Vemno founders Andrew Kortina, left, and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, right
Venmo, the mobile payments company that is crushing the competition among college-age users, lets you send money to someone with just a tap on your smartphone.
It combines an easy way to pay someone back with a social network, ultimately taking some of the awkwardness out of asking your friends for money.
Co-founder Andrew Kortina wrote an essay about the company's founding on his blog to share with Venmo's latest intern class.
The whole thing is worth a read, but here were the 13 most fascinating things that we learned from Venmo's orgin story:
- The company's two founders — Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail — met as randomly paired freshman year roommates at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001.
- Kortina started out as a computer science major but decided that he wanted to maximize his tuition costs by studying things that he would not get to do after college. He ended up majoring in creative writing and philosophy.
- Korina and Magdon-Ismail started their first company together as seniors: A college classifieds site called My College Post. Although nothing came of it, the pair got an apartment in west Philadelphia post-graduation, freelancing in website design and working on startup projects like a website analytics tool called Swooge and a music site called Philafunk.
- Throughout his career, Kortina says that there's one "no" that he regrets the most. It was from "this amazing Pakistani restaurant, Kabobeesh, that served a chicken kabob sandwich on fresh naan bread for $3.50: we tried to sell them a site for 100 chicken rolls, but failed to close them."
- The duo worked for OMGPOP before it became the gaming company that made Draw Something. At this time, it was a site called iminlikewithyou that helped people flirt.
- For several years, Kortina worked at Bit.ly and Magdon-Ismail worked at Ticketleap, but they both knew that they eventually wanted to team up again on some new idea.
- In 2009, they decided to make it happen. They launched Venmo, a music startup that allowed people to send a text to a band to have an mp3 show up in their email.
- The name Venmo comes from vendere, Latin for "to sell," and "mo" for mobile. Kortina says that picking a name wasn't a huge deal for the fledgling company. They just wanted something that was short, could be used as a verb, could be spelled intuitively (no startup cliches like switching c's and k's), and could be purchased on GoDaddy for cheap.
- The fateful pivot occurred when Magdon-Ismail came to visit Kortina in New York City for the weekend but forgot his wallet. Kortina covered him, but they discovered that it was extremely cumbersome for Magdon-Ismail to pay him back with a check. Kortina never ended up cashing it, but the idea had sprouted.
At first, they designed Venmo to let users send and receive payments via text message.
- When they realized that the information from their Venmo texts told a story about how and where they were spending their time, they decided to introduce a social network aspect.
- Raising money was a challenge for the company at first. At one meeting, an investor said that he was only interested in "billion dollar, home run opportunities." Magdon-Ismail was fast on his feet: "This will be a trillion dollar company."
- Magon-Ismail's old boss at Ticketleap made the first angel investment in the company with his father.
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