Footprint raises $13M Series A led by QED Investors. Read more

Eli Wachs
Eli Wachs

Investor Update

July 10, 2024

15 min. read

A Boy and his Dog— To Oreo and Joy (Update #)

Essay

To my best boy. I promise to actively look for the joy you found in each day.

June 7

I
For years, they’ve said his heart would go. He’s had a heart murmur for over a decade. It’s been stage five (on a scale of 6, which is heart failure) for four years. In January of 2021, before I moved to NYC, they said he had a year. His heart was too big.

I’m not surprised by the size of his heart. All he did was give love. And I’m not surprised his heart was so strong at the end, that they actually tapered off his heart medicine. The thesis: his kidneys and the two cancers were progressing more quickly. Given heart medicine negatively impacts the kidneys, let the kidneys recover a bit. Absolutely amazing. My best boy. Always a lover. And for his health, a fighter.

II
I’ve never been good at enjoying the moment. It is not that I did not fully appreciate them. Rather, my head was already in the next moment. Yes, today was nice. But imagine what tomorrow could be. Fantasies achieved do not grant inner peace; they beget new fantasies.

The exception to this was my time with Oreo. He greeted me every day from third grade through high school graduation. Both in the morning. When he would scratch to open my door, and jump up on my bed. And in the afternoon. He had a perch on his favorite couch which let him survey the driveway. When I arrived he would run down to the door. In place to greet me before I entered.

My parents were divorced. Not every morning was in the same bed. But every morning was with him. In middle school, I went to summer camp. And in high school, I traveled for the summers. China, India, Peru. The trips mattered to me. The accomplishments mattered to others, so they mattered to me. None of it mattered to him. It was the same kisses and unconditional love.

As I got older, we would drive around. Him in the front seat, window down. Enjoying the wind. The music. The moment. I was sad he could not visit me in college—both at Stanford and abroad in Florence. I swore to my mom the Palo Alto climate would do wonders for him. My Florence pitch centered around his love of pizza and my desire to get him custom outerwear from a store near my cooking class. My mom said he was happy at home. She was right. I brought him back stories. And a jacket from that store—they swore it was the same fur manufacturer as Balenciaga. To this day I would be lying if I said I had much belief in the veracity of those claims. But it was the easiest 100 euros I ever spent. He looked marvelous.

Summers in college were at internships in NYC. Luckily my mom had moved up to split her time in NYC by then. Which meant Oreo waited for me in a new city. To me, there was a growing up of coming home at 9 from an internship vs 4 from school. To him, there was no difference in running to say hi and giving me a kiss at the end of a day.

At the start, he was the mayor of NYC. I feel bad I did not let him take me on the hour walks he wanted. Most of the time, I wanted to get back to the apartment. But occasionally I’d put on a podcast and relent. To Central Park we went. I wish I let him do that more.

There was a French restaurant near my parent’s apartment, Nice Matin. Paris was another place I wanted to bring Oreo. I just thought he’d love the city of love. He deserved to walk the Seine. I had fantasies for Oreo. He enjoyed the amazing life he had. I digress. Summer time my mom and I would bring Oreo to Nice Matin. The waiters would serve him a bowl of water. They would be surprised to see us give it to him at the table. Our baby sat on our laps—not the ground. One night an accordion player began to serenade folks on that intersection at 79th and Amsterdam. I thought it was beautiful—almost like my boy was dining in the 9th arrondissement near the Arc de Triumph. Oreo too thought it was beautiful—a nice summer meal with my mom and I.

III

I have written about COVID in investor updates. Unpublished ones. It was a strange time for me, like all. A week before Stanford sent us home, my mom visited me at school. She said it was the happiest I had ever been out there. She was right.

The plane home was brutal. I thought my life was crumbling. Senior spring was to be the culmination of a plethora of fantasies. I was going to enjoy the moment. Moments. I had made a list of all the things I planned on doing. Many overdue. Many so overdue it seemed strange I felt the need to put them on the list.

My resolve at home was simple: figure out Havoc (my working name for Footprint at the time). If I couldn’t have that spring—the relationships, and love, and memories of April and May 2020— I’d build a better future for myself. I had a simple schedule:

  • 9: wake up
  • 9:30-12:30 class
  • 1-4 go on five mile walk listening to audio book (go through one book a week)
  • 4-6 work on havoc
  • 6-6:30 learn piano
  • 7-8 gym
  • 8:30-12:30: work on havoc

I was proud of it. I would make the time home worth it. Come August, it was time to start work. It felt strange to do so at home, and not in NYC with friends. Sometimes I got impatient and would go up to my parent’s apartment in NYC for a week or two at a time.

