Andrew Kortina: How An Accident Inspired a Mobile Payment App

Andrew Kortina: How An Accident Inspired a Mobile Payment App
Updated date:
Mar 21, 2022

Table of Contents

Accidents happen, which is a positive thing in inventions. The central focus of an entrepreneur is to bring fresh ideas to market, but fate sometimes intervenes. What appears to be a frustrating situation can sometimes lead to a game-changing breakthrough.

From a forgotten wallet to changing the way we send money, read about the New York-based entrepreneur and co-founder of Venmo: Andrew Kortina.

Early Life

Family

Andrew Kortina was born and raised in New Jersey. His father was a medical equipment sales agent. His mother worked at Merck as an office administrator, and at Sterns, a clothes store in the Bridgewater mall, as a cashier. They moved to Atlanta to live with their grandparents in high school to save money for college.

Education 

Andrew pursued a course in computer science at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2005, he studied the least practical subjects to maximize costly tuition expenditures.

Andrew could miss some technical lectures to attend seminars and writing workshops most of the time. Andrew graduated with a degree in philosophy and creative writing.

16 MOST FAMOUS ALUMNI OF UPenn

How Did Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magnon-Ismail meet?

Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, co-founder of Venmo, met at the University of Pennsylvania and were roommates in 2001. The two clicked right away and became friends before graduating with a degree in computer science in 2005.

How Did Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magnon-Ismail meet?

Business Career 

First Job and Ventures

 After graduation, Andrew Kortina worked for a New York-based company called iminlikewithyou.com, a flirting site. They later renamed it OMGPOP (the gaming company behind Draw Something). He quit the company because he was uninterested in making games. 

Andrew later worked at Bitly, which is still in operation to date. Bitly helps startups shorten 600 million links per month for social media, text messaging, and email. The company’s revenue comes from charging users to access aggregated data derived from many people’s shortened URLs.

Andrew Kortina also got a job at Phila funk, an online music selling platform similar to iTunes and MySpace.

The Great Ideas 

Andrew Kortina had a passion for building things and was always eager to build websites. Together with Iqram Magnon-Ismail, they ended up cold calling local eateries, salons, and pubs to develop their websites for a few hundred dollars. They were living paycheck to paycheck, and it was a gamble.

Andrew Kortina learned a lot while attempting to abstract the sites they were building into something modular, and they gained a lot of pitching and rejections.

One rejection he remembers to this day is from the Pakistani restaurant Kabobeesh. Andrew and his friend tried to sell them a site for 100 chicken rolls, but they failed to close the deal. This could have been a bigger deal for them. However, not all startups rejected them. 

Campus Post Website

Andrew Kortina and Iqram collaborated on their first actual project during their senior year; a college classifieds website called My Campus Post. Their first experience with all-night coding sessions was to bring a product to market. They learned a lot about grassroots marketing and seasonal product retention issues.

The Yoghurt Store ‘Yogorino’

Their first inspiration came when a friend asked for their help to open her yogurt shop. While getting her up and running, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail discovered how bad traditional point-of-sale software was.

As a result, they developed software that could transform any laptop into a cash register. It only took a USB swiper, which cost less than $50.

However, they determined that distribution would be complex, and because they did not see themselves using the product daily, the excitement wasn’t there.

The Live Music

A subsequent idea struck them at a local jazz concert. They thought it would be fantastic to download the live show by texting the band, and then they will have an Mp3 play up in their email. The Venmo concept was getting closer, and they eventually came up with it. It even had the Venmo logo on it.

Venmo came from the word vendere, Latin for ‘to sell’ and ‘Mo,’ short for mobile. According to Kortina, choosing a name was easy for the fledgling company. They wanted something quick, like a verb that people could be spell intuitively.

The Accident

Many great enterprises have arisen because of a sudden calamity or crisis in a person’s life. For instance, to ease his headaches, pharmacist John Pemberton sought to develop something on his own in 1886. He mistakenly mixed carbonated water into a formula containing cocoa leaves—the result? The coca-cola drink is the number one soft drink globally. The creation of Venmo was by chance because of laziness and forgetfulness.

When Was Venmo Created?

Venmo is a mobile payment service based in the United States that came into effect in 2009. PayPal is the mobile payments service owner that handled $12 billion in transactions in the first three months of 2018.

How Was It Created?

Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, co-founder of Venmo, were at a funk performance in Philadelphia in 2009. They were lazy enough to go downstairs to tip the house band, so they watched the entire scene from a balcony and discussed the concept of sending money to other people using only their phones to reduce the hassle of meeting and cashing them.

