Steve Streit

Founder of Green Dot Corporation

Steve Streit is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, philanthropist, and the innovative mind who pioneered the prepaid debit card industry as the founder and longtime CEO of Green Dot Corporation.

His reputation as an industry innovator, as well as his charitable efforts, have earned him an array of awards within the industry and from humanitarian organizations. Over the years, Mr. Streit was both a Regional and National winner of the EY “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, was named one of the “10 most innovative CEOs in Banking” by Bank Innovation, received many fintech and prepaid industry awards, was honored with several humanitarian awards from organizations like The LAPD Police Activities League (PAL), The Coach Art Foundation and others, and previously served as a board member for the Los Angeles branch of the United States Federal Reserve System.

In late 1999, Steve Streit founded “Next Estate,” which, in 2004, he renamed Green Dot Corporation. Although it was originally a platform for prepaid cards and reload services, Mr. Streit recognized that the rapidly evolving landscape of new major competitors, more stringent banking supervision and customers’ rapid adoption of smartphones and mobile technology meant that Green Dot would need to be much more than just a prepaid provider in order to maintain its leadership position into the next decade. As a result, Mr. Streit led several initiatives including “Green Dot Bank,” “Green Dot Reload Network,” “GoBank,” and Green Dot “BaaS.”

Under Mr. Streit’s two decades of leadership, Green Dot established itself as the largest prepaid debit card provider in the United States, the largest cash processing service in the United States, the largest tax refund processor in the United States and the largest Banking as a Service platform in the United States.

In 2019, Mr. Streit retired as the CEO of Green Dot Corporation following his 20th year at the helm.

By 2018, Steve began to plan for his retirement upon his 20th anniversary as CEO of Green Dot at the end of 2019. As part of this post-retirement planning, Steve established SWS Venture Capital, a firm that he intended to help fund new and promising companies across several different industries, including fintech, healthtech, consumer platforms/products, and many more.

SWS aims to partner with strong entrepreneurs who have both the passion and skill to disrupt their respective industries and a clear path to creating products, services and technologies that serve customers for the better.

Steve is the founder of Patti’s Way, a charitable organization dedicated to the memory of his late mother. The foundation seeks to advocate for and provide grants to single parents or guardians and their children. Grants are provided in conjunction with a number of other charitable organizations, such as the Shelter for Abused Women and Children in Naples, FL, Foothill Family in Pasadena, CA, Hollenbeck Police Activities League in Los Angeles, CA, and many more. These grants are known as “Random Acts of Kindness.”

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

My typical day is loosely structured with reading the morning news upon waking up, then working out with a trainer and then sitting down to take care of work-related activities. To help make my time productive, I keep notes and tasks in my calendar and execute accordingly.

How do you bring ideas to life?

For our firm, the first step in the ideation process is determining whether or not an idea is worth investigating. This stage most often involves talking with others who are experts in the particular area of the idea, researching the opportunity and understanding the potential risks and rewards associated with the idea, and then making a decision as to whether a particular idea is worth investing more time in to learn more. Then, once an idea is fully informed, a decision is made as to whether the idea is worth pursuing further. There are lots of great ideas that we all have on any given day, but the truth is that a small minority are truly worth the time, effort and money required for realization. When we come across an idea that merits the required resources, we then author an action plan and work it accordingly.

What’s one trend that excites you?

There are several macro trends of interest, including the rise and renewed value of the skilled trade worker. While it’s not particularly hard to find a software developer or attorney nowadays, it is very hard to find a skilled carpenter or mason or truck driver. Yet, these and other trades are required to make the world go around. We are also interested in ideas and businesses that solve core basic needs for people, like new and more efficient ways to create housing and affordable healthy food. Of course, we expect that AI will be used in nearly all applications of industry and, as such, we believe AI will be a core trend behind every other trend. But our sense is that the time has come to focus on bread-and-butter issues that enable better and more sustainable living.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

I’m a big list-maker. I use my iPhone to keep ideas and a “things to do” list and then I make sure to attack that list every day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

The advice I would give my younger self is to relax and be more aware and appreciative of the daily wonders of life. Work isn’t everything, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re young and ambitious.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

The business world is a constantly evolving field, and successful entrepreneurs and investors understand the importance of staying up to date with the latest trends, technologies, and best practices. By continually learning and seeking knowledge, we can gain new insights, ideas, and skills that can help others improve their businesses and stay ahead of the competition. There are many ways we continue learning at SWS, such as attending industry events, reading books and articles, attending workshops, and seeking out advice from others in fields outside of our expertise. The key is to make learning a priority and to consistently invest time and effort into acquiring new knowledge and skills.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

These are two different issues, I suppose. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I block out lots of time and use it to plow through the myriad of tasks or issues that are causing me to feel overwhelmed. Nothing cheers me up more than getting stuff done. If I’m feeling unfocused, I simply stop trying to be focused and step away. Then I come back to the task when I’m ready.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

I wanted to make sure we had the right idea and a great team of people who were able to execute the heck out of the idea. Execute, execute, execute. Even if the idea isn’t perfect, you’ll still be ahead of the game. An old adage is, “You can’t change directions if you’re not moving forward.”

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

Serve the masses and dine with the classes.

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

It’s tough to narrow it down to one since software now dominates the world we live in. Zoom would be at the top of the list as it has helped facilitate face-to-face virtual meetings with founders and partners distributed across the globe (especially during COVID). Another one is Affinity – our CRM system that helps manage deal flow, track our pipeline, and improve efficiency of our organization. But, of course, my iPhone is central to all things.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

The best $100 I recently spent was on lunch, reconnecting with an old colleague. Connecting with an old colleague can expand your professional network, provide opportunities to learn from their experiences, build long-term relationships, and rekindle old friendships. It can offer several benefits, including potential job opportunities, industry insights, and networking contacts, making it a valuable way to advance your career.

Key learnings:

  • Bringing ideas to life involves building a strong network, conducting thorough research, and taking calculated risks.
  • Developing a consistent daily routine and prioritizing self-care are essential habits for productivity.
  • Setting and prioritizing goals and time blocking are habits that improve productivity.