Tuesday 1ON1: Worth AI cofounder set for next challenge


Sal Rehmetullah started to get the business itch last summer.

Having exited Orlando’s fintech unicorn Stax alongside his sister, Suneera Madhani, he was ready to explore what might come next.

“We had done a good job of life integration but it was really nice to spend time to enjoy the fruits of our labor for a bit,” he said. “But I don’t think I could just be retired. Golf is fun. Sitting on beaches is great. But it just felt like something was missing.”

That something could be Worth AI, the startup he co-founded and launched recently, about one year after he transitioned out of Stax, known as Fattmerchant when it launched.

He said that the platform, which will produce more accurate risk assessments, quicker decisions and more standardized business credit scores by assessing underwriting and risk management using AI, came after some brainstorming with Madhani.

The duo has already made a splash, having announced a partnership with credit-monitoring giant Equifax earlier this month.

Starting today, we are sharing a two-part interview with Rehmetullah that dives into the company’s origin, where the idea came from and a little bit about what it’s like to build a business with his sister. Part 2 will be published next Tuesday. NOTE: Lightly edited for brevity and clarity.


How did Worth AI come together?

Suneera had CEO School and women empowerment, specifically. She had another outlet. I did not. So, I started to think about what I wanted to do. We went into a room and were like, “We got to figure out what we want to do.”

You once again partner with your sister. How did you become so close?

I love my sister. I couldn’t build a business without my sister. Suneera and I went to 10 schools in 12 years so we bounced around a lot as children. She was my best friend throughout the process. When you’re in that situation, you learn to not only make the best but also enjoy them. That’s why we were able to do what we did.

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Why did Stax work so well with you two?

We had an amazing run with Stax and clearly its success was a collaboration with both of us. It took both of us to figure out how to win and that’s what we felt really good about. We knew we were going to do something together again, whether it was CEO School and spending more time there, I was absolutely on board. We share the same mission, vision and values as humans.

Why did Worth AI emerge as the business idea to pursue?

We wanted to focus on building a legacy. We come from immigrants and grew up in small business. One challenge has always been getting credit as a business owner.

Talk about the problem you solve with Worth AI.

There are 50 million small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S and each one struggles in some capacity to grow and scale. But you can walk into a Lexus dealership with a W-2 and a 750 credit score and buy a car in 15 minutes.

Under an LLC, it’ll take you three months of bank statements, two years of tax returns, a PNL forecast for the exact same purchase. If you do get underwritten, it’s a very cumbersome process that requires a lot of documentation and time. We said, “Why is there no business credit score?”

Where did the entrepreneurship bug come from in your family?

It goes back to our roots. You think about small businesses in the U.S., you look around and entrepreneurship is cool now. But 20 years ago, it was a necessity. When my parents came here, the American dream was college, corporate job and then buy a house. The way to make a living when you were an immigrant coming in is you had to buy or build a business.

Whether you look at the stereotypes or not, most small U.S. businesses are dominated by some style of immigrant or somebody who really wants to do it, at least historically. Now, entrepreneurship’s gotten cool and everybody wants to be a part of it.

For us, we just grew up in it, right? We always saw the struggles. Our friends and families were a big part of it. That drove a big portion of us wanting to continue to focus in that area.

You famously kept Stax in Orlando for as long as possible. What are your thoughts on Orlando’s tech scene today?

Orlando’s tech community has done a great job of continuously evolving. We still have a lot of work to do but you have the newly minted fintech program at UCF. We are trying to drive more youth and the population to this, which I think is amazing. You’re starting to see more companies want to headquarter and locate in these regions. Then the talent wants to stay here, right? These are all things that have to converge to make this area successful. We have great community leaders that make it possible for you to scale a business here. We are all learning from the regions around the U.S. and the world.

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That’s why you chose to start here again.

We had a choice once again like we’ve always had. And we said, “Nope, we will continue to stay in Orlando.” We want to be here. We want to grow here. So, you know, I continue to see that there should be a huge prosperous future here.

What are lessons you take from Fattmerchant into Worth AI? What would Sal of 10 years ago tell Sal of today?

It doesn’t get easier. You just get better. We now have a decade of experience. When it comes to that, it’s twofold, right? One, I don’t get the benefit of like, this is a minimal viable product. I don’t get the benefit of like, it’s just a startup. The products that Suneera and I are going to put out have to meet and/or beat the standard of a unicorn business. We’ll get leeway for being early, but the expectations for us are set.

So “unicorn-level” becomes an expectation.

We wouldn’t do it again if we didn’t believe that this would be not just a unicorn, but we generally believe that this can be a “deca-corn” as far as, you know, the way that we can make an actual impact. We have a ton of experience, not only in the sector and the space, but we also have built up great credibility and relationships. From raising capital and private equity groups to being able to talk about some of the key partnerships that we will eventually announce. A lot of these things in customer relationships that take a lot of time for brand new businesses to get started, we’ve been through. We can now leverage our work, our hustle, our experiences to be able to drive that. I think that’s where that magic starts to happen for us is: We can quickly push ourselves and propel ourselves, you know, near the top.