Simon Khalaf channels energy into scaling Marqeta


As a teen, Simon Khalaf toggled between two very different realities: summers in Santa Monica, California, and civil war in Lebanon.

Spending time in both Beirut and America during that formative period gave the Marqeta CEO a sense of how to survive amid years of massacres and bombings, and to appreciate opportunities taken for granted by the California buddies he’d pass time with near the beach.

Khalaf, 56, has chased possibilities throughout his career: During his more than three decades in the tech industry, he’s started multiple companies and occupied the CEO role five times. 

Friends and former coworkers describe him as a fidgeter, having boundless and, at times, exhausting energy levels. His fast-paced mind is constantly making connections and he doesn’t sugar-coat things. “There’s a lot going through his brain at any given moment,” said Jarah Euston, CEO and co-founder of WorkWhile, who reported to Khalaf when he was CEO of mobile app analytics company Flurry.

Khalaf himself learned from working for high-profile CEOs, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, at tech companies Yahoo, Novell and Twilio. 

Now, he’s mapping out opportunities at the helm of Oakland, California-based Marqeta. The card issuing fintech aims to tap the large embedded finance market to fuel its next phase of growth.

“Joining Marqeta at this stage is all about building what I call the ‘scale discipline,’” said Khalaf, who resides in San Francisco. He’s focused on implementing repeatable processes “that don’t rely on the hero culture.”

Marqeta, which has a market cap of about $3.3 billion, has yet to post a profit. It has relied heavily on one customer, Block; that digital payments company is responsible for about 45% of Marqeta’s gross profit, according to a November note from William Blair analysts. As Marqeta seeks to grow, customer concentration and competition present risks, analysts said.

The company expects to report net income by the fourth quarter of 2026, Marqeta executives told investors in November. For the first nine months of this year, Marqeta’s net revenue edged up 2%, to $557.3 million, and its loss widened, to $182.6 million.

Having renewed all of its business with Block in recent months, Marqeta is “at a key inflection point here, to grow and scale the company,” said Bryan Keane, a Deutsche Bank analyst who covers Marqeta. Now, it’s all about execution, and Khalaf is a key part of that, he said.

‘Don’t take anything for granted’

Khalaf was born in Beirut to a French-Lebanese mother and an American father, and spent time in all of those locales while growing up. California summers in the ‘70s and ‘80s stood in stark contrast to the civil war in Lebanon, where Christians and Muslims were engaged in armed conflict as Khalaf came of age.

“Being in a war, you actually appreciate life,” he said. “You’re grateful every day that you’re still alive.” On the other side of the world, his teen peers in Santa Monica worried about “how cool the car is” and “hanging out on the promenade,” he said. 

Those distinct experiences fostered in Khalaf an appreciation for what the U.S. offers its citizens. The sense of stability and opportunity in America wasn’t lost on him and his three siblings. “What my parents have given me is an ability to appreciate what has been given to us; a sense of, don’t take anything for granted,” he said.

After getting an undergraduate degree from American University of Beirut, Khalaf moved to the U.S. in 1989 to attend Syracuse University. A fascination with technology led him to earn a master’s degree in computer engineering. After a short stint in consulting, Khalaf started his own company, Worldtalk, with a few colleagues in 1992, beginning his entrepreneurial streak. 


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