20VC Why Speed Is The Biggest Differentiator a Founder Can Have, How To Hire Seasoned Tier 1 Talent To An Early Stage Startup & How To Start, Scale and Manage Remote Teams with Domm Holland, Founder & CEO @ Fast

Summary Notes


In this episode of "20 Minutes VC," host Harry Stebbings interviews Dom Holland, the founder and CEO of Fast, a company revolutionizing online transactions with its passwordless login and checkout system. Fast has successfully raised a seed round led by Yan Hammer at Index Ventures, with participation from SusaVentures, Kleiner Perkins, Global Founders Capital, and notable angels like Nick Molnar from Afterpay. Holland's entrepreneurial journey began with programming in regional Australia and included founding an on-demand towing platform, Tow, which transacted $50 million in its first four years. The episode also highlights Fast's mission to simplify online consumer experiences and touches on the importance of speed, resilience, and leveraging investor networks for startup growth. Additionally, Stebbings discusses the benefits of products like the Pod by Eight Sleep for improved sleep quality, Point for rewarding banking experiences, and Intercom for enhancing customer communication and retention.

Summary Notes

Funding Announcement

  • Fast, a company offering passwordless login and checkout, has raised their seed funding round.
  • The round was led by Yan Hammer at Index, with participation from SusaVentures, Kleiner Perkins, and Global Founders Capital.
  • Angel investors include Nick Molnar from Afterpay.
  • Harry Stebbings, the host, also joined the round as an angel investor.
  • Dom Holland's prior experience includes being a director at Tap Tins and founder/CEO at Tow.

"Today we have a funding announcement exclusively here on the show. The round brings together a truly exceptional entrepreneur with some of the world's best investors in the space."

This quote introduces the funding announcement for Fast, highlighting the significant support from notable investors and entrepreneurs.

Dom Holland's Background

  • Dom Holland has been interested in tech and startups for many years, starting to program at age 14.
  • He had to balance his interest in programming with boxing to protect himself from bullying.
  • Dom's previous startup experiences include a large startup in Australia and launching several ventures.
  • The inspiration for Fast came from a personal experience where Dom's wife's grandmother couldn't order groceries due to a forgotten password.

"I've been interested in tech and startups for a very long time. So when I was 15, I started, or 14, I started programming, but that was 17 years ago in regional Australia when it was not cool to be programming."

Dom Holland shares his early interest in programming and tech, which was not common in regional Australia at the time.

Inspiration for Fast

  • Dom Holland's youngest child's hospitalization led to the founding of Fast.
  • The inability of his wife's grandmother to order groceries due to a forgotten password highlighted the inconvenience of current online systems.
  • Dom created a prototype of a passwordless solution, which became very popular on Product Hunt.
  • The real issue identified is the lack of customer scalability between businesses, not just the inconvenience of passwords.

"I whipped up a prototype of a passwordless solution at the time that essentially becomes a passwordless auth as an SSO, a simple sort of solution. I put it on product hunt. It was the number two most voted product on product Hunt of the day, and I realized the world really hates passwords."

Dom Holland explains how he developed a prototype for a passwordless authentication solution that gained significant attention and validation on Product Hunt.

Lessons from Previous Startup Experiences

  • Dom Holland's previous startup, Tow.com.au, was a successful on-demand towing platform.
  • Tow.com.au won a significant contract with the Queensland Police Service and grew to a $50 million business in four years.
  • The startup faced challenges when the state government refused to pay $17 million, leading to a legal dispute and cash flow issues.
  • These experiences taught Dom resilience, dealing with government and large corporate stakeholders, and scaling teams.

"We grew to a $50 million business inside of four year. We did $50 million over four years. We grew very, very quickly."

Dom Holland reflects on the rapid growth of his previous startup, highlighting the success and scale achieved in a short period.

Core Problem-Solving Philosophy

  • Dom Holland emphasizes the importance of directly solving core problems rather than creating complex or band-aid solutions.
  • His approach is to address the root of an issue, which can lead to significant opportunities and success.
  • He applied this philosophy to create a network of independent towing contractors managed through technology.