In hindsight, but I also think deep down in the moment, I was grateful for a totally different reason. I got to spend an extra year with Oreo. Every day for months in a row. For the first time since I was 18. He got to be on work calls with me. He would sit in bed and keep me company at the desk. He was happy. For the same reason he had always been happy: what he already had.

The truth is, I believe I always would have put in the work for Footprint. Time is not a construct. But to me, it is a somewhat artificial constraint. We make time for the things that matter. We can do anything, just not everything. But, were it not for COVID, I never would have been able to spend an extra year with my best friend. I’ll forever be grateful for that. I would not trade that for my senior year bucket list, or anything else in the whole world.

IV

I often feel antsy. I often tell people I am waiting for just a few more things to fall into place. I often tell myself I’m so close to being the me I want to be.

I told my therapist that at times I’d like to just go back to my favorite garden in Florence, Boboli. Only there, I could exhale. And be present. He asked why I could not visit that garden today.

I retort it is not so simple. There are logistics involved. Flights to book. But moreso life. It is not merely the act of going to the garden. It’s being at peace with the rest. Comfortable with it all. Checking more boxes. Only then, can I return to the garden.

I spend so much time looking for happiness that I forget it already surrounds me. And yet, I’ve built such a big garden I forget how flowers look. There was no moment with Oreo that was not pure love and bliss. There is no garden of my dream that will beat that feeling. This is not to be a mercantilist again. It’s an acknowledgment that I have always thought happiness must be achieved at the highest difficulty. But Oreo showed me there are no tiers for that feeling. Happiness is happiness. Happiness delayed is not happiness earned. They are days not fully filled.

Oreo did not need to be reminded to enjoy the moment. He knew no other way.

V

This is not anti-dream. Or anti-tomorrow. It’s pro-today. It’s declaring that those concepts are not mutually exclusive. Often in the brain of entrepreneurs—or driven folks—or folks in general—those are exclusionary concepts. Yes, sacrifice is required. But sacrifice is not a binary concept. Happiness today vs tomorrow are not Booleans.

VI

In his older days, I became Oreo’s “advocate”. My mom took incredible care of him. I am eternally grateful for the years she, and a team of great doctors (but mostly her), certainly added to his life with pre-emptive care. I saw my role steeped in looking for the little things I thought would add a spark to each days. First it was an elevated water bowl—I swore his old one strained his neck as he had to bend down. Then it was letting him walk around at home without a collar—with his vision gone he would not go far in the fenced yard, but his neck would be so free without it. At the end, it was laying down a bath towel of mine for him to stand on when he ate. He had lost balance and strength in his hind legs; the wood floor was too slippery. I was always trying to build structures for him. As a boy, I made a pillow fort for him with my favorite blankies. But my favorite addition was lamb chop night. He used to love bones. They were his favorite treat. Despite losing about 90% of his teeth along the way, he could still enjoy a lamb chop and at least lick the bone. We did it every Saturday we were around in 2024.

I could tell something did not sound right when I got the report from the local vet that Tuesday night. My form of coping with Oreo’s advanced age was not thinking about it. A smart decision in my opinion. But I knew I had to take the first train out the next day to get home and bring him to the hospital.

It is never good when the doctor begins their salvo by mentioning palliative care. I did not expect them to be able to do much. I also did not expect this incredible being to somehow have not complained for months with two different cancers, kidneys reaching their end, and a heart that somehow kept pumping. But I wanted him seen. And I wanted to know what we could do to make his final time on this earth as wonderful as he made all of my days with him since he entered my life. I never enjoyed commuting more than moving my home base to Philadelphia the last few weeks to be with him. The Amtraks were easy. Summer of 2015 I watched the period drama Game of Thrones with him, and played Stargazing by Kygo. Now, summer of 2024, I started period drama Shogun with him on the bed, and played Stargazing by Myles Smith. I think he enjoyed them both. Moreso, he enjoyed being with me, and me with him, on those nice June days.

My biggest dream trip for Oreo was to Havana. He is a havanese—a breed long ago native to Cuba. I swore to my mom that he would appreciate a cultural heritage trip. The image of him in a straw hat, sipping a puppy mojito, in front of those vintage cars near the beach always was glorious in my head.

I moved recently. I named the WiFi Boboli. There is no reason we can not all actively look for and create joy each day. Happiness does not need to be grand. It can be the little things. Seeing the people we love. Staring at someone who just makes us happy with nothing to say. Celebrating the small win. We are all so intentional in building our lives of tomorrow that we can lose sight of enjoying the one we already built.

To my best boy—I hope I gave you half the love you gave me. I’d like to imagine that before my mom and I see you again in another life, you get to go to Havana. And all of the places I dreamed. Knowing you, you’ll make friends wherever. And you’ll be there waiting for me to get home one more time, to give me kisses. I love you.

July 5th

What is one to say the day before the end? I told myself I would not write until my friend was in a better place. But as I fight tears each moment, I look to my words for catharsis. I pray that I can write on a page the comfort my mind can not achieve on its own.

I feel gratitude for the 17 and a half years. I’ve never experienced a purer love than what I have with Oreo. I smile thinking back to childhood. Coming home from school every day. Hearing his bark before I even opened the door, as he waited with excitement for me to come inside so he could run down the final flight of stairs and envelop me with kisses.

I feel grateful for the last month. All of the train rides to come and see him. It’s the most time I’ve been in Philly with him since moving after the pandemic. As I told my therapist, through it all, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a greater understanding of happiness. I used to always view happiness as a destination. A single, binary element. You’d know it once you had it. And you definitely did not have it yet. Because you did not have everything. Only, once you had everything, would you feel it. But not a moment before the puzzle was complete.

I realized with Oreo happiness lies in every day. It is in the first ray of sun in the morning. The call with your friend to talk about nothing productive, just laugh. Caring too much about a Philadelphia basketball team. Telling jokes. Being the but of them too.

For a while, I doubted this definition of happiness. Anybody could have it. And they seemed to have it. Ergo, to have a life worth living, I must reject their happiness, and find a better happiness. That sentence may sound crazy. Such are the machinations of a future founder before therapy. But my guess is we all go through those moments. Of thinking we are too good for the small things.

There is nothing wrong with chasing things you think will make you happy. In fact, I encourage it. Life is best with goals and dreams. But there is something wrong with believing happiness only lies in the destination. Because Oreo found it every day. And as I reflected this last month, I realized why. Happiness is appreciating each puzzle piece. There is no ego in happiness. If others can derive it from the same thing, good. There is a multi-millennium history of that universal shared experience.

I glorify the destination. I took pride myself on the late-night emails and Slacks. I pride myself on the journey I have taken, which I assure you will make the destination better. I was unconsciously proud of myself for not taking weeknights off for anything unless it was work-related.

But it’s not binary. You can work hard. For a destination. But you have to actively enjoy the days as destinations in their own right.

Building the company taught me there will always be another milestone. I learned that this year. For as long as you build, you’ll always chase. Which is fine. That learning helped me comes to term a bit with the notion that a fantasy would always disappoint you, because if it is fantasies you chase, I promise you’ll convince yourself of a new one when you arrived at your initial arrival point.

But Oreo taught me the other half of that. There is no quota for happiness. It does not require every puzzle piece. It can be felt for silly things. For common things. The only thing it asks is to be felt.

The words elude me to describe tomorrow. When we send Oreo on his journey. So instead of searching for them, I wanted to take this time to write down the words I did have. Ones of gratitude and happiness. Because that’s what he would do.

My mom cooked him feasts every day for the last month. We watched Midnight in Paris last night, so I could point out some of the sights in a city I’m sure he will visit soon. My boy will love the Olympics, that I am sure. And tonight we watched Big. My mom wanted to remind him that even as he goes on his adventure, his home will always be there and loving him. I brought down from my apartment some of my favorite relics from my time abroad. I kept them in a Tin Jar of chocolate-covered almonds I bought in Prague. In it: a map of Florence, a Paris train ticket, the cards to my first and second favorite lunch spots in Florence, and of course an admission ticket to Boboli.

I just want my boy to be able to run around the yard again. Jump on and off the couches. Play hide and seek. Be his brilliant, silly self. I hear they have great dance clubs in Havana. The gardens are marvelous in Florence. And that Paris is most beautiful in the rain. Safe travels my love. I’ll see you soon.

