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Eli Wachs
Eli Wachs

Investor Update

June 1, 2022

8 min. read

Unusual Partnerships (Update #4)

Hi Footprint Family,

See below for our May Update. It is our longest one yet (apologies for the unfettered philosophical musings). The TLDR is that May was a great month for us, where we made great strides across product, team, data partnerships, and pipeline.

On Roe v Wade + Diversity in Tech

I am going to start by talking about the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. It is a topic I also decided to discuss in a team meeting the week that decision got leaked. While I respect people’s right to have different view points, I contend people’s right to a belief should not infringe upon someone’s right to an actual right. While I understand that we don’t need more white men talking about this, and I know this update is supposed to be about a company you are investors in, I feel some topics are way more important than money. Women’s reproductive rights are clearly one of them. What I lack with my 365 Twitter followers, many of you have: a real following who value your thoughts. Despite echo chambers, you never know who you will reach with your words and actions. There are midterm elections in five months (and some primary elections in the coming months). Please use your vote, and encourage others around you to do so as well. And please use your voice for now to call out misogyny and misinformation—this court decision was sadly years in the making, from a malignant tumor growing within our population paving the groundwork for something unbelievable.

The first paragraph isn’t unique to the community who gets this newsletter—the tech community tends to be in far greater support of abortion rights, gun control, and other progressive issues than other segments of the population. But we actually do have a specific influence. From our positions interacting with influential companies of the era, we all can do things long before four men make a decision impacting tens of millions of women. Many of you are investors in defining companies. How are they doing on diversity? Please make sure D&I is not just an initiative for entry-level positions, but for C-Suite. And encourage your firm to hire more female partners. I’m proud of the fact that Alex and I are still the only straight-white men at the company. Our first hire was a women, and 40% of our first five hires were female (I am not bragging about this—I want this to be 50% men and women, and it is my goal to get there soon). In a bear market where hiring will slow down, I hope people are more thoughtful in their decision making as they see hiring should not be just a race to grow headcount, but a thoughtful process. Leadership means making decisions that are rooted in right morality over anything else. It is tougher to find female candidates because society has not encouraged young girls to code as much as young boys. Hiring and promoting women is the bare minimum we can do—but we all must start somewhere. Will better diversity hiring in tech bring back Roe? No. But it will at least tell the women in our sphere of influence that they matter—because they absolutely do.

Topic of the Month: Unusual Partnerships During the Crusades + Bear Markets

As many know, I am a proud history nerd. I do not wish to glorify the past; the arc of progress very much moves forward. Nor do I wish to draw pure analogies—wars are bloody and each is different. But I look to history to find how people responded to different impetuses with which they were faced.

The Crusades have historically been given one definition: extreme bellicose warfare with religion at the center of the conflict. However, this understanding grossly simplifies the interactions of peoples of different religions and cultures both after Pope Urban II’s call for the First Crusade in 1095, the two hundred years and seven crusades to follow, and the some three hundred years of consistent interaction between religions that predates the Crusades. In actuality, during the time of the Crusades, a Muslim encountering a Jewish person or Christian did not signal an eminent duel.

This relative harmony is exemplified by the contemporary travels of Benjamin Tudela, a Spanish Jew, and Ibn Jubayr, a Spanish Muslim. Tudela depicts his travels around the medieval Mediterranean from 1165 to 1173 in vivid detail in his book The Travels of Benjamin. In Baghdah, **he finds Jewish-Muslim relationships were collaborative and beneficial to the overall sustainability of the city: the head of the Captivity (the de facto Jewish leader of the area) had the privilege of riding second to the Caliph in the royal equipages for certain ceremonies. He also visited the Caliph every fifth day, bringing him gifts--a share of his fixed weekly revenues from Jewish hospices. Overall, Tudela finds Jews in Baghdad to “dwell in security, prosperity, and honor under the great caliph”. Ibn Jubayr traveled a decade later, after he was given seven cups filled with gold by a Christian king, using the money to go on Hajj; he reached Sicily, a Latin Christian kingdom in 1184-85. A series of excerpts in Muslim and Christian Contact in the Middle Ages features his published account of that experience. Jubayr’s description of the towns in Sicily is quite reminiscent of Tedula’s description of Jewish treatment by religious majorities. He describes Muslims entrusted to the inner circle of a just king and in tact holy sites. The final documents from the time I find fascinating are two letters from Muslim merchants in Tunis sent to Christian traders in Pisa, which aptly embody the title of the excerpt, “Solidarity of Muslim and Christian Merchants”. The letters are short and professional. They describe how how debts were paid on time and products were not stolen between the Muslim merchants and Christian Pisans merchants.

