The Startup Story – Episode 9: Brian Solis, founder of Movocash
You can listen to Brian's Episode in it's entirety here: https://www.thestartupstory.co/ericsolis
*Eric Solis: * This is Eric Solis, founder and CEO of MovoCash, and this is MY startup story.
James McKinney: Every wildfire began with a spark. Every superhero has an origin story. And every single startup has a moment that they point to as their beginning. And every founder has a purpose that drove them in the midst of all obstacles. THAT is The Startup Story.
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James McKinney: I want to start this week’s episode off by saying thank you to all the listeners and subscribers as we continue to grow each week, and it is only because of you and others like Editing Excitable, who left a five star review on Apple podcast. They wrote, “I’m a very small online boutique that truly believes in our product. It’s innovative, and creative, and different. It’s been a struggle getting it to soar as fast and as high as I want it to. The Startup Story has provided inspiration and mental vigor into my life to keep me going. My favorite part about it is how heartfelt every story is. Unlike the traditional cutthroat big business mentality, every story reminds us of how we’re all in this together, and how we all need support constantly.”
Well, Editing Excitable, you nailed it. That is exactly why I started The Startup Story, to humanize the entrepreneurial journey. Editing Excitable, I hope you will continue to listen and please reach out to me on Instagram @TheStartupStory.co if I can help you in any way. Entrepreneurs support other entrepreneurs. If you have found value in any of The Startup Story episodes, please leave a review. I will continue to read one each week, so plug your brand in the review as well. Giving your business a plug is the least I can do if you take time out of your day to write a review.
Now, let’s jump into this week’s episode. The Startup Story is a new podcast and if you’ve listened to podcasts for a while, then you will probably notice that the production quality of the podcast is really good for a new podcast. The reason the production quality is so good is due to our incredible sponsor, MovoCash. But to be specific, it’s because of Eric Solis, the founder of MovoCash. Now, I want to have a moment of transparency here because our high quality production can give the appearance as though everything is flawless over here at The Startup Story. This interview you are about to hear is actually the third interview I’ve had with Eric. The first interview was at one of my live events and the sound quality was really poor, and with could not use it for our podcast. The second attempt was an interview where we recorded it, and there was some incredibly valuable story telling. Really, it was one of the best moments ever in my podcast journey. It was an unbelievable 90 minutes of recording, except that I failed to hit record. Seriously. It feels as bad as it sounds. It was a total rookie move, and one that I will fight so hard to never repeat. Like I said, though, I just wanted to share that with you so you did not think that in order to pull off a podcast you had to be flawless in your execution.
So now, as we head into our third interview with Eric, I’m even more thankful for his willingness to share his journey, and it speaks to his passion for entrepreneurs everywhere. Eric is such an incredible champion for entrepreneurship and truly believes that The Startup Story needs to get out to the masses so that more people would pursue their dreams by listening to the real and authentic stories of o you’re founders. I’m so excited to have Eric share his personal entrepreneurial journey with us, because it’s a journey that illustrates the incredible heights and dark depths that the entrepreneurial journey can include.
In this episode, you will hear how important it is to not go forward alone in your journey. You will hear how easy it is to fall into the trap of believing your accomplishments are solely because of your own efforts, and you will find encouragement in the fact that some incredible opportunities come when we are at our lowest and most vulnerable, as long as we just keep going. Eric’s journey begins with very little being provided for him, and that resulted in a mindset of where Eric was determined to go and get it for himself. Even at a young age, he was determined to not be limited by his circumstances.
Eric Solis: It starts out really as I sort of, you and I have had the chance to talk about this. I was born into a low middle class family. My father was in law enforcement. My mom, early on I don’t remember her really working. She was kind of like a stay at home mom. I think she did some waitressing. I remember her going, being young and meeting my dad and I, we’d go have breakfast and my mom was our waitress. So it was kind of like that. So they lived on my dad’s salary. We lived I remember they called them the dream homes, these little Cracker Jack box houses on the north side of Highway 111 out in palm desert.
I remember growing up and all my friends, we’d be at school and it would be the day everyone got to order off the menu of all the little goodies and treats. You’d get, it was really exciting posters and all that sort of stuff. I didn’t get any of that stuff. If I wanted to have those types of things, I had to figure out a way to get them myself. It was very much about, from a very young age, I had to fend for myself.
Yeah, so just those early years where, I was a strange looking kid. I had this bushy hair. I wore glasses. So I had some deficiencies in the way I sort of… Starting out, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth at all. Those young years were formative and it taught me to be, my dad would say, “Man, Eric doesn’t take smack from anybody.” It taught me to be really tough. I was a tough kid. I remember one girl wrote in my annual when I was a kid, she said, “You’re a punk but a nice one.” Probably sums it up pretty good.
James McKinney: So when did you know, I mean your parents were not entrepreneurs in your early childhood. In your high school years, as you’re now developing a bit of a philosophy for yourself, did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur, or because of your upbringing and having to do everything yourself, what was your mindset?
Eric Solis: So yeah. I, like many young boys from that era in particular, I did everything from having a lawn mowing service, a weed pulling service. I painted fences and houses. I did whatever it took to be able to have the things I wanted to have as a young kid. That was sort of like developed in me this entrepreneurial, early on, an entrepreneurial way of thinking about the world. I remember I would clean my room, but I wouldn’t just throw the stuff away. My mom would say, “Get rid of all your stuff in your room,” and I’d say, “Okay.” So I’m thinking well, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. So I’d throw a blanket out on the front lawn and throw all my trash out there, and my friends would pay a nickel, a dime for all these different things. I’d end up with a pocket full of change. I’m like that’s pretty cool.
