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Payback for Venmo

Tony Robbins and Venmo co-founder on finding your own story and getting to “yes”

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In this episode of the Tony Robbins Podcast we’re continuing our Business Mastery Panelist series with an exclusive interview between Tony and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, the co-founder of the digital payment platform, Venmo.

In case you’re not familiar with Venmo, the premise is simple: you connect the app to your checking account and you can send and receive payments to anyone with just a tap and a swipe of your smartphone. It’s the ideal solution for splitting bills and paying your friends back – especially for anyone who doesn’t like carrying around cash. Venmo makes exchanging money incredibly simple, and it takes the awkwardness out of asking someone to pay you back. Paying for everything from cab rides to dinners to rent and utilities is streamlined.

Venmo was acquired by Braintree in 2012 for $26.2 million, which in turn sold to PayPal for $800 million. And now, Venmo processes more than $6.8 billion in payments per quarter.

Yet as ubiquitous as Venmo is today, it wasn’t an easy path to success. Iqram and his co-founder Andrew Kortina endured countless obstacles in their early years, struggling to raise capital and almost closing their doors at one point.

In this episode, Tony talks to Iqram about the evolution of Venmo, from idea to fruition to acquisition, and how they were able to persevere through the darkest periods. They discuss the importance of learning to embrace criticism, creating your company’s story, and using the no’s to refine your approach to find that pivotal yes.


[00:57] Introduction
[02:45] Welcome Iqram
[02:55] Their origins of Iqram and Andrew’s partnership
[04:35] Building websites for restaurants
[05:30] The serendipity of forgetting his wallet
[06:10] A weekend in NYC footing the entire bill
[07:10] When are you going to pay me back?
[07:50] The tipping point
[08:30] Using smartphones to send money
[08:50] The moment Venmo was born
[09:20] The social aspect of Venmo
[10:30] Success leaves clues
[11:20] Looking at the most popular apps
[11:40] The difference of sharing on social platforms
[12:05] Cataloguing memories
[12:50] How long it took until they found success
[13:50] Starting with your inner circle first
[14:35] Getting over the trust factor
[15:10] The network effect
[15:45] The decision to sell the company
[16:50] The dark period before selling
[17:40] How naivety paid off
[18:35] Fixing their “cost structures”
[19:40] A lack of financing
[20:30] A passionate team of employees
[20:50] Getting ready to close up shop
[21:50] Landing on Braintree’s radar
[22:40] Groupon, Facebook, Mastercard
[24:05] All no’s until that one yes
[24:20] Learning to accept criticism
[24:50] Refining and reshaping the story
[25:10] Iqram’s involvement with Venmo now


The power of story – The story you create around your business is one of the most powerful tools you can use to engage your audience.

Why you shouldn’t quit your day job – We’re conditioned to think that entrepreneurs are willing to risk everything they have to pursue their passion, but the most successful entrepreneurs are actually the more conservative individuals who are more inclined to hedge their bets.

How to build a $10M business – Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local, reveals the 10 proven business strategies that have brought him massive success.



Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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