The Myth of Self-Sufficiency and the Hope of Community

Let me ask you this: How’d Warren Buffet become Warren Buffet? At this point, it’s like asking if King Midas could really turn everything he touched into gold, but do you really know the answer?

If you read Buffet’s Wikipedia page, you’ll find a full-on Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story: As a kid, he sold Coca-Cola, magazines, and chewing gum; worked in his grandfather’s grocery store; and delivered newspapers. He worked at regional stock brokerage, then went on to Wharton. He spent time as a salesperson, a securities analyst, and took a public speaking course, and had a job working for another investor for a salary of $12,000 (around $121,000 today). Then he founded his own company. 

Are you hearing anything about privilege? Nope, it’s a story of his hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. Which it would be except for the fact that his father was a four-term congressperson. That’s the thing people always leave out of the story. To Buffet’s credit, he has said he was born at the right time, in the right womb. In 2013, he told journalist Rebecca Jarvis, “The womb from which you emerge determines your fate to an enormous degree for most of the seven billion people in the world.” As Buffet so well knows, the results of our system are extremely asymmetrical. 

What if MrBeast weren’t the only one winning?

Americans (Are Trying to) Save Too Much

Most people are going it alone financially. They don’t have a wealth manager. They don’t have a financial advisor. Most people are hard pressed to find anyone they’re comfortable discussing finances with. 

For many, their financial advice is limited to the impersonal, blanket recommendations of popular figures like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey. Is their advice bad? Maybe! Is it right for everyone all the time? No. 

So, we don’t trust banks, but can we trust each other?

The tl;dr: Yes.

Half of the people in Sawa’s initial customer set don’t use banks. They don’t have a bank account — not a checking account, not a savings account. They honestly don’t want one. 

There are more than 4,000 banks in the U.S. and they don’t all operate the same way, but a lot of people have felt burned by the banks they have tried: They’re frustrated by their share of the $15B in overdraft and non-sufficient funds fees. They don’t think it’s state-of-the-art for an institution to withdraw seven days a week yet only deposit five. They simply don’t want to wait for checks deposited on Friday to clear on Monday. And they’re not alone

Why We Didn't Start By Building an MVP — And Neither Should You

The typical startup trajectory is product first: I have an idea. I build an app which addresses the idea. I iterate on the app while trying to find customers who need it. 

If the product is cool enough, it will eventually find an audience. Barring that, I’ll get credit for coming up with a cool idea — I know it was cool because we actually built the product; it was just ahead of its time. Michael Seibel at Y Combinator summarizes this path as, “Launch something bad, quickly.” Quickly certainly has its benefits — and the numerous successful products that are agile and lean testify to that. Without a doubt, it is much worse to launch something bad, slowly.