I hope everyone had a great August!
We crossed XX of live-revenue this month, our sixth month live. The majority of that is security revenue, which I think validates our initial premise to “be a security company”. That number should grow meaningfully over the next few months as customers we have been working with for months to go live finally do. It was also a frustrating month in ways—customers taking longer to go live than expected.
I want to shout out Dave for his awesome work with one of our larger customers this month helping them to translate our risk signals to their customers. Companies turn to us for that type of expertise in the space, and it is a joy watching them feel they are learning such valuable insights and methods.
After the “summer of execution”, I am increasingly confident in Footprint’s ability to support larger customers at scale. We have now moved into the “Fall of Maturity”. I have learned a lot about the nuances that make company milestones murky. Below is a very long update about feelings. The ones we feel as a company. And the ones I feel, or sometimes avoid, as a person.
Excited for September!
I lost my favorite voicemail on an old phone. It was from my late Grandma Roz. I forget the context; I just remember her saying that “everything worked out perfectly.”
I’ve been writing Feelings for four months. The update was supposed to be about a variety of feelings, including the startup feeling of being at “0” and “1”. It was my most difficult update to write because I have made mistakes that I think prevent us from being at “1” on my spontaneously ambitious goal of September 3rd (six months from launch). Startups are not poetry to conform to my updates. And startup health in reality is not strictly tied to a singular number. I have improperly measured this (more in Part II). Goals can’t be hit if they’re never set.
The bigger challenge I faced in writing this update was conjuring up a bunch of other feelings to write about. From the end of June to August 22nd, I had written down just one: my fear of feelings. Last week, I went on a vacation with my best friend Aidan to Italy. I had my first drink in a couple of months. And I felt a whole lot of feelings I had not experienced in a while. This was due to the new experiences a vacation can bring. But it was also because I began to be a bit honest about how I had structured my life to avoid feeling feelings—hence the only paragraph I had written.
I’m a strange sort of optimist who uses these self-machinations to avoid learning how to love myself. Perhaps I have been waiting to achieve that next crazy goal. For things to clearly have worked out perfectly. To see if by then I will have picked up that trait along the way. I avoided feelings because I thought it made me more effective. Perhaps it did for some time. But if it keeps going I would fail the team, the investors, and myself.
I’m not sure what it means for something to work out perfectly. Is it beating your first goal? Beating the updated goal? Signed customers? Live customers? At the least, it is more nuanced than I used to think.
As I write in Part II, Footprint only works with trust. Trust you have in our technology. And trust you have in us as people.
And people feel things.
A year ago, I wrote my August 2022 update about Dreams and Failure. It was two days before we came out of stealth. Two days before the honeymoon period came to a conclusion. When mistakes were limited by our own definition, expectations shared on an internal Notion doc. “To trust ourselves is to acknowledge the fragility of our dreams. To hope is to realize that we can still live out parts of our dreams without solely defining success as a final milestone.”
It was easier to write then. I’ve criticized myself for not actually being vulnerable, just creating a brand of vulnerability.
Branded vulnerability is authentic, but also perhaps what Ben Thompson would describe as a strategic credit. It comes across as grounded. Humble. Chris Voss would perhaps argue it is an implicit no question meant to elicit a response that you will not fail because you’re willing to write about it.
This update is not about failure. It’s about feelings. Grey areas. I like re-reading old updates and journal entries. I see naivete about my prior beliefs of the binary finitude of moments and life. There is a lot to love about it. Naivete is not inherently singularly evil. It is the armor necessary to allow one to pursue their dreams. It is the ability to write “Hope is staring fear and failure in the face—not neglecting their presence, but welcoming them as an inescapable part of any dream” without any inherent understanding of what it means to stare fear and failure in the face. What it means to write to a pretend audience that has blossomed into a real one. To internalize that an origin story of writing a business plan from a college dorm room is cute; the consequences of improperly leading a company with real people, their families, and money behind it should not be just a footnote in an origin story.
