Kai Golden: Everything I’ve Learned Is There for Everyone Else To Learn

Kai Golden

Kai Golden of Belay.

Tell us about yourself?

I like helping people. I grew up the son of a gig worker and have always wanted to see the world around me improve. While I had some success to this end in policy and legal advocacy, capital allocators and operators make the world to which policymakers react. Accordingly, I turned down a development finance graduate program at the Fletcher School and got straight to work building the kind of institutions I wanted to see.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

You only see the startups that succeed (and occasionally the ones that fail spectacularly and with great collateral damage), so a lot of young founders think their first novel business idea with a big market on paper is The One without talking to potential users. It seems like many would rather run their finances off a cliff than admit they’re wrong.

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

You don’t have to write code to ship product, but hurry up and ship some product. Once your minimum viable testing has given you confidence this is a good use of your time, it is imperative that you escape the fun intellectual exercise stage and enter the iteration stage. Begin with the mindset that your first iteration is embarrassingly wrong and that your job is to fix it.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

I would say I’m pretty unremarkable. Everything I’ve learned is there for everyone else to learn. Maybe it’s survivorship bias talking, but I don’t think the fact I pay attention sets me apart from the community.

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What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

If you aim to get anything done, schedule your work by the hour and by the task. If you can record it, record it. If you can quantify it, quantify it, and, in the immortal words of Anne Dwane, if you can’t quantify it, it probably doesn’t matter.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

Belay hedges gig workers’ incomes against demand shocks by buying their cashflows. Given my own background, I’ve always had a ton of empathy for rideshare workers. I was thinking about the problems they faced after a conversation with one while I happened to be in the midst of a business program’s DCF module. An avid consumer debt skeptic, I figured “if we can assetize the probable revenues of a startup, why not those of an individual 1099?”

Where do you see your business in five years?

We will be the magic key that unlocks the financial stability associated with traditional employment for millions of gig workers. You’ll download Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Traba, and Fiverr, and then you’ll download Belay.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

The gig economy runs on trust, and fintech runs on data. There’s a data -> product -> users -> trust -> data flywheel that doubles as a chicken-and-egg problem when you haven’t quite gotten it going yet.

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

While we have hundreds of paying users, we’ve already helped at least two gig workers access auto loans they otherwise could not have. Seeing the impact go so much deeper than the original value prop is hugely inspiring.

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How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

We switched from paid advertising to a full focus on organic and referral marketing. If you’re pre-seed and you haven’t yet, you should, too.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

Focus on solving the problem you’re solving. Your first solution probably isn’t the one, but if it was brilliant enough to sell you and your team, you have what it takes to find the right solution.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

Success and stability, of course. I want to see gig workers living with all the dignity and prosperity humanly possible. Belay can and will be a part of every gig worker’s journey to this point.

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