The Paystand playbook: Turning your startup’s mission into tangible ROI
From blockchain to DeFi, the future of fintech took on a whole new scope during one of the most tumultuous economic periods for startups. With slowdowns in VC funding and collapses in the banking sector, growth-stage companies are increasingly seeking alternative financial options.
For those like Jeremy Almond, Founder and CEO of Paystand, living through the burst of 2001 and the crash of 2008 only led them to be prepared.
That’s one reason he founded the only B2B payment infrastructure that’s zero-fee, automation-first, dedicated to an open industry, and trusted by over 500,000 businesses.
Jeremy recently sat down with Tiho Bajic, CEO of LTSE Software, for a community webinar.
In this recap, we unpack Jeremy’s expertise and insights on:
Let’s dive in.
“The way LTSE is mission-driven is absolutely important, because that’s what actually drives you to get up in the morning and go do this difficult thing. I see both Paystand and LTSE as parts of a rising tide — hopefully transforming how financial services are done.”
How to identify your startup’s true mission
It’s an unfortunately repetitive idea in Silicon Valley: Every startup is trying to change the world in a “mission-driven” way.
But what does “mission-driven” even mean? How do we differentiate a surface-level mission from one that will keep your team going on the hardest of days?
For Jeremy, the mission behind Paystand is deeply personal and began 15 years ago.
He came from a “classic American Dream” family. His mother immigrated from Mexico when he was a child, while his father worked a blue-collar construction job and never attended high school. Jeremy’s family worked for 20 years to eventually buy their first home — only to become one of millions of families impacted by the financial crisis in 2008 due to no fault of their own.
Looking back at that time, Jeremy tells Tiho:
“Like many people, I was honestly pissed off and frustrated with the banks. The financial system — which was critical to our jobs, our savings, our economy — had let us down.”
That frustration felt by millions eventually led him to the questions at the center of Paystand:
What is so broken about legacy banking?
How can financial services be better for consumers and businesses?
Why haven’t we opened up and transformed that industry?
Soon after, Jeremy discovered the then-emerging tech of blockchain, which bridged the mission with the technical possibility. He launched Paystand a few years down the line in 2013.
Your mission should be personal — but still lead to results
It can be easy to glorify mission-driven companies when they lead with shiny language.
However, what matters is whether your mission will have a tangible, trackable impact on the world. The slogan or the mission statement is worthless if you don’t build a real, value-add business at the center of everything.
Jeremy’s mission from back in 2008 is alive and well today in 2023’s macroeconomic landscape. The difference is — he can now drive visible results to change people’s experiences.
“We don’t want to drink the Kool-Aid or try to secure venture funding to profit off of a hype cycle. We want to take our mission and build a real, sustainable business that creates real, measurable value.”
How to translate your mission into legit outcomes
Once you’ve defined the mission at the center of your company, how do you operationalize something conceptual into tangible, trackable outcomes?
Right off the bat, Jeremy advises setting measurable goals or benchmarks.
In the case of Paystand, their mission is decentralizing the financial system — and they were already seeing so much misdirected or uninformed hype around blockchain.
So, they declared, “No more hype.” They would keep their heads down and focus on building a product that creates true value.
To make their hypothetical mission a reality, they had to disrupt a gatekept, inefficient, and wildly expensive global network dominated by Visa and MasterCard. They designed and built the opposite — a customer’s journey to zero, which allows companies to transact with:
Zero fees — Genuinely fee-free revenue collection
Zero touch — Automated receivables and cash cycles
Zero time — Dramatically accelerated time-to-cash
Zero walls — No more siloed transaction data
As a result, Paystand can seamlessly track the benefits for users in the form of ROI.
The more a company uses Paystand (as opposed to credit or wire payments), the more cost-efficient they become — and the larger that ROI grows, ultimately putting millions of dollars back on the table.
“By measuring ROI, we make our mission of openness and fairness in financial services a reality. Users can say, ‘I’ve saved millions in bank and credit fees.’ That’s real value in a market like this, where cash is king and the lifeblood of a business.”
Prioritize long-term, mission-aligned investors
To date, Paystand has raised roughly $100 million as the largest on-chain B2B payment company. The network sees $5 billion in payment volume, which is set to double through 2023.
“Capital allocators have been an incredible part of that journey,” Jeremy emphasizes.
Even then, he stresses two reminders for fellow founders:
A sustainable business that changes its industry requires thinking in terms of decades — not optimizing for your valuation in the next six months.
VCs are no more than accelerants to your growth. They can’t make up for an unsustainable business at the core.
Once you’re ready to team up with investors, they should be individuals who are genuinely aligned with your long-term mission and intended outcomes.
A great board can be game-changing. A bad board can be destructive.
Fortunately, this is entirely within your realm of control as CEO.
For the team at Paystand, their first investors included early believers in PayPal and Venmo, which enabled them to find alignment on:
The state and needs of the fintech landscape
A roadmap that would take years, not months
Driving real results — not just vanity metrics
“Before you think about multiplying revenue through VC money, what’s really important is building a durable business that creates real value behind that. Then, if it makes sense to your business, use funding to accelerate that growth.”
Fintech is more crucial than ever to companies’ resilience
Since the start of 2023, startups have witnessed three of the five largest bank failures in history — all within a period of four weeks.
The industry is more aware than ever of our legacy financial systems’ fragility.
This is why businesses will only continue to flock to novel fintech solutions like Paystand.
Looking forward, Jeremy shares three expert predictions on the future of fintech — across blockchain, decentralized finance, and AI.
1. Blockchain will mirror the explosion of the cloud
In the last two decades, the Internet has become a near-universal tool. As that expansion occurred, many businesses began questioning: “I need to engage this in some way — but how?”
Eventually, the cloud became an enabling agent for more effective and cost-efficient software.
Today, Jeremy sees that same trajectory occurring for blockchain. Roughly a decade after its creation, we’re seeing blockchain-based companies at legitimate scale, poised to challenge legacy financial services.
For instance, consumer-facing blockchain infrastructure is already commonplace in nations across Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia — with dozens of millions of digital wallets.
2. DeFi will be a security blanket for countless companies
While Paystand did not operate using Silicon Valley Bank, many of their customers did. Through that painful experience, Jeremy saw countless teams come to two conclusions:
Startups should not rely on one tech partner, as that threatens financial resilience.
Decentralized finance matters, and it presents significant security benefits.
Numerous Paystand users were able to continue operating since their financial network was decentralized. From there, they could take their deposits, pay them out, and make payroll.
After seeing this true value-add use case for DeFi, many more companies hopped aboard.
3. AI will elevate financial insights for small teams
Of course, AI tooling has been over-hyped by investors and founders alike. “But anyone who’s played with these large language models can see how compelling this is,” affirms Jeremy.
Even more, he looks forward to seeing how LLMs elevate insights within financial services.
From his perspective, some apps could come closer and closer to providing unique business insights — akin to those from legit data scientists in the space. This will especially benefit startups who don’t have data teams to unpack market trends, growth opportunities, etc.
“Whether it’s payment volume, receivables, or your general ledger, there is so much rich data today. But most companies don’t have a team of data scientists. With what large language models can do, teams can learn about trends within their business, the markets, the macroeconomy, and more.”
“This is already at the beta level in some cases,” Jeremy tells us. “It’s going to be at our fingertips real soon.”
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