The Spiritual Experience of Building a Company: Insights from Renato Villanueva

By Bryant Barr


With a wealth of experience from his time at Divvy, where he played a key role in the company’s incredible growth and successful acquisition, Renato Villanueva deeply understands what it takes to build and scale a thriving business. At Parallel, he’s creating powerful tools and cultivating a team driven by a relentless desire to win. Join us as we dive into Renato’s journey, his insights on leadership, and what fuels his passion for empowering startups to make better financial decisions from day one.

We led Parallel’s pre-seed round in 2023, aligning with their vision for how finance teams should be viewed as teammates rather than support staff. Recently, we asked Renato a few questions about learning from excellent founders, finance, and Parallel.

What’s your most proud moment as a founder? 

Renato: Back in 2014, at the start of my career, I heard the CEO of Adobe say, “You don’t have to be a founder to be an entrepreneur.” Something about that stood out to me, and it didn’t click until I was at Divvy. Starting as one of the early employees, seeing the company scale, having to build along the way. I felt like an entrepreneur every day that I was there, and celebrating the BILL acquisition of Divvy has to be at the top of the list. Seeing a company go from < $1M in revenue to $400M+ was such a surreal experience, and playing a role in that is something I look back and reflect on daily.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned in building Parallel?

Renato: I’ve learned that you need the combination of the right people and that they are working on the right thing. You can have the right people, have them working on the wrong thing, and think you have the wrong people. I’ve learned what it means to have a team, find what it is that they are hoping to get out of working here and learn how to lift them from where they are at. I knew the team was important at Divvy, but I wasn’t the one who assembled it or really decided what was the most important thing to work on. But learning how critical that is has been super eye-opening.

What keeps you up at night?

Renato: I listened to Blake Murray (CEO & Co-Founder of Divvy) talk about how building a company was almost a spiritual experience that was about bringing that part of himself out and learning who he was in the process. What keeps me up at night is thinking about what else I need to either sacrifice or learn to bring that out of myself and the team. I’ve made a bet on each of them, and they’ve bet on me as a leader.

On the other hand, you could say competition, you could say are we building the right thing etc, but for me, all that comes with the above.

What was your motivation for starting Parallel?

Renato: What we did as a finance team at Divvy was truly special, and it left me wondering: What if every company in the world could have a finance team by their side from Day 1? How much better could their decision-making be?

But much of the motivation comes from an internal desire to build a company and a team. I remember when I first attended a company meeting at Qualtrics. Seeing Ryan Smith gather over 400 people for one cause was the most amazing experience, and I felt I had that ability.

Why Parallel?

Renato: Parallel makes financial modeling and decision-making easy. We know everyone spends money daily, and even more so on a company basis, and there tend to be many things that get missed. Most commonly, founders tend to underestimate burn. At Divvy, our job was to make it so leaders could win. That would mean protecting them by showing them the bridge between where they wanted to spend their money and the outcome they were hoping for, and we’ve learned a lot of companies don’t do this.

What’s the most important trait you look for when hiring someone to the Parallel team?

Renato: A desire to win. There are so many people excited about start-ups for the wrong reasons that sound right a lot of the time. They join for the chance to wear multiple hats. They join for the swag. They join for the events or whatever else movies like the Social Network or Blackberry make it seem like. But I don’t want someone excited about being at a start-up. I want someone who knows that the goal isn’t to be a start-up but to become a company used by thousands and thousands of customers. Our company value is that we are winning, not competing. So we are looking for someone who understands that we aren’t here to “play” start-ups, but we are here to win.

What are the top 3 apps used on your phone today?


Learn more about Renato at and connect with Renato on LinkedIn.