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Ben Milne

I write, read, and make things.


I genuinely like the people I work with. Each one of them has taught me something new and certainly, at times, helped change my perspective.

Dwolla has gone through a tremendous number of changes over the past 12 months and we’re about to go through one of the more profound changes in our short history. Our focus is changing from something you download to something software developers use to build great software. Those changes are going to start taking shape in our product over the next few weeks.

If you’ve been following the company closely you may have already started to see some of these changes manifest themselves in different ways.

It’s a huge effort across the company and it involves every one of us. In a recent internal presentation I was trying to find a good way to represent this and could think of no better way than sharing these pictures with the company.


Clearly, not everyone fit on one slide and I needed to add a second.

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Same Day ACH

Same Day ACH is kind of an obvious stop gap between normal ACH and a future real-time ACH-ish equivalent. I say ACH-ish because I still don’t believe that the real-time option is a modified ACH, it’s probably something else.

Same Day ACH on the other hand is going to be available soon and does a few things that most of us want:

  • Gets money into bank accounts faster.
  • Gets money out of bank accounts faster.
  • Follows ACH best practices for what is already known to work well.

If Same Day ACH is new to you and you care deeply about payments technology in the United States these are some good reads put out by the Dwolla team:

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Friday Finds: Good Reads

Jami convinced me to start sharing some the reading I’ve been consuming lately. I’m going to try to start sharing 3 per week. This week:

1. An MIT Scientist Claims That This Pill Is the Fountain of Youth

I mean. What could go wrong?

2. Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience

Brilliant and wonderfully well done. This morning over breakfast I read a letter from a cartoon artist to a fan, a suicide note, and a letter from Hunter S. Thompson. None of which would I have come across in everyday life.

It may not all be entertaining or put a smile on your face but it’s certainly good at creating pause and making you think. The stories also seem to drive a lot of conversation which is always fun.

3. Andreessen Horowitz’s Returns Trail Venture-Capital Elite &
When Is a “Mark” Not a Mark?

These are good reads because in my experience controversy tends to drive emotions and emotions lead smart people to make public declarations on complex issues they would otherwise never make.

The reason I always find this so amazing is these types of debates on this scale normally result new information being presented that wasn’t previously available or commonly known.

Most of the things I learned initially about engineering I learned from reading engineers fight about the right way to do things. More often than not both sides were right but they ended up putting all kinds of information online they probably shouldn’t have.

When really smart people debate take a moment and read the words. There’s normally a lot more substance in the debate than a side to take.

Disclaimer: Andreessen Horowitz is an investor in Dwolla.

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


A real-time dashboard for bank transfers

At the end of last year, Dwolla’s white label APIs started to ship and it kicked off a number of projects internally.

One of those internal projects was re-thinking the way information is delivered to developers building applications that leverage Dwolla for ACH transfers.

The concept for the project was to create an insightful view for developers and their business counterparts. It was also to build a dashboard and admin tool so that our partners don’t have to build their own unless they want to.

The idea was released today as the new Dwolla dashboard and the team took an incredibly thoughtful approach with it. For those building on top of the ACH API, we hope you enjoy it!

This is the most recent in a never-ending pursuit to save developers time, get businesses/new ideas to market faster, and give businesses clear insights into what’s going on in their application.

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

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