Then I think I’ve shared this story with you before, it’s funny because I’d take the money I would make, but I learned that if you catch onto an early product that’s got some sizzle, like Bubble Yum back in the day. I’d peddle my bike up the street, I’d go to 7-11, Circle K, and I would load up on as much bubble gum. I’d buy the whole box. They’d stick that whole box. I’d buy the whole thing and the owner would look, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m taking all of it.” I’d go to school and I could sell one piece for the cost of the whole pack, because people are like oh, Bubble Yum. So I learned early on how to make a dime spend like a dollar.
James McKinney: That’s awesome.
Eric Solis: Those were some of the earliest signs for me. Again, it came out of necessity. That’s the important thing to realize, that sometimes what’s that desperation is the mother of innovation or something like that. I think I learned early on in life that there wasn’t anybody going to give me anything. Later on, I have some stories that we can maybe get into where I learn differently, but early on that was kind of the way the table was set for me.
James McKinney: So what was your step once you graduated? If you knew you had to get yours and it was on your shoulders, what was your step out of high school?
Eric Solis: That’s hilarious that you ask me that question. I was a rambunctious young kid. My parents got divorced when I was 12 or 13. There was a defining moment right around that point that I’d like to share. If you don’t mind if I back up just a little bit. My mom ultimately ended up opening up this little shoe store. Actually, it was a dress store and then she got into shoes, clothes dress store and kept the shoe store. It was on El Paseo and Palm Desert. Back then in the summer, there’s nobody in town. She would do everything she could to try to survive these horrible, long summers.
My dad left and I was like 12 years old. I remember many times I’d want to go out with my friends, go hang out and do something, she’d be all like, “No, don’t.” She was like super lonely, really in a bad place. One day I came home and I found her curled up in a little ball, in the fetal position, in her closet. She’s just like, “I just don’t want to live anymore.” I knew from a long conversation, it was always happening that she just couldn’t pay the bills. She didn’t know how to survive. My dad was going through his own catharsis and he wasn’t there. So I just did what any 12 year old boy would do. I got down and cried with her. I remember at that very moment that I wanted to solve problems. I didn’t have anything that I could articulate in my head. I just remember something going off in my brain like I am going to fix this problem.
Not knowing at all what that thought meant, I just got down with her and cried. We both cried together. Then my mom and I, for that time forward, developed just such a strong bond. I’m definitely a momma’s boy, like for sure. I adore my mom and my dad, but my mom’s special. I remember that I got very involved in the concepts of business. I was one of those kids, remember I’m in the back seat, my mom, this is before they got divorced, I don’t know how old I am but I’m in the back seat like, “Hey, what is depreciation?” and they’re like, “What in the world? I don’t know what that is. Do you know what that is, Velma? I don’t know what it is.” So I decided gosh, I must have been 16 years old, I started ordering, I got a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. I just decided I’m going to start reading the Wall Street Journal. I need to understand this stuff.
James McKinney: You’re like the Palm Desert version of Richie Rich, but without the money.
Eric Solis: Exactly. I remember that I worked at this little shoe store, and I would take my Forbes and Wall Street Journal with me to work. I’d read it on my breaks. That’s what I would do, is I would read the Wall Street Journal. I remember them going, “What are you reading? That’s really interesting. You find that stuff interesting?” I’m like, “Yeah, really interesting.” So then later on, I got my hands on the Series 7 books. I wasn’t one of these kids, I mean my parents said, “You don’t need to go to college.” I remember the word was fiddle-dee-dee, you don’t need college. So I never really thought that much about going to college. For me, it was like you’ll find a job and you’ll do what you do.
So I didn’t have the pedigree to get a job at a Wall Street firm. I’d gone to college in the desert. My high school years were, I was like checked out half the time in high school. I sat in the back of the class, half the time wasn’t paying attention, the other half I was peppering the teacher on mistakes that they were making on the chalkboard. I’d go, “Hey, by the way,” and they’re like, “You haven’t been paying attention for half the year and now you’re going to point out my mistake?” but I say all that to say this. That I got my hands on the Series 7 books and I had determined that I was going to become a stockbroker. That was what I was going to do. I opened up page one. Now, the Series 7 books-
James McKinney: How did you determine that? What was it about a stockbroker? Mentally did you just think that solved the problem of you and your mother crying in the closet?
Eric Solis: Well, no. I actually didn’t. I just, there was really a connection at that point in time really. It was more like it was just intriguing to me, and it seemed just so fascinating. I remember watching the ticker tape. I had no clue, but I was just fascinated. I’d just sit there and stare at the ticker tape. As a young boy, fascinated. So that thing with mom just got me thinking about what does all this mean? How does all this fit together? I don’t get it. What do you mean, mom owns a store and she can’t make a profit? What the heck does that mean? It was there, but I didn’t necessarily connect the dots at the time.
It was just kind of more like I was just following my instincts if that makes sense. Again, back to the books, I opened up page one. I just sat at the table, and just one page after another, read it, and read it, and read it. Took it, started back over, page one, page two, all the way through mountains of books. Kept taking the tests. I was 21 years old. I think I was, yeah 21 at the most. I don’t even think I was old enough to work in the industry by the first time I picked up the books. So when I was to the point where I was getting 100% all the way through, I’d take the test, 100%. I decided that I would see if I could get a job. There was a penny stock firm. It was called Blinder Robinson, aka Blind them and Rob Them.
James McKinney: Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.
Eric Solis: So I knew for a fact that, because I had kind of walked in. The managers of the Wall Street firms wouldn’t even let me in the door. So I thought maybe if I strategically I’m thinking to myself, maybe I could get a job with one of these penny stock firms. Just get them to sponsor me to take the test, because I can pass that doggone thing. I know I can. So I got to this Blinder Robinson that opened up in Rancho Mirage, right here in California, and I said, “I can pass the test.” They said, “We’ll sponsor you.” They didn’t care. There’s almost no, all they needed was a warm body to make calls. I went and I took the test, and actually failed it the first time I took it. First time I took it, I failed. Passing was like 70% and I got like 69%.
I thought well, I’ll go… I went and found this school, this little class thing to go and I sat in for like a two day session. I remember, because I’m thinking to myself, I can get 100% on every single one of these exams. How can I not get a 70% at least on the main one? Well, come to find out, now this is me just in the white spaces, but they said, “Okay, now listen up. Do not miss this question,” and every once in a while, “This one, you’ve got to make a special note of. It’s not in the books. You’ve got to know the answer to this question.” So I realized there’s some hidden questions. There’s answers to questions that are hidden, and that served me well by the way. Once I realized that, I started watching for questions that had hidden answers.
James McKinney: I’m sure that principal rings true in a lot of different areas, the hidden answers to questions that you need to know.
Eric Solis: Absolutely. It’s almost of biblical proportions, right, the hidden treasures. But yeah, so I passed the test. I never did work for Blinder Robinson, not even for one day. The minute I got the license, now I’m going now I think I can work my way in. I went, man I talked, I knocked on every… back then it was EF Hutton, Prudential Bache, Merrill Lynch, Solomon Brothers. I went to all of them. Smith Barney, I went and just banged on all the doors. I got turned down by everybody. One after the other, they all said, “No, no, no, no.” Even though I had already passed the test, they just looked at me and they’re like, “No way.”
James McKinney: Why do you think they turned you down?
Eric Solis: Well, I was 22.
James McKinney: Okay. And the average age for an incoming stockbroker is?
Eric Solis: 30 years old. They came in with experience, college degrees from some of the best universities. They had at least a few years experience doing something else. So yeah, like 30 years old was young. Late twenties was the very earliest, and here I come in, and I have none of the right… I don’t have any of the right credentials, background, experience. Only thing I had ever done was sell ladies shoes. So I go to this one office and there’s, it was Bache Securities was acquired by Prudential. They called it Prudential Bache securities. There was a great guy there by the name of Tim Biebelhausen. I just sent Tim a thank you letter. I contacted him on LinkedIn, quick story, and I said, “Tim, I just want to say thank you. Without you opening the door, I would…” and he’s like, “Wow, man. Thank you so much for reaching out like that.” It made him feel really good. I was just like-
James McKinney: Gratitude matters.
Eric Solis: It does. So he opened… well, here’s what he did. He let me, I’ll never forget. He gave me a prospectus and he said, “All right. Go learn this and come back.” So I come back. He goes, “Go on that phone over there and pretend like you’re calling me.” So I go on. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m like, “Hey, my name’s Eric.” He calls me and he talks me through my presentation. He goes, “Okay, I’ll let you know.” So some days later, I get a reject notice where he’s just like, “Thank you but no thank you.” That’s it, just pretty short and to the point.
So one really cold, I think it was March, early March. I wake up early in the morning. It’s still dark out. It was a cold desert morning, and I wait for him at the front door. He shows up and is like, “What are you doing here?” I said, “I got your letter. I need to talk to you.” He’s like, “Come on in.” He invites me in and he sits me down and he goes, “What can I do for you?” I said, “I got this letter and I just need to ask you. What do I need to do differently next time to get the job?” He just looks at me and he goes, “You want to work for me?” I said, “In the worst way and I won’t let you down.” He’s like, “Let’s go do the paperwork.”
James McKinney: That’s awesome.
Eric Solis: Just like that. By that time, I had just turned 23. My birthday was November 23rd, this is March. I’m now 23. I’d spent the four, five, six months trying to get a job and get my foot in the door. Then the funniest thing is that his secretary was on vacation. She was on a two week vacation and he looks at me and goes, and he says that to me, “My secretary is on vacation for two weeks. The way I figure it, I’m going to give you her desk because I think you’ll be gone in two weeks.” And he goes, “Tomorrow morning, you come in, that’s your desk.” The secretary’s desk. I get in there, man, and I’m like you have no idea. I’m like this is it. This is my opportunity. This is it.
James McKinney: What you’ve been climbing towards, yep.
Eric Solis: It was even more than that, though. It wasn’t that it was climbing towards, it was that this was make or break. There was no second chance. A kid like me, came from the wrong side of the tracks. I didn’t even belong there. And I didn’t. so here I sit down, and there’s all these guys in these perfectly suited up, they looked good, they all looked the part. Then there’s me, man, and I’m in the secretary’s chair and I’m just like, “Give me the phone. Give me the White Pages and the phone,” and I was dialing. I was just like a madman. Within, before she came back, she was due back and I had already generated, I don’t know, $7,000 to $10,000 worth of gross commissions. He’s like, “Stop.” I’ll never forget it. He’s like, “Stop.” He threw his hands in the air because he was almost scared now, like what in the world, who are you? Who is this mad man? He’s like, “Stop. We’re sending you to New York. We’re going to get you trained.” I wasn’t even trained yet. I didn’t even know what I was doing. So yeah, gosh I mean within a couple days, I only had a couple days to plan. They put me on a plane. I’ll never forget one of the most defining experiences, I had a glimpse of that breakthrough. Just to really feel it. I remember I was on the 40th floor of Seaport Plaza, and George Ball, the CEO is standing there. He’s like, “Hello, Eric. Good to have you.” I remember, I’ll never forget, I walked out, looked over the Hudson River, and I was like wow, I like this. This feels good. This is what it feels like to accomplish something.
