FinTech is a complex industry with massive changes underway. In this interview, Todd and I attempt to explore what is defensible in this highly competitive space.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by introducing our audience to yourself and to Infinicept.
Todd Ablowitz: I’m Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Infinicept. I’ve been in the electronic payments industry for 23 years. Right after college, I was a straight commission salesperson. I made $400 a week for six weeks.
I worked for a company called FirstData. To sign them up, we had five pages in triplicate with 250 questions and a void check. In those days, if you had a pulse and a little bit of work ethic, you can get promoted pretty easily. I got promoted. I was managing people and training people.
One of the things I noticed is, one of the three contracts that I get from sales rep would be missing the voided check or not have those 250 questions filled in right. About five years in, I had nine different jobs at FirstData. My boss taps me on the shoulder and says, “Todd, you complain about the product more than anyone I’ve ever met. I want you to take over product and think about it.”
I said okay. I was given three things to accomplish. I don’t remember what they were, but I remember I added a fourth thing – the merchant application. I spent a year with my team talking to every department in FirstData to find out what they were doing with all these questions. After a year, I was only able to get it down from 250 questions and five pages to 150 questions and three pages.
I viewed it as a bitter defeat. As a professional, I had a job to do, so I continued to do my job. I was at FirstData for another five years until I got recruited to go to a startup.
I was in Colorado and I moved to Silicon Valley to take over global sales for a startup that you now know as Apple Pay. We sold three-quarters of a million readers in 29 countries in the three years I was there.
Then the recession was round the corner. My wife was tapping me on my shoulder saying, “You promised to get us back to Colorado eventually.” I was still optimistic about the technology but I knew that it was going to be a long tundra for sales. That didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to be in a place I didn’t want to be.
We toyed with the idea of me running sales from Colorado. Ultimately, I left the company and started my first consulting company, Double Diamond. I was on the Board of the trade association for the industry – Electronic Transaction Association. I knew a lot of the CEOs in our industry. I went to the people I knew and said, “What problems can I help you solve?” I did gig work for the next few years.