Interviews and Reviews

Interview with Steve Streit, Founder and Lead Partner of SWS Venture Capital

Steve Streit is an award-winning entrepreneur, the founder of Green Dot Corporation, the founder and lead partner of SWS Venture Capital, the founder of the Patti’s Way Charitable Foundation, and a retired board member of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Los Angeles Branch.

Steve is best known as the inventor of the prepaid debit card industry, an entrepreneurial adventure that started at a table in his bedroom and ten years later, took Steve and his company, Green Dot, to the New York Stock Exchange.

#1: What are three skills that you possess that entrepreneurs should learn?

Three skills that have helped me throughout my various careers include:

  1.     Intellectual curiosity: It’s critical to be genuinely interested in how things work and how consumers think. And it’s also essential to take time to learn from more knowledgeable experts who can contribute to the entrepreneur’s vision of “what’s out there, what matters and what’s possible.”
  2.     Disciplined objective-setting (and execution of those objectives): I once had a boss who said, “plan your work and work your plan.” That was good advice. My experience has been that having a well-defined set of time-based objectives and successfully executing against those objectives is a key predictor of ultimate success.
  3.     Love people and be connected: Take the time to talk with others and imagine walking in their shoes. I don’t think it’s possible to succeed in business without being vulnerable and exposing your true self to others. Focus on asking questions and understanding the hopes, dreams, and desires of those you will depend on for success. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a business partner, a customer, an employee, or a regulator. I have found that truly knowing a person, and having that person be able to know you, makes for strong relationships that create the bonds of success. 

#2: What lasting impact do you think the pandemic has had on the types of companies that you invest in?

The pandemic has pulled forward years of digitization in almost every imaginable industry and category, while concurrently exposing millions of new customers to all sorts of new virtual products, services, and opportunities. 

I think the pandemic has also given many people the time to pause and take stock of their true goals and desires. Perhaps taking a prolonged “time out” from the hecticness of day-to-day life has been a silver lining to the otherwise dark cloud of the pandemic. We believe that the most successful companies will be those that master the art of virtual offerings while designing deliverables that meet the needs of the new “post-pandemic” American consumer.

#3: In the elevator, a young aspiring entrepreneur asks you what business trend most excites and inspires you. What do you tell her?

Perhaps I would share that there has never been a point in time when so much has changed so dramatically so quickly. The result is that almost every existing industry is trying to adapt and many new potentially massive industries are rapidly emerging — like clean energy generation, electric vehicles, digital medicine, modern logistics, digital financial services, and many more. It’s almost like the industrial and technology revolutions are happening concurrently over an eighteen-month period. As such, I would advise the entrepreneur to pursue an idea that aligns with the trends and needs of tomorrow’s consumer. Change always benefits the start-up.

#4: What has been the most satisfying moment in your career thus far?

I think the most satisfying part of my career has been the many wonderful people I’ve met, known, and worked with. So many former employees, investors, board members, and business partners still reach out to me regularly with kind words and a genuine desire for meaningful connection. Frankly, that makes me feel great.

#5: Is there anything you wish you would have known when you first started your business?

Yes, I wish I had placed more value in my personal and work time. In my personal life, I was too focused (obsessed, perhaps) with business matters to the detriment of spending quality time with my family and myself. A better work-life balance would have been helpful. In my work life, I wish I had focused less on day-to-day operations and more on reading and interacting, which helps one develop a broader perspective and frees the mind to consider what’s possible.

#6: Do you have more information to share with our readers today?

SWS partners with strong, innovative entrepreneurs who possess the passion and expertise to disrupt their industries and who are on a clear path to creating the products, services, and technologies that better serve customers. If that sounds like you, we would love to hear what products and platforms you are excited about. Please reach out to us

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