Vince Talbert, right, at Startup Grind
Vince Talbert has deep roots in Baltimore. He grew up in Reisterstown, attended Franklin High School in Baltimore County and studied finance and economics at Towson.
So when venture capitalists made offers to Talbert and his team at Bill Me Later in a bid to get the online credit startup that allows Internet shoppers to purchase items now and, well, pay later, he told them moving was off the table.
“It would have been a deal killer,” Talbert said as he related the tale of Bill Me Later’s growth to the crowd of about 40 gathered at Tuesday evening’s Startup Grind at Loyola University Maryland.
Co-founded in 2000 by Talbert, Bill Me Later, along with PayPal, would go on to drastically change how people purchased goods online. (Not coincidentally, eBay, which also owns PayPal, acquired Bill Me Later in 2008. Talbert is now the VP of merchant marketing at PayPal.) But remaining in Baltimore, on the East Coast, was done more than just out of geographical loyalty.
Talbert and his team, with more than 80 years of experience in the credit card payment and lending space, built a successful company because of their “domain expertise,” he said.
“All domain experts were on the East Coast,” Talbert said.
Domain expertise wasn’t the only thing going for Bill Me Later, a company that, at its peak, was dealing with a credit line worth $1.2 billion dollars.
From Talbert, here are five pieces of advice founders of Baltimore startups should write on Post-It notes and stick to their faces. Every day.
- “Take as little money as you can to prove your hypothesis.” Build momentum by getting revenue or acquiring customers, show exponential growth in revenue or customer adoption and “get as far down that curve” before taking venture capital funding.
- Take money when you have the proof that whatever you’re developing works, because then you’ll need the funds to increase your startup’s scale and reach.
- “Finding your tribe is the most important thing you can do.” Find people who think like you do and share your values, but be sure those people don’t agree with you all the time, lest you become one-dimensional in your thinking.
- “Be ridiculously disciplined about hiring great people, and focus on getting shit done.”
- For those founders with significant others, be aware that building a startup “will be the biggest test of your relationship.”
Vince Talbert and Wasabi Ventures’ co-founder and Startup Grind host Tom Kuegler were on the latest episode of gb.tc’s Baltimore Weekly. Watch the video: