Post is part of my collection: EntreFEST 2015

Built in Iowa with Wade Arnold, Founder of Banno

-- Wade Arnold of Banno, a Jack Henry and Associates company.

The story behind Banno is very special. It was started by a Computer Scientist from the University of Northern Iowa as well as MBA degree from University of Iowa. True geek like myself so I feel that is special. But, it is also special to me because I worked there for almost 2 years back in college for one of my internships. Hearing a presentation from Wade Arnold about where Banno started, where Banno went and where it is now since I have been off doing my own adventure was very fun to attend.

Wade was 28 years old when he started T8Webware. (He mentioned how we should not name a startup like this as there are a thousand ways to spell it) It was a consulting company in Cedar Falls, Iowa where they worked with big companies to provide online solutions to them.

Banno was created one night when Wade was sitting with his wife paying the bills where they were trying to balance their check book on their low teacher income they had coming in. His wife was stressed about the whole situation as it was a stressful time for them and their kids. When Wade asked her about a certain bill, she responded, "I don't know, ask Banno." Banno was the name of their son's imaginary friend he blamed when he got into trouble. Wade right there decided there needed to be a better solution to personal book keeping and he was going to start Banno.

Banno was started via an angel investment from 2 investors Wade had close personal connections with as well as a note from the state of Iowa. They continued doing some consulting on the side to pay employees while they worked to build the personal banking products Banno would provide.

Some notes:

  • Start day 1 on your vision and culture. It is so extremely important.
    • With T8Webware, they used to hire anyone and everyone that came into the door. Don't do this. When you bring people in, they jeopardize your culture. They need to fit your vision.
    • Why is your company around? Define it. The goal you are trying to accomplish.
    • Why do you exist? The day Wade defined his job title of "Lead geek @BannoHQ" was a big moment as it set the stage for what his mission was inside of the company.
    • Put it on your website. Your story. It attracts the right people and forces you to follow it.
  • Co-founders are a big deal. Even if your partners are paid employees with no ownership, they are still a very big deal. You will tell these people things you would not tell your spouse. They need to be very close to you.
  • Do whatever it takes to make your engineers happy.
    • Get them the latest computers.
    • Let them play with latest technologies. Don't just do the "usual stack". Let them play with new tools that helps out the code base.
    • Talent will come. Nationally if you keep up with making sure everyone is happy.
  • Nice to have a technical co-founder of business to be able to call out bad code.
  • Education is huge. Value it in culture.
    • Pay for employees to attend conferences to see how smart people are out there.
    • Book clubs. Code readings. Let the sales staff come and listen to a talk.
    • If meetups are important to your company, go to them yourself and make sure you do not miss them. What others see you do, they will follow.
  • Public relations is big deal as a startup. Have someone on team that is good at talking do all the talking. If you don't have one, hire a PR company to do it for you.
    • Go do a talk at the national level and talk about your passion. People think you're dumb until you give a talk at a conference.
  • Put your "cool digs" on your website. Kegs, collaboration, pair programming, etc. put them all on website. Startups cannot afford corporate salaries so you need to show cool things you have to make people want to work for you.
  • Quarterly staff meetings. Helps with transparency and keeps employees up to date with company.
    • All talks that Wade gives he goes back and does it for the company.
  • Put TVs around office displaying metrics that people care about. If your company gets paid by number of active monthly users, put that on a TV in the office for everyone to see every day. It gives a purpose to why everyone is there every day.
  • Interns very important. Invest in them. Teach them.
    • It brings in interns nationally which gives current interns a culture perspective being with other engineers from around the nation.

Your culture consists of 3 things. Smart, vision, and healthy. You need all 3 of these elements to have a culture. If you don't have one, the other two will fail.

"Smart people don't have to work for you. They are smart!". The other parts of the culture keeps them with you.

Wade Arnold

Great to see you Wade!