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Broker Interviews

Spending Any Asset, Anywhere

Mariangela Martinez
Mariangela Martinez

We interview Billy Roberts, founder of Wedge, on Spending Any Asset, Anywhere.

Wedge is a platform where buy or sell stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrency as well as spend them anywhere with their card. Wedge's patent pending technology uses real-time financial routing technology to help empower their customers.

Watch the whole interview:

Transcript:

Mariangela: Hey, Billy, how are you?

Billy: I'm good, Maringela, how are you?

Mariangela: I'm good, good. Thank you so much for joining us, joining Alpaca in this live interview.

Billy: Yeah, it's my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Mariangela: Of course. So you're in Austin, right?

Billy: I am. I am.

Mariangela: Ok. How's the weather over there right now?

Billy: Today, unsurprisingly it's sunny and hot. Not as hot as it has been but, definitely sunny and hot. Yeah. What about you?

Mariangela: Yeah. Breathable and livable.

Billy: Yes.

Mariangela: I'm in Mexico City and the weather is kind of cold. A little bit cold for me, I guess.

Billy: Yeah, that sounds awesome.

Mariangela: Let's see. Ok, let's wait a little bit for people to join. I'm gonna go ahead and read the disclosures. All views and opinions expressed by the guest speakers are solely their views and opinions and do not reflect or represent the views and opinions of Alpaca Securities LLC, Alpaca Crypto LLC, and Alpaca DB. The guest speakers’ opinions are based on information they consider reliable and therefore Alpaca Securities LLC, Alpaca Crypto LLC, and Alpaca DB do not warrant its completeness, accuracy and it should not be relied upon as such. The content is for general information purposes only. Alpaca Securities LLC and Alpaca Crypto LLC do not recommend any specific investments, investment strategies and/or cryptocurrencies.

Ok. So we got that out of the way. Let's see. So, Billy Robert from Wedge, thank you for joining again. I'm Mariangela Martinez, Content Marketing Specialist at Alpaca. Today, we're pleased to be joined by Billy Roberts, founder of Wedge. Wedge’s patent pending technology uses real time financial routing technology to help empower their customers. And I don't want to spill all the tea, so we'll leave it to Billy to go in depth. So tell us about yourself and about Wedge.

Billy: Yeah. Well, thanks again for having me. I, so obviously, I'm Billy, co-founder and CEO of Wedge here in Austin. I grew up here in Texas. I'm a second time founder. So, started entrepreneurship, I guess about 12 years ago now, give or take. Yeah, and realized, fortunately early on that, I really just love building great teams and great products. So I sold my last business in 2019 and then after that exit, just really started thinking about what to focus on next and became just incredibly enamored with, you know, some of the opportunities and some of the limitations that we saw in the fintech space. And so I started talking with him about, with my co-founder, Alex, back in 2020. And you know, the idea really just started to snowball on us and before we knew it, we had a business.

Mariangela: What was your last business about?

Billy: Our last business was focused in the oil and gas space. And really, it was a data analytics company. So we built a platform that allowed all these different data sets to be put together kind of in time and space in a way that for the first time allowed operators to go say if we go change stimuli X, we can see Y as a monetary result. And so we built that and enjoyed the process and enjoyed working on it together and decided to do it again.

Mariangela: Wait, so oil to fintech, how was that jump like?

Billy: You know, I think for me, the thesis behind my previous business and were pretty thematically similar. So, you know, both kind of required a new perspective in an industry with a ton of institutional inertia. You know, no one guess we saw a lot of interesting novelty around data analytics and process optimization so forth, but not a lot of utility as it pertained to, you know, putting these tools that will come to market to work in a way that could be, you know, easily implemented and clearly monetized. And so in order to be successful, we had to look at kind of the issues associated with fragmentation and user experience and product market fit and all these different things in a new way and then build a great team that could execute on a plan to, to build a better mouse trap. And so, from my perspective at wedge, it's a very similar kind of thesis and approach, right, we're looking at an industry with a lot of institutional inertia, a lot of interesting novelty. And our mission is to kind of take a look at the macro landscape and put all this novelty together in a way that can really create real utility for users.

And so from my position and what I do, it's been certainly super interesting but I think on the technical side, there's a lot more complexity, a lot more regulatory compliance stuff that has to be contemplated.

Mariangela: Yeah. So can you tell us what Wedge is about?

Billy: Yeah, for sure. So, you know, our mission at Wedge is to really focus on empowering users to spend more efficiently. And so with Wedge, you know, we've got one card, one wallet that enables users to spend using any asset in the way that works best for them. And today that includes, you know, cash, ETFs, stocks, crypto and the big better rewards program. And so what Wedge is about is really you know, creating a, a compelling alternative to credit cards and, and other debit products, right, where you've got one account one card that may or may not provide real benefits to the user in the way that it's used and kind of the risks associated with it. With wedge, we wanted to create a one to mini paradigm. So for the first time users have one card, they can connect to all these different funding sources. And all they have to do is go swipe and then they can select the funding source that works best for them and creates the most upside and lead to not a risk.

