Steve Streit

Founder and General Partner of SWS Venture Capital

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 was appointed as a board member for the Los Angeles branch of the United States Federal Reserve System.

Green Dot Corporation

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.

SWS Venture Capital

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.

Patti’s Way & Other Associations

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.”

Where did the idea for your career come from?

I’ve been fortunate to have three different but complementary careers in my lifetime. The first was in the radio broadcasting industry, and the second was in the financial services industry as the founder of Green Dot Corporation. I use the creative, financial and entrepreneurial skills gained in my previous roles to help me excel in my third and current career as a venture capitalist. Green Dot was born from a lunch conversation in 1999 with some friends in the radio business about the coming of high-speed internet and the associated challenges of ensuring that everyone could make purchases from a website, regardless of age or credit status. That conversation triggered the earliest creative saplings of what grew into Green Dot. But what is common across all my endeavors is that I have a highly curious mind and I truly like people. I love learning new things, hearing new perspectives and understanding why things are the way they are. So, this intellectual investment in understanding people and things led me to start SWS Venture Capital. We spend a considerable about of time learning about new business models, products, platforms, and applications and meeting with the ambitious founders who want to take an idea and bring it to market.

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

My typical day begins with a morning fitness regimen with a trainer at a local club. I find that structured exercise is highly beneficial for both the body and mind. Then my day segues into Zoom meetings and phone calls with Greg Jones, who runs SWSVC and founders of our portfolio companies. My day also includes listening to and evaluating investment opportunity pitches and maintaining personal and business relationships. I generally keep one day per week unscheduled to allow for creative white space and the opportunity for a better perspective on work and life.

How do you bring ideas to life?

While I’m blessed with a creative mind, I generally try to think about what problems people need solved. Of course, once you have that idea, the successful evolution and execution of that idea is wholly dependent on building a strong team of like-minded people. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the finest product specialists, technologists, founders, and investment specialists over the years who can take an idea and evolve it into an amazing product or platform. Teamwork makes the dream work.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The trend that excites me the most is the continual digitization of all things. Gen Z is coming of age and entering the workforce, so I expect that the evolution of technology and consumer adoption of those technologies will only increase for years to come. The pandemic has pulled forward years of digitization and every business in America will need to adapt to the evolving landscape. No matter the industry, whether veterinary care or financial services, companies will need to partner with forward-thinking technology companies to remain relevant and fulfill their business goals and activities.

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

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?

I would have told myself to have a broader perspective and to allow more time to learn and absorb. In those early days, it was all about execution — nose to the grindstone, so to speak. In hindsight, I would have likely benefitted from spending more time with others outside my field and thinking about all the opportunities that existed beyond the four walls of whatever I was working on at the time.

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

Speak to everyone you can and learn as much from them as possible. Form true bonds — even if fleeting — with whomever you’re talking with. People are fascinating and complex. Understanding how people from all walks of life feel and think can reward you spiritually and can also enhance the success of your business goals.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

At Green Dot, I tried to surround myself with people who knew more about their respective field of expertise than I did and who were “mission based” in their desire to achieve success. I was also able to recruit and evolve a strong board of directors that provided valuable insight and deep experience in building and scaling a business. At SWS Ventures, we have done our best to network with the many friends and partners I’ve gotten to know over the years. It’s the same concept of surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. Many of our best investments and highest-quality deal-flow has come from these connections and friendships.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

My Nespresso machine. It makes me feel fancy.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

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 your favorite quote?

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” – Sam Walton

Key Learnings:

  • Keep one day per week unscheduled to allow for creative white space and the opportunity for a better perspective on work and life.
  • The successful evolution and execution of that idea is wholly dependent on building a strong team of like-minded people.
  • Speak to everyone you can and learn as much from them as possible. Form true bonds — even if fleeting — with whomever you’re talking with.