Synapse CEO’s Management Style Threatens Company’s Future

San Francisco-based Synapse’s CEO and co-founder, Sankaet Pathak, was inspired to create the company after coming to the U.S. from India and having difficulty opening a bank account without a social security number.

The result is a FinTech that aims to democratize financial services by making it easy for banks and other financial companies to work with developers. Since it was founded in 2014, Synapse has signed on clients including digital bank Dave, with five million-plus users, and Honey, which was recently acquired by PayPal. Right now, Synapse has close to 3 million users in the U.S., with plans to expand into Canada and Europe. 

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Last year, the company raised $33 million in venture funding in a round led by Andreessen Horowitz. To date, Synapse has raised $50 million, with other investors including Trinity Ventures and Core Innovation Capital.

“We want to make it super easy for developers to build and scale financial products and we want to do that across the spectrum of financial products,” Pathak told TechCrunch last year. 

But as Synapse found success with investors and consumers, Pathak’s management style has come under fire. A recent report in Forbes details a hostile work environment where the CEO’s short fuse leads him to fire employees—only to rehire them within minutes. In addition, Pathak has been accused of repeatedly throwing tantrums, as well as imposing odd rules such as requiring employees to take their shoes off to keep the office clean and prohibiting dairy products to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.

Last year, multiple company reviews appeared on calling Pathak verbally “abusive.” He retaliated by suing the anonymous reviewers for defamation (the case is still pending). Then in December, three former employees sued Synapse with accusations of gender and age discrimination. 

As a result, 10 of Synapse’s roughly 120 permanent employees left the company in January and February of this year. In addition to his alleged mistreatment of employees, Pathak’s unwillingness to delegate has been called a problem, leading to technical issues on the site. Synapse has reportedly lost large customers, while new customer signups appear to be slowing down.

However, there are some positive signs. One source reported that Pathak’s temper has improved, he’s delegating more and has set up a tiered management structure. Time will tell how these changes will help Synapse back on the road to success.