- Tech CEO Alexander Torrenegra detailed his experience as he watched Silicon Valley Bank collapse.
- He described frantically trying to take funds — both personal and corporate —out of the bank.
- He said on Twitter that it led him to question himself: “Am I good enough to do what I do?”
As Silicon Valley Bank imploded over the course of just a few days, Alexander Torrenegra, a startup founder who said he’d put much of his money into the bank, took to Twitter, detailing the chaos that ensued as the revered institution collapsed.
Between Thursday morning and Saturday, his emotions ranged from panic and “anxiety” over the fate of his company’s funds and personal savings to resignation as he realized the situation was out of his control.
“What did I do wrong?” Torrenegra said, reflecting on the issue on Friday night after the bank had been closed down by regulators that afternoon. “Am I good enough to do what I do?”
—Alexander Torrenegra (@torrenegra) March 11, 2023
Things started to turn upside down on Thursday morning, Torrenegra said, adding that he used SVB as the main bank for two of his companies, as well as the bank for his personal savings and mortgage, since 2013.
That morning, he said that questions about the viability of SVB began to pop up in a group chat he’s in with over 200 other tech founders. At the time, internet chatter had begun around the bank’s sale of its bond portfolio and proposed equity raise, and Peter Thiel’s Founder’s Fund had already withdrawn its funds.
“I read the messages in a bathroom break,” Torrenegra said on Twitter. “Immediately cancel the meeting I had. Ask my wife, Tania, to wire all of our personal money out to other banks. Call my teams. Ask them to do the same. One of them, at the dentist, has to stop the procedure and run home.”
By late morning, he was unable to get any of his personal savings out, as he and his wife didn’t have “other bank accounts readily available.” He was able to wire out a portion of one of his company’s funds to Ameritrade, but wasn’t even able to access his other company’s account, as the login had been changed. According to Pitchbook, Torrenegra’s primary company, Torre, has raised $9.5 million.
By noon, Torrenegra said his chats with US tech founders were “on fire with what’s happening” — it had become clear there was a bank run in progress.
Despite the panic, Torrenegra decided to invest in the bank just an hour and a half later.
“SVB is a solid bank,” Torrenegra said on Twitter. “I know their CEO, Greg Becker. Great guy. I figure this is a temporary issue caused mainly by people panicking. They’ll recover. I buy shares of SVB at what I consider significantly low prices.”
By Friday morning, SVB stock had fallen 60%, and US regulators assumed control of the bank. Torrenegra said his shares had become “likely worthless.” (On Monday morning this seemingly proved true when President Joe Biden said that “investors in the banks will not be protected.”)
The founder said he spent Friday explaining what was happening to his workers and investors, while waiting and coping “with the anxiety.” The fallout led several executives to question how they would fund payroll and keep their companies running as their money remained in limbo.
By 4 p.m. on Friday, Torrenegra said both of his companies were “safe,” as the majority of their funds had been successfully wired out of SVB. Meanwhile, he said only a “portion” of his personal savings was safe as the transaction was still in a bank queue.
“We may recover most of the money,” Torrenegra wrote regarding his personal savings. “The percentage, however, remains unclear. It may take years.”
Despite the chaos, he went home that night, played with his kids, and tried to “forget about the material world,” he said.
By Saturday, the CEO said he decided there was no value in continuing to focus on SVB’s collapse.
“Time to go back to what we can control: the execution of our companies,” he said.
Since Torrenegra’s post on Twitter, regulators approved plans on Sunday night to allow customers at SVB to regain access to their deposits, which the agencies said would be available on Monday. Biden said on Monday that taxpayers will not be responsible for the bail out.
Torrenegra did not respond to a request for comment from Insider, but said on Twitter that he does not expect taxpayers to foot the bill.
“As entrepreneurs and investors, we should be responsible for the risks we take,” he said on Sunday morning. “Sometimes we win. Sometimes we lose. It’s the life we’ve chosen.”