I prefer to live in a foregone preamble that instead resembles to me a completed story. That may sound crazy. But to me arcs will be linear. Things will tie back. Closure is not always given because it isn’t always needed. It’s why I can have stand up sets or investor updates half-written for months. It’s not that they are not finished; their final parts simply have not happened yet. Around the time I started the company, I got some of the best advice of what it is like to build: “One day you’ll feel on top of the world and the next 100 miles beneath.” Yes, this part is massively cliched. The second part was new, as the person continued, “but the crazy thing is that nothing has actually changed.” Nothing has materially changed in the company in the last week. But I think now is still the time to publish Feelings.
Like most updates, Feelings is my subtle announcement that I think we are on our way from going from the proverbial zero to one. But tastefully ensconced in a philosophical ode to different feelings. With of course zero—chaos— and one—a bit more certainty, being the bookmark feelings. I played around with different formats. An acrostic poem– F0otprint1—which was really cringey and forced.
“Feelings” was meant to be triumphant. One of those stories I mentioned above which I had seen a concrete beginning, middle, and end four months ago. Like a year ago, when things were as easy as writing about how coming out of stealth could mean you fail and that was seen as brave. Or at least that’s what folks said. At first, I thought we would symbolically have $1M of live ARR just six months after launch. Two months ago, I for sure thought we would be at $1M firmly signed when I sent this out. We definitely do not have that live. I grossly underestimated how long it takes for companies to go live. I was even more wrong that volume estimates given from customers are canon. Real mistakes. With real consequences. Data vendor contracts I negotiated taking those priors as the truth in an attempt to increase our margins which may have unnecessarily increased fixed costs by a bit perhaps a quarter or two early. I hate making mistakes. And I am really bad at accepting them. I expect so much more from myself. Zooming out, we’re honestly not even that far off the pace from what those goals are. And we are far ahead from what our wildest dreams would have been coming into the year. We have now brought live some very impressive logos and have built a differentiated platform. But it sometimes is difficult to zoom out; you want everything to work out perfectly in each moment.
This summer has been one where I did not feel much. And maybe a large part of that was because this concept of some failure was so foreign.
“Sorry about earlier I probably get over stressed about revenue stuff. I just care so much. ” I slack Alex from Germany on two hours of sleep. Before I take my first week off since we started the company, I visit Bruno in Germany for two days. That morning I landed to some calculations: we had likely underpriced one product to a customer and would make ~$XX less in year one than we had expected. It stung. We told them what we expected it to cost and they were fully onboard with it. Another customer had pushed back launch three weeks and divided it into two phases. More delayed revenue and a slightly bigger story to tell whenever we go out for the A to explain how those summer months would normalize. I called my mom later that day in tears. Overwhelmed. My mom is always the one I call or see when I need to cry. The last time was at the end of February. After a team offsite before Alex and I went to SF. When we had one customer and I had no clue how we would hit the original target for the year of $250k ARR. Before I 4x’ed that goal for the year, and then moved it up four months. Maybe she is the only person I actually can be vulnerable around. Maybe I don’t need to explain why we can cry to our moms and no one else.
I don’t want to minimize missing my very dynamic and sometimes arbitrary targets. With everything I know, the deals signed, my haircuts on volume, and the pipeline, I still feel confident in saying our $1M arr target by the end of year one (or 11 months). The bulk of that live with some signed. Double digit live customers. And, assuming one company which has said multiple times that now that they use us for vaulting they will be using us for onboarding, we will be within a year of a million portable identities. Perhaps above all of that, I just believe the current product and vision we are building toward is right in the space. Auth solved issues of security and friction for collecting emails and we will for all of the other onboarding information companies must collect.
The grey area is why “Feelings” felt weird to write now. But I promised trust and transparency. That we would actually be a different company. Is this the most confident I have ever felt? No. Which is crazy to say. If you had told me all of the obstacles we would have to solve for when I published Dreams a year ago, perhaps that update would have taken a different tone. Experience and failure are grounding. Begrudgingly helpful teachers.
