We hosted Jason Gardner, CEO of Marqeta yesterday, for a discussion on how a global unicorn is adjusting to the New Operational Model of the post-COVID world.
Jason is a 3rd time entrepreneur. He comes from a long line of entrepreneurs, and he himself was immersed in the business world from a very young age, building his own businesses all the way back in his childhood. After starting a couple of payment companies, Jason founded Marqeta, which eventually became the premier card issuing platform.
Here are some key takeaways from the conversation:
“This is a very good time to be working on strategy, because you are alone. Take the time to clear your calendar and think. 3.5 months in, I’m enjoying my time from home and next month we’re preparing to introduce Marqeta’s next 3-5 year strategy. This is a time many of us are shut down so take the time to really hone your story. Slack and email and texting is not work, it’s in the service of work. Work is when you’re alone thinking about the things you want to accomplish.”
Fundraising during COVID
“Fundraising is all about storytelling – it’s 90% psychological,” he says. “Find the story that will light you up when you talk about your vision, that should transcend any market, good times or bad times, pandemic or not. The story needs to be lazer-focused and serve the goals you’re focused on and make people take that ride with you.
We don’t know how COVID will evolve so having more capital in the bank is smart and if you have some runway, start speaking with potential investors and tell your story. Prepare a deck. You never know what will come out of it.”
Fear or Greed
“Your responsibility as CEO is to keep the company going and to bring in cash. Sometimes greed is good. If your company is doing well, always raise more money than you need. Having more cash gives you leverage (like having a competitive fundraising process with multiple investors).
Fear is also a good motivator. As an entrepreneur you fear failure and this could lead you to finalize the very complicated journey of moving from the A to the B stage, and so on.
“Last year we raised a round and didn’t really need extra capital, we had a large TAM, high levels of cash and low burn, but I got a call from an asset manager – “a gold standard” institution – and the process happened very quickly”.
Value of competition
“Competition is good,” he says. “It focuses you, it allows you to understand what others are doing and how what you’re doing helps you achieve product market fit. You can’t be successful without people trying to copy your business model and enter your market. I think of myself as a warrior. For me, competition focuses me and energizes me, and it allows me to focus on my customer.”
What effect will COVID have on various industries?
COVID-19 has facilitated a paradigm shift in the way consumers are shopping. “Paying with your phone – we thought the rocket ship would happen 3-4 years from now – it’s happening now. Cash is dirty. It’s proven to carry viruses on it, so we’ll probably see ATM transactions fall significantly and people move towards digital transactions,” he says. Digital transactions are on the rise, and Marqeta stands to benefit.
“We’re going to see exoduses from large cities to rural areas, so creating better infrastructure for rural areas – simply broadband and services so that you can run your business out of your home – is now going to become commonplace.”
“There is a true paradigm shift and an evolution in how payments are going to work in the future.”