It all started when I created my first startup at the age of 6 when I used to create Elmer’s Glue hand peels, color them with markers and sell them to my classmates for $0.10 🤓.
I went to UC Berkeley to study computer science (a lot of LISP) and business administration (a lot of business cases). While in school, I worked as a system admin across Solaris, Red Hat, and Windows NT operating systems where I was told to RTFM a lot 🤷🏻♂️.
I then spent the next 20 years building and running large commerce and payment businesses. I launched one of the first decoupled payment networks in the world. Lead the development for one of the largest pre-paid payment networks and then served as a global GM for Blackhawk Network’s digital business, which helped the company go public. Throw some patents into the mix, and it was a lot of fun.
I left all that behind to start my first company, a conversational commerce platform, which we sold in 2017. Now I’m working on tackling America’s debt crisis with my latest company.
Things have come a long way since those glue peels.
Spinwheel is the name, and we offer the best debt APIs to help Americans build a healthier relationship with debt by optimizing and repaying their consumer debt through their favorite apps so it doesn't hold them back in life.
Like the Plaid & Stripe of debt, we offer robust APIs and no-code drop-in modules to third-party apps and services. Third-party apps and services can embed debt solutions to help Americans understand, manage, pay, refinance and/or restructure their debt.
Chapter 1: My niece graduated from college in the summer of 2019 with a degree in the subject matter she loved. I was, and still am, so proud of her, but when her student debt threatened to overshadow her accomplishment by impacting her life goals, it made me take notice, and I wanted to do something about it.
Chapter 2: My sister, who is one of the smartest people I know 🤓, graduated with a master's degree and a lot of student debt at the height of the great recession. She landed a job with the federal government and had been working towards student loan forgiveness. After 10 years, like so many others, she was rejected from public service loan forgiveness – which wiped out most of her savings. I wanted to help.
Chapter 3: These two events opened my eyes to the fact that student debt in the United States is the most complicated consumer debt, and it has a profound impact on younger adults. Moreover, consumer debt in the US continues to set historical highs, and too many Americans feel hindered by their obligations. Lastly, big consumer solutions like Robin Hood, Venmo, Cash App, Chime bank, or Current bank for consumer debt hadn't been a proliferation.
Chapter 4: We wanted to do something to help people like my niece and sister. After 6 months of deep consumer and market research along with a consumer app we tested, we realized that consumers wanted solutions. We also realized it was too expensive and took too long to create consumer debt solutions because there was no easy and reliable infrastructure that apps and services could build on top of.
We knew that if we built those infrastructure “lego blocks” 🧱 – so that any app, any service, and any company, startup or enterprise, could easily embed solutions – we could power hundreds of apps and services that could help people like my niece, sister, and anyone looking to get smarter about their debt.
First, I love that I have a team 🙏.
Second, we’re uniquely positioned to solve this because we have a deep relationship with the problem and technology. We have a great balance of experience, youth, and passion which is vital to push the boundaries, ask dumb questions and deliver rock-solid solutions that scale.
Third, building fintech infrastructure is hard, and you’ll find companies cutting corners with a few API wrappers. Our team has experience building these types of solutions from the ground up before and scaling them. In the past our team members have built financial technology solutions that powered critical capabilities at the largest companies in the world like Amazon, Chase Bank, PayPal, Google & Apple. We want to do the same with consumer debt and have our technology power the best solutions that help borrowers and businesses improve consumer debt.
Definitely a lot of board sports 🏂 🛹 🏄
Spending a lot of time outdoors & traveling 🏔 🌲🏝🌵🏕
Learning, building, and tackling problems. - Creating value, constantly pushing yourself, and always learning is a lot of fun and extremely rewarding. If I had more time, I’d like to understand and improve the homelessness crisis in many US cities with technology and finance.
I’d also be spending more time tripping on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, but that’s another topic.
The north star of our success is the impact we have on American borrowers 💯. We measure this by the evaluating the financial outcomes of borrowers including the amount of time saved and money saved on debt as well as their ability to borrow and build good credit. We track this and expose it through our APIs. Every time an action is performed through our APIs or drop-in modules, we measure the impact it has for the borrower and how they can improve their overall outcome.
Uh… That we have traction 😎 📈!
The most exciting aspect of it is the breadth of customers and solutions we see using our platform.
We have employer benefits solutions using it to enable pre-tax contributions towards employees' student loans. On the same platform, we have retail loyalty rewards platforms driving real contributions to student loans by converting points to payments.
We have banks providing customers with debt solutions in the same place where they manage their savings, and we have promotional giveaways driving customer acquisition. Moreover lenders use our technology to build a better relationship with their customers and streamline the process of loan originations and funding.
The combination of quantum computing and AI is definitely exciting for me, and it's the most terrifying at the same time.
Crytpo, DeFi & Web 3 are full of potential and I enjoy digging into the tech and participating in the ecosystem. Looking forward to seeing how this unfolds as it begins to touch so many aspects of our lives.
NFTs and blockchain are rad.
Drones are and will continue to transform entire landscapes like the military, space, transportation, etc.
But the accelerant to all of these and more is the insane computing power ahead of us, and the AI that will be built along with it.
Honestly, I never thought about publishing anything until I saw the startups of the year nominations.
I love the platform and have been reading HackerNoon for the past 4 years. It's always been a tremendous resource for me, especially to keep up with emerging technologies and connect with others working on things relevant to my focus and interests.
The throwback digital design is pretty nostalgic as well, so I hope that sticks around for a minute.
Sounds cliche, but I would tell my 21-year-old self that time flies, and it accelerates as you get older (relatively speaking). Take more advantage of the time you have, personally and professionally. Take more risks. Take more time off – travel more. Family and friends and priceless. Also, don’t take yourself so damn seriously.
I would have also told myself:
🔮 What you’re doing is going to be called Fintech and it’s going to be very valuable.
🔮 There is going to be this thing called crypto
🔮 The Raiders will move to Vegas.
That homelessness is most often the result of financial shock, economic instability, and housing costs. It’s avoidable, and we can do something about it by rightsizing income and housing costs as well as easy-to-digest financial education such as debt management, budgeting, planning, and overall financial wellness.