But, am I still confident that we will do it? That 0 to 1 is still one of those stories I tell just before it becomes true? Yeah. I love this company. And the people. It’s amazing to watch it actually be deployed by large companies who trust us with such core functionalities so soon after launch. I’m impatient. Maybe that is why I couldn’t figure out the preamble here until I was on a train on a rainy day on the Italian coast as Alex bars me from going on Slack and forces me to actually take the day off. I was planning on hiding this vacation. I like the image of denying myself a break. Just like I wanted to tell the story of everything being so perfect. Trust must be earned. Trust isn’t always a clean story. 0 to 1 is messier than The Iliad (well, the concept of a novel, not the mythical journey home from Troy).
The train is about to get into Riomaggiore. I had an espresso this morning. As the team knows, I don’t drink coffee. Only abroad. It’s how I feel I am doing as the locals do. Becoming a passenger. Observing. Reflecting. Leaving my head for a couple of days. “Smiling amidst the chaos and laughing at what could very well be our own despair,” as I wrote in an update a year ago with no concept of what that actually would mean. They ask for my ticket. I grin. “Ciao, grazie.” It was never going to be easy. But that feeling. That grin I now understand. An undeniable grin amidst all of this chaos. Oh. Nothing beats that. Simplicity fails to encapsulate the real journey.
A honeymoon phase. You seem further ahead than you will think you are in a year. You just have not realized the enormity of the task at hand.
Fear of Feelings: I know a few versions of me. I now have a good idea when one is emerging. At the end of June I published an investor update with a journal entry from the past month, and wrote another journal entry about how after a maudlin month I felt grounded Eli was about to set the tone. I knew it was my last journal entry for some time. Thus far, I was right. I’m not surprised last month’s investor update was the least philosophical in a while. This state is a welcome reprieve—it always follows one of deep emotion. A warm embrace. Not the love I had denied myself the month or so before, but the removal of the need to receive it in the first place. This paragraph took time to ease into. A muscle I had turned off. Welcomed atrophy. I tell folks I’m too busy to date. I skipped therapy this month for the first month since starting the company—a promise I had made to myself—because I claimed to myself that I had nothing to discuss. The real answer likely is I didn’t want to return to feeling too much. To being asked about topics I did not feel like venturing into during my vacation from my reveries of deep thought. I liked the productivity. Loved it. And I know the more I lose touch with myself the greater the next down will be. Which motivates me. A virtuous cycle. I keep the empathy for others—I think. But right now I’m likely subconsciously afraid of feeling anything, so I choose to feel nothing.
Fear of rejection
I met a nice Italian girl at the Cafe in the morning. She worked there, so I guess she had no choice but to meet me. But our conversation felt more than just the pleasantries of a purveyor and host, witty banter laughed at genuinely, and not to increase a tip.
I told Aidan I would go back in the afternoon to ask her for a drink that evening. A half-day later, I walked up the hill to find that soft terrace and beautiful view. A familiar fear gripped me. I avoid relationships because I fear rejection. It is a strange moment to travel backwards to past scenes in your life. Jung thought we had a shared human psyche; I think we have shared emotions. As my heart raced, I saw a closed sign.
Fear of shame
Like a record player changing songs, the needle touching my nerves shifted to a slightly new tune on the album. I now recalled what often was the moment after all of those times I feared rejection. When that fear spooked me out of asking someone out. The shame I felt for not doing so. I forgot how much I hated that feeling. Fear of rejection is acute. A throbbing sensation. Fear of shame is numbing. It makes the throb quickly dissipate. Fear of rejections seems silly as it doesn’t linger—just spikes before the event. Shame lingers. Fear of shame is more indelible.
