May 31, 2023: Top stories of the month
This company helping millions save billions (yes), check out our summer parties and learn about what's new in the ecosystem
What is ZayZoon?
ZayZoon is helping save 10 million people 10 Billion dollars. Unfortunately, much of the United States lives paycheck to paycheck and can find themselves in a position of needing to bridge the gap between paydays with less-than-ideal financial products such as Payday loans and overdraft fees. ZayZoon partners with businesses across the United States, such as McDonald’s and 7-11, to give their employees access to their hard-earned wages, before their actual payday.
What was the insight/inspiration that led you to launch it?
Early in my entrepreneurial career, somewhere between organizing crews for prawn boats and painting houses, I took to Craigslist and created ads offering loans. Between the age of 16 and 23 I provided more than $250,000 of short-term, small-dollar loans to people and very quickly realized a very common theme. There was a cash flow issue that forced people towards predatory products that, in many cases, would do nothing more than further the debt cycle they found themselves in. ZayZoon was the idea I had to help people get the relief they needed in-between paydays, in a responsible manner.
How has it been received by the market? Why do you think it has been so well received?
Earned Wage Access is an industry pioneered by ZayZoon and it has been so surreal to see it develop over the past number of years. When we first started, no one knew what Earned Wage Access was and although the idea was well received, it took lots of education to gain clients and customers. As the space has exploded in popularity, the idea we had 10 years ago is now a desired benefit by businesses everywhere.
How did you know you were ready to found a company?
I talked about this on a podcast recently and concluded that there wasn’t a specific aha moment. I think founding a company is a cumulation of entrepreneurial type traits and experiences that build on themselves over time. In other words, it isn’t just a yes or no fork in the road with no other inputs. It’s a slow build-up of learning that eventually leads you into focusing more and more of your time on your own pursuits. At least, that’s how it was for me.
How did you meet your founders/know they were the right people to start a company with?
I met Darcy through a mutual connection (Casper Wong, President, FinanceIt) and we later met Jamie through a startup event. There’s a longer story here, but to keep it short, core values are everything. Be aware of what those are for you and don’t bend on them.
What has been the hardest thing on your journey so far?
For me personally, it has been navigating the personal and professional development needed to continually adapt to a growing company. In other words, when a company triples every year… you as a leader need to not just grow at that pace, but actually beyond that - keeping in mind that you are building for the future, not the past.
What has been the most pleasant surprise?
If you surround yourself with incredible people and continually work on the little things while keeping your patience on the long-term goals…it just...works.
What is your super strength?
I have a great ability to connect with people and form opportunities for learning and collaboration. I’ve always lived heavily by the cliche of it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. When you combine this with the ability and desire to mix those people in your network, you can very quickly create new relationships and value for everyone. I’ve always really enjoyed bringing people together and finding mentorship in many of my relationships as well.
Who is the unsung hero on the team? Why?
Jamie Ha, CFO, and Co-Founder of ZayZoon. Jamie tends to play in the background a lot more than me and our CEO, Darcy Tuer, but don’t let that fool you.
Jamie originally approached ZayZoon to invest in the company and shortly after he joined as CFO and Co-Founder. Since then, he’s been the driver of ZayZoon raising more than $25M in equity financing, putting in place capital warehouses for funding customer payout requests, and has helped form the business and product strategy for our long-term success.
What are you trying to achieve over the next 12 months?
Get more businesses to offer ZayZoon to their employees. We’re on a mission to save 10 million people $10 Billion and 2023 is about focusing on our core service of Earned Wage Access as a way to help save our customers from predatory products.
In 2022, we more than doubled our team size and almost 4X our revenues, all while maintaining an employee net promoter score in the top percentile. The balance of growth, customer satisfaction, and team satisfaction is always top of mind for me and the next 12 months won’t be different.
What advice do you wish you had been given prior to launching?
I have 3:
1. Things will take 3X longer and cost 3X more than you expect
2. You need to get gritty with sales. Whale hunting is fun and the prospect of skipping straight to exponential growth is enticing, but this creates a very binary outcome situation - you either land the whale or you don’t. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to a startup's 2 most precious resources - money and time. Instead, put one foot in front of the other, and show repeatable growth that can be invested in.
3. Balance build time and external time. There are lots of events, conferences, and people to meet with. Finding the balance between promoting yourself, and your brand and learning from others with being reclusive and focused on your work is difficult to find. The quicker you do, the better off you will be.
