The Future Is Now: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Realize the impact those around you have on your character and world view. For a long time, I thought I was immune to the ideas of those around me, and kind of just went along with the flow. Knowing, as I do now, how impactful the characters and ideas of those around me have on my own character and actions has been incredibly poignant and really helped me understand who I am and what I am trying to achieve.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Billy Roberts.
Billy Roberts is the CEO of Wedge Financial Inc., the first smart debit card that lets users pay for everyday purchases with any asset. Founded in 2021, the fintech startup is the first of its kind for offering the ability to use assets for everyday spending, giving users the ability to benefit from market movements of over 4,000 different stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrencies. Previous to Wedge, Billy founded ReStream Solutions, a data-driven oilfield solutions company for the exploration and production industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Yes, but it probably won’t make a lot of sense (unless you have experience working on boats). So, as you might have guessed by that previous statement, I’ve spent a lot of time working on boats. My dad always had boats — big ones, with big diesel engines, and a bunch of components that would always break. Typically they would choose to break when we were offshore, most often when the seas were rough. And, when boats break offshore, you’re stuck with either:
a.) calling another boat on the radio for a tow (embarrassing).
b.) calling the coast guard (really, really embarrassing).
c.) figuring out how to make what you have work well enough to get you home safely.
Let’s say that we never needed a tow.
Whether I liked it or not, every Saturday and Sunday morning my dad made me go to the boat with him and work on things and it taught me, unsurprisingly, how to work on things. What I mean is — it taught me how to take a problem, and whittle down the potential root causes of that problem until you identify an issue, address it, and make it harmonize with the systems around it.
Often, my dad had us building things as well, new systems, rebuilds, etc. We’d have to figure out how to take what was there, and breathe new life into it from a different perspective and a new set of constraints. Today, that’s basically what I do for a living. I’m either taking a bunch of little ideas and trying to build them up together into a big value prop (like building a boat), or I’m taking a big value prop and trying to whittle it down to why it might not be working the way I thought it would (identifying a faulty fuel pump). Working on boats, believe it or not, showed me what it is I like doing — building products, and fixing them when they’re not generating the returns we need them to. And, this brings us to today and to Wedge.
Wedge is revolutionizing how consumers access and utilize their assets for everyday purchases. Consumers can now pay for everyday purchases with any asset in their portfolio (stocks, bonds, crypto, EFTs). The assets are linked together in their “Wedge wallet,” which is accessible via a single intuitive app and smart debit card.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I’m not sure this is the most interesting story, but it’s a story that shaped my career path. Now, this could be hard to follow but bear with me …
The high-school lacrosse teammate of my first employer’s business development consultant’s son became the catalyst for my first big business sale. It’s entirely likely that, had this very obscure connection not been made exactly when it did, after years of separation and geographical constraints, my first venture would have failed (miserably), and my foray into entrepreneurship would have met its end (even more miserably).
This sticks with me and plays a role in my everyday life because looking back — for better or worse — the path to success is rarely, if ever, the one that we predict. So now, if anyone, whether there is direct line-of-sight to a strategic upside or immediate relevance, wants to meet, I always try to make it happen. Because, you never know where talent or opportunity may be hiding, and history has shown me repeatedly that my predictions as to where it may be are usually very wrong.
Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
The big paradigm shift with Wedge is our capacity to enable users to spend with any asset (stocks, bonds, crypto, EFTs) they have access to in their “Wedge wallet.” In other words, consumers are no longer spending with just “cash.” This intuitive technology stitches together the different functional capabilities of various financial services but also, for the first time, empowers users to get more for every dollar they have earned by allowing them to capitalize on market movements each time they make a purchase, enabling them to use their assets more dynamically and in a way that maximizes real-time gains in the value of any asset — without sacrificing liquidity.
Although a bit abstract, we talk internally about making barter efficient again. What that means is as individuals moved from barter/trading, to the gold standard, to fiat (a security backed by a government), they were doing so because it was difficult to always know the relative value of one asset against another. In other words, you used to have to know the relative value of a pelt, to a jar of whiskey, to a bushel of grain to trade and buy/sell effectively. But it didn’t stop there, you also had to know the value of the dollar relative to gold, then ultimately, the value of the dollar relative to the good and/or service you wanted. That’s a lot of knowledge, and a lot of room for error.
However, with a platform such as Wedge, users are given the utility of cash, accessibility of crypto exchanges, and the power of the markets all in a single app. This union allows users to know exactly the value of their tradable assets relative to the dollar, enabling them to use assets smartly, and get more value from every dollar that they earn.