Fear of regret
Aidan jumps off a cliff into the Tyhrenian sea. We estimate 30 feet. Maybe more. I’ve never jumped into the water. I’ve done other crazy things. Driven Vespas in foreign lands, bungeed off the Stratosphere in Vegas when I was 14, trekked five hours to a Tibetan Temple in rural Yunnan China with a group of friends and no technology to help us get home. But I had no priors here. No 15-foot jumps. No five foot jumps. This fear seems more grounded than the fear of rejection. That one seemed like I was holding myself back from fear. This one was more rational.
But look at Aidan as he comes out of the water. The smile. No, the grin. As the adrenaline subsides, replaced by the water dripping off under the sun. I want that feeling. My biggest regrets in life are about memories I can never bring back. I’m still mad I was not prescient in 12th grade and could have convinced my Mom to let me go to Avicii’s final show in Ushuaia so I could have seen him once. Calling my Grandma every day instead of once a week when my Mom told me her days were numbered. I hate regret. I think there is a finite amount of experiences in life. I say a Mercantilist pie. Aidan says life is a mosaic. He thinks there are an infinite amount of tiles to uncover. It’s a better mindset.
The fear of regret is less numbing than the one of shame. Less acute than the fear of rejection. It’s more subtle. Disappointment in yourself and the world for not better preparing you to take action, because this one seems fair to not solely place with you.
Fear of not being someone
“I’m not afraid of not jumping, I’m afraid of not being the person who wants to jump.” Aidan has climbed up the stairs to a nice ovation from the crowd. It’s a mix of folks. The ones in Sampdoria shirts are likely from an hour north in Genoa. Then there is the elderly British lady. She approaches to say that was dangerous but she is glad he did it. A few young guys come up and high-five him.
I went to Barry’s Bootcamp with Elliott last year in NYC. Elliott is in incredible shape. He goes to Barry’s a lot. I had never been. He turns his treadmill to the max. I try to match. The instructor taps me as I labor. “You have the second-highest speed in the class—you can slow down”.
I ask Aidan where he learned how to jump. “In New Hampshire, growing up. There was a water park in a former gorge. We all jumped.”
I step on the rock. “Is this safe?”. “Yes” and “No” replies in unison: Aidan, after one jump, and a group of Dutch tourists enjoying some cigarettes under the morning clouds, respectively. We found the 15 foot jump I asked for in Riomaggiore, the town over. Aidan takes out his phone to film. I jump.
I step on the rock. I swore I had climbed over it on my way down. Maybe not. The realization that I am lost is starting to set in. Lassen National Forrest, freshman orientation. I take out my secret phone to call the cops. I say I’m gonna live. Adrenaline pumps once you’ve reached the point of turning back.
The balcony off of my old dorm room at Stanford. The row in Bolboli Gardens if you make your second left (after the Egyptian tub), right, then left until you hit the opening. You’ll know it when you see it. I read that book there and smiled at what my life would be. The lesser-used entrance to Crossman Hall, where I would exit after mock trial practice in high school. I was lucky enough to have very few real troubles then.
When Alex and I crush an in-person meeting in SF. It always has to be in-person. Feelings don’t happen on screens. But it’s when I am not just confident we will build this; we’re destined to.
The feeling of being so tired yet so afraid of getting into bed because you don’t think you’ll beat insomnia tonight. Maybe the real feeling here is stress. The insomnia magically goes away most weekends and last week on vacation.
Climbing out of the water. “You’re crazy—you did that jump?” A French man is incredulous at my lack of fear.
Seeing our team after making a list for breakout fintechs. I’m proud of, and happy for, them, above anyone.
Sitting in the San Siro, listening to 70 thousand Milanese sing song after song in unison to support their team.
Unwarranted Smiles that Don’t Need Warranting
I still remember when Shayanth from Highnote replied to my 2 AM Linkedin message. We slacked again last night. he really gets our product. That night last November I was sad I didn’t make a dumb list and went on a frenzy of cold outreach. Listening to my EDM playlist at full volume. Feeling like an underdog. And then that reply. Oh the joy of that. You smile like a madman but you don’t owe anyone an explanation.