Yeah. So that was kind of like the early Eric.
James McKinney: Just to not jump ahead to MovoCash, which is where we’re leading to, but to pause for a second and reflect back on where you are now versus where you were then. Does that sense of accomplishment as you’re standing on the 40th floor, other than telling the story right now, do you think about that? Do you think about your climb up to the 40th floor for that moment, and all the hustle you had to go through to make it yourself?
Eric Solis: I do, because many times I feel like I fell from the 40th floor too.
James McKinney: There you go.
Eric Solis: You know, I mean it’s not a one way. It’s interesting. Just again to build on that, I get back to my office during that time, and in one year, less than a year, I become the youngest Vice President in the firm. I was the highest producing rookie in the entire organization. What happened, though, and this is the one thing for young people. This is my shout out to young people. There’s a difference between being successful economically and making all kinds of money, and masking… I was still that little boy that had all those insecurities about all these different things, and the kinky hair. All the stuff that I talked about. I realized that my success as a business guy, I was smart, had sort of like run away with me. I hadn’t really developed as a man. My character, who I was, was maybe even not even flat lined, but might have even been moving in the opposite direction because the success and being able to really kind of have anything I wanted, and nobody to tell me I couldn’t created some really weird behaviors in my early goings. If I were to draw it on a graph, I would show it like you’ve got the axis-
James McKinney: A widening gap.
Eric Solis: The widening gap, and eventually what has to happen somewhere along the line in the human condition of things, is those two things have to meet. For me, that catharsis was pretty painful. I’m so grateful for it. I wouldn’t change a thing, but the process can be ugly.
James McKinney: So where did you go? Let’s talk about that journey, because you’re not that man now. What happened? What was the next step beyond that brokerage firm?
Eric Solis: It’s actually part of it. So what happened is here I am, I’m making a couple hundred thousand bucks a year. I’m 23 years old, no college degree. I just sort of pieced everything together. The decrepit part of success, young, good looking kid making a bunch of money, is a recipe for disaster without that quality and character. Then I started my own firm. It was Solis Group out in Indian Wells, and now I’m competing head on with all the Wall Street firms, very successfully. I’ve got a two and a half acre ranch with cars and par three golf hole in the backyard, imported sand for my special volley ball court that just me and my buddies would use.
James McKinney: In your twenties.
Eric Solis: I’m 24, 25 years old. I’m living like a rock star. People thought I was… we’re going to get into rock star status again, because I have a relative that I think you will know, a gentleman by the name of Mr. Sammy Hagar, and that is Uncle Sam. So growing up, I really wanted to be a rock star. I seriously-
James McKinney: When your uncle is Sammy Hagar, of course.
Eric Solis: And I started going to concerts when I was like 10 years old. Like when yolessonu have a rock star as an uncle, you naturally want to be a rock star. So I didn’t have the voice and I couldn’t play. I took guitar lessons and I can play a G, a C, and a D, and basic chords. My voice is good enough for the shower and that’s about it. I desired to be a rock star, so once I started making all this money I could live like a rock star, so I kind of had that rock star kind of mentality. All my buddies were laying bricks for a living and digging holes, and here I was doing what I was doing.
I did my first startup, and this is where the crack started. So now, I’m making all this money. My last year as a broker, I broke up seven figure, and now I’m maybe 30. One day, I’m flying back east, and I’m flying over the Grand Canyon. I’m going to give my age away, but you’ve got to remember I started young. It’s like 1999, 2000… no, it was early than that. It was ‘97, and I’m flying over the Grand Canyon and I’m reading an article about the internet. I’m reading, remember I’m reading the Wall Street Journal, and it’s about how some Microsystems and Microsoft are in this battle, but it wasn’t so much about antitrust as the article was written, it was about who was going to control the choking points on the internet. I remember thinking to myself, I was doing by the way a radio show at the time. It was called All About Money, and I was broadcasting this money radio show. I was up on the bird, broadcasting all over kingdom come. I had like Michael Dell on my radio show, Steve Forbes, and the list goes on. I can’t remember all the names now. I had kind of like tapped into something.
So I’m doing my radio show, and I did a segment called The Computer Doctor. I had this guy who knew all sorts of things about the computer, internet, early, early, early on guy. This guy was a geek. So I was thinking about the internet a lot, because I had this show. So all the sudden, I’m thinking here we’ve got one of the greatest innovations, technologically, in the history of mankind, and all these guys are interested in are controlling it. Right then, I remembered leaning over my mom and having that the whole purpose and intentionality of my journey was to fix problems and be a part of the solution. Here I was helping rich people get richer, which there’s nothing wrong with that, but it wasn’t the burning call deep in my gut that I knew I was, like that was my passion.
So I thought I wonder if I could create an online piggy bank and help my buddies, be a part of that solution. Here, I think I can create a system using the internet that will allow the mass consumer - I didn’t use that language, I didn’t know anything about mass consumer type, but you get my point. The have not’s, the common people - to be able to access the same kind of high quality investment products that the rich people have to. Because now, I can do it all. So I went to work on building a system that would essentially built the first, pioneered the first micro investment technology. You might think of it as Acorns now or Wealth Fund, these robo advisor type systems company, called Save Daily. So founded that and launched the product, and built the-
James McKinney: What year was that again?
Eric Solis: 1999. We were on the front page of the C section of the Wall Street Journal in December of 1999. Another moment. That was the moment like me standing on the 40th floor of Seaport. I was looking going, Wow, this is so cool. I remember walking down the street. I was on like Fifth Avenue and my marketing guy calls me, he says, “Hey, where are you? We’re on the front page of the E-Commerce section of The New York Times,” and I happened to be in New York at just that time. I remember I’m sitting there looking at a picture of myself on the cover, on the front cover of the E-Commerce section of The New York Times, thinking, “I’ve arrived.” All that sand in my shoes from the desert boy is gone. I’ve made it.
That was actually the very peak, when I say I fell out of the 40th floor, that was it.
James McKinney: So up until that point in your life, the opportunities were on a steep incline and to use your words earlier, character on a steep decline. There was a massive gap developing in character and opportunity. This, you’re saying, was the peak of it.
Eric Solis: This was it, this was it.
James McKinney: What happened next then?
Eric Solis: This is where everything that had worked all the way up to that point stopped working, almost like in an instant. Suddenly, I was out of… there was no track left on that up, and there was only nothing left but to reconcile and meet yourself, and get in the trough.
James McKinney: So what happened, because up until that point, your skills and your ability to execute carried you a very long way, made you just a ton of money. What happened at that moment where it was, your skill did not serve you?
Eric Solis: Well, it’s interesting because it wasn’t about execution. I could do all that, but the thing was I wasn’t emotionally prepared for what happened, and that was that my first marriage was coming apart at the seams. I had abandoned, for all practical purpose, my then wife for my startup. I didn’t’ know. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. In retrospect, I can see it very clearly. Being on a weekend and instead of paying attention, I’m on the phone the entire time talking to my team. It’s easy to do. So suddenly, she had kind of had enough of all of the years that I had the shenanigans and now this.
I wasn’t prepared for that, because I sort of thought that I could behave however I wanted, to whom I wanted, and I could always talk my way out of anything. Because that’s the way it had been for me. It suddenly wasn’t working. That, my marriage, came to a crashing end. This is true story. Two weeks after I was sitting in New York looking at myself on the front cover of The New York Times, two weeks later I was sitting in a room with a splitting headache because I went out and just tried to drown out my sorrows with a bottle of something. I was sitting in a room with a splitting headache, my shirt off in a dark room, four walls around me. My wife had asked me to leave, kicked me out of the house. My board told me to take a two week vacation because they could see me spinning out of control, and I’m on the phone with them and they’re saying, “Time for you to step away as the CEO of your company.”
So within a matter of two weeks, I was out of the house. Two weeks from the time I’m sitting there looking at myself on the front… that’s an amazing reality check right there. I’ll never forget it. I was sitting in that room, and my board which I’m not going to name names, but it was a very powerful board that I had. The former CEO of Charles Schwab investment management, the former president of Schwab funds built it from scratch. I had a strategy professor out of Stanford University. I had world renowned guru who had written books on economics and some bestsellers, and managed funds. All on my board, and I remember them saying to me leading up to that, they said, “You have one of the most powerful boards for a young company on planet earth, and you don’t ask for help.” Because I’d never learned how to do that. I’d never learned how to ask for help. I just-
James McKinney: You’d done it all yourself.
Eric Solis: I’d done it all myself. I don’t like the concept of self made, because that’s even worse. To my mind’s eye, that’s got a really bad connotation to it. I don’t ever want to be self made, but at that point, that was kind of it. I didn’t know how to ask for help and that same board was on the phone with me, and they said, “We want you to resign. We want you to recapitalize the company with X number of shares. We want you to forgive,” I had loaned the company $200,000 or $300,000 of my own money at the time. They said, “We want you to write off all the notes to the company, and you’ve got 10 seconds to make up your mind.”
James McKinney: Wow.
Eric Solis: I was like, I’ve got a splitting headache. I’ve got all these sort of family issues going on. Like oh man, I go, “Okay, I’ll do it.” In retrospect, I would have totally made a different decision, but that’s where I was at at that time. That’s a painful story for me to even go back there and talk about it. I don’t talk about that very often, so you’ve drilled it out of me here, but that’s a story that… I don’t want to ever forget. It’s not that. It’s just a painful time.
James McKinney: I know it is, and there’s similar moments in some of our listener’s lives, but there’s people that have not gotten to that moment. They haven’t hit that all time low, that absolute point of darkness. So I want to ask one more question about that, even though it’s painful but before we move on from it. Now, in 2019, it’s a different Eric, but you look at that. Can you remember the mental processing or were you so entrenched in your arrogance at that point it didn’t occur to you until later?
Eric Solis: That’s exactly the right way to say it. I made that decision but it didn’t faze me. I’m thinking to myself, “This is no problem.” I’ll give you an example. I remember meeting with a friend of mine who was going to kind of… he was a guy that I met. Now I think back as a mentor. At the time, I didn’t have any. I didn’t think of people as mentors. I thought of him as a mentor, and I remember him telling me, “You know man, when I hit my time, took me nine years to work my way out of it. I’m like, “Psh, dude, yeah that’s you. You don’t know me. This is like what time is it? By tomorrow this time I’ll be completely up, and over, and out of this.”