When Magdon-Ismail traveled to New York City a few weeks later to visit his friend and conceptualize the idea of music, he forgot his wallet at home in Philadelphia. Kortina covered for him, but they discovered it was highly cumbersome for Magdon-Ismail to pay him back with a check. 

Kortina never ended up cashing it, but the idea had sprouted. After that lapse in concentration, Magdon-Ismail and Kortina felt that their earlier concept of making mobile payments via a phone app linked to your bank account was worthy of further development.

The Rise of the Note

The prototype was extremely simple and operated via SMS. They quickly realized that they needed to include a note with each payment to keep track of each. As a result, the input was: “Iqram 20 for Chinese food.” Iqram would get a message saying, “Kortina paid you $20 for Chinese food.”

The SMS inbox was overflowing with Venmo messages, and it resembled a news feed of all the restaurants, bars, and shows. Later, they added the #p option, which would appear in your friends’ venmo.com feeds.

Venmo Fundraising

After establishing a working prototype, Andrew and his friend began meeting with investors to see if we could raise some funds. However, they kept their jobs until they had enough money to launch Venmo.

It was challenging to secure funds for a prototype with little or no user traction. Every encounter with a potential investor ended in the same way: rejection.

 “This will be a trillion-dollar firm,” Iqram answered one investor who said he was only interested in a billion-dollar, home run startup.

So, when they first started developing different ideas, they got the support of two friends as corporate advisors: Sam Lessin, an NYC buddy running a startup called drop.io, and Chris Stanchek, CEO of TicketLeap, where Iqram worked before Venmo.

They acted as a sounding board for analyzing investor emotions, made many introductions, supplied product input, and offered general operational guidance: In December 2009, Sam and his father, Bob, became the first angel round of funding raising $100,000.

Andrew left his previous employment in January 2010 to work full time on Venmo. They spent many years working with Iqram to develop the barebones SMS prototype.

The Launch of Venmo

They developed the product from an SMS prototype to a fully functional service within the first couple of years. They released the Venmo iPhone app eight months after Venmo itself. 

A month later, the company won the ‘Mobile Monday Mid Atlantic Demo Night,’ which brought together the best mobile technology companies in the region.

During their presentation, Andrew and his friend encouraged the audience to donate to the Relief Foundation, building an orphanage in Haiti using Venmo. The organization raised almost $15,000 in less than a week.

Venmo was featured in the press for the first time ten months after its launch, helping to spread the word about the company leasing to its rapid expansion.

Iqram played a significant role in marketing Venmo. He went out to dinner or on a trip, paid for everything using a credit card, and encouraged his pals to repay him with Venmo.

 ‘If you don't pay me back with Venmo, don't pay me back.’ This is the slogan that attracted clients.

What Is the Venmo App, and How Does It Work?

Venmo is a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app for iPhones and Android phones that allows consumers to send and receive money quickly and easily. Andrew Kortina and Iqram have moved on to new business ventures and are no longer associated with Venmo. Meanwhile, the company they built is growing and prospering.

Venmo users can immediately begin exchanging funds with one another after downloading the app and linking their Venmo accounts to their credit cards, debit cards, or bank accounts. Venmo is a third party between two users’ bank accounts during a payment transaction.

Venmo balance is simply a virtual ledger reflecting monies changing hands outside the Venmo platform without conducting transactions. The money isn’t officially in the user’s possession until Venmo transfers the balance to the recipient’s bank account.

Money can be given or requested by tapping the payor request button on the Venmo app and providing the other party’s email, phone number, or username.

 If you receive funds, you have the option of keeping them in your balance or transferring them to your associated bank account. You can deposit money into your Venmo account through your bank, as well as a debit card or another payment method. 

According to Venmo’s website, if there are no fees, applicable if the money was from a Venmo account balance. Credit card transactions are subject to a regular 3 percent fee.

Which one is better: Venmo or PayPal?

Even though PayPal owns both services, PayPal is by far the more sophisticated, secure, and safe alternative for processing online payments. But Venmo is an excellent option for sending money to friends and family fast and conveniently.

How does Venmo Make Money?

Venmo earns through its Pay With Venmo feature, Instant Transfers, interchange and withdrawal fees, spreads and fees on cryptocurrency transactions, check cashing fees, and affiliate revenues from a rebate program for debit cardholders.

How long does it take to transfer or receive Money via Venmo?

Money sent between Venmo users should appear in the recipient’s account immediately. External bank transfers are a little more complicated, with speeds varying depending on whether you’re ready to pay a fee or not.