That playlist has served me well. I listened to it while driving to the courthouse in Norristown for Mock Trial in high school. After all those late nights coming out that side entrance, this was my personal pre-game locker room ritual.
It also comes on before a big in-person meeting. The first time I met Shardul. When Alex and I were in an Uber to a meeting with the head of product for a public company. Nerds don’t have an official Super Bowl but I think we all deserve a time when the adrenaline can lead to an enthusiastic grin for our walk out song.
People Entering Our Lives
All friendships I can remember started officially in one moment. It’s normally early on for me. You know. And there are few new ones. But it is magical when you meet a new friend in this world.
I don’t know what one means. To me, it is having a genuinely usable product which is solving generalizable, scalable, critical problems for companies. A repeatable product that solves the same issue. I used to think we could replace larger companies. Now I know we can. But not much is different. Maybe just more understanding of what needs to be done.
Sometimes I feel too much. Equal times I feel too little. I then must thaw out before I can actually delve into a real conversation with a friend.
Footprint is growing up, and so am I. We’re going to keep making mistakes. Feeling them. Viscerally. I hate mistakes. But, always learning from them. Sometimes too much—but I think if you don’t feel each little mistake you won’t avoid them at all cost going forward.
I want to be the person who leads the class. The one who jumps. The one who leads.
I fear the rejection of myself by myself if I don’t. The shame and regret I will feel for not doing it. I’m a mercantilist—I want to experience everything. Even if at times I shield myself from most things.
I remember taking the trains when I was abroad. Two years ago I took one from Milan to Florence to visit the city again. It will always be magical to me. It makes me feel something. A real belief. Love. Hope. Belief in that hope. I needed to go there both of those times.
We didn’t go there this time. My final train of the trip arrives in Milan. I love the automated “Buona Serra” on the Freccia Rossa coach. There would be no Bolboli to read Shadow of the Wind. No late night at the Piazza della Signoria to look at the statues. Those feelings are always with me. We just have to know how to find them.
We’ll be on our flight at the end of the weekend. Aidan looks at me. I begin to ask myself the questions I’ve somewhat put off for a week. I nod back for us to get our bags. I’ve learned it is not the adrenaline to jump. It is not about those unwarranted smiles. Or grit. It isn’t facing fears. It’s the ability to use these experiences to understand the lack of simplicity of the road. The paucity of true mile markers. The absence of others gives you the feelings you desire. For yourself. Or more importantly for this update, for the company. Not everyone climbs the rocks. But when you’re up there, you really only have one option. You don’t know if everything will work out perfectly. You don’t know how you’ll feel. But it’s time to jump.
Product Releases from Last Month
- Launched the App Clip + device fraud signals are now live
- Android Instant app in early preview
- International IDV support
- New redesigned onboarding configuration builder (aka “Playbooks”)
- Support for new Citizenship + Legal status onboarding data collection
- Many complex edge-cases to support new customer use cases such as scan-first autofill and
- A no-code integration option (“hosted” flow)
- New and improved IAM (identity & access management) roles with more granular controls for both humans and robots (API keys)
- Footprint featured on Business Insider list for “54 up-and-coming fintechs transforming the way we bank, trade, invest, and pay, according to 34 top investors”
- Eli on the Prof G Pod
- Footprint blog on our customization engine
Where we could use help
Open Roles for Recruiting
First Ops Hire
- Could also be viewed as a great Head of People. Would love any thoughts here!
- Ideal profile: Skilled in building performant, scalable distributed systems. Experience in one or more of Rust, payments, and security/cryptography is a huge plus.
Web engineer with mobile SDK experience
- We acknowledge this is a very niche ask
Companies We Want to Move Along
I’d ask you to check in with me here before doing anything so I can give context on who we have spoken with and how far along the process is.
Companies We Are looking for Intros to
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