July 7th

I smile on the Amtrak. I miss my boy dearly. But he went comfortably. In his bed, surrounded by my Mom and I. He smiled, knowing his next adventure awaited. I smiled, knowing he would not feel the pain I always wanted him to avoid at the end. And I smiled, for all of the joy he experienced, and all of the happiness he had brought me. Oreo’s presence is not a void that could be filled. But, joy from all the rest of life is the happiness I know he would want me to discover daily.

Suddenly, I don’t look for words to fill a screen. The best way to honor him is to live with a smile. To wake up and write down something we’re excited about, and go to bed writing down a moment that day we just smiled. When I get home, I’ll take my leather journal from Florence off my bookshelf to be next to my bed so I can do exactly that. Maybe he’s in the store I bought that journal at right now. Or next store, at Boboli. Running around, feeling the wind blow his ears back. Wherever he is, I know he is smiling. And I’ll do the same.


Dear Footprint Family, 

Hello—we’re back with updates! I’m considering doing a full investor update (with the essay) quarterly this year, with smaller monthly updates. We also started a monthly company product-focused newsletter (linked here).

It has been a busy couple of months for us since I last wrote. We opened our new office in NYC and announced our Series A. We announced our partnership with Treasury Prime on the BaaS side. On the DAO side, Apiture announced us at their conference as their new onboarding partner. We're now working closely with Bangor and other partner banks. After two years, we’ve broken into banks as the alternative to Alloy, and don’t plan on stopping.

We’ve seen meaningful expansion in our own customer base, with last month two customers expanding from security to replace Plaid with Footprint for onboarding. We’ve also begun converting original customers to more true SaaS pricing with commits. One of those renewals was to 4x spend and another two were to 2x. And I’m proud to say we still have not had a live company churn.

We’ve also been thrilled to add a host of new companies, using the Footprint platform in its entirety. We see companies using Footprint for KYB, Auth, and Card Vaulting--this is a combo you'll find no where else. An investment platform on Alpaca came inbound on a Friday and had signed a $XXk contract by the following Wednesday. This new customer growth, along with current customer expansion, has helped us this quarter, and we expect this growth to only ramp up. 

Perhaps most exciting, we have seen real expansion into the enterprise. These companies are the ones who demand our full product suite—identity, security, and auth—even more than startups. My theory: large enterprises have felt the pain enough to recognize the value of bringing together these tools. And they have the most to gain from portabalizing their internal identities for cross-sell; something Footprint makes seamless.

Below, find our most recent metrics, investor asks, and other notes. And below that, you’ll find my reflection for the month. It is about Oreo, my best friend and dog since I was 8. He sadly left us this past weekend. He gave me more love than I could have ever asked for, and taught me what happiness meant. I hope reading about him can bring you some of that happiness, or at least the inspiration to seek it out each day like he certainly did.

Warmly,

Eli

Product Releases from Quarter

  • Components
    • React and React Native
  • Revamped Fraud Suite
  • Custom Document Collection + Analysis
  • No-code backtesting
  • Historical KYC View
    • View vault data as it changes through the lifetime of a user — correlate KYC results with point-in-time data of user vaults

Where We Could Use Help—Hiring
Happy to send JDs for either of these. We’re looking to hire ~2 risk engineers (a backend engineer who will focus on fraud/risk) in the next ~month. I’m also beginning to look for a “Partner Manager”/business hire.

  • Risk Engineer
  • Partner Manager/First Biz Hire

Where We Could Use Help—Company Intros

Happy to send custom notes for any of these!

  1. Banking Cores
    1. FISERV, Jack Henry, Meridian Link
  2. Banks
    1. Chase, Citi, Capital One, Truist, Citizens, Ally, US Bank, Thread Bank
  3. Partner Banks
    1. Sutton
  4. Real Estate
    1. Yaardi + RealPage
  5. Other
    1. Synchrony, Increase, DocuSign, Linkedin, Clutch, Varo, Dave

Other Notes

  • We moved from Carta to Angel List for cap table management.
    • All investors should have received emails to their email that was on file for Carta. If you have any issues logging into Angel List or anything looks wrong, please let me know.
  • If people know of any smart folks around Linkedin/Google ads, we’d love to chat. We’re beginning to experiment there.
  • If people know of any CTO networks/groups, Alex would love to hear about them!

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