(Domm Holland, Co-founder and CEO of Fast)
We are super excited about today’s Edition of The Takeoff. Today’s interview is with Domm Holland, Co-founder and CEO of Fast!
Prior to co-founding Fast, Domm was the Founder and CEO of Tow, an “on-demand vehicle towing platform in Australia.”
Fast is the world’s fastest online login and checkout platform. Since being founded in March 2019, Fast has raised over $22.5M and just recently closed a $20M Series A round led by Stripe, with participation from other firms including Index Ventures and Susa Ventures (You can read more about Fast’s recent Series A, here).
The interview took place via a phone call between Domm and Michael Spiro (Founder at The Takeoff) on April 14. Jason Alderman, Chief Communications Officer at Fast, was also on the call.
We hope you enjoy today’s Edition.
Michael: To start, what exactly is Fast, and how did you come about founding the company?
Domm: Fast is a company that is building a 1-click checkout for the whole internet. I started the company after seeing my wife's grandmother literally be unable to order groceries online because she forgot her password and just couldn't get through the checkout process.
I realized that the internet is far too hard and slow for a huge amount of people and that we take for granted that a lot of people still struggle with the internet, not even just grannies.
I can only imagine how many times you have bought something online and seen really long forms. Fast is designed to take the friction out of online engagement and online transactions.
Michael: Awesome! What has the growth looked like so far for Fast, and where do you think that growth will go now that the company recently raised a Series A round?
Domm: We are yet to launch our checkout product with our first external merchants. We have a login product that is live now. Our login product is live on hundreds of sites. We serve in the high tens of thousands of logins a month, and the checkout product will eclipse that, probably from month one.
The e-commerce sector is a massive $4 trillion sector, and that is what it was projected at before COVID, it will likely be larger post-COVID. We want to put the Fast checkout button on every single online store, and we want to power transactions for every single internet-connected consumer in the world.
We don't want to just favorite people who have an iPhone or stores that happen to sit on one platform. We want to enable frictionless e-commerce for every single internet-connected consumer.
It’s a very big market, and we have very bold ambitions.
Michael: Really amazing there. I'm wondering, why do you believe that checkout needs to be done by a third party? Howcome maybe Facebook or Google or another company like that can't be the one? Why does it really need to be a third party?
Domm: We believe the online identity of consumers goes far beyond checkout. The problem around friction exists far beyond just checking out. Something like a Facebook or a Google could power a purchase for a T-shirt for you, since that is a pretty low-risk type of purchase, but if you walk into a doctor's clinic and want to fill in a form, you wouldn't do that through a Facebook form.
Your doctor would not ask you to collect that information through a Facebook-powered form because they have proven themselves to not be the best arbiters of personal data. That's one major driving reason why we wouldn't want everyone's data to be held by a company that is backed by an advertising engine.
On the other side, we have people like Amazon, who are basically juggernauts in the e-commerce space, and do actually have their own one-click checkout product, or at least the Amazon Pay product that you can put on other websites. But, if you are an independent retailer who has made the decision not to ship within the Amazon ecosystem, then you don't actually want Amazon to own your customers and own all your payments, so you want a third party to be managing that.
We think it's really important for both consumers and businesses to have a neutral third party, an independent third party, whose job it is to make those interactions faster and whose job isn't to try and take those customers or try and take the data and use it for any other purpose.
Our sole purpose is to make that transaction faster, and we charge the business for that benefit and give it to the consumers for free. We do not have any secondary business models. There is no sort of supplementary income that we are deriving from the use of that data or the use of those consumers, and that is a really important fact for both sides.
Michael: I really love your perspectives there. The next few questions are more of advice-related questions for our subscribers, many of whom are students. The first question here is, do you have any advice for a student or young professional who is interested in starting a company?
Domm: Study computer science! Studying computer science, math, or economics would be great and possibly even earn a full degree in one of these subjects as well. I am still very bullish on computer science and learning to code. I also think that there are some incredible no-code tools out there and that you can do a lot these days, but it really helps to understand how the machines work that we use so heavily. Here in the Bay Area, in San Francisco, it's definitely still good to have a computer science degree. We yield a lot of power and control.
Experience is a great thing. I would say that the best thing that young people have is youth and a lack of many things tying them down, or many sorts of loans or expenses other than the student debt in this country. As a young person, you have a great opportunity to go and intern at fast-growing companies.
I'm not talking about companies like Facebook and Google. I think companies like this can still provide a lot of experience for you, but if you're interested in starting a company, go and work for a fast-growth or high-growth company. Go and understand those businesses, build networks, and get experience within those organizations.
These types of companies are pretty easy to identify. Look at companies that have just raised Series A rounds, at our stage, or seed rounds. Get in for whatever role you can get, whether it's sales, marketing, product, or engineering. Whatever role you can get will be a great learning curve to then go and start your own company.
The other thing is, like I said, you will build great networks amongst team members and investors that are invested in that company. Obviously, if you are in a small company that is backed by prominent investors, you are going to get exposure to those investors. It's a great backdoor into investors.
