Death to the Physical Wallet: Jason Gardner’s Commerce Summit Keynote
In our 9th annual Commerce Summit, we’re discussing the future of credit and credit infrastructure across a three-part virtual series. From BNPL to changing tech stacks, we’re in conversation with some of the most influential leaders shaping tomorrow’s credit. Jason Gardner (CEO @ Marqeta) kicks off the Summit by sharing his perspective on authentic leadership, the power of failure, and the future of FinTech.
As we focused on the future of credit at the Commerce Summit this year, it was clear that Marqeta needed to be part of the conversation. Marqeta (founded 2010) enables companies to issue and manage their own payment cards and tokens via easy-to-use, open APIs. From the cards that Instacart shoppers use at checkout to Uber drivers’ expense cards, startups and enterprises alike rely on Marqeta’s modern issuing technology. We first met Jason and invested in his trailblazing company in 2013. Marqeta went public in June 2021 and was one of the largest FinTech IPOs of the year.
- As a startup, the key is being great at one or two things. Focus on refining those core competencies and remember: companies die from overeating, not starvation.
- Lead with heart and understanding — a customer-centric perspective is the best guide to product-market fit.
- Less is more in the future of FinTech. Bundling and digitization will contribute to a frictionless consumer commerce experience.
- Providing a superior UI/UX will determine which FinTech product will become consumers’ next integral “utility.”
- The transition to remote in a post-COVID labor market requires shifting the balance to create a truly “people first” company culture.
Heart Is The Driver of Success
Looking back at the contributors to Marqeta’s success, Jason reflected on the importance of two factors: being surrounded by a smart and ambitious team and aggressively building for product-market fit. The key to finding it? Leading with heart.
“I have a lot of battle scars from getting here, but there is nothing else I could imagine doing in my life.”
For the Marqeta team, leading from the heart meant deeply understanding the customer (in this case developers) and creating a product that resonated with them. This mindset propelled the Marqeta team to discover what Gardner calls “product-market fit magic” early on and continually push to optimize.
What Does the Future Wallet Look Like?
In response to his take on the most interesting macro trends in FinTech, Jason underscored his belief that Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is here to stay. The sheer amount of consumers using this form of payment highlights the appetite for new ways to transact.
BNPL also indicates the fundamental slimming of consumers’ wallets that is happening as financial services are continually bundled into lifestyle offerings, plastic payment moves digital, and more credit-like products are embedded in the consumer shopping experience.
Jason envisions the future as wallet-less; the phone that will increasingly become tomorrow’s wallet, from carrying identification to facilitating payment.
“It’s the phone. The proverbial wallet or purse will go away. We aren’t going to see plastic in the future.”
He cited the adoption of “super apps” or “super wallets” in Asia as an indicator of lighter physical consumer payments in the United States. The consolidated commerce functionality seen in “super apps” is a result of consumers’ increased demand for invisible, frictionless financial services. With Paypal’s recent acquisition spree and even Apple’s continued invasion into FinTech, we agree that tech giants are competing to become the next “great American super app.”
Operating In A Pandemic
Marqeta was among a handful of companies scaling rapidly and simultaneously preparing to go public through COVID-19.
While the company faced challenges trying to replicate its culture of iteration in a virtual setting, Jason highlighted that the move to remote also came with surprising upsides.
“We get to cast a wider net now, it doesn’t matter where you hire.”
Going remote during shelter-in-place enabled Marqeta to be “all about the people,” and not have to consider geography as a factor in building culture. Jason feels strongly that transitioning to a long-term hybrid modality will bolster the collaborative energy that makes the company unique.
The question is how to thoughtfully develop a culture that persists across in-person and work-from-home teams moving forward.
Who Does Jason Gardner Look Up To?
After IPOing a $16B business with a history of impressive accomplishments, we wondered where Jason looked for inspiration when it came to leadership.
Jason is driven by sweeping disruption that has a positive impact on humanity. To him, there’s no better inspiration than Elon Musk when it comes to this kind of vision and leadership. Musk’s foresight to innovate for good and influence massive industry trends (traditional car manufacturers ending combustion engine development) motivates Jason to think broadly and disruptively.
With Marqeta already democratizing card issuing today, we expect this team to continue transforming FinTech into a more innovative and accessible space for years to come.