Thinc Iowa: Ben Milne - ‘Think bigger than your parents are comfortable with’
Ben Milne tore through more than 100 slides in delivering a talk in front of a hometown crowd at Thinc Iowa. Photos by Anna Jones from Anna Jones | Art of Photography and Tom Woolery from Ikonix Studio.
Thinc Iowa's afternoon session Friday began with Ben Milne, who is (or should be) a known name to Silicon Prairie News readers. Milne is the CEO and co-founder of Dwolla. He started the company based on a problem he had with his previous startup: high interchange fees. With an understanding of interchange fees, a term used in the banking industry to describe fees paid between banks, Milne wanted to change how payments are made by creating a product that processes payments using social networks and other innovative methods and that reduces the interchange fees associated with making payments using a bank card. Below are some key points I took from Milne's talk.
Five T.I. Takeaways
1. Think huge
"Think bigger than your parents are comfortable with," Milne told the audience. "It's the only way you can get out of bed late at night" and deal with the problems of running a company. Milne said that if you think big, you will continue to be passionate about your idea when something negative happens.
2. Be a builder
Being a builder was a theme threaded throughout Milne's presentation, and it closely related to similar key points from the Thinc Iowa speakers before him. Milne said that by being a builder at a young age, he was always interested in carrying out his ideas and became bored with typical jobs.
3. Spend time with people smarter than you
If you spend time with people smarter than you, they will "raise your game," Milne said. He also spoke passionately about how spending time with people smarter than yourself is critical to success. "If you are not around people smarter than you," Milne said, "go find them."
4. "Us" vs. "Them"
Milne said that the Midwest ("us") isn't in competition with the coasts ("them"). As he explained, we sometimes put "walls up" to outside investors and the coast ecosystems because we feel we can do everything in the Midwest. "This is not going to work," Milne said. "The 'us' is a bigger picture. It's a connection point, and we're all part of the same roadmap."
5. Move out the house
Milne said startups in the Midwest must think beyond their hometown when building their products. "How great would Foursquare be if it was only in New York?," Milne asked. "How small would PayPal be if it was only in California?" The point Milne was trying to drive home is that you have to "embrace your limitations while interfacing with the outside world."