Monday, December 26, 2011

Dwolla: The Midwest Startup with 700 Interested Investors and a Billion Dollar Idea

How the startup that attracted 700 investors out of Des Moines, Iowa is impacting the world with a unique approach and creative culture.  


It’s a pretty big deal to be named a Top 10 Startup of 2011.  But it’s an even bigger deal to be named a Top 10 Startup of 2011 and be from Des Moines, Iowa. 

A few days ago, ReadWriteWeb counted down the Top 10 Startups of 2011, which included a list of some of the most popular new businesses of the year like Zaarly,, Pinterest, Dropbox and Evernote.  And among these well-known names was one company that was launched out of Des Moines, Iowa:  Dwolla.  

Dwolla is a mobile payment platform that sends and receives payments to bypass credit card fees.  With Dwolla, a user can sign up, load their accounts and head over to a retailer that uses Dwolla for mobile payments.  Dwolla offers a cheaper, safer and overall better payment experience.  

But in founder Ben Milne’s mind, Dwolla is much, much more than “a different and better way to access money.” 

Instead, Dwolla has become Milne’s haven for creation, innovation and collaboration.  The company has allowed Milne to build a culture unlike any that PayPal or Visa contribute to the user experience.  

“My favorite part of this venture has been the ability to create,” says Milne of launching the Dwolla startup.  “It’s empowering to come into the office with an idea and at the end of the day, it’s built.  At Dwolla, creation is just a part of everyday life.  Solving problems is part of our culture.”

And these problems are not ones that can be shooed away.  Dwolla has been known to be a product that solves “million dollar issues”.  According to Milne, the creation of Dwolla has positively affected people, small business and even large corporations. 

Although Dwolla is extremely successful (with over 700 interested investors and with moves between $30 and $50 million per month), Ben still believes that the company is just at the beginning on the startup journey.

“We have a long way to go,” he says.  “But these successes have truly validated our efforts.” 

But what’s it like building a successful startup out of the Midwest?  Obviously, Ben has not received the same resources or support that he would if he moved the company to Silicon Valley.  So how has the Des Moines startup gotten by? 

“The truth of the matter is, startups are hard everywhere,” says Milne.  “We actually had an advantage because we have a strong team and great community members.  If we had the opportunity to move, I would say no.  It’s good that it’s here.  We want it to be here.” 

How does Ben Milne of Dwolla Think Big?  “I don’t just want to pay the bills.  I want to do something that makes an impact.  I want to solve a problem that impacts the world.” 

We believe that Dwolla does just that. 

Follow me! @AllisonThinkBig

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