I remember, it’s not a straight line up, it’s not a straight line down. There’s process to everything. But I’ll tell you, when I think back on those times, that was the year 2000 and we’re in 2019. 19 years. It’s not like I’ve been in a valley for 19 years. I don’t want to make it sounds like that, but the process of developing that character, really understanding what it means to be integrated and have integrity. Am I perfect today? No way. I’m still in the process. Let’s go there. Let’s say it that way. So the earlier you start your journey and recognize that you’ve got a lot to learn, and you sort of embrace that, and you embrace the pain.
I remember I described it to one pastor friend of mine one time. I’m like, and I used the word that I’m “sitting in it,” and I remember him looking at me and he goes, “That’s a weird way to describe it,” but at certain times when you realize that you can’t run from it anymore, and you just have to be there, you’ve just got to kind of say okay, I’ve got to, yeah, walk it out but at the same time there’s a point in time when you’ve just got to sit and understand. I’ve got to be with this and understand how it has affected my life, and how can I rewire my thinking in a way that’s going to have impact on my life and the people around me?”
James McKinney: What was that journey from the year 2000 when all that happened to now? What I find interesting about your story is it was your own initiative and your own ability to learn and executive that got you there in 2000. It was also your reliance on your own ability and nobody else that got you to where you got in 2000 at that low point. But now knowing you in 2019, I couldn’t even imagine that 2000 version of Eric that you just mentioned is who is sitting in front of me right now as we’re chatting, because you’re such a different person. I believe it’s that difference as to why you’re reaching some levels of success right now with MovoCash. How did you get there? What was that journey from the year 2000 when you were self reliant, you didn’t need anybody’s help, you didn’t know how to ask for help? What was that journey from there until here?
Eric Solis: I can’t forget about that Arc 252, because Arc 252 was my second startup. I went again in 2005 and I sold that company to a company out in Calabasas in 2011. How do I describe the journey to answer your question? You’re going to have to give me a minute to think about that. When you were asking me the question, I was reminded of my grandpa. They called him Haymaker Hagar. He was a bantam weight boxer, and he’s known, this is you can look this up, he’s known for holding the record for being knocked down more times than any boxer in the history of the sport, and getting back up. Getting knocked down and getting back up.
James McKinney: So you’re related to a rock star and a record holder.
Eric Solis: Exactly. My mom, my uncle, my dad’s mom was no joke. She was like a five foot little Indian lady that would take on men twice her size. She owned a little beer bar out in Fontana for 40 years. If you know anything about Fontana, you know that’s a rough place to run a beer bar.
James McKinney: Yes it is.
Eric Solis: But what I’m driving at is that at some point in the journey, you’ve got to tap into who are you, how do you harness the roots of your upbringing. You’ve got to find people, whether they’re related to you or you’ve seen fight off the bottom. Even Sam. I mean look, I was talking with a friend of mine who invited me to go to a Kiss concert. I guess there’s a Kiss concert coming up, and he asked me to come. He goes, “You ever seen them?” I go, “No.” I just remember when Sam opened for Kiss like I want to say some time in the mid seventies, and I remember he had just launched, just recorded the Red album. He got booed off the stage. He got literally booed off the stage and he was so mortified. The very next show, he was opening for Bob Seger at the Polly Pavilion, and I remember him, he was like we visited him before the show, he gave us all red t-shirts. All they said was “Sammy Hagar” across the front. But he overcame his fear. I remember that.
I remember him being so nervous. The whole thing in the family was, “Uncle Sam got booed off the stage off Kiss.” I think it was Madison Square Garden. I remember my grandpa, and I remember watching my mom when she got up off the ground, wanting to go into that place. To being the longest standing business on El Paseo, so becoming very successful. We all have people in our lives where we’ve seen them overcome the obstacles and the failures in their life. I think that those are the richest stories. Those are the stories that are most compelling to us.
I guess this is the long way of saying that I don’t think I did anything supernatural. It’s not like there was any one defining moment. I pieced it together, one day at a time. I did my best to make good decisions one decision at a time. I did a lot of forgiving of myself. I did a lot of forgiving of the people around me. I did a lot of reconciling with people that I had hurt. There are some people that still, that I haven’t had contact with for very long periods of time. But at the end of the day, it’s just about not giving up. I don’t want to say it’s not about quitting, because I think there’s probably a certain time when you have to recognize it’s time to quit something. In other words, not being a quitter, but recognizing that you’ve got, I need to quit this. It might be, in startup plan we call it pivot. We pivot. You need to recognize when it’s time to quit. My grandpa who wouldn’t stay down, he ended up getting his brains beat out and he was never the same after that fight. He’d have been better off laying down, like hey don’t get up, just stay down, you’ll fight another day. But not being a quitter, being an over comer.
If I had to narrow it down to one thing that got me over, it was being an over comer. I’m going to overcome this. What does that mean, what does that look like? It means that you have a determination. You dig down, you find the passion, you find that thing that’s going to when your feet hit the ground, you’re going to say, “Okay. Yesterday was yesterday.” When you have those really bad days, one thing is all I’ve got to do is make it to the end of this day, because I know for a fact once my head hits the pillow, no matter what I’m stressed about, I’m going to get a little rest, I’m going to wake up the next day, and when that sun rises, I’ve got a brand new day. I have no idea what that day’s going to bring me, but I’m just going to go for it. That’s a long way to…
James McKinney: I love that, I love that. So Arc 252, you said, right? You’re second startup after you were removed from Save Daily. That leads us to MovoCash, where you’re at now. How did MovoCash come to be, and do you feel like now, with the journey you’ve gone through, with the story of your life, do you feel like now you are acting on that thought you had when you were 12 years old crying in the closet with your mom, that I want to solve this? You didn’t know what “this” was back then, but do you feel like you’re there now? Is MovoCash helping you solve that?
