Ryan Scherf is the founder of Payment, a suite of mobile apps for processing credit cards via the Stripe payment gateway.
Where did the idea for Payment come from?
Back in 2014, Stripe was an up and coming startup out of YCombinator changing the way payment gateways were built online. Stripe launched their suite of web products first, as well as their API, but did not have a mobile app. That’s where the Payment app came in to play.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have two young kids, so getting them to school is the most productive thing I can do in the morning. Afterward, I begin by answering support requests (as the only employee, this falls under my many roles), and then dig into the larger task for the day — which could be adding more content, fixing a bug, etc.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Since I’m a solo founder, and a solo employee, the ideation generally comes from me. However, many of the features built into the app piggyback off recently launched, or updated features from Stripe. As the app mostly mimics their API, there is a pretty good domain of features that can and cannot be built.
What’s one trend that excites you?
A trend that is exciting to me is single function mobile apps. A simple app, that focuses on doing one thing, really well. With Payment, that one thing is collecting a payment. We wanted to be the quickest way to get setup selling in-person with your Stripe account.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
The habit I find most hopeful is the ability to say no. No to a new feature. No to a customer distraction. No to going down the rabbit hole. By saying no, you can concentrate on the right things, not the wrong ones. Your guy is generally correct (or you can at least convince yourself it was correct later on).
What advice would you give your younger self?
Ignore your competitors. What they’re doing doesn’t matter. What they’re building doesn’t matter. Listen to your customers, not your competitors.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Flavored sparkling water doesn’t taste very good.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Revisiting the habit I have: saying no. No, we don’t need another employee. No, we don’t need to build feature X.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
The single most important strategy that has helped grow my business the fastest is being involved in customer support. Generally speaking, this is handled by an entirely different person or department. Almost as if it’s an annoyance to have to do it. However, after answering over 4,000 support tickets in 5 years, I’ve been able to keep my pulse on the customers, and find out what they really need, what the real problems are, and how I can get them information faster.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Before building Payment for credit card processing, I had another app that was analytics for Stripe payments. It gave daily, weekly and monthly roll ups of your transactions. After running that app for over 2 years, without being profitable, Stripe launched their own 1st party app and essentially forced us to shut it down. It was a tough stretch, but ultimately, it led me to purse Payment, which has been profitable since day 1.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Build a peer to peer marketplace, akin to Craigslist, that also rewards karma points for responsiveness, but more importantly penalizes for ghosting and no-shows. Hold people accountable.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A new saw. I love creating things with my hands, as it’s such a different experience than creating digital apps.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
For Payment, Zendesk is the most important piece of software we use. It’s a SaaS app for customer support which allows you to create macros for pre-canned responses to similar support questions. In addition, you can setup a knowledge base and some pretty generic AI to filter common questions, right to the knowledge base guides, via some user friendly messaging.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I consider REWORK by the Basecamp folks to be one of the most consequential “business” books I’ve read in my lifetime. After being at several well-funded, high profile startups, it helped me to understand that there are other ways to start and run a business.
What is your favorite quote?
As a hockey player growing up (and still in my thirties), and now coaching my young kids, I’ve always loved this quote by Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. For me, this means taking risks, as I’m generally pretty risk averse when it comes to big decisions. It’s always a good reminder to take that chance.
- Start building. Take the chance. Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity to come around.
- Learn from your customers. You don’t need a visionary product leader to tell you what you need to build. Your customers will let you know for free.
- Do one thing, and do it really well. For Payment, that was being the best at collecting payments with a Stripe account.