Mariangela: OK. And how does it work when you, when you swipe do you like go in and choose?

Billy: Yeah, for the most part. You know, we've got some automation in there that folks can elect to use. But you know, the beauty of it is, is that you get to use your card and then select if you want to use an asset afterwards. And so you go swipe, you get a notification, you have about 24 hours to address it. And wedge list out kind of all your different assets and you know, cash analysis and then, you know, you can click a button and for the first time, go buy coffee with Tesla stock or Gold ETFs or Bitcoin. And really kind of see, you know, red light, green light way, you know, which asset works the best for you. And if you don't want to use any assets, then you can just, you know, use cash as you would with.

Mariangela: OK. So, OK, when it comes to product development, what's your process of deciding what to launch and creating a culture that makes it happen?

Billy: Oh, so that's an evolutionary process, for sure. I think where we are today and what we try to stay true to is a ton of user testing, a ton of kind of market research and a whole lot of kind of analytics as to how folks are actually, you know, engaging with the app, you know, so we want to focus on the 80% of the feature set that work and not the 20% that you know, it seems cool but, you know, isn't really creating that utility that I was talking about.

And so when it comes to developing products, and I've got to be mindful of this because foundation, I think I'm a product guy first and foremost, there's a lot of great ideas that we think would be really cool. But we've got a great team that does a super diligent job, a great job of kind of taking a look at what really matters, what can move the needle for folks in terms of creating, you know, tangible value. And we map those things out and those are the things that we focus on and decide to launch.

You know, as it pertains to, you know, how we do that. If you hit on it, it's about building a great culture and a great team. And I was super lucky, you know, to be able to partner with Alex who I've worked with for several years now. But once again, we had a great team that kind of came around and works really, really well together, kind of in a multidisciplinary fashion. You know, that's one of the things that's super compelling and, and interesting about the fintech spaces, you know, you've got Tech DEV and all that cool stuff going on, but like there's all this regulatory compliance piece that has to be contemplated from the get go. There's a user journey and making sure that you're, you've got a great customer experience and customer support network and getting all these pieces together in a way that's harmonious and can actually turn out products in a meaningful way is, is something that, you know, I get really excited about here at Wedge.

Mariangela: Yeah. And how have the challenges been different for you with Wedge than the last one with oil?

Billy: You know, I think oil and gas is interesting in that you know, as big as an industry as it is, your actual kind of customer pool is, you know, quite small. I mean, you're talking about, in our case, you know, maybe 150-200 different companies that, you need to go sell to and you have to understand and, and so forth. Fintech, just even def defining it is somewhat challenging because it spans so many different kind of disciplines around someone's financial well-being.

So, you know, one of the things that has been most evident is just kind of the need and this gets back to what you're talking about with products like of being focused and programmatic and surgical around, you know, what domino do you need to go knock over first in order to like create real value for folks. And so I think just the dynamic nature of, you know, the fintech ecosystem as a whole is foundation different than what we saw previously, right?

Mariangela: Ok. Now, fundraising has fallen 43% year over year in the first half of 2022, according to Wall Street Journal. How does this affect startups like yours?

Billy: Yeah. So, you know, you've got a plan for a lengthy process to be even more lengthy and make sure that you're, you know, tossing nickels around like your manhole covers. We are incredibly fortunate to have an amazing group of folks that back us today. And we really look at the macro environment as an opportunity to further our technical and market position where a lot of other folks are having to downsize and pare back their R&D spend. And so it's actually an interesting lesson learned from the oil and gas space where, you know, it's always boom and bust, right?

The funding cycles are like, you know, so much more dramatic than they are kind of in the macro sense that we're seeing right now. So it was really good training going through that experience to come into this one because you know what we found in that environment is the folks that are buckling down now and really building out their technical chops you know, really being diligent about product market fit in this environment are gonna be the folks that are ready to go scale and blow up whenever, you know, things turn around, which inevitably they will. And so that's kind of how we approach it. It's two sides at the same point. You know, you've gotta be a little bit more mindful about where things are going and how you're gonna get from A to B. But it creates a tremendous amount of opportunity at the same time.

Mariangela: OK. Did you have trouble with that or?

Billy: With Wedge?

Mariangela: With fundraising.

Billy: In the past, I can say without hesitation that my fundraising thesis are wrong 100% of the time. So we always have an idea as to how we're gonna get from A to B and what we're gonna do. And, for better or for worse, we never execute on that plan. But, like I said, we've got this great team. We've got an amazing set of investors today. And so, you know, even if we take a more secure route, we always get to where we need to go. So it's always a learning experience but it's not without its set of challenges.

Mariangela: Yeah, make the investors happy.

Billy: That's right.

Mariangela: OK. So, you know, you said, pay with stocks or ETFs or which stock, but I saw in your site that you have an algorithm that chooses for you if you want, if you can, you know, if you don't want to choose for everything. How does that algorithm work or how did you come about it?