Eric Solis: I think that I still have a hard time connecting the two. It’s interesting. I tell the story about mom because I do know that’s where it all started. I think that planted the seed, how about that? It’s sort of like the seed was planted, but that seed has grown into something completely different. It’s like a sequoia tree doesn’t look anything like the seed it started out as. So I’ve gone through a metamorphosis in my entire thought about this. What I realize is there is just a very deep seeded compassion that I have about people in general. Whether it’s emotional, whether somebody is depleted emotionally, physically, spiritually, financially is sort of irrelevant. To my mind’s eye, I want to inspire them and I want them to have hope. I feel a very strong conviction about that desire to be a part of the solution along those lines.
So for me now, Movo is about creating a lifestyle. We call our people “Movoians” because it’s this is, it’s not just about a payments company. The payments is the means to the end. It’s a thing that gives us something to do, but it isn’t really… the vision’s really much more about where people feel like they belong. I mean that. I’m not just, that’s not… I want to inspire people. Yeah, if I can help them to have a more secure life through financial inclusion and well being, but if you have financial well being but you’re still sort of empty where joy and peace and love land in your heart, then what good have we really done?
By the way, if all my Movoians from the team were here, they’d say, “Yep, this is what we talk about.” This is no joke. This is how we approach our business. It’s all about our vision is in fact love, unity, peace, power, anointing. It’s not about building a billion dollar company, or $70 billion company. Obviously, we would like to, we understand that the key performance indicators and the report cards, having good strategy, good execution, all that is vital. But we know how to do that. The other part is can we impact the world and leave it a better place than we found it.
James McKinney: Awesome. That’s awesome. So let’s break down MovoCash, because you’ve been a sponsor of The Startup Story since the very beginning, and I am so incredibly grateful for it. I know our listeners, if you enjoy the quality of the podcast you have Eric and the MovoCash team to thank for that, from our sponsorship that allows us to get that great production quality that makes it easy to listen to. It doesn’t sound like I’m trying to do it from my phone, so thank you for that and supporting entrepreneurship everywhere, and the authenticity of the startup stories themselves. You’ve been authentic and transparent today, so thank you for that.
But now let’s break down MovoCash, because while I’ve tried to do a great job setting up what MovoCash is and why people should download the app and sign up for an account, let’s hear from you, the founder of MovoCash. What is MovoCash and why is it different than the other payment services out there, and why should someone be considering setting up an account today as they’re listening to this?
Eric Solis: So Movo is different in that it starts with the recognition that people that are living paycheck to paycheck, which represents a gargantuan swatch of American society, as well as you get into the far reaches of the global economy is even more so, needing speed of access to money. Then you’ve got to also, this whole idea of real-time payments is a bit of a fallacy. You’ve got to be able to get money off of a ledger. So for example, I say many times that bitcoin catapulted us light years into the future where technology is concerned, but where access to being able to spend the money, it’s sort of like takes us back into the dark ages.
Venmo, by way of example, is another one that really cute that you can send emojis but, and to pay, but I don’t necessarily want to insult the job they’ve done, that’s not my point. But it doesn’t help somebody who needs access to money quickly. We find some really interesting stories where millenials were embarrassed to tell their friends that they don’t have a bank account. Their parents were maybe here, maybe they’re second generation Americans, or whatever the case may be. They didn’t come from a family where their parents introduced them to their 20 year relationship at the bank, and all their friends are Venmo’ing money, and they’re like, “yeah, yeah, go ahead and Venmo the money,” but then it’s stuck there, and they need it. So the recognition that Movo, the real innovation of Movo was we call it real time payment cards. This whole concept of using a mobile number or an email, or a social ID or some other unique identifier, to be able to send money to another person, have them be able to receive it. But not only just received and stuck on that ledger, but actually in real time spinning up a debit card that can be used anywhere Visa, MasterCard, credit cards are accepted on planet earth. That’s taking a digital money concept and turning it into the equivalent of digital cash that can now be spent in real time, not only sent and received, but spent. That’s the part that I think differentiates us from all of our competitors. We, number one, don’t assume that you have a bank account. If you think about Zelle, Zelle’s doing a great job, but what does Zelle presuppose at the very front end?
James McKinney: That you have a bank account.
Eric Solis: You’ve got to have a bank account. Venmo always presumed you have a bank account, cash out to your bank account. So one of the things that we did was to introduce the idea that you claim money with MovoCash and we, at the same time that we spin up the real-time payment card, we spin up a bank account simultaneous to it. So now if you want to use that bank account for direct deposit from an employer, or if you want to connect it so you can go drive for Lyft or Uber or Task Rabbit, now you have a bank account that you can use. That peer to peer system that essentially takes what is sort of thought of as a vertical relationship between an individual and a merchant, where you’re essentially paying with a card to buy product, we do that but we also lay it horizontally, meaning that I now can send you an invitation to become a part of the Movo ecosystem, where you too have the ability to issue debit cards. So in essence, this whole idea of becoming your own bank has been great in theory but is not ever really happened. Movo really is delivering that promise. We’re turning each node into card issuing bank. I can issue you a debit card right now from my mobile phone.
James McKinney: That’s awesome.
Eric Solis: Yeah. It’s pretty powerful. And, by the way, it’s patented. We got a patent on the technology.
James McKinney: You know, it’s funny. For as long as I’ve known you and I’ve known about Movo, and I use Movo and I preach to our listeners to go and sign up for Movo. I’m now, as I’m piecing through all the different things that are out there, Venmo and PayPal, Bank of America, Wells Fargo-
Eric Solis: Bitcoin.
