Dwolla – Entering a growth stage with new partners

We’ve always shared the story before, and we have no plans to start hiding it now. Why? Whether you’ve been with us for a few weeks or the last few years, you’ve taken the time to get to know us, place trust in us, and advocate for us. You’ve made the conscious decision to accept us into a very sensitive and important aspect of your life, so it’s only fair that we do the same.

I’m going to frame this conversation like a conference call with a ton of people I really care about, people who want to learn from our mistakes. I’m not going to get granular about numbers or if this means we all get to buy stupid stuff we don’t need.  I want this to be a resource for who we are, where we’re going, and how you can do it here in the Silicon Prairie too.

I’m also going to try to make it clear, insightful, and to the point; I don’t want to bounce around.

We’ve got new partners.

  • I want you to know why we love them.
  • I want you to know the truth about how it happened.
  • I want you to know why I believe they will help us grow.
  • I want you to learn how we did it (Spoiler: It’s because we hustled, not because we’re special).
Every single one of these people I met through individuals I met at events and meetups or through Silicon Prairie News. SPN is the catalyst that you can always trace Dwolla’s story and opportunities back to.

Just over a year ago, Dwolla put together a partnership that helped the company enter the marketplace with the nation’s safest, most secure, and lowest-cost payment network. We’ve spent the last year building out that network, bolstering its processes, and releasing technologies to prepare it to scale. It’s been a busy year for us.

  • We’ve grown our users by 2,500%
  • We’ve grown our merchants by 3,700%
  • We’ve saved our community millions in fees
  • We’ve added 16 jobs to downtown Des Moines
    • Received hundreds of job applications from inside of Iowa, and outside of Iowa… which we think is cool.

But now it’s time for the next stage in Dwolla’s growth.

In the last 6 months we’ve done a lot of dating to find new team members. We looked for long-term partners who could help give us expertise in things we didn’t currently have. We wanted to find:

  • Experience building consumer brands
  • Experience building banking back-ends
  • Experience building networks (social and financial)
  • Experience growing a company from 10 people, to the hills
  • Experience building API’s
  • Partners who wanted to continue building this company from the Midwest

Good or bad, these were our goals. We wanted to try to put together a team externally, that was building as much value as the team internally.

Today, I’m astonished at what has happened. In so many ways, you could say that the next stage of Dwolla is a direct result of the incredible people we’ve met at the events and parties, and through our friends in the Silicon Prairie. This can happen here and these new partnerships reflect that.

Traditionally, startups mention these names and then move on… Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an account holder (or both), I’m not sure how that really helps you. The Dwolla team is expanding and there are new faces at the table, and despite our investors best efforts to make this announcement “about Dwolla, not us,” we’re compelled to tell their story.

This isn’t about logos. It’s about people. Please join us in welcoming some new people to the team.

Albert Wenger - Union Square Ventures

Albert has become a pretty big part of my life in a pretty short period of time. As I told JD the other day, it doesn’t seem to matter when Albert calls he’s always playing an A game. What to me was the separating factor between Albert and everyone else is this: Albert and I had a disconnect. In the middle of this process, I disagreed on something and didn’t give much feedback as to why. Then I went on my merry way.

Me doing this was a mistake on my part. I didn’t know any better. Until very recently I haven’t really understood the “if we disagree, lets talk about it” mentality.

In a very short amount of time Albert booked tickets and headed to Iowa. I didn’t really understand it was happening until the same friend who introduced me to these guys called and said in totally different words “dude, calm down, you misunderstood, Albert is coming to Iowa tomorrow… And you’re a jerk if you don’t listen to what he has to say.”

Albert came out, patched it up and the rest is history. The misunderstanding is on me and I attribute the solution to him. That’s the kind of hustler I want on my team and I’m proud to be on his.

Fred WilsonUnion Square Ventures

Fred won’t be serving on Dwolla’s board. But my first introduction to Union Square which led to Albert was through Fred. I’m not going to drag Fred’s credentials into this because they aren’t relevant to the conversation. What mattered to me is this. I met Fred 8+ months ago through an introduction from a very close friend of mine, someone I trust as much as any family member I have, who begged Fred to give me 15 minutes of his time.

Fred, for whatever reason, gave me quite a bit of time and some advice. We didn’t talk for a long time after and I don’t fault him for it. Sometimes we all need to understand that building partnerships is about building trust long term, not getting a yes or no today.

Fred’s blog at AVC.com has always been a learning point for me. Needless to say… This is pretty cool.

Matt Harris – Village Ventures

Matt’s experience is extremely bank heavy. He’s involved with Simple, TXVia, and a number of other finance centric investments.

I’ve known Matt for quite some time and to be honest… Matt was a big validation for the technology behind FiSync… Behind Instant… And on more than one scenario, Matt has been a big part of Dwolla’s back-end team for a long time, even if he won’t take credit for his influence.

 

Matt’s partner, while on a trip to Iowa, also worked around my Sunday schedule of trying to keep a 3 year old happy and not having a car to drive myself where I needed to be.

Marc Ecko – Artists & Instigators

I first met Marc at Big Omaha during his amazing talk on disruption and innovation. Marc’s advice has ranged from telling me to be more confident to telling me that our logo sucks. It’s always been incredibly unfiltered and at times… harsh.  But that’s actually what we really need, and when we need the truth I know I can always look to Marc for a totally good opinion on all things in life.

I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone like Marc, and his partners at Artists & Instigators just get it.

Joshua Kushner – Thrive Capital

Josh is pretty adamant about keeping investments about the talent, so they don’t put much on their site. We dig that. He has a huge desire to create things and be involved in things that change how we live and interact with others. Josh thinks huge, he’s humble, brilliant, supportive, and scary smart.

He also went out of his way to dig in pretty deep into Dwolla over Christmas break. I love the hustle.

My excitement about doing this with Josh was summed up pretty well by my friend Bo. I called Bo one day to ask what he thought. Bo’s simple response was “Yup, do it”. Someone who has friends and relationships who can talk about him with that much confidence is someone we want to work with.

Paige Craig – One man wrecking crew

Paige stopped by the Dwolla office just before Thinc Iowa. I was bummed I missed him, but at the time I was running around probably writing my speech at the last minute. The beautiful thing was that he didn’t even care. No ego.

When we did talk, Paige didn’t really need much time to understand Dwolla from a high level. He asked me the equivalent of “what do you need” after about 10 minutes of talking. He’s blunt, crazy smart, and has a passion for building that is insane to be around.

I can name 3 people off the top of my head where Paige dropped into a conversation and validated what we are doing. He didn’t fall into the background, but, instead, went to bat for us. That’s Dwolla.

The next 6 months

A company of 10 doing a million dollars a day in transactions is interesting, but it’s not what we set out to build. We set out to build an ubiquitous cash-based payment network that allows anyone with an Internet connection to access their money and buy the things they want in a way that bypasses the costs of the current system. The person receiving their money shouldn’t lose 3% or 10% or 30%.

Today isn’t about a party or about a bunch of retweets for Dwolla. You validated this idea, the project, the work, and the vision. You rocked our  T-shirts, you educated your favorite merchants, and you gave us feedback. Today is about thanking you, the community.

It’s time to get back to work.

Please imagine me pressing a huge green “go” button on everything we’ve been talking about for the past 3 months. Lets do this.