The App That is Saving People Thousands of Dollars Instantly at Checkout: With Ryan Wuerch
By Yitzi Weiner and Casmin Wisner
“[We] allow people to get cash back automatically on things people [are] already buying everyday without the need for coupons and rebates.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Wuerch, CEO and Founder of Dosh — a mobile cash back app. Ryan has spent over 20 years in the technology industry building several successful companies. Most notably, Ryan was the founder and CEO of Motricity, which he grew to over a $1.2 billion Nasdaq listed company.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?
I spent a number of years running high growth companies before I started Dosh. Like many entrepreneurs, I was focused on creating businesses that were wildly successful—and we did that. However, as I grew older, I wanted to also focus on doing things that would make a positive difference in people’s lives. I had spent my life chasing money, accomplishments, things, and feeding my ego. I had given money to charities and foundations because it felt good, but it wasn’t until I went to Central Africa and the Congo to spend time building water wells — and seeing the life changing impact that something as basic as providing clean water could do to improve life — that my focus shifted to doing good for others. When I realized that doing good and doing business could converge, I had a light bulb moment.
I began noticing several things that are around us everyday. I saw some of my extended family members struggling to support their families on the average American salary. I saw people all over the world who could be hugely impacted by an extra $20–50 per month. I also noticed that advertisers were spending billions of dollars trying to reach people every day, and over half of those dollars were wasted.
I asked myself, what if you could move those billions of wasted advertising dollars to consumers by creating a positive connection with brands and businesses they are already shopping with? To do this, I set up a research and development team in Austin, TX that was focused on creating technologies that could put billions of dollars into millions of people’s pockets. We targeted the excess wasted spend in the advertising industry and after a few years, we partnered with the leading credit card companies to create revolutionary technology that would allow people to get cash back automatically on things people were already buying everyday without the need for coupons and rebates. In doing so, we also knew we could help those businesses and brands who were wasting advertising dollars connect with their customers like they hadn’t done before.
In doing so, both merchants and customers would benefit by being connected to Dosh. And billions of dollars could be used to do good.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company
Shortly after we had launched the Dosh app in beta, I received an email from someone who had downloaded it. He wrote to tell me that he had taken his friends and family to a restaurant in Florida to celebrate his parent’s anniversary. After dinner, his waiter brought him the check and he gave him his credit card to pay for the meal. Not knowing that the restaurant was integrated into the Dosh app with 10% cash back, he was incredibly surprised when his phone buzzed with the notification that he had received $75 cash back before the waiter had even returned with his card and receipt. He emailed with his enthusiasm about how incredible it felt to get the surprise cash without him having to do anything. It has been moments like that that continually strengthen our resolve to do good.
So what does your company do?
Dosh is a cash back app that helps consumers get money back on their purchases while dining, shopping, and traveling at over 100,000 retailers like Forever 21, Hallmark, Sam’s Club, Denny’s, Marriott, and Starwood Hotels. Dosh helps merchants and retailers deliver seamless performance-based customer acquisition and loyalty while creating a positive behavioral connection with their customers.
What makes your business stand out? Can you share a story?
We are the first company that allows you to automatically get cash back shopping in a store and online, dining at a restaurant, and booking a hotel without ever needing to scan a coupon or a rebate. We integrate directly with the credit card companies so that when you swipe your credit card you get instant cash back at over 100,000 brands and businesses. No matter how much money you have, or how little you have, every one of us would rather keep the money in our pockets, but most of us don’t have time for coupons, scanning receipts, or looking for a deal. Dosh makes it so you never have to do that again, but you still get the deal.
We received a Facebook post from someone a few months ago. Bob, a Dosh member, had gone on a business trip to Minneapolis and stayed at a Marriott. He booked his hotel through the Dosh app and had paid a better price than what the hotel and online travel sites had listed.Three nights had cost him over $1200 but he received $431 in cash back immediately from Dosh. To say that he was happy would be an understatement; those surprise moments of good are what make us stand out.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I can look at the Dosh app every day on my phone and it will show me how much cash back my referred friends—and their friends—have received. The total goes up all day long, and yesterday it surpassed $362,520. It made me feel good knowing that an idea brought to life is doing so much good and spreading happiness. That is our measure of success.
In each of the conference rooms in our headquarters, we have white ceramic bowls full of Lifesaver candy. Each bowl is meant to represent what we are doing to positively impact millions of people’s lives. The Lifesavers serves as a reminder for what a lifesaver a few dollars of extra cash can be for people. The technology we continue to create and the cash back we continue to drive into people’s wallets is an actual lifesaver for many — it means more money for health insurance payments, a doctor’s appointment, back to school supplies, or a few extra hours that a single mom doesn’t have to work and can spend more time with her children. We gave the first $100,000 out in cash back, knowing there were a lot of people out there who were starting to see these small changes in their bank accounts —and all they had to do was download an app. That’s pretty powerful.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my business,” and why?
- Set a strong vision. If you don’t have a big vision, you’ll never grow into a big company. When I started Dosh, I knew it could compete with the Facebooks and Googles of the world. We set a high bar and bit off a lot, but the idea is what brings people here and what helps them to stay here.
- Focus your app on the needed key features and execute to the highest standards. Dosh has a few complex parts of the business: cash back to consumers via a mobile app, performance based behavioral connection to consumers via a dashboard for merchants, a data platform with machine learning, and a mobile wallet. It’s complicated, and many people thought it would be impossible. We made the key strategic technology and had our business imperatives clearly defined and then executed with great focus. Everything has been about that focus.
- Resist the urge to rapidly expand the team in the early days. We have a saying in the office that we only start with “tens.” This means that we hire the smartest, brightest people who are committed to the vision. We don’t compromise on having the best people. Brett Hurt, founder of several successful billion dollar companies and one of our early investors, encouraged me to reach out to a few technology leaders in Austin as we were to filling out our leadership team. He said, “If you can get one of them, you’ll have a great technology leader because they are all tens.” I said to myself, if they are all great leaders then I want them all. That was my goal, and I got each of them. Now I’m watching them—and all the engineering leaders that have joined with them—impact the technology of the company daily.
- There are always second chances. I have started or been involved with a number of big businesses. At the end of the day, some will lead to success and some will not. You meet people along the way who want to take advantage of you and people who will go to the end of the world to help you succeed. If you fail, try again. When you try again, try a new approach, try to do more good, and look for people who want to do good with you. Look for people you want to see when you go into an office, or people you want to call you when it is two in the morning and there is a crisis. Those are the people who will help you build a great company. So, if you do fail, try again. And keep trying until you succeed.
- Do good. Every one of us can have a company where we do good. For Dosh, it’s in our DNA. Our members can transfer their cash back from their Dosh wallet to their bank account or Paypal account, but we have even included a way for members to donate their cash back to any 501(c)(3) charity in the USA. I was having coffee with a journalist recently who has a charity in Houston where she provides clothes to kids in underserved communities. When I showed her that her non-profit was in the app, she was floored and I was elated. It’s continued proof that our business can be everyone’s business and help millions of people with billions of dollars. That’s what keeps us going.
Some of the biggest names in business, VC funding, sports, and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would like to meet Elon Musk. He has challenged conventional thinking by creating what has never been done before, and in doing so he has created positive change for millions of people’s lives.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.