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Our Blog

4.1.13 Five Questions with Thiago Olson of Protean Payment


From left: Miron Klimkowski, co-founder, and director of marketing and sales; Thiago Olson, co-founder and CEO; and Chris Bartenstein, co-founder and COO.

What’s your business?

Protean Payment is developing a revolutionary credit card that replaces all the rest of your cards (e.g. debit, credit, loyalty) and a mobile application that gives you greater control and transparency over spending and budgeting.

Why are you proud of it?

We aim to change how people shop and pay — a challenge that has held back some of the largest and most established businesses out there today, including Google and AT&T. To do so, we have to simultaneously gain support of merchants and consumers, while respecting the complex and ever-changing body of regulations that players in the industry must comply with — a considerable challenge to say the least!

MasterCard and Visa solved this problem in the 70s and 80s by introducing a groundbreaking card technology — the magnetic stripe card — and investing hundreds of millions of dollars into breaking down merchant and consumer barriers to adoption. Today, we’re attempting to once again break ground through card technology. We have neither the scale nor the resources of the payment networks of the 70s and 80s, but we believe we can succeed by leveraging partnerships and delivering on the real areas of value to key stakeholders. Success for us means empowering consumers, merchants and banks.

What’s your best advice for a fellow entrepreneur?

Keep at it! Building a successful company is an evolutionary process. Business models and product concepts should be tested early and often, and be exposed to a constant stream of real-world feedback.

The moment a business plan stops evolving is the moment a company begins to lose its momentum. Maintaining focus is crucial, but honing, critiquing, re-evaluating and, when needed, re-orienting that focus is no less important.

What local entrepreneur do you look up to and why?

Dug Song, co-founder and CEO of Ann Arbor-based Duo Security. Whether he’s tackling today’s most endemic problem in cyber security or helping a young and aspiring entrepreneur connect with resources, Dug is always looking to make a big impact. His repeated success as an entrepreneur is a reflection not only of his passion, experience and resourcefulness, but also of his faith in the power of a vision and his rare ability to communicate and mobilize communities behind a meaningful vision.

What do you do when you need a mental break?

Tackling a passion project is the best way to minimize the need for breaks. If entrepreneurs seem like they never slow down, that’s because it takes a tremendous amount of passion to sustain a startup beyond the conceptual stage. Entrepreneurs without lots of passion aren’t entrepreneurs for long, and the rest literally cannot pull themselves away from their work!

That being said, balance is crucial. To decompress, I like to get outside and run at least a few times a week. It helps me return to work energized and ready to take on the world!