What is your proudest accomplishment outside of your startup?
I have 2 accomplishments that I think helped shape me internally as well as my identity externally that I’m very proud of.
First is my work as a commercial fisherman. Albeit very seasonal and a small part of my overall life, some of these trips were intense, with one trip, in particular, lasting 43 days at sea. This experience not only left me with some great stories, but it also gave me a capital injection at a young age that I eventually leveraged into ZayZoon.
Second is my accomplishments in martial arts. Martial Arts was a big part of my youth and when I was 15, I started competing in MMA. Taking months of intense training and putting it all on the line against another human trying his hardest to beat you up in front of hundreds of people including family and friends is weird, and energizing feeling.
Who are the 5 Canadian startups you like in your market?
FinanceIt - FinanceIt was the entire reason and inspiration for why I got into this world of Fintech. Founded originally as CommunityLend, FinanceIt has been around since 2011 and has quietly become one of Canada’s largest fintech companies.
Neo Financial - Neo has moved quicker than maybe any fintech in Canadian history. I’m always so impressed with their new partnerships and the new features they seem to announce every other month. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Andrew, The CEO at Neo, is a very genuine person and mentor to me.
Payfare - they’re the engine behind Lyft, Uber, and DoorDash helping their drivers get paid daily
Wealthsimple - may be one of the first examples of beautiful fintech design in Canada.
Mogo - One of the first fintechs in Canada and one that has paved the way in digitizing the experience for many subprime Canadians and new entrants to crypto. I don’t agree with everything they do, but it’s undisputed that Mogo continues to make moves in Canadian fintech
I’m a (very small) investor in both of these companies and pursued both because of how incredible their product and founders are. ThreeShips is a skincare line that has experienced fast-paced growth and knows how to do a lot with a little. A browse of their Instagram will give you an idea of the personality, culture, and brand they’re creating.
HonestDoor gives the most accurate home price estimate to Canadians. It’s run by Dan Belos, who I first met during an impromptu whiteboarding session that I stumbled into by way of a meeting with a mutual connection going long. We clicked right away and with passion for real estate and frustration around how archaic the industry is, I’m excited to see what Dan does with it.
You went on a 75-day RV Tour across the US, what was that about?
Myself and another team member took 75 days to drive a ZayZoon-branded RV from LA to New York and everywhere in between! We dubbed this “Payday, Are We There Yet?!” Rv Tour. During our visit to 21 states, we actually flew in more than 40 ZayZooners for different legs of the trip while we hosted community events and showed appreciation to a bunch of our partners, clients, and customers.
When you're growing incredibly fast, it's really important to not lose sight of what got you to where you are today. For ZayZoon, what has brought us here today is an intense curiosity, tenacity, and a personable approach to everything we do. The 'Payday Are We There Yet?!' RV Tour was about doubling down on these values and ensuring that we continually instill this into the fabric of our company.
Learn more about ZayZoon here
Quick Takes: Top Stories of the Month
The weather hasn’t been the only thing heating up over the past month - the ecosystem has been revived and seemingly brought back to life as well.
With an array of raises, acquisitions, (and a bit of bad news), the ecosystem is pushing out headlines, stories, and chatter that we have been unpacking each week.
Here are the top stories we have enjoyed in the month of May:
Listen to these episodes in full from the past month, wherever you listen to your podcasts. We break down everything we’ve been seeing in easy-to-digest, 30 min episodes that you can take anywhere.
Most read this week in technology
What happened when scientists gave people psychedelics?
AI Chatbots and shopping…are they there yet?
Basedash, a Canadian workflow management platform, raised $4.5m in seed funding from Matrix Partners, YC, Form Capital, and Worklife
AT, a Canadian provider of factory automation systems, raised $246m in its IPO and will list on the NYSE (ATS)
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Check out the interesting content, events, and happenings for the community here:
TechTO: Together | June 5, 2023: Learn from the top Founders and creators in Canadian Tech. Whatever your goals are, this event can connect you with like-minded individuals that will help you level up and reach your goals.
TechTO x OneEleven present: The Summer Social Series | June 26, 2023: A chance to kick off summer with hundreds of founders, technologists, and like-minded individuals (over yummy food and drinks!) More activations and announcements coming soon!
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