"Solve the actual problem. And it's incredible the success and scale you can get from doing that."

This quote underscores Dom Holland's belief in addressing problems at their core, which he views as the key to unlocking success and opportunities.

Serial Entrepreneurship

  • Dom Holland does not agree that serial entrepreneurship is overrated.
  • He sees himself as a problem solver rather than an entrepreneur.
  • He views startups and businesses as a series of problems to be solved.
  • His experience as a problem solver informs his approach to starting and running businesses.

"I definitely don't agree with it. At the same time, I don't think of myself as an entrepreneur. I guess what I do is highly entrepreneurial, but the reality is I'm a problem solver."

Dom Holland expresses his disagreement with the notion that serial entrepreneurship is overrated, emphasizing his identity as a problem solver over being labeled as an entrepreneur.## Problem-Solving Mentality in Business

  • Emphasizes the importance of enjoying problem-solving to thrive in business.
  • Highlights the mindset of seeking out problems rather than avoiding them.
  • Suggests that serial problem solvers are well-suited for business environments.

"It doesn't matter how long they last, they're just a series of problems. I love solving problems. What I get up every day to go and do, and I think that mentality is a different piece, too."

This quote explains the speaker's personal motivation and enjoyment in solving problems, which is presented as a key trait for success in business.

Payment Landscape Innovation

  • Discusses the lack of consumer-side innovation in payments compared to merchant-side advancements.
  • Questions why PayPal maintains dominance without significant consumer-side innovation.
  • Suggests that companies like Stripe and Adyen provided necessary infrastructure but did not focus on consumer experience.

"But we've seen this incredible innovation on the merchant side of payments, with Adieen, with stripe, but little on the consumer side, it would seem from my perspective, with PayPal really just maintaining its dominance."

This quote highlights the contrast between merchant and consumer-side innovation in the payment industry, noting PayPal's continued dominance despite a lack of recent consumer-focused improvements.

The Need for Third-Party Payment and Identity Solutions

  • Argues for the necessity of a third-party solution to unify payment and identity management.
  • Criticizes the inefficiency of first-party solutions replicated across different merchants.
  • Discusses the conflicts of interest that large internet platforms have that prevent them from being ideal providers of payment and identity solutions.

"The reality is it needs to be a third party that scales and that provides a great consumer experience, great merchant experience, in the same way that Visa and Mastercard scale credit cards between merchants."

This quote emphasizes the need for a scalable third-party platform that can provide excellent experiences for both consumers and merchants, akin to the role Visa and Mastercard play with credit cards.

Identity Management versus Payments Focus

  • Clarifies the company's broader focus beyond just payments, encompassing the entire customer stack.
  • Discusses the potential for the company to facilitate secure sharing of sensitive information.
  • Rejects the label of being solely a fintech or identity company, seeing the opportunity as broader than that.

"No, I don't personally consider us a fintech. And I guess in a sort of typical sense people would call us identity. I don't consider it so much identity."

This quote reflects the speaker's view that their company's role extends beyond traditional fintech or identity management, aiming to address a wider range of consumer problems.

Choosing San Francisco as a Base

  • Explains the choice of San Francisco as a base due to market size and concentration of expertise.
  • Highlights the importance of being in a location with experienced engineers who have scaled companies rapidly.
  • Asserts that being in San Francisco provides access to capital and talent that is unmatched elsewhere.

"But the reality is that us, San Francisco itself is home to the largest tech companies in the world and has undisputedly built more tech companies, more successful tech companies than any other place in the world."

This quote justifies the decision to base the company in San Francisco, citing the city's unparalleled track record of successful tech company growth and availability of skilled professionals.

Hiring Experienced Leaders and Equity Sharing

  • Discusses the importance of mission and problem scale in attracting top leadership talent.
  • Notes the transient nature of the job market in San Francisco and the need for compelling company missions.
  • Acknowledges that different factors motivate different team members when expanding the team.

"I want to assemble the best possible team that can solve these problems and that can work with me to solve these problems. And I think that other people here want to work with exceptional people, too."

This quote underlines the speaker's strategy to build a strong team by focusing on the company's mission and the scale of the problems they aim to solve, which attracts like-minded individuals.## Initial Equity Distribution

  • Dom Holland emphasizes the importance of a generous Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) to attract the best talent.
  • He notes the contrast in equity valuation between San Francisco and Australia, attributing it to the lack of significant tech exits in Australia.
  • Holland suggests being generous with stock options to secure top talent but also cautions against being overly generous to the point where it becomes difficult to bring more talent into the company.
  • The balance between equity distribution and the potential for dilution is discussed, with the focus on the overall opportunity size and the need for a strong team to achieve it.

"Our company, ESOP is huge and it's because I want to have the best people in this business." "People in Australia don't value stock highly." "It's far more valuable for us and for the business to be sharing that equity around."

These quotes highlight Dom Holland's strategy of using a significant ESOP to attract and retain talent, the cultural differences in equity valuation, and his belief in the importance of sharing equity to grow the business.

Appreciation for Equity

  • The appreciation for equity in San Francisco is contrasted with the lesser appreciation observed in the UK and Australia.
  • This cultural difference is seen as a contributing factor to building strong early-stage teams in different regions.

"It's super interesting to hear you say there about the appreciation for equity."

This quote reflects the recognition of the value placed on equity in different markets and its impact on team building.

Remote Team Structure

  • Dom Holland shares his experience of raising an angel round in Australia and the necessity of building a remote team due to limited funds.
  • He discusses his surprise at receiving an excellent job application from Nigeria, leading to the hiring of more talent from the region.
  • Holland emphasizes the benefits of the Nigerian market, including the proficiency in English, strong work ethic, and alignment with the company's mission.
  • He describes his approach to managing remote teams as seamless and similar to managing in-person teams, focusing on good communication and regular check-ins.

"We raised 600,000 Australian dollars... so it's not a lot of money to build a team off." "Nigeria is a country of 190,000,000 people. English is their first language." "I find managing engineers remotely or in person, is actually quite similar."

These quotes explain the financial constraints that led to the formation of a remote team, the discovery of talent in Nigeria, and the approach to managing remote teams effectively.

Communication with Remote Teams

  • Establishing daily calls with each functional area was a significant improvement for communication with remote teams.
  • Holland explains the importance of regularity and fast feedback loops in making remote employees feel connected and appreciated.
  • The structure of these calls allows for an overview of daily achievements and planning for the next day.

"Having that structured time every day that each functional area speaks to us is so helpful."

This quote underscores the value of structured daily communication in maintaining effective remote team management.

Work Ethic and Daily Routine

  • Speed is identified as Dom Holland's primary value and a key differentiator for his work and company.
  • Holland details his early morning routine, which includes clearing emails, walking to work, and using the quiet hours to prepare for the day.
  • He draws motivation from his morning walks through the Tenderloin district, using the environment as a reminder to act promptly and efficiently in business.

"My number one value is definitely speed, and it's not actually the sole reason why we called the company fast, but speed really is, I think, my big differentiator." "I wake up at 430... It's my favorite time to be awake."

These quotes reveal Dom Holland's commitment to speed and efficiency, as well as his structured and early-starting daily routine that contributes to his productivity.

Intrinsic Motivation

  • Holland reflects on his natural drive and consistent work ethic, which he attributes to his upbringing and previous business challenges.
  • He expresses a love for his work and a desire to continuously improve and grow, rather than focusing on traditional milestones.

"I don't have a goal in mind. I love what I do every day... just being able to do better than I did today, tomorrow, that's what drives me."

This quote captures Dom Holland's intrinsic motivation and passion for his work, which fuels his daily drive and commitment.

Balancing Speed and Quality

  • Holland addresses the challenge of maintaining quality while working at a fast pace.
  • He believes that acting promptly and efficiently allows him to accomplish more without sacrificing quality.

"I don't think about it as necessarily like that. I need to act really fast or hastily. It's just that I act promptly and efficiently."

