Silicon Valley’s One Punch KnockoutOctober 4, 2012 | By: Sean Murray
“This morning I woke up, brushed my teeth, and hopped in my hovercraft to go to the office. As soon as I arrived, I began my routine of playing ping-pong against my co-workers while computers performed the automated tasks I had set for them. Then I went to the gym, came back, and learned that our web portal had generated 12,000 leads, closed 7,000 deals, and funded 5,000 merchants. It was an exhausting day…” — A Senior Account Executive from the year 2013.
We’ve been offering insight on the 2012 invasion of Silicon Valley into the Merchant Cash Advance (MCA) industry. Excuse us, it’s called the “merchant financing industry” now. California technology companies are bringing money, yes, but most importantly, bringing their treasure trove of technologies to companies that were mostly satisfied with the status quo. But are America’s small businesses ready to do business Silicon Valley style or have MCA companies had it right all along, to operate in the way that small business is most comfortable with?
Two weeks ago, California enacted a law that will allow computerized driverless cars to drive on the road. Cars that drive themselves… this is business as usual in parts of California where everyday things such as gasoline, wires, and paper money don’t exist anymore. There, it is believed that clipping coupons from newspapers is something that the Pilgrims did on the Mayflower. There, applying for a small business loan should be as easy as using your brain waves to telepathically connect with a bank’s computer and having the funds instantly transferred to your bank account. There, is a sense that the rest of the country is just like them…. except it’s not.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being an MCA underwriter, you know why antiquated funding companies aren’t going to go quietly into the night. We got to speak with one veteran on condition of anonymity. His words:
We had a guy with good credit, processing $15,000 a month in credit card sales, looking for $20,000. He’d been in business for fourteen years and it seemed like a home run but it took seven weeks to close. He didn’t have a printer or a scanner and he had to drive twenty miles to the nearest Fedex/Kinkos every time he wanted to send us something. On his third trip, his ’94 Corolla broke down and we had to wait a few days until he could find a friend’s car to borrow to send the documents.
These situations do not occur every day, but it is evidence that automation will not singlehandedly knock everyone else out with one punch. There is a technology gap in America. Statisticians point out that 78% of Americans use the Internet, but there is a whole generation that doesn’t trust it with their most sensitive information or have the capabilities to use it to its fullest extent. Would a Silicon Valley takeover of the MCA industry alienate them and leave many of America’s small businesses once again without a shoulder to lean on?
Program or be Programmed
The title of this segment here is the title of a book written by Douglas Rushkoff. An article on CNN commented at length about it and its revelations about the digital age. Americans need to learn all the basics when they’re young. Your PHPs are just as important as your ABCs and 123s. CNN interestingly states:
It’s time Americans begin treating computer code the way we do the alphabet or arithmetic. Code is the stuff that makes computer programs work — the list of commands that tells a word processor, a website, a video game, or an airplane navigation system what to do. That’s all software is: lines of code, written by people.
Just a couple of years ago, I was getting blank stares or worse when I would suggest to colleagues and audiences that they learn code, or else. “Program or be programmed,” became my mantra: If you are not a true user of digital technology, then you are likely being used by digital technology. My suggestion that people learn to program was meant more as a starting point in a bigger argument.
According to Calacanis, each employee who understands how to code is valued at about $500,000 to $1 million toward the total acquisition price. One million dollars just to get someone who learns code.
Read those last two lines? Each employee that understands how to code is worth up to $1 million. Are they seriously teaching people in school that Microsoft Office proficiency is a leg up in the business world?
Am I Already a Dinosaur?
No! Don’t let those 10 year olds with a software empire get you down. Anyone can learn and you need not spend $30,000 a year on college tuition to do it. Codecademy can help complete beginners learn code for free. Get real good at it and you may earn yourself a $50,000 salary increase.
Silicon Valley with their exotic computer languages and cars that drive themselves may present a challenge to the MCA industry, but many firms will be able to hang on for a long, long time. Some people still pay by check at the grocery store and yes, many business owners would rather not use online banking, no matter how safe they’re told it is. But there will come a time when being bilingual means being able to write Java and Perl. Oh there will come a time when driving twenty miles to Kinkos in a car that one must drive themselves to fax a document that will never again exist on paper, will be an experience we confuse with the Pilgrims trip on the Mayflower.
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Article condensed 10/8/12Last modified: August 2, 2015
Sean Murray is the founder of deBanked, an 11-year veteran of the merchant cash advance industry, a casual Lending Club and Prosper note investor, the co-founder of Daily Funder, an alternative lending speaker, consultant, writer, and enthusiast. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter.