Software Development
Apps / Business / Business development / Digital access / Finance

In the midst of DC’s funding craze, this Virginia founder says not to skip out on fintech infrastructure

Rize founder Justin Howell breaks down the potential for fintech in 2022.

Rize at a Money 20/20 event in 2021. (Photo via @rizefs_ on Twitter)
The DC area found no shortage of funding in 2021, with billions of dollars floating around every quarter. But venture capital isn’t the only money moving in the DMV: Financial technology has made a splash over the past few years, for both large entities and consumer models.

With this growth, though, one founder thinks that there’s still one area that needs to grow: the back-end infrastructure to help fintech founders build their financial platforms.

“This is a complicated business that involves underlying institutions, payment reels, compliance schemes,” Rize CEO and cofounder Justin Howell told “Our job is to take all that hairball wax, put it in the background and make sure that our clients are really having a very easy experience of understanding what their role is in this stuff and how they build against the platform.”

But Arlington, Virginia’s Rize didn’t start off on this path. When he and cofounder Kirk Voltz started the company in 2016, its beginnings were as a fintech platform designed to help people save money. But along the way, the pair figured out that in order to develop a great fintech product, you need a strong infrastructure to back it up. And after they built a successful one for themselves, in 2019 they decided to pivot the business to focus on building a fintech-specific infrastructure platform for use by other companies, officially completing the pivot in 2021.

Howell compares it to the fintech version of Shopify or Amazon Web Services, which power a large number of ecommerce and content giants.

“We’re effectively doing in fintech infrastructure what, say, AWS did to internet cloud or Shopify has done in ecommerce, which is to really make the infrastructure ubiquitous,” Howell said. “So, if you’re a builder, you don’t have to think about it. You can actually just focus on building the right product, the right end-user experience.”

Rize’s background as a fintech app (which covered in 2017), Howell said, perfectly positions it to be the company developing financial technology for other companies. Given its past, he thinks Rize’s team knows the exact problem areas and needs of the industry.

“You can’t really build fintech infrastructure correctly unless you’ve been down in the trenches earning a lot of scar tissue and really seeing, where are things broken?” Howell said.

Justin Howell. (Courtesy photo)

In 2021, Howell said Rize had a strong year of growth in its move to be an infrastructure company. The company grew to 40 people, double its size in 2020, with plenty of demand from fellow fintech founders. In October, the company also raised $11.4 million in a Series A round co-led by Alpha Edison and Morpheus Ventures, which Howell said was key for growth.

In the coming year, Howell said Rize will be working on perfecting its infrastructure platform and expanding its available capabilities. He’s hoping to move the company into not only core banking abilities, but also provide assets for brokerages.

“Fintech is having a moment right now. I think 2021 was the year, and really across the pandemic or the last 18-plus months, is when there’s been this massive acceleration,” Howell said. “I think it’s 100% clear now that fintech is not a passing fad.”

With the strong amount of money put toward the fintech industry in the past 18 months, Howell thinks that investors are “starting to recognize the potential size of the pie” in the financial services industry. As a result, he noted that they’re putting even more money towards the marketplace, and with the growing need, infrastructure will only be more vital.

“If you’re going to build a long-term, sustainable fintech business, you’ve got to surround customers with a much wider, seamlessly integrated set of products and experiences to keep around for long time, and infrastructure makes that easier,” Howell said.

Companies: Rize

Before you go...

Please consider supporting to keep our independent journalism strong. Unlike most business-focused media outlets, we don’t have a paywall. Instead, we count on your personal and organizational support.

3 ways to support our work:
  • Contribute to the Journalism Fund. Charitable giving ensures our information remains free and accessible for residents to discover workforce programs and entrepreneurship pathways. This includes philanthropic grants and individual tax-deductible donations from readers like you.
  • Use our Preferred Partners. Our directory of vetted providers offers high-quality recommendations for services our readers need, and each referral supports our journalism.
  • Use our services. If you need entrepreneurs and tech leaders to buy your services, are seeking technologists to hire or want more professionals to know about your ecosystem, has the biggest and most engaged audience in the mid-Atlantic. We help companies tell their stories and answer big questions to meet and serve our community.
The journalism fund Preferred partners Our services

Join our growing Slack community

Join 5,000 tech professionals and entrepreneurs in our community Slack today!


The Trump rally shooter perched on a building owned by American Glass Research. Here’s everything we know about it.

Quantum computing could be the next hot tech — if only that breakthrough would come

Here’s how the global tech outage impacted many of the vital systems across the mid-Atlantic region

New tech hub Station DC is launching with a $2M government grant

Technically Media