This quote explains Dom Holland's approach to balancing the need for speed with the maintenance of quality in his work.## Efficiency Through Tools

  • Harry Stebbings discusses the importance of utilizing modern tools to enhance productivity.
  • He mentions Superhuman and WhatsApp as tools that help him manage emails and communications with his network efficiently.
  • Through these tools, he can rapidly access a global brain trust for answers and operate swiftly.

"Superhuman is tools like that are fantastic at me, being able to sort of triage email very rapidly. Tools like WhatsApp, every one of our investors, every one of my partners, our advisors, our staff, I have this incredible brain trust on WhatsApp, which means if I don't know an answer to something, I can typically find it out in minutes from people all around the world."

The quote emphasizes the value of productivity tools like Superhuman for email management and WhatsApp for maintaining a network that can provide rapid answers from around the globe, aiding in quick decision-making and operations.

Global Investment Ecosystem

  • Dom Holland speaks about the fundraising process and the advantages of the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
  • He highlights that the ecosystem is driven by the identification of large problems and the capital available to solve them.
  • Dom expresses his admiration for Jan, a VC from the Netherlands, and his decision-making abilities, which align with Dom's values.
  • The connection with Jan is based on shared traits and a mutual understanding of the problems they aim to solve.

"The reality is one of the magical things about Silicon Valley is know the ecosystem. The capital drivers here are about people who identify large problems, have the drive and the ability to go solve those problems."

This quote outlines Silicon Valley's unique ecosystem, where capital is readily available for those who are driven to solve significant problems, highlighting the alignment between investors and entrepreneurs in this environment.

Speed as a Competitive Advantage

  • Dom Holland stresses the importance of speed in business operations.
  • He wishes he had known earlier in his career how vital speed is for productivity and staying ahead of competition.

"I don't think I've got a lesson that I've learned at the beginning of this. I think speed is still, I keep harping on it, but I wish I had have known years ago. How productive speed is and how speed is the killer. It's just killing our competition, not us."

The quote reveals Dom's belief that understanding the value of speed earlier would have been beneficial, as it is a key factor in outpacing competitors and enhancing productivity.

Handling Challenges

  • Dom Holland shares his approach to dealing with difficult situations.
  • He credits his resilience to past experiences and emphasizes the importance of being proactive and prepared.
  • Dom views problems as challenges to be solved rather than threats.

"I don't have them anymore. Having been brought up in the school of hard knocks, my last company really took a lot for me to get through. I had a lot of stress in that going know, I was suing a state government in the Supreme Court of Queensland and the police force."

This quote illustrates Dom's past experiences that have shaped his ability to handle stress and challenges effectively, suggesting that overcoming significant obstacles in the past has prepared him for current and future issues.

Advice for Technical People

  • Dom Holland offers advice to engineers and technical individuals on broadening their skill sets.
  • He encourages them to be open to learning and to take advantage of the wealth of resources available.
  • Dom highlights the use of Twitter and other platforms as means to connect with bright minds and stay informed about new technologies.

"So I think absorb everything around you is the number one most important thing. I think Twitter is such an incredible tool at being exposed to a lot of this new tech, new tools, amazing people."

Dom's quote suggests that being receptive and utilizing social media platforms like Twitter can expose technical professionals to new technologies and ideas, enhancing their knowledge and skills.

The Value of Investor Connections

  • Dom Holland talks about the importance of leveraging connections from investors and partners.
  • He emphasizes the need to be proactive and responsive when networking.
  • Dom suggests using investor networks to find potential clients and opportunities.

"Connections. I ruthlessly leverage every single connection I can out of every investor, every partner, every angel."

The quote highlights the strategic importance Dom places on utilizing the connections provided by investors to build a strong network and support the growth of his business.

Future Goals for Fast

  • Dom Holland outlines his ambitious goals for his company, Fast.
  • He aims to impact every internet-connected consumer by improving authentication, payments, and data control.
  • Dom is focused on simplifying and securing online consumer experiences globally.

"My mission fast is to touch every single Internet connected consumer in this planet, which hopefully is most consumers, in five to ten years."

This quote conveys Dom's long-term vision for Fast, aiming to make a global impact by enhancing online consumer experiences through better authentication and data management systems.

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