max Levchin, Peter Thiel, and many more.

The best model for today

Each of us had our own responsibilities, but as good co-founders and Co-CEOs, we made many decisions together. This worked extremely well when we were smaller, but naturally became harder as we grew. As organizations become larger and more complex, it is increasingly important to get clear on accountability and ownership. As we implemented Brex 3.0 and start getting closer to an eventual IPO, the business requires us to evolve our model again. We’ve decided to move to a more traditional Chairman / CEO model. Today I will be assuming the role of Chairman of the Board, and Pedro will become the sole CEO of Brex.

I remain as committed as ever to our mission, investors, and team. In fact, I am so committed that – just as with prior evolutions of our roles – I am making this change because this is what the business is requiring from both of us. We are adapting to a more agile decision-making model by having a single CEO. Pedro will keep running the business the same way he has been over the last 6 years, just with more agility. I will keep many of my external responsibilities and from my new vantage point I will help Pedro become an even more successful leader and CEO.

But the most important part is my relationship with Pedro. It transcends what you’d expect from typical co-founder relationships. We’re best friends. We were fortunate enough to find each other at a very young age, and grow together – professionally and personally – over the past decade. We built a company together, moved to the US together for college, built another company together, lived together, built a friend group together, and Pedro even officiated my wedding last year. My wife still jokes about who I was actually marrying in this photo. :)

Pedro officiates Henrique's wedding
Pedro officiating my wedding in Brazil in 2023

Looking back at the last six years of Brex, the most important thing we have built is our relationship. This transition is just another iteration of what we started 12 years ago, and I hope it continues for the next 12 years to come. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend and partner with whom to build Brex, and to share the most important moments of our lives together.

Onwards!
Henrique