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Ben Milne

I write, read, and make things.

Category / Rant

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Over the years I’ve done quite a few interviews and not many questions stump me anymore but this one did. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? It’s not very often someone asks a question about you in a interview. I came home and talked about it and realized that I’m an introvert whose job […]

Saying Goodbye To Old Products

I shared this with a friend a few years ago. It’s humbling to work on a project long enough to see most of your best work replaced by something new. A lot of the work I contributed to in the early days at Dwolla, we’ve shut down or replaced. Even my early business models have been replaced a few times.

It’s been a somewhat therapeutic exercise to talk about some of this with friends/founders lately. There’s no shame in discontinuing a product. No more than when a better engineer replaces something you did years prior or a better designer replaces something you created around the same time.

Companies, brands, and technology are meant to evolve. Sometimes that evolution is just an end to a product.  Continue Reading

Showing up

I was having a conversation with Jami this afternoon at brunch about different books that friends or acquaintances have written and how that ends up changing our relationship with them, normally for the better, because of how much more we know about them and the depth of what we’re able to discuss when we are […]

5 Takeaways from 2016

2016 is a year that I’ll remember more about how I felt emotionally rather than the milestones. The specifics of it I don’t think I will recall well 10 years from now. I think I’ll remember more about how I felt at various points this year as opposed to specific events.

Jami broke out on her own in a big way in 2016 professionally and that’s been a change at home. As weekend and nights became time for shoots and creative projects it was an adjustment but a positive one. The amount of work in terms of volume she produced this year is astonishing.

I traveled less and that had benefits as well as new learnings. My Travel in 2016 was ~50% less than what it’s been in years past. Continue Reading

Automation we will live to see

// Over the last few months I’ve been back on a plane quite a bit. Its given me time to do some reading. Specifically, Cybernation, Who owns the future, and But, What if We’re Wrong.  //

You’d be right to expect this has something to do with financial services, but doesn’t! A lot of the discussions floating around on this topic have very little to do with FinTech.

Most of the discussed automation and where it’s expected to occur is fairly obvious. In financial services, the automation is focused on taking processes that involve paper+people, where people create a compounding error. The automation reduces that cost center by reducing the number of errors and through that automation is valuable.

An easy example where a company like Dwolla can help customers using automation is in the ACH returns and corrections process. An analyst reviewing lines in a batch file and clicking buttons doesn’t really help a business operate more efficiently and it introduces a number of things that could go wrong. Automating the ACH return process through an API saves everyone time.

By and large, automation has allowed financial businesses to reinvest in more people where they can generate greater value for the company. Handing paper between two people is not typically*1 a high value task.

Back office automation isn’t really obvious to individuals in organizations who don’t have access to, or read, the P&L. It might show up as increased margins for the accounting folks and leadership, but otherwise its success fades into the background. It also seems to be the focus of angst for those holding jobs that could be displaced by future automation, as well as those among us who believe they are important/creative/human enough not to be replaced by an automated task. Continue Reading

Build fintech products, faster.

A key advantage to developers using Dwolla’s white label APIs is that they get their businesses to market faster.

There are other advantages to big established businesses but this article has precisely nothing to do with that.

Very plainly speaking…

Ease of access for developers with a strong market need means more experiments will be built. More experiments being built means a higher probability of one of them taking off. When one of them does, everyone wins.

Not all experiments work, so in order to find ones that do, we need to make it as easy as possible for experiments to take place.

Experiments really mean: new businesses or business ideas.

Dwolla has made it really easy for companies to build new ideas and get into market with a infrastructure that leverages bank transfers and moves money for free.

Aside from the free transactions part of that, here is what excites me about what I see happening on a daily basis.

When I got started building Dwolla, it took significant time and investment to get it off the ground and it cost me my life savings. Generally speaking:

  • What is cost me: 2 years
  • Team of: 2
  • Cost pre-market: ~$80K

Let’s assume that time is worth $20 dollars an hour at 40 hours a week, which is a lot less time than any of us would put into launching a company.

Call it ~$40K per year, per person. Cost of ~$80K if you really carefully manage the money. It’s easy to spend a lot more.

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 3.57.27 PM

It cost me a lot.

It doesn’t cost new companies getting into the market anywhere near that. Continue Reading

Sacred Moments

Life is full of weird and fleeting experiences. Most of which will be forgotten because the memory isn’t important enough to be called upon. It’s unfortunate, yet true, that most of life is comprised of things that may influence you but are mostly forgettable because the experience is insignificant and truly unimportant.

Thankfully, there are also experiences in life which are serendipitous and completely unforgettable. We all have these and they are rarely calculated. I feel fortunate because I think one of the reasons I’m optimistic about the world is that I have had far more positive serendipitous experiences to draw from than negative. I know the world is far better than worse and people are far better than bad as a result.

This week has given me the opportunity to appreciate a different type of moment. Continue Reading

The Power of Default

I served with a board member a few years back who said something that I’m reminded of on a regular basis.

Never underestimate the power of the default setting.

What he meant by that wasn’t always user-centric. At least I don’t think so.

This is an interesting statement when put into the context of how powerful default providers are in new FinTech software.
Continue Reading

Connecting a Blockchain to the Establishment

When I say establishment, a few examples that could fit are:

  • Financial Institutions. Banks and credit unions.
  • Governments. State and Federal.
  • Regulated exchanges.
  • Media companies.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’d like to share what is an obvious overlap between blockchain based technologies that are recording asset transfers in a open ledger and large established organizations.

I’ve written in the past about when the appropriate time is to use various database types like blockchains but a recent Coindesk article made me feel like I should probably write some more.

While this is all going to be really obvious to a group of people, it’s something that the market seems to be coming around to: the practical applications of blockchains and how to connect them to the rest of the world and in existing business processes.

This entry is very much a stream of thought so if you find an error in this blog please don’t hesitate to let me know and I’ll get it corrected.

I’ve oversimplified a number of the details to make this blog easier to read. I’m well aware of that so please don’t take this is a copy / paste solution. It is not.

Continue Reading

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