Tammy is one of the Founders and the Chief Executive Officer of Stronghold which creates virtual payment networks that enable instant settlement and interoperability between legacy and new payment networks. She started out working remotely in demand generation for a number of companies while travelling the world kiteboarding. She spent a number of years travelling to many different countries such as Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and Brazil, and Tonga and managed to achieve a world record for the most back loops in one minute. When she arrived back to San Francisco in 2010, Tammy attended Singularity University’s GSP11 in Exponential Technologies at NASA Ames where she first learned about Bitcoin from legendary cryptographer Ralph Merkle. She became very interested in financial technology, and using the technology of blockchain in conjunction with traditional networks like those used by banks. Tammy then worked as the first Head of Growth at Stellar, helping the network grow to 4,000,000 users in its first two months. She went on to become a partner at 500 Startups where she invested in startups as well as ran their growth and marketing curriculum for their Silicon Valley accelerators before starting Stronghold in 2017. Tammy has spoken at various fintech events, including events for IBM and Amazon. She was also recently featured in Authority Magazine as a Women Leader of Cannabis as a result of Stronghold’s recent work in the cannabis sector. Throughout her time working with startups and creating her own businesses Tammy has learnt many lessons she would love to share with IdeaMensch readers.
Where did the idea for Stronghold come from?
Stronghold was founded by myself and my Co-Founder, Sean Bennett. I am a graduate of Singularity University’s GSP11 in Exponential Technologies at NASA Ames where I first learned about Bitcoin from legendary cryptographer Ralph Merkle. While learning about blockchain I saw so many gaps that the traditional banking networks couldn’t fill, and that’s where I saw the opportunities for stablecoins on the blockchain. We have now pivoted our business to focus on building virtual payment networks and we service a variety of different sectors like financial institutions, web monetization networks, and even cannabis businesses. We are currently integrating with one of the largest POS companies in California and removing cash handling for a number of dispensaries.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
A typical working day starts with a stand up meeting with our team to discuss what we are working on today and anything that is blocking us. This is actually one of the most productive things in both my day and the company’s day. It keeps us all up to date with what each person is working on and we are able to brainstorm solutions to any problems anyone is facing. The rest of the day is spent in meetings with potential and existing clients, mentors and investors, and members of our team. If i’m lucky i’ll get a couple of free hours to catch up on work and do some research into new opportunities for us.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Even if I have an idea I need to work with my team to bring it to life. A great leader knows their weaknesses and builds a team around them that has strengths in those areas. A gap in the market I identify will need a technology solution created by our developers and will need a marketing plan to ensure it can be sold to the right clients by our business development team. The solution will also need to be compliant with laws in the countries it is to be sold so our compliance team will need to be involved as well. It really is a team effort.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m excited by how great ideas and businesses come out of times of crisis like pandemics, natural disasters, and Covid-19. Through these awful times people identify opportunities and gaps in the market, and these businesses go on to become part of what we use every day. Businesses like IBM and FedEx are great examples of this.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I automate anything and everything I can in my personal life, from my diary to paying my bills. I’ve brought the same habit into Stronghold. Whenever we create a new process i’m always asking myself and my team, how can we automate this? How can we remove manual handling and decrease the work we have to do? Without automation my days would be a lot slower and less productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
It’s good to have a plan but it’s more important to be adaptable and able to problem solve. Even the best plan in the world can have its challenges and so we need to be able to adapt and solve those challenges.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Decentralisation won’t succeed. When I discovered blockchain I was an idealist thinking you can actually give the power back to the people and serve underserved communities and provide financial services to the underbanked. Now I spend my days talking to bankers, regulators, and underserved communities so we can get mass adoption. Would you rather work with somebody that has experience in regulatory matters and banking with 20 years of experience or would you want somebody that picked this idea up 6 months ago?
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I am a follow up hound! You should never be afraid to follow someone up for a response. When you chase things down action happens.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
One thing I learnt at 500 Startups is that smoke tests are crucial. This is a way of starting or testing your business idea in a lean way. It helps to determine if there is demand for your product or service before you actually build it. You should always sell the product before you build it, as if there is no demand it was built for nothing.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Working in the blockchain space was a challenge. This was and continues to be a difficult space to get traction in, however the technology blockchain brings to payments is bringing traditional networks into the future. We have been using the technology we developed as a blockchain business to revolutionize payments.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Having previously worked with a lot of startups finding a business idea is about looking at an area where you have experience and there is a gap in the market. One idea I have always wanted to succeed is personalised online shopping for fashion. Currently as shoppers we go on various websites and enter our preferences on each, such as our size. I can’t believe something hasn’t been invented yet where we enter our body shape, size, hair colour, and other factors in one website and then fashion to suit our preferences is sent directly to our inbox.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Personally, the best $100 I spent was on a dutch oven. I use mine every day to cook everything from casseroles to bread. Professionally (or not so professionally!), the best $100 I spent was on Zoom games! Stronghold has two offices globally – one in San Francisco and one in New Zealand. At the end of each week we have a company “happy hour” to connect socially and play games together over Zoom. What seems like such a simple thing makes such a difference to the culture of our team and has roll-on effects into our working relationships.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I love a tool that can help me create a funnel to progress business opportunities. With juggling so many different ideas an electronic funnel helps me to remember where each deal is at and it’s a bonus if it integrates with a CRM system. Personally I like Hubspot for a CRM system/funnel duo and it also helps you to calculate what potential earnings from each deal in a particular pipeline will add up to. I also like Trello because it offers checklists which is great if you need to complete and track particular steps to move opportunities through a funnel.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Start with Why by Simon Sinek. Every individual you meet in business has their own why. If you can appeal to their why you can get the best work or business out of them. Not only that, you have to understand your why to keep on track with what you are trying to achieve.
What is your favorite quote?
I recently read a quote that stands out in my mind: “You make the world your most beautiful paradise”. If we choose to look at anything with a negative attitude, that’s exactly what it will be. However, if we choose to look at things with a positive attitude and look at challenges as an opportunity, that’s what they will be. It’s very similar to another quote: “the world is what you make it”.
- Prioritise the business opportunity. Although systems and compliance are important without the opportunity you will never be able to generate revenue to continue.
- Look for the gaps and opportunities in the market.
- Unblock your obstacles. Identify where they are using funnels and problem solve to remove them.
- Be adaptable. Don’t be afraid to fail – learn from the journey.
- Remove manual processes and automate wherever you can. Time is precious.