Theory: The desire for prestige is why we: 1) spend an outrageous sum of money on education, 2) kill ourselves at jobs we don’t like, 3) put up with colleagues and bosses we despise, 4) never pursue our dreams, and 5) eventually fill our hearts with regret. If we can figure out how to rid ourselves of the desire for prestige, we will become much happier in the process!
About a year and a half ago when I was attending Finovate, a financial innovation conference, I met a fintech entrepreneur named John. He told me his revolutionary idea was to simplify the documentation gathering process for people looking to refinance or get a new mortgage. As anybody who’s ever taken out a mortgage can attest, it’s a real pain in the ass.
I was intrigued since I’ve done about 10 refinances on four properties since 2003 and planned to refinance one last time when I met him. But when John showed me his product, it still required the user to upload all of the docs the bank wanted onto his website. Further, there are always additional document requests from the bank to upload on his platform after that. What’s the point?
Creating an unnecessary barrier between consumer and lender didn’t seem like a good business idea. At least John was trying to solve a problem. I thanked him for his time and wished him well.
Then just last month I ran into John at another fintech conference. I tend to go once a quarter with a free media pass. Otherwise, I’d go less often because these tickets cost anywhere from $300 – $2,000 each! Running conferences during the internet boom is akin to being a landlord. It’s one of the best ways to profit.
I asked John how his product was doing, and he said that he’s looking to hire a CEO with more product experience. One guy slipped away thanks to an offer from Google, but another guy was close to joining.
Fantastic! I told him. In order to get someone with CEO-level experience to quit his/her job to join his startup must mean his product is doing pretty well. But when I talked to him further, he said he was still looking to launch his MVP, or minimum viable product.
Huh? If an entrepreneur hasn’t launched his MVP, there are no customers or revenue. All an entrepreneur has is an idea. So after 1.5 years, John basically spent $10,000+ attending financial conferences, collected no revenue, and hasn’t even launched a working website. Totally illogical, right?
John mentioned that he was bored back home in Seattle with his wife and daughter. Same old stuff, every single day. Ever since he left the mortgage industry after it imploded in 2010, he’s felt lost. He decided to attend business school part-time, and from there he discovered his passion for fintech.
When I asked him whether he felt that flying down to San Francisco to attend conferences for 2-3 days at a time was costly, he mentioned, “not at all!”
“I feel so alive coming to all these conferences. I get to pass out my business card that says ‘Founder & CEO’! Before, I was just one of many mortgage officers trying to make a buck. Now, I get to meet so many aspiring entrepreneurs looking to do something new with their lives. They treat me as an equal. It’s wonderful!”
He went on, “Also, I’ve been able to meet plenty of interesting women. I always tell them I’m looking to hire a VP of Marketing or whatever role they are currently doing to keep their interest. As soon as I tell them this, their eyes light up as I’m suddenly the man of their dreams! I’ve been seeing this one woman for over a year now in the Bay Area. Even though she lives 45 minutes south of San Francisco, she always makes time to drive up and have dinner and drinks with me. I don’t know how long I can keep stringing her along about the VP of Marketing role, but she likes the attention and the idea of potentially working for me, so why not enjoy it while it lasts?”
It’s always about a girl isn’t it? Revenue, product, helping others with their financial problems be damned. On the one hand, it’s bad of John to string this woman along for so long as a married man. On the other hand, she’s an adult who makes her own decisions. Sadly, I have a feeling John is heading towards some difficult times both financially and personally as this fintech startup is his only gig.