Billy: Yeah. So in its current form, really, what we're doing is looking at, you know, which combination of different assets could be deployed based on their individual cost bases to maximize the earnings for any particular transaction. So, you know, if you've got a little bit of Tesla and some S & P 500, ETFs and the Bitcoin, you know, what we'll do is we'll take the pennies from each of those of the most effective cost basis and put them together to cover the total transaction amount. And so we just make that super simple by, you know, giving somebody a button, they can click it, it lists out kind of what the consequences associated with those trades are. And then, yeah, they can simply click on a button and earn as much as they can every time they go, go buy a cup of coffee.

Mariangela: Ok. And when you say earn, is it like a cash back type of thing or?

Billy: It's kind of like, you know, trading stocks and, you know, buying at one price and selling at another. We just do that on a any basis with all the equities that we support through Alpaca. And, yeah, if you bought it a dollar and now it's at $2 and you go with, you know, use that position to buy something, you've created some earnings for yourself.

Mariangela: Right. Ok. So what are Wedge’s plans for the future? Where is it going? Where do you see it in 3 to 5 years?

Billy: You know, when we kind of take a look at the macro environment and, and what we're seeing in the fintech face, you know, there's this land war for, you know, becoming the institution that holds someone's primary checking account, you know, getting those deposits.

When we look at our futures set at Wedge and kind of being spending focused, we see our tool best deployed through tradfi banking institutions, right? So there's a ton of value that folks can get at a traditional banking institution as it pertains to loans and guidance and CDs and all these other cool things that come with a bank that a lot of folks underappreciate these days. So looking in the future for us, what we want to do is continue our strategy of integrating with folks banks, you know, so that wherever you bank being able to spin with wedge becomes an expectation the same way that, you know, a lot of banks deploys out, right, you go to a bank, you get, you can move money around and so forth. That's our vision with Wedge is we really want to empower banks, empower customers to kind of extract real value from this fintech ecosystem. And you know, from where we see the cards falling today, that's the most effective way to do that.

So in 3 to 5 years, wherever folks are banking, they should hopefully expect to be able to deploy wedge and it's been with us.

Mariangela: Yeah. Right. Hopefully. let's see whoever, our viewers, if you have any questions, we're happy to answer. Well, Billy is happy to answer them.

Billy: Let's see. I don't know what else do you wanna tell us about, about what, you know, it's for those folks that are listening, it's a really, interesting kind of new way to think about spending, to think about investments and for the first time to really take an equity outside the bounds of a brokerage into a point of sale. And what we've seen is that once we get somebody to use it for the first time, our engagement is incredibly compelling. You know, we can get 35 sometimes 40 transactions on average per month per user, you know, indicating we're getting to touch them twice a day in some cases, every time they go use that card.

So, if you're interested in taking a new look at how to deploy equities, you know, figuring out a way to use crypto as a currency, wanna get some cool rewards in the process, would definitely encourage folks to take a look at Wedge and you know, let us know what you think.

Mariangela: Yeah. Now question about the card. Is it only in the US? What happens if I use it out of the US.. transaction fees?

Billy: Yeah. So, in order to use Wedge what day you've got to be a US citizen, and have a US checking account. You can use it overseas and then, our network provider has some fees on top of that, or, but yeah, you can take Wedge International. But for today you've got to be a US citizen to get.

Mariangela: Yeah. Ok. Or have like a social security number.

Billy: Exactly.

Mariangela: Ok. Now does it cost to ask for a card in Wedge, like sign up?

Billy: So it doesn't cost to get a card. We do have a fixed monthly fee. It gets waived if you use the card and hit certain thresholds. So most of our users, you know, are putting, you know, a good amount of transactions, a good amount of volume to the card on a monthly basis, so those fees are waived. But worst case scenario, yeah, we do have a fixed monthly fee.

Mariangela: Ok, great. So I'm not American but I do have a social security so I might be able to.

Billy: Yeah.

Mariangela: Ok, so for our viewers, if you want more information, you can visit them at Wedge.us and you can find them on Twitter for more updates @WedgeFinancial. Billy, I don't know if you have a user for yourself on Twitter.

Billy: I think I do. It's been a while since I've used that.

Mariangela: So just @WedgeFinancial then

Billy: Great.

Mariangela: Sounds good. Thank you so much for joining us and giving us the time. It was great having you.

Billy: Likewise. Thank you so much.

Mariangela: Thanks, bye, everyone.


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All views and opinions expressed by the guest speakers are solely their views and opinions and do not reflect or represent the views and opinions of Alpaca Securities LLC, Alpaca Crypto LLC, and AlpacaDB. The guest speakers' opinions are based on information they consider reliable and therefore Alpaca Securities LLC, Alpaca Crypto LLC, and AlpacaDB do not warrant its completeness, accuracy and it should not be relied upon as such. The content is for general informational purposes only. Alpaca Securities LLC and Alpaca Crypto LLC do not recommend any specific investments, investment strategies or cryptocurrencies.

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Mariangela Martinez

Mariangela Martinez is a Content Marketing Specialist, DX & Community at Alpaca. She loves working in the Fintech industry and is invested in how it is changing.