If the company does well, really regardless of how well the company does but especially if the company does well, you are in a really good position to raise capital too if you were one of the early employees of that business.
Michael: Really awesome advice there. What do you think is the best way for students to actually get involved with these types of companies? I know many of them don't have formal job applications and postings. Is it really just about sending cold emails to founders and trying to meet founders at events and stuff like that? What is the best way to land an internship at a high-growth startup?
Domm: You want to get the attention of the founders or other early people on the team. It is hard. We get hounded by people doing the same thing. I have a lot of business roles as well, that's why again, anyone with a computer science degree or an engineering background is going to be higher up the list than business, just because there are more people in business roles, or looking for business roles or sales roles that do target companies, especially in the early-stage.
Email, Twitter, socials, and inquiries through the company’s website are all typically read by the founding team in the early days, so any of these channels are good ways through. Be short and concise.
Everyone is really busy, so writing really long essay-type approaches is not the most effective way to get someone's attention. If I get an email that looks like an essay, I guarantee that I will not read it in full. So, short and concise approaches are key.
Michael: Super helpful there. I'm wondering, do you have any favorite books or podcasts on the startup space that you would recommend students to read or listen to?
Domm: I actually do not read a lot, but I would say Peter Thiel's Zero to One is a good book to read. Harry Stebbings's podcast The Twenty Minute VC is a fantastic podcast if you want to learn about venture capital, specifically. The Twenty Minute VC is a very, very good podcast. I'd go back through all the old episodes as well. This Week in Startups by Jason Calacanis is another really good podcast about startups that has great guests and a ton of great content.
Michael: I really love those recommendations. The Twenty Minute VC is definitely my favorite podcast. In your interview with Harry Stebbings on The Twenty Minute VC, you spoke a little bit about the relationship between being a problem solver and being an entrepreneur. I was wondering if you can maybe expand on that idea a bit? (You can check out Domm’s interview with Harry Stebbings, here)
Domm: I don't think it is a relationship between those two things. They are the same thing, right? I think business in general, but particularly startups, is about dealing with a series of problems.
You have the problem of why you founded the company. Then you have the problem of how to start the company. Then you have the problem of how to grow the company. And, within each of those problems, there are hundreds of little problems.
People don't come up to me every day and tell me how phenomenal everything is running and how smooth everything is and how we have the perfectly sized team and how we have incredible amounts of revenue growth. People come up to me all day long with problems, or at least all I notice is problems. I do that very intentionally, and that doesn't mean the company isn't doing well, it is just that business is a series of problems that you need to overcome. There is no limit to those problems. You continually have new problems.
And so, you just need to get really good at embracing that you are always going to have problems. Don't think of problems as a negative, just be prepared to continually face new problems and get really good at solving problems.
Good founders don't have all the answers. Really smart people, such as founders and other really smart people in general, don't have all the answers, but they know how to get all the answers. They don't know all the solutions, but they know how to get everything done. People who are really good at solving problems like that tend to be very good founders.
Michael: Awesome, and I really love the advice and insights there. Related to dealing with those problems, how exactly do you stay physically and mentally fit while running Fast and having to deal with all the problems that arise on a daily basis?
Domm: I get up early and train. I wake up at 4:30 am, and I train from 5-6 am every day, putting my body through a physical wringer. And, it is really important.
Startups do put a lot of stress on you, and I think the more that you engage in that, the more you become mentally strong. You also need to be physically strong because stress takes a physical toll on your body, too. It really does help to be stronger and fitter.
I am all for the sentiment [of meditation] and maybe I will change one day, but it is just not me. I find it very hard to stop at all for any period of time, so I'm not a huge meditator. I don't not believe in meditation, it is just not well suited for me. Working out tends to give me the mental training I need.
Michael: Just yesterday, I was scrolling through replies to one of your tweets the other day about trying to help startups that are looking to raise funding by helping them get noticed through a one-line pitch. I'm wondering, how have you viewed Twitter and other forms of social as a way to spread the word about Fast and grow brand recognition? (See below for the tweet 👀)
Domm: Twitter has been, and is, an incredible channel for us. I think that a lot of our success can probably be tied back to Twitter. I met my co-founder through Twitter. I met Jason, who is on this call, through Twitter as well. I've met probably half of my team through Twitter, and I’ve met some of our investors through Twitter, maybe most of them.
Twitter has been an absolutely incredible tool and can be. I think in different sectors and geographies that may not be as true. For us, in tech and in venture capital in Silicon Valley, or in the Western world, Twitter is an incredible channel and can be used to amplify. It can be used both positively and negatively. It can definitely throw back at you as hard as you throw at it.
Twitter is a very complex thing, but as a channel, it can be amazing at driving community support and building teams, a community of investors, or a community of users and early adopters.
Michael: Thank you so much, Domm and Jason!
Domm: It was a pleasure. Good luck!
** Please note that our interviews may be edited for length, content, and clarity **
I’m on Twitter @mspiro3 👋