Think back to just a decade ago, when paying with your phone was barely an idea. Now, we have everything from Venmo to Bitcoin and payment cards that store all of your cards in one thin vessel. The future is here and Thiago Olson is all about it. He founded Stratos Technologies, a connected card platform that allows consumers to carry just one payment card that stores all their credit, debit, and gift card information, in 2012. During that time, he raised more than $10 million in capital and was acquired last year by Ciright, another technology company.
Now, the Vanderbilt Electrical Engineering graduate is bringing that hard-earned financial tech knowledge to Atlanta as an entrepreneur-in-residence at ATDC’s FinTech. There, he will work with ATDC signature companies CEOs and help take their companies to the next level through mentorship, advising and by facilitating new funding connections.
“There’s a ton going on in the FinTech space, in the payment space, and payment processing here in town. 70 percent of payment transactions flow through the Atlanta region,” says Olson. “There are a lot of interesting large companies and start ups here.”
Olson talks about his new gig at ATDC, being new to ATL, and why an A-level team can be the key to a company’s success.
What do you hope to accomplish while you’re here as an entrepreneur-in-residence?
From a personal standpoint, I benefited so much starting Stratos with some advisors early on that really helped us go in the right direction, prepare ourselves for bringing on institutional capital or venture capital, not just from local investors, but from investors nationwide, kind of approach it from that mindset. That just helped us so much that now I’m in the position to share my experiences and lessons learned and knowledge from going through it and giving back and helping mentor and advise CEOs that going through similar stages. Helping connect them to funding and investors in town here and also nationwide.
It’s exciting to watch an idea turn into a company. Being able to help in any way make that happen, whether small contribution or large, that’s exciting. Then here at ATDC, it’s very exciting to work with the existing portfolio companies that are already here in the FinTech space, trying to help wherever I can. You talk about how, for you, having advisors in the beginning was really helpful, what would you say to a company that it’s also starting out?
As a first time entrepreneur specifically, you haven’t been through it and there’s so many things that you can avoid just by having a short conversation with someone that’s been through it before or can connect you with a resource that might take you a long time to kind of get connected into. I’ve always found advisors and a wider network to be so crucial to getting a company off the ground. It certainly helped me in the early days.
From a company perspective, I think one of the really important things is the founding team is just so crucial. One of the things that allowed us to scale and grow quickly at Stratos was we had brought the right initial core set of people on board as founders and initial employees that allowed us to really attract more talent. You need the technical folks or someone that can really build the product and own that, someone that can interface with investors and the business side of things and really make sure you’re scaling and building a company.
And then there’s also someone, and it could be either of those 2 or another person, that really is what I’d call a team builder, someone that can attract. This is a lot of times the CEOs role, just being able to attract the talent, get them excited, and bring them onto the team. You really want to keep people early on because if you get the right people on board, everything goes from there. I would bet on an A team and then a B idea any day versus the other way around.
What are your thoughts on the financial tech scene in Atlanta?
While I’m new to the area, I’ve also kept tune and pace. It’s exciting to see the amount of growth and the amount of new seed stage companies and growth stage companies in the mix. Things are certainly growing rapidly here and it’s exciting to see. You have incubators like ATDC who are really just trying to help foster and support these companies and turn ideas into viable and exciting businesses.
I’m extremely excited to be here and bring some of my background to FinTech and help companies here, also bring new companies into the accelerator and really just connect them in any way I can with investment in town and also just get them to the next level of their businesses.
Photo by Bryan Derballa, c/o Thiago Olson.