Happy 6th Birthday, Modo!

In honor of Modo’s 6th birthday, we asked a few of the OMs (Original ModoNauts) to write a short reflection on their years with Modo. We wanted to share with you their thoughts on where Modo started and where we have gone. Enjoy!

Aaron Wilkinson – Chief Architect & System Overlord

Wow.  You are 6 years old Modo!

I remember when you were just a little tyke.  Barely a glimmer in Bruce Parker’s eye.  I remember sitting down for sushi at Japan House at Plano Parkway and Accent Drive and hearing him say, “Aaron, I have an idea that’s either worth nothing or a billion dollars and I want you to seriously consider helping me figure out which it is.”

Ah, back then we all had romantic ideas of the start-up life.  It was exciting and new.  Intellectually we all agreed of course that bootstrapping a start-up was “hard”.  That success was “unlikely”.  But it was only for a year, year-and-a-half tops, right?  Wasn’t the potential for great success worth a bit of hard labor?  Wasn’t the risk-to-reward ratio, in fact, a no-brainer of an investment?

Well, as anyone who’s actually bootstrapped a start-up can tell you, it is akin to faith in God.  You can intellectualize faith (or the lack thereof) as much as you care too- a lifetime in fact.  But until you actually have occasion exercise it- you have no idea what it is.

So it was with you, Modo.  Nothing could have prepared us for the craziness, the longevity, the emotional differentials, the idiocy and the genius, the success and the failure, or the natural birth center in the office next door.

Nothing but the doing.

And in the doing, nothing could have prepared us for the epiphany.  We can’t be sacrificing ourselves for the potential payout (as wonderful as that may be).  We have to give 110% for YOU, Modo.  For what you represent in the everyday present- not for what you may become in the nebulous future.  For our co-workers, for the culture, for the customers, for the sheer experience of creating value where there was none before.

It has been a wonder to watch you birthed and grow, Modo.  I may have helped start you for the promise of sweet, green, baby cash, but getting to shape and know you has been the real reward.

Happy Birthday!

Sam Brown – User Experience & India TV Personality

If God’s grace is either certifiable or quantifiable I would say that in our early years we were the certified recipient of God’s grace in its entirety. While there were several talented people at Modo doing some incredible things with payments, we were still trying to FIND a product that we could sell, let alone sell it. For me, though, working at Modo has been an overwhelmingly amazing experience and that is due in most part to the people with whom I have been working. We started as a small band of misfits who knew we were sitting on something potentially big, trying to do what a lot of people said we couldn’t do. I think having to fight together for every scrap caused us to tighten our relationships much more. The line between personal and professional was blurry and thankfully that has been an enduring quality at Modo.

One of my fondest memories is of our first in-the-wild mobile transaction on May 11, 2011. At the time we were focused mainly on mobile payments development. It would be years before any company would have a commercial MP product. Bruce, Aaron, and I flew from Dallas to San Francisco where we met Erich and headed up to meet Bruce’s friend, John Anthony, at his self-titled wine bar in downtown Napa. While most of us partook of the best of John’s hospitality, Aaron was glued to his laptop putting the finishing touches on what he hoped would be a working pipeline. We were approaching the midnight hour and everyone (but Aaron) was several glasses deep into some exceptional wine, while John continued to pull bottles from his stock. “Try this one,” he would say, following up with a story behind its creation. Aaron was undeterred. Around 1am, when downtown Napa was completely abandoned, Aaron reached the conclusion of his feverish coding. Bruce initiated a purchase for $2.50 using his iPhone and received a VPAN, which John entered into the terminal. It took a few attempts – because there has to be building tension for this sort of thing – but soon the terminal started spooling the receipt for an approved transaction and our tokenized digital payment system was born.

It’s moments like this with the people I consider dear friends that have made the uncertainties of startup life enjoyable and I hope we never outgrow our appreciation for our small accomplishments and each other.

Colm Bergin – Chief Operating Officer

The first “Modo” meeting I attended was in a borrowed church annex space in Dallas, sometime in December 2009.  It really wasn’t a Modo meeting, because there was no Modo, but there was a now-familiar cast of characters including Aaron, Bruce, Jeff, Jason & Sam (or some subset thereof – I don’t really recall who all was there) and a lot of discussion of making mobile payments easier.

Fast forward six months, and we had gotten to like Aaron so much we had moved into his house, at least for most Sunday afternoons, which was a joy for Kathy, no doubt. Mostly we liked his really big tv (‘big’ at the time was a 50” screen, maybe a little more) which doubled as our first whiteboard.  Bruce tried to get people excited about a space in Rockwall, but Aaron’s house was much nicer.

By this time, we had realized we should have a name, and had settled on sophtCell, as seen in the title of a sprint backlog for our first demo, from May 2010.

Notice that there was already a COIN, though back then it was a much simpler beast – pretty much just a six-digit number. Notice too Aaron was Developer #1, and Bruce was an aspiring movie producer.  That first demo was immortalized in video form at a Dunn Bros Coffee location in the Fall of 2010. By the time the movie was made, sophtCell had become Modo, and even those of us with only bit-parts already felt famous.  (At this point, I’d be remiss not to point out that, while movie fame proved elusive, young Aaron did go on to achieve writing fame.  Now a published author, his writing talents were early in evidence in this succinct critique:

On a side note, I really like Pivotal Tracker.  It seems very light-weight and easy to use which is how I like my management tools (as well as my undergarments, but that is all I’ll say about that seeing as how I’ve already shared my bathing principals with the group and I want to keep some of the mystery alive).

Aaron Wilkinson, email note, 10/7/2010

Back then, we were convinced it would take a while for smart phones to catch on, and we drove all phone interactions using good ol’ text messages.  We also envisioned (and built) some nifty hardware to simulate a cellphone base site, detecting your phone when you walked into a store. As it turned out, our lawyers didn’t like the cellphone detector, our projections on smart phones were a little off and movie fame proved elusive.  But like all good startups, Modo pivoted, the crew of Modonauts has thrived, and is making COIN-operated payments reality happen.  After a hiatus of several years, I’m truly happy to be back in the family.

Greg Harvey – IP/Special Projects & Kung Fu Master

The original concept that became ModoPayments COIN® Core is based on a very simple idea:  when a shopper is going to a store, we should be able to interact with them in order to steer them towards adding additional items to their physical shopping cart.  To do this we needed to recognize when they were nearing a store and then we started constructing the system that responded to the use case we now refer to as a VISIT.

The first concept was that a VISIT was a complete, end-to-end shopping experience that improved the ability for brands and merchants to guide behavior via offers.  The second concept is that gifts were person-to-person offers to allow sharing of cool things.  And the third concept is tying all of this together using what the industry often calls the existing payment rails made it accessible to all merchants.

The VISIT use case is the original North Star and provided navigation help to the ModoNauts as they continued (and continue) to evolve the COIN® Core.  At the center of the ModoPayments concepts is helping real world users interact with all kinds of digital payments in ways that are both repeatable and innovative.  The center of how we interact with our customers to support their end users is by applying our system to your transaction connection needs to move value from sources to destinations.

The ModoNauts are here to provide both navigation and expert advice.  We want to help build experiences that are fully automated, correct, and fully auditable.  And we believe you will be able to derive tremendous benefit from using the COIN® to both direct and keep track of coordinated movement of value between sources and destinations.

A big thanks goes out to all the OMs for believing in Modo from the beginning. Without them, six years wouldn’t have been possible. So, to finish us off, we would like to say a big happy birthday to Modo! Here’s to many more!

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