Dan Holt – Co-Founder & CEO of BillGO

Get out of the building and talk to customers. You may think you know what they want, but they definitely know what they want!

Dan has a passion for making the world a better place through amazing teams and awesome products. He’s previously worked for, started, and grown publicly-traded companies, including bank technology company HEIT (which was sold to CSI), where he became a president of one of the large bank software providers. Dan’s leadership experiences both in the Air Force and for several software application companies lends well to delivering the #1 bill management solution.

Where did the idea for BillGO come from?

The idea came from the frustration we noticed in the marketplace around paying bills. The average American household pays $400 a year in late fees mainly because managing and paying bills is a fragmented process, and missed bill payments can result in negative impacts to consumers’ credit scores. Additionally, 90 million US adults split bills. The moral of the story: bills are hard to track and the stakes are high. We realized that we were capable of solving a large problem with a single, comprehensive application that consolidates managing, splitting, and bill paying functions for consumers.

As we brought on additional founders and a rock star team, the solution kept evolving into what we are today.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts at 5AM with a little reading, a workout and communication responses. By 7AM, I’m on the phone with Scott Miller, one of our co-founders, working through some opportunities and mitigating risks. I’m in the office by 9AM, because I usually have an hour with the family dropping off my girls at school. Then, it’s all business, which I love. Our meetings aren’t typical. We have some scheduled, but many are ad hoc so we can move quickly and not wait to schedule something. Everybody has a voice and input into our product and execution. We are constantly coordinating our efforts, partnerships and future plans at BillGO.

Outside of work, I still volunteer to mentor several startups, support Colorado State University students through the Venture Accelerator program and maximize as much time as possible with my girls: wife, three daughters…and we have 4 pets that are female, too. We love enjoying the mountains of Colorado through hiking, biking and snow sports!

How do you bring ideas to life?

Ideas are brought to life at BillGO by cross-functional teams working together. We are a very data-driven company, but we balance this with being a positive before a negative when new ideas are coming to life. Self-success is a myth and our team knows that. By working closely together, our team is able to execute and deliver an amazing product.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Mobile consolidation. People are sick of going to 10 different apps and websites to deal with money (bills, banks and cards). They want to simplify and maintain control of their financial lives. (This is why BillGO is a comprehensive solution empowering consumers with greater control over their bills.)

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Grit. I’m not one to give up. You may be faster, smarter, and/or better looking, but I’ll out work the best. My dad was raised on a farm and that was how my five siblings and I were raised. I would consider myself tenacious with a purpose. There is a “why” for everything we do.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I was truly fortunate and had many great jobs in my career that all helped me learn something and continuously build upon my experiences. If I had to pick one that the worst, then it would be doing after-construction cleanup at age 17. However, I still felt that it was a great learning experience in terms of organization, staying motivated and simply getting $#!T done.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

When you’re creating a company, especially in the digital space, you often think you know your users and how they behave because you are typically solving a personal pain point. However, 99% of the time this turns out not to be true or at least never exactly true. If I was to start again, I would launch products sooner so that the foundation of the product is formed by actual users. We have learned a lot in the six months since BillGO launched and without our users giving us feedback and our teams implementing based on that data, we would not be so successful.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Get out of the building and talk to customers. You may think you know what they want, but they definitely know what they want!

Our first 1,000 users were gained by going to campuses. I was out there with them ground pounding as well as supporting them. This customer development has given us insights that we would have never obtained by staying inside!
It is hard to take the criticism and it takes courage, but the reward is definitely worth the effort.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I’m a firm believer in hiring the best. We have built a team with employees that used to work for companies like Google, HP, Facebook and major banks. Our team’s capabilities empower us to be very agile, move quickly and all have a deep understanding of our space.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not listening to my gut when hiring. When hiring, we don’t always have all of the data. People are the most critical part of the building of a successful company. Without all of the data, I believe that all of us possess innate abilities to make decisions based on experience and relations in our brain that sometimes aren’t on the tip of our tongues. As we gain significant experience in business, this also builds up the data and relationships in our brains. The decisions sometimes come down to gut at the end. Listen to your gut when hiring.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I love to adventure outdoors, especially the remote areas that can only be seen by dirt bike or snowmobile. We all bring so many devices: phone, separate GPS maps, SPOT, two-way radio, motor control systems and much more. There is a huge need for a single, integrated rugged solution for devices, which would be given away for free and be on a subscription basis.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why? (personal or professional)

When my wife and I were in our twenties, the former mayor—unbeknownst to us at the time—paid for our meal at a nice restaurant. The only note was to pay it forward someday. Since then, my wife and I have taken to regularly picking out young couples and paying for their meals while sneaking out of the restaurant.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I use many financial apps across the spectrum to compare and contrast. We are constantly amazed by Amazon Web Services. When I started my first business, hardware- and server-related software were the main costs, and it took a lot of effort (per$onnel) to run. Now with just a few clicks, we are not only up and running but can add more horsepower.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recently read Grit by Angela Duckworth. This is a must read for all entrepreneurs. Grit is what it takes to be successful in entrepreneurial roles. I believe that Will Smith says it best.

“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things—you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there’s two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple, right?

You’re not going to out-work me. It’s such a simple, basic concept. The guy who is willing to hustle the most is going to be the guy that just gets that loose ball. The majority of people who aren’t getting the places they want or aren’t achieving the things that they want in this business is strictly based on hustle. It’s strictly based on being out-worked; it’s strictly based on missing crucial opportunities. I say all the time if you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready.”

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

One of my greatest mentors has been Tom Shen. He’s a very wise soul not only willing to share but also eager to put forth the effort to help others. He’s a “salt of the earth” kind of person who has changed the world for so many.


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