Under founder and CEO Jason Gardner’s leadership, Marqeta has defined the global standard for modern card issuing. Backed by Goldman Sachs Group and Visa, the industry-leading platform helps new companies like DoorDash and Square issue their own payment cards. Gardner is a startup pro — prior to Marqeta, he co-founded PropertyBridge, which became the leading rent- and lease-related payment and transaction integration platform for multifamily real estate. He also founded Vertical Think, an IT management company.
In this installment of GOBankingRates’ “Best in Business” series, which sets out to discover what makes the people behind top innovative companies tick, Gardner explains why every new business is essentially a series of failures — and that you should build one anyway. He also discusses ways that you can find (or build) your own dream job.
When did you know you had to start this company?
While having dinner in San Francisco, a friend and I discussed how to personally manage all of the “daily deal” paper coupons that were hot at the time. I had an epiphany about how this could be handled by a card that could hold multiple balances, and authorize the right balance for the right merchant when swiped. I did a deep dive into the payment card ecosystem and enjoyed the complexity of it. Specifically, card issuing and processing had little to no innovation for many years before we entered the market. We were founded in 2010 as the world’s first fully documented, open API issuer processor platform.
What were your biggest fears about launching your own business?
I had little fear when I decided to launch the company. I had two companies prior to Marqeta, so I knew what I needed to do. In my opinion, it’s actually pretty exciting to launch a business.
What was the most surprising thing about the process?
I was surprised at how many people had no idea what issuing and processing payment card transactions were, and also by the complete lack of knowledge regarding the issuing processing industry at large. This made it difficult to raise venture capital in the early days. However, it also had a positive effect for three reasons: People love being part of something that has the opportunity to be very big; the engineering challenges were so complex that we were able to attract the best and brightest engineering talent; and we had the runway to launch without direct competition, and the license to build, test and deploy new technologies repeatedly.
What was the hardest part?
It was all hard, which I love. The hardest of all, though, was finding very clear product and market fit, and learning to scale people, process and technology.
Did any previous jobs inspire you to run Marqeta the way you do?
I co-founded two companies before Marqeta. I love building complex things from scratch, and I love doing it with other people. It’s an absolute joy for me regardless of how hard the work — mentally and physically — can be. By focusing on people, teams and culture, I have found a way to be part of something that makes me feel incredibly lucky to walk through the doors of Marqeta every day.
Building a business is a series of failures that get less and less intrusive over time as you learn and gain more experience. A few mistakes that I knew I didn’t want to make again: One, in my previous companies, we didn’t operate asynchronously. To be most effective as a team, you need to spend time getting things done. Email, meetings, individual offices and Slack do not actually get things done. In many ways, these things stand in the way of progress.
Two, I didn’t have clearly communicated vision, purpose and values. These are things that you can use as your north star when facing big decisions or obstacles. As such, they became critical to starting and scaling the business. Three, at Marqeta, we obsess over our customers and are ultra-responsive. Everything we do supports our customers’ core business or is their core business. If we are not closely connected to them, if we do not understand their business and the pain they are experiencing, we will not be successful.
Click to Read: How I Avoid Burnout as an Entrepreneur
Who are the people you lean on most?
My wife, my family, my friends, my business partners and our investors have all been there for me, and for the company. Having people that believe in you gives you the energy you need to build.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
You have to build it. There is never a good time to do this and if you want to do it, you should. Even if you fail, you can say that you did it. But with the confidence, a good product and market fit, and the power to scale, you can beat the odds and build a meaningful — even generational — business. When I started Marqeta, I was met with the reaction that changing the infrastructure in the payment card ecosystem was impossible. That energized me. I knew we were building something made for companies of the future, companies that hadn’t been created yet. We were right.
When did you realize Marqeta was going to make it?
When Marqeta began to grow very fast. We had crystal clear product and market fit, and we created the right formula to scale.
How do you define success?
I define it through performance and behavior.
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