Introduce yourself and tell us about Zirtue?
Dennis Cail, CEO & Co-founder at Zirtue. At Zirtue, we are creating a financially inclusive world by digitizing and mobilizing loans between friends and family.
What led to your interest in starting Zirtue?
I came up with the idea of Zirtue several years ago after certain family members would consistently borrow or ask to borrow money from me for various reasons. I didn’t mind helping and I sometimes loan them the money, however, I had very limited success in getting my money back. My thought process was there should be a way (i.e. an app) to help friends or family members in need of a loan while making them more accountable and taking the awkwardness out of the loan process for me as the Lender.
Most of us need a little financial help at some point in our lives and banks, credit cards or payday loans may not always be an option or the best option for that matter. According to the Federal Reserve Bank, friends and family in the United States lend and borrow almost $200B a year with each other.
That told us that Zirtue is not a platform trying to convince people they should be loaning money to each other. Clearly they are already doing that today. They have not had infrastructure like Zirtue to formalize that loan and perform it out with automatic payments from the borrower’s bank account.
What is your startup’s unique selling point?
Our unique selling point is it’s generally a bad idea to loan money to friends and family, but if you’re going to do, you should absolutely use Zirtue.
Zirtue is the first relationship-based lending application that simplifies loans between friends, family and trusted relationships with automatic monthly ACH loan payments back to the lender from the borrower’s bank account. We bring accountability to the loan process with friends & family while removing the awkwardness.
What sacrifices have you made to become a successful entrepreneur?
The biggest sacrifice has been time. Time away from home, time not spent with my family and friends. My hope is that I will have an opportunity to make it up on the backend of Zirtue.
How are you currently marketing and promoting your business?
Zirtue is 100% mobile and our marketing is 100% digital. Including Facebook, Instagram, and Google. We’re trending toward 100,000 registered users already with a nice compound rate and network effect.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The number one piece of advice I would offer is always to invest in yourself before asking others to invest in you or your venture. It changes how you approach your business and ultimately how you approach potential investment partners.
The second piece of advice I would offer up is always to listen first. Coming from the Management Consulting world, I rarely learn anything new when I am talking. Active listening coupled with decisive execution is the key to any successful venture. In fact, the words silent and listen have the same letters, but we should never confuse which is more important. That said, there is no substitute for experience.
What is your favorite business book? How has it helped in your business
Blue Ocean Strategy by Chan Kim is my favorite book to date. The framework outlined in the book speaks to who I am as an entrepreneur and how I approach any new business venture by digitizing and mobilizing a market that already has a strong demand.
Blue Ocean (no obvious competition) vs. Red Ocean (everyone feeding off each other for the same business) is the primary concept of the book. Red Ocean is about companies that have a copycat model that seeks to build a better mousetrap in a proven market. Blue Ocean seeks to create new innovative product or service that seeks to solve a huge problem in a new or existing market where no good solution exists today.
Blue Ocean requires founders and teams that are highly innovative and forward-thinking. That said, Blue Ocean business models are 10X riskier than Red Ocean business models.
What do you like best being an entrepreneur?
I like the freedom to create something new that can impact millions of lives in a positive and meaningful way. To be an entrepreneur you have to have two key characteristics, imagination and a high tolerance for failure. Most people have the former, but very few have the latter.
What have been your most satisfying moments in business?
Starting companies from nothing and making it profitable is the most satisfying for me coupled with building high performing teams in exit-ready companies. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do professionally.
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