James McKinney: Bitcoin. Each of them, they have an aspect that is easy but Movo is the only one that really encompasses the best of all of them because the beauty about Venmo is the peer to peer sending money, no problems. B of A or Wells, they want to charge you a fee for stuff like that. Movo does that. The downside to a Venmo is the card access. I have money in my Venmo account. Unless I can pay with Venmo, I can’t access it right away. Movo solves that because you have that Visa card or MasterCard that comes with it. Movo really has taken the best of all the different payment and banking methodologies out there, and brought it into one, and you can do it all from your phone right now.
Eric Solis: Yeah. The way that we define that in the industry, it’s called interoperability. Most people think that only has to do with connecting block chain to legacy systems. That’s not the case. It’s really how do we connect bill pay to P to P, to a debit card, to maybe you do have crypto currencies that you want to convert back to fee on the fly. How do we do it mobile, how do we do check registers, how do we do a digital checkbook inside of your wallet? How do you piece, take all of this and create one, instead of having seven or eight different apps to do all this stuff, which is the way that everything started is do one thing. Because it’s hard to create all of this and build it all into one system. It’s not easy to do. So that interoperability is the real strength of Movo, that it is really, it’s kind of like we all hear about Ali Baba and financial. What they did was very much what Movo has done, which is that it’s a one stop, but it’s simple still. It’s light, it’s quick, it’s fast, it’s not clunky, it’s not heavy. That’s what we’ve been able to do, and I think you said it really well.
James McKinney: So one question that I like to ask all of my guests, because I think it’s so critical, and I think having gone through what you went through in the year 2000, I think you’ll definitely agree. But when you look back now at your entire journey, who are those people that you look, you think of with incredible gratitude because of how they contributed to where you are today? The reason I ask that question of all of my guests is that I truly believe that if we lose sight of that gratitude, of their contribution, it will inevitably lead to our failure, because we are not supp to be doing this alone.
Eric Solis: So I have to start with my mom. My mom and my pops. Pops was my mom’s second husband, and I adore my real father, but Pops, that guy he believed in me. He’d say, “Don’t worry about Eric. He lands on his feet. Give the boy what he needs. Give the boy what he needs.” The guy would have, he literally would have laid down his life for me. My dad, my real dad, is amazing as well so I start there. People that inspired me, obviously Uncle Sam inspired me. He inspired me to believe that, gosh, you can accomplish anything. If he could do it, he didn’t have somebody that close to kind of make it to the top of a really tough industry. That spoke to me.
Couple of guys, Tim Biebelhausen, a guy by the name of Dick Heckman and Dick Hoffman, two guys. Dick Hoffman, he was one of these tough Jewish guys. He’d look me in the eye and tell me… you have a few people in your life that tell you the truth, no matter how hard. I didn’t like to hear it, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t fun and I didn’t think he did it very tactfully, but looking back at it he probably told me what I needed to hear.
Really, I’m sure my wife. I mean gosh, let me just stop there for a minute. Man, that woman, Michelle, I tear up a little bit on that one. I’ll just tell you a quick story. When you’re going through these hard times, with Arc 252 as my second startup. I’ll never forget it. Me being me, I’m like, “That’s it, I’m out of here. I’ve had enough of this,” and she, being the… she’s amazingly beautiful inside and out, and she goes, “Oh yeah?” and I throw my suitcase down. I’m like, “That’s it. I don’t need this.” And she just sits in my suitcase, she goes, “Well, you’re taking me with you so where are we going?” I just looked at her like man, now that’s a woman right there. So anyway, she kind of got me a little… yeah, so my wife has inspired me.
Lots of people. The list, seriously I could sit here, we could take another hour and a half and I could go through the whole list because there’s so many people that I am grateful for. So if anyone that knows you’re on that list happens to be listening to this, know yes, I’m talking to you.
James McKinney: I’ve known Eric for only about six months and I cannot imagine the version of Eric that he described in his Save Daily startup years. Every time we talk, he always stresses how important his team is to him, and how crucial h is journey has been to him. Would he like to remove some of those seasons of pain? Sure, we all have those certain moments we wish we could do over. But Eric sees how necessary those moments were to shape him to be the leader he is today. In fact, in some of our outtakes, I asked him what his greatest lesson has been in his entrepreneurial journey, and he shared something so important that I wanted to share it with you directly from Eric.
Eric Solis: what did I learn, between the differences between then and now is how to ask for help, and listen, and get consensus, and understand. Hear from your team. Let them speak about situations. We have what we call robust dialog, and if my team were here they’d say, “Yep, we practice it every single day.” So I went from being somebody who didn’t listen to anybody, and didn’t ask anybody for help to being the complete opposite. Now, I want everybody’s input, I want everybody to tell me what they think, and it’s just a complete 180 in that respect.
James McKinney: This is the reality of The Startup Story. It’s not going to be pretty. We have to learn from every single season, and here is the beauty of what we are doing here at The Startup Story. We get the opportunity to learn from someone who is farther down the road than us. We get to learn from Eric’s successes and hardships so that we can take those learnings into our own journey to help propel us forward. I hope you will show Eric’s current startup some love by downloading MovoCash and setting up an account. If you use any other digital wallet services out there, then you understand the concept. The difference with MovoCash is that it really takes the best features of Venmo and PayPal and Zelle and combines them all into one app. Out of support for MovoCash and how much value they provide to you by sponsoring The Startup Story, please visit Movo.cash and you will see the links for the app store or the Google Play store. Please, download it today.
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