If you need to get money out quickly, you can make an instant transfer. Venmo charges a 1.5 percent fee, capped at $15 per transaction. These transactions can take up to 30 minutes.

Venmo’s Net Worth 2021

PayPal’s operating results for 2020 highlighted Venmo’s success. The overall payment volume processed by the service was at $159 billion, up from $102 billion in 2019.

Venmo’s total payment (TPV) volume was 60.6 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2021, a 29 percent increase year over year. After the fourth quarter of 2020, the corporation had over 47 billion TPV. Venmo has over 52 million users, according to the company’s CEO.

According to a poll on online payment users in the United States conducted in February 2022, 32% of respondents had used Venmo in the previous 12 months. PayPal, the parent business, came in first with an audience reach of 85 percent in the United States.

The Difficult Times of Venmo

Venmo raised a $1.2 million seed round and expanded at a 30% monthly rate and handled roughly $10 million monthly payments. However, things were not going so smoothly behind the scenes, approximately halfway through the company’s fourth year.

They had 25,000 users, with 5,000 of them active. However, it was one of Venmo’s darkest periods. Andrew and Iqram recognized they weren’t making any money because they were spending exponentially more than their revenue.

No one was ready to put up any other finances, and things were so terrible that they believed they’d have to fire everyone since they couldn’t afford to pay them. Andrew and his friend fired all the staff to manage the business independently. But before they gave up, they received an important call.

The Savior

Bill Ready, the CEO of Braintree, a startup specializing in mobile and web payment systems for e-commerce businesses, submitted an acquisition bid.

 Andrew Kortina and his partner walked away with $26.2 million. Paypal purchased Braintree for $800 million a year later.

Andrew Kortina’s Net Worth

The creator of Venmo has an estimated net worth of $502 million as of March 2022.

History of Mobile Payment

Other Ventures

Fin.com

Andrew Kortina is the co-founder of Fin- a cloud-based electronic personal assistant using machine learning, precise measurement, and talented executives. Fin can organize and manage personal calendars and corporate scheduling and organizing.

The Fin provides businesses with immediate access to how customer operations teams work across SaaS applications, offering valuable insights about CX workflows and technology. They work with leaders of some of the world’s fastest-growing customer experience teams to enhance processes, improve agent training, and make smarter technology decisions so that their teams can be more productive and create better customer experiences.

Fin’s ready-to-use browser plugin gives you granular business insights across end-to-end workflows. Fin analytics assist businesses in replicating top performers and streamlining the processes and technology that enable them to improve continuously.

The Social Movement During the Pandemic

During the coronavirus epidemic in early 2020, people proactively assisted one another using Venmo by raising money for those in need. 

Venmo - The Social Movement During the Pandemic

Venmo put $20 into the accounts of users who generously contributed to others on Venmo, from giving coffee money to healthcare workers to contributing to virtual tip jars for artists to aid the “helpers” even more. They chose users based on public payment comments or the viral hashtag #Venmoitforward that mentioned helping others in the event of a pandemic.

What is #Venmoitforward?

What is #Venmoitforward?‍

#VenmoItForward is the viral social movement on Twitter and Instagram  

The firm stated it would award $100,000 in cash to Twitter and Instagram users. They chose one hundred users to receive $500 apiece, with 50 coming from Instagram and Twitter. 

Users could enter the contest by retweeting their post, adding their Venmo handle, hashtag #VenmoMe, and tagging the company.

Participants could also enter the contest by commenting on the company’s Instagram post advertising the competition with their Venmo handle and then reposting it on their Instagram story.

Because of this, Venmo received over 4.5K hashtag uses on Venmo and over 3.4K social media mentions. Famous shows like The Ellen Show took part in the #VenmoItForward movement by sending $100K via Venmo to 400 people on her show, earning over 15.2 million impressions.

Top Mobile Payments Around The World

Personal Life

Hobbies

Andrew’s favorite things include music, traveling, playing pool table, creating movies, and writing.

Kortina. NYC.

Kortina writes and publishes articles and blogs for his Kortina. NYC website occasionally. He writes blogs on his personal life, work, dignity and computation, technology, and society. Some ‌blogs about life and challenges include ‘ The hero with 8 billion faces’ ‘social dilemma.’

The Key Takeaway 

Entrepreneurs’ lives have been transformed many times in history by accidentally discovering a simple solution to a common problem. Building something that immediately improves your life can be a terrific way to develop something that directly improves the lives of others sometimes.

That is what Andrew and his friend sought to achieve; even though they failed to secure the app for life, they had a significant impact on transforming the world of digital money.

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