Episode 3: Dwolla's Ben Milne on Raising Equity and Equality
“Something really important to me was getting a computer with an internet connection. It completely changed my world forever.”
Armed with a laptop and that internet connection, Founder and CEO Ben Milne launched Dwolla in 2010. Its customer-facing technology meant it soon got a high public profile as it worked from its Downtown Des Moines (DSM) location moving millions of dollars a day.
Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
Fast forward eight years. Dwolla recently hosted Monetery, an event that equipped attendees with information to successfully raise capital. Proceeds from the 250-plus founders and entrepreneurs in attendance went to Pi515, a nonprofit that helps refugee and under-served youth code and gain STEM skills.
Speaking to the Startup Stories DSM podcast, it turns out these are two topics Milne has particular interest in.
“I think [Pi515] serves a group of people that otherwise would not be served. A lot of things in life have a lot to do with who gives you a shot and I think [Pi515] is giving a lot of people a shot that they might not get otherwise,” Milne told podcast host Mike Colwell. “Which is something I think is pretty incredible.”
Dwolla has been built with equality of opportunity at the forefront.
“One thing we do believe is important to our company is creating a diverse and inclusive culture that helps support individuals of different backgrounds because we think it results in building a better business,” Milne said. “There’s basic moral ethics to this. We’re all people, we should all be treated equally and we should all have equal opportunities.”
This theme was at the forefront of conversation at Monetery, where a billion dollars of capital was on stage.
Fresh from a $12 million funding round, Milne says some founders can overcomplicate raising capital. He recommends concentrating on building something you’re passionate about.
“When I talk to local founders about how to raise capital a lot of it comes down to, ‘are you passionate? Is there something that is valuable there?’ Those are the hard problems to solve,” Milne said. “From there it’s, ‘what stage are you at? What investors fit your profile and how do we get access to them?’”
Milne warns against raising capital for the sake of it as it can be a 60-hour-a-week job and can dilute a founder’s time. He recommends first building a good business and the capital will find you.
Building a Business in DSM
As for where to build that business? With top notch fiber, a low cost of doing business and access to capital, Milne says DSM is as good as anywhere.
“There is an opportunity to build businesses here. You can build businesses here. If you need to raise capital, you can access it. If you don’t need to, well you don’t need to,” Milne said. “You can absolutely do it here.”
Hear the stories of other small business and startup business owners in the community in The Partnership’s Small Business Resources Hub or sign up for the Small Business Resources newsletter to stay connected for information about upcoming events, other resources and the latest announcements in the small business community in DSM.
Startup Stories DSM
Startup Stories DSM is a podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs who share both their victories and failures on their paths to success. It is produced by the Greater Des Moines Partnership.