Sramana Mitra: What about customer validation? How did you get this off the ground in terms of the early customers and customer input early on?
Ryan Caldwell: We had to take really good care of the end user, which is our largest concern. If we don’t take good care of the customer, we can’t take good care of the bank or the software providers. We had to make sure that we had solutions that the end users resonated with. That was one of our first concerns. We also had to have software that would help deliver value back to the financial institution to help them better serve the end user.
If the credit union or bank can better serve the end user, then they can not only protect that end user but also have a stronger relationship, which eventually will lead to a more profitable relationship with that end user. We had to help banks see that and how to navigate that. The next thing is, we had to help the software providers who were already providing the foundation of online banking and mobile banking. We had to help them understand how integrating these types of solutions was important enough to the banks and the end users.
We had to win over three different groups. As we showed it to end users, we got very quick and strong feedback that they wanted to see all their finances in one place, and that they want to be able to understand and have it all categorized. They wanted to know, financially, where they are getting stronger as each month went by. They want to understand how long it will take to pay off their debts. They want to know if they’re on track to accomplish their big goals. The end users resonated with it strongly. Although it was not a strong percentage, each year, the percentage of users who wanted these types of services kept going up.
From the banking standpoint, there was a strong enough percentage of banks. It was not a huge percent at the beginning of the company. In the consecutive years, we watched, as we expected, more and more banks realizing that this is something they should care about. We saw the same thing with the technology providers as well.
Sramana Mitra: From a financing standpoint, did you bootstrap the beginning of this business with the money that you made from your exit, or did you raise money?
Ryan Caldwell: Originally, we financed it ourselves. Myself and a few of the other management teams who were prior entrepreneurs or CEOs of other companies came together and decided that this mission is important enough to all of us that we wanted to work together on it. Over the first three years, we brought in executives who were prior CEOs and Founders. As they would come in, they wanted to invest as well. We funded internally through the team members.
Then we found a few angels who I had worked with in previous startups. They initially participated in a small degree but then got excited about the business, and came back and invested to a very large degree in a few seed rounds. We acquired a company and that is where the co-founder of this company came from.
I’m one of the founders. Another founder is Brandon Dewitt. Brandon had founded a company about the same time I founded MX. We didn’t meet for about a year and a half. A year and a half later, we crossed paths and we were both trying to tackle the same problem. There was a huge resonance between us. We realized that we could do it much better together than we could separately. MX had grown more rapidly from a business standpoint than his company. We ended up acquiring his company and merged our two efforts together.