Overall, these sources contradict a narrative of the times of the Crusades being one solely of religious opposition. Tudela and Jubayr find in their travels religious minorities being trusted to influential roles by Greek Orthodox, Latin, and Muslim rulers, and their respective peoples enjoying great wealth. The merchant correspondences depict how when money was on the line, religion was arguably relegated to an afterthought among traders. One can glean that in the above mentioned metropolises, the times of the Crusades brought a seemingly surprising amount of interaction across religion, while commercial exchanges between peoples also led to an additional element of respect and mutual cooperation.

So why did I spend multiple paragraphs speaking about seemingly strange partnerships during the crusades? Well, I am pleased to announce two partnerships we are working on that may seem a bit strange on the outside, with Stytch and Argyle, in addition to two I hope to be able to announce next month. They may seem strange because one could argue we play in similar spaces—and we do, like the aforementioned merchants. But firstly, we are proud of closing them as the earliest proxy of if we would be chosen over other companies in the space vying for similar opportunities.

I am not comparing a bear market and possible recession to the crusades—that would be like comparing Footprint to using multiple products for KYC and PII Vaulting ;). But it is to say it is easier for not-entirely-accurate narratives to form during massive events. It is likely surprising to read about cross-religious cooperation during the crusades. When times get tough, we tend to turn inward and become more antagonistic to possible threats. If you spend enough time on Twitter, you expect a battle royale over the next 2-3 years for startups. “Maximize survival during this bloodbath when most startups will die”—could likely be attributed to 70 tech personas on Twitter from the past 24 hours alone. To me, though, a bear market means a chance to form actually beneficial partnerships because each company has to focus on their core product. “Being lean” to me means not expecting VC money to finance four new product teams and seeing if you can claim even more share. It means owning your core area, and I think this is great. In the age of amazing APIs, why not combine world-class experiences and let us keep our teams building our focal product each week.

To me, the market doesn’t mean radically changing company-building for us. I agree with the idea that seed companies should not just be surviving here, but trying to get market share. If two years from now we still have runway but little traction and no PMF, no one will care we “weathered the storm”. We are in a race to not just prove why our product should exist, but if we are successful there, need to claim market share of what theoretically should be a 1-2 winner-take-all arena. To me, we have to optimize growth while not taking for granted the idea that hyper growth could be funded if we continue early signs of traction. And I think one way of doing that is narrowing down a longer roadmap of products to do what our website says: bring back trust by building frictionless KYC and PII vaulting. Amidst 200 years of war, Jews, Muslims, and Christians traded together because it was the smart thing to do to grow their own coffers. During a bear market, we will strategically partner with other great companies to bolster our growth and gain market share.

Goals From Last Month

  • We’ve set an aggressive deadline of early June to get to a fully end-to-end demo-able  product. We are pleased to report that we’re making great progress and we are right on track. This month we’ve made incredible progress on product design, our core frontend, and our identity + vaulting APIs:
  1. built our core design system
  2. designed our first versions of all major product flows
  3. designed, built, and launched our new front page:
  4. meaningful progress on our core 1-click identity and onboarding APIs
  5. began designing and building our customer dashboard experience including user onboarding monitoring, security access logs, and the ability to decrypt data from our enclaves
  6. built our MVP of biometrics (i.e FaceID) based authentication for onboarding
  7. finally, we’re almost at the Alpha version of our core main product flow for 1-click KYC via Footprint!
  • Make 2 more tactical hires (backend infra, fullstack, and possibly infra)

We are thrilled to say the offer we made at the end of April was accepted the first week of May, and could not be more excited to welcome Belce Dogru to the team as our founding fullstack engineer. We did not make any other offers this month, so are pleased to continue a 100% offer acceptance rate into another month. Our team of seven now has coverage everywhere, and we feel quite comfortable with our ability to ship at present. See below for more on Belce.

Belce was employee 15 at Observe, where she was a senior frontend engineer and watched the company grow to 100+ employees over the last two years. She graduated from Stanford undergrad with a BS in Computer Science, specializing in Human Computer Interaction, and a masters in CS, specializing in Computer and Network Security and cryptography. Belce also has work experience at larger companies such as Dropbox, Apple, and Google.

  • 15 productive conversations with possible customers

We beat this goal by 2x.

Goals For this Month

  • Demo ready + ready to open sandbox to customers in July
  • Begin search for first business/operation hires

Where We Could Use Help

  • Recruiting

We are beginning to think about a first business/operations/sales hire. We are in no rush here and keeping an extremely high bar.

  • Customer Intros/Discovery - Never ends 🙂

Note: Some content has been removed from the bottom half of the update to protect privacy of individuals/companies involved.

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