S2 Ep 3. Steve Walchek: FIS

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This is a podcast episode titled, S2 Ep 3. Steve Walchek: FIS. The summary for this episode is: Today we’re bringing you my conversation with Steve Walchek, Chief Innovation Officer at FIS. In this episode, we dive into his experience with technology and entrepreneurship in various capacities from founder to product manager, to business development and everything in between. Then we discuss the commitment to Innovation by FIS and the team Steve is leading as they look to meet the customer's needs of today and tomorrow and service both of them well. Finally, we take a fun look ahead to 20 years in the future at what Steve sees regarding frictionless payments and commerce.
Startup experience
04:31 MIN
Solving for today and tomorrow
07:45 MIN
Innovation requires relationship building
05:31 MIN
The future is frictionless
06:05 MIN

Tim Schigel: Welcome to Fast Frontiers. I am your host, Tim Schigel, managing partner of Refinery Ventures. In today's episode, we're bringing you my conversation with Steve Walchek, Chief Innovation Officer at FIS. In this role, he co-founded, co-designed, and leads the innovation and incubation organization at FIS, which currently serves more than one million merchants located worldwide, including 60% of the largest retailers, 90% of the largest global banks, and 90% of the top private equity firms. Prior to joining FIS two years ago, Steve led both the ISV technology partner team and worldwide strategy for emerging services at Amazon Web Services. Prior to AWS, Steve played founding and leadership roles at three startups that successfully exited the acquisition for combined value of over a billion dollars. Please enjoy my conversation with Steve Walchek. Welcome, Steve, to Fast Frontiers. Very excited to have you on our show.

Steve Walchek: Thank you so much, Tim. I'm thrilled to be here. So much fun.

Tim Schigel: So a lot to cover today. Your background's extremely interesting to me, as Chief Innovation Officer inside a large corporation over the frontier technology and financial transactions. But first, before we get into FIS, love to talk some about your background and what led you to this position.

Steve Walchek: Yeah, so there's a very long story and I'm going to try and make that an abridged version. The shorter story is I'm an entrepreneur much like you, Tim. I've been in technology for the last 15 years in various capacities from founder to product manager to business development, kind of everything in between that. I've done tech support when needed. You know when you're in a startup, you wear every hat, and I've had the good fortune of wearing every hat. I started when I was, let's see, 20. Was the first company I started. I left Pepperdine to go and start something called DebtMarket. DebtMarket was an online trading platform for banks to trade a hold on debt. The timing could not have been more I'd say interesting. For better or for worse, we started in 2008 and trading asset-backed debt, which was, as you can imagine, a little bit of a tough time to get that started. I ended up selling that to Intercontinental Exchange, which is great. I made zero money on the transaction, but learned a lot. And went from there. We did three other startups after that. Two additional startups of those three got acquired, with total exit value of about $1.1, $1.2 billion. So I've been in the startup space for a long time.

Tim Schigel: Which of those companies had the most growth from a revenue standpoint? You don't need to give me a number, necessarily.

Steve Walchek: That was SolidFire. SolidFire was a storage company. They built all-flash storage arrays and had some really unique OS features that allows you to provision IOPS. That sold to NetApp for about $875 million. I led business development at that company. It was a great company. I really enjoyed it. It was based out of Boulder. Let's see-

Tim Schigel: I have a thesis around entrepreneurship and growth.

Steve Walchek: Go for it.

Tim Schigel: Could you just kind of compare that, what that growth experience was like, versus the other startups that you were in? What was different or what did you learn or take away from that?

Steve Walchek: I think there's a lesson involved in every startup. I think tenacity plays... There's a lot of luck involved in everything. The growth we saw there was through a lot of creativity. We entered some markets that went really well. We were talking about open source software offline earlier, Tim. We entered the OpenStack space back when there was a news distributed platform for running cloud and orchestrating cloud. And people were trying to figure out how to make that happen outside of AWS and Azure before they were the model that they are today. And we chased hard after that space. We had some good wins early on. Now, I would say that was great. We kind of lucked out on timing there. We entered really well. We were the kind of only player in town. There was a particular API we integrated with called Cinder, and we had the developer who wrote the Cinder API on our team. So we were really well known in that space. But if you look at OpenStack today, it doesn't exist. But it did, and we kind of timed it really nicely then. So the lessons I always pull away that I think I've carried forward, especially into today's role, and... Because no matter what, if you're operating and doing something new, that's going to change an industry. It's going to be hard. And keeping your head on straight... I have this analogy I like to talk to my team about where you have to imagine that you're on a plane and you're sitting next to a passenger who's a pilot. You look over at the pilot. He's not the pilot of the plane. You hit turbulence and he white-knuckles his chair and he's sitting there going, "Oh my God." And you're saying," Wait, is it time to panic now?" I always tell my team, don't be that pilot. Be the pilot at the front of the plane who's getting over the horn saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, a little bit of turbulence, no big deal. We'll be on the ground in two hours." Calm, cool, collected voice, learning how to lead through chaos. And make no mistake, startups and change in general, it doesn't matter if you're a startup or a big company, it can be chaotic, it can be hard. So tenacity is the big lesson that I've always taken away. It's just to remain tenacious, keep pushing, to take that resilience