How do you think this might change the world?
To date, fiat has been the coin of the realm and the only (well, mostly only) way to pay for things. If you think about what Wedge enables, it’s really the power to spend using alternative sources of value which then enables more people to benefit from market movements seamlessly. In this paradigm, value now gets to flow to the enterprises that the collective deems relevant and valuable, and thus further accelerates the wealth/value of the collective ownership of those assets.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
I’m always wary of those who go too big and too bullish on crypto. Don’t get me wrong, I love crypto and think there is a ton of potential in the space that hasn’t been capitalized on yet. However, it’s my hope with Wedge that users are benefiting from exposure to multiple asset types, and while it’s impossible to avoid risk entirely when investing in the markets, the exposure to diversification can help weather market corrections responsibly. Ultimately offering a real benefit from growth in sectors across the board every time they spend.
The allure of having another crypto type such as “moon” [a cryptocurrency on social media that crypto enthusiasts farm or earn based on the quality of their content] is powerful, but putting one’s faith in asset classes that are too far removed from real-world utility is a big risk. I think this type of investment needs to be contemplated for us at Wedge, its users, and the crypto space in general.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
Kind of. In retrospect, getting Wedge to where it is today feels like more of an evolutionary process as opposed to a particular tipping point. For me, the tipping point that’s easy to delineate is that of when we made our second employee hire (Alton). The team that we had at that point (a total of four of us), had a strong enough early foundation that was able to take a look at the app and approach our strategy from a bunch of different angles. We unlocked the capacity to really prototype and test expeditiously, which led us on the evolutionary path referenced earlier. So, in short, for Wedge, our tipping point was a personnel one (and I think this is true of many companies). We had a great team all pulling in the right direction, and the app and its value lock was a result of it. This is what fuels our breakthroughs — the Wedge team.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
Time. We need time to educate users on the value of Wedge and we need time for users to experience the benefits it offers in a tangible manner.
The concept of the first “Smart Debit Card” isn’t immediately intuitive. It takes time to build a full-funnel strategy that educates users on the art of the possible, and establish the credibility needed in the fintech space for long-term viability. Additionally, Wedge works best when users utilize dollar-cost averaging (DCA), an investment strategy in which an investor divides up the total amount to be invested across periodic purchases of a target asset in an effort to reduce the impact of volatility on the overall purchase, over a period of time. This is when you really build up a fly-wheel that starts delivering tangible value for users everyday (instead of just riding wild crypto-swings).
I’m confident that we have a unique, but also incredibly impactful offering. So it goes back to time. This is a long-game in terms of building our base and making sure that our users are getting the most out of Wedge.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
Unfortunately, no. We are a startup that’s been running the typical playbook. But, through the uniqueness of our app and the value that it provides, we’ve been incredibly lucky to get picked up by some great minds in the space that have really accelerated our growth and bolstered our brand equity. We are, absolutely, going to start moving toward a more progressive marketing approach (less digital ads, more direct engagement).
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been really lucky to have several really impactful, positive influences in my life and throughout my career. The one that sticks out the most is Wayne Wolf (Thank you Wayne!).
I graduated college with an unfortunate, at least from an income-generating perspective, degree in Marine Biology with a focus in Marine Vertebrate/Cetacean Zoology. I wanted to move to Austin (which by the way is land-locked and completely devoid of cetaceans) and find a job.
A friend of mine shared a job posting for a Field Applications Engineer at a technology company. Grateful for the find, I was incredibly underqualified due to the fact that I was, as you now know, a Marine Biologist. I also knew nothing about the field in which the technology company was focused (ozone generation).
I applied nonetheless and shockingly was able to get an interview. My interviewer however quickly realized that I probably wasn’t the right fit, but out of courtesy offered to show me around the office and it was there that I met Wayne, the CEO, and struck up a conversation. He indicated that the position probably wasn’t right for me, but because I had no other irons in the proverbial fire, I offered to work for free to learn about the technology and overall business. It seemed this offer came as a bit of a surprise to Wayne, who said “sure.” I was leaving, he came back out and said he would at least pay me minimum wage and we could see what happened. So, I walked out with a job(ish).
Within a couple of weeks I had learned a little about the business and technology, and had actually found an area where I could create some marginal value for the business. In college (and even prior, but that’s a different story), I had gotten pretty good at knocking out scientific studies and white papers, and Wayne needed more studies/whitepapers to highlight the advantages of the company’s system and how they could be applied to different applications. As we got more traction (and the Field Applications Engineer position remained open), I kind of fell into the position by default.
Over the course of a couple years, Wayne became a mentor. He taught me, amongst other things, how to look at problems from a different perspective, and most importantly, how to fail. Several of my projects didn’t work out, in large part because I didn’t execute on them properly. I assumed that my blunders would result in my termination from the company, but Wayne, to his own detriment (at least from a financial perspective), kept me on, kept trusting me, taught me how to learn from my failures, and to stay creative when the heat gets turned up.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I don’t know that I have, but I certainly try. Non-profit work is important to me and immigraiton is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so I spend time and resources devoted towards making an impact to the extent that I can. I also try to be really mindful of the impact someone can have on a new college-grad or young professional on their life trajectory, just based simply on what happened to me. So when I can, I try to be as candid and supportive as possible to anyone that’s foolish enough to ask me for help. It’s probably a weird ego thing, but I get a bunch of satisfaction helping mentor folks getting started on their own entrepreneurial journey.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
The biggest one for me: Realize the impact those around you have on your character and world view. For a long time, I thought I was immune to the ideas of those around me, and kind of just went along with the flow. Knowing, as I do now, how impactful the characters and ideas of those around me have on my own character and actions has been incredibly poignant and really helped me understand who I am and what I am trying to achieve.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think you have me confused with someone else, so I’ll answer in a hypothetical assuming I did/do have influence, and since it’s a hypothetical, I’m going to allow myself to be as hyperbolic as possible.
Here’s the state of play that I see most concerning, and it’s one everyone talks about all the time (so not remotely novel). The world, the U.S. in particular, is becoming more and more polarized. I see it spilling through and coming back home through what I hear my 2nd grader talk about from things he picks up from his friends. He asked me what “lets go Brandon” meant the other day. I’m *&^%$@! sick of it.
So, if I could inspire a movement (and I realize once again this is hyperbolic), my movement would be for everyone — EVERYONE — to step away from social media (or at least start with Facebook). Its tearing us apart, its perpetuating false information, its playing a role in kids commit suicide, and for the life of me I can’t delineate a single damn benefit that comes from any of it. I truly believe it’s toxic, and it breaks my heart to see what it’s doing to people, and it frightens me in that I think the damaging effects that we have seen to date are really, just the tip of the iceberg compared to what’s coming if nothing changes.
No more social media — by choice — that’s my movement. I’m ok with LinkedIn though — that platform rocks.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This one might be a little over the top, but it’s really stuck with me. Moreover, it resonated with me after exiting from my first business (by T.S.Eliot).
“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
I’m probably one of the luckiest people on the planet. I know a lot of folks say that in order to validate their success, but I promise with me it’s true. I’ve been able to do a whole bunch of amazing things just by nature of being born in the right place, at the right time, to the right folks. I just ‘Forrest Gumped’ my way into some pretty epic scenarios.
Here’s my blessing and my curse — I’m always looking over the fence and thinking that the grass is almost definitely greener over there, than where I am. So then I’ll go over there, and then I’ll look back and think, man, that other grass is pretty green looking. So then I’ll bounce back, but I’ll return with a different perspective. I’m different. I’m (in an effort to maintain this lack-luster metaphor), now looking at the other grass for not just how green it is, but how soft it might be, or some other quality, and the ping-pong game of life continues. Seed a new idea, grow it, see it bloom, but then want to jump back, and start planting a new seed.
People often ask me what my exit plan is, or what I’ll do when I cash out. The answer is simple (but kind of confusing I admit), in that I’m going to keep on doing exactly what it is I’m doing now. I’m going to keep “exploring” (which I realize is a bit of a stretch in entrepreneurship), and I’m going to keep on doing it because, for whatever reason, that’s the adventure I love. And when I get back to the other side of the fence, I see where I was before in a new way. I see it again for the first time. I start again with an empty page, but this time around I have a greater knowledge of the possible, the risks, the roller-coaster, so I arrive where I started, but it feels brand new. The exploration continues in a cycle.
I bet after that answer no one ever asks me this question again….
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Wedge is the world’s first smart debit card. It’s uniquely positioned to change and enhance how people perceive value and make everyday transactions on a global scale. IF you believe that streamlining efficiencies, simplifying good-choices, and creating value that flows into the pocketbooks of users is relevant and compelling in the future of Fintech, Wedge definitely deserves a look.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
The Future Is Now: Billy Roberts Of Wedge Financial On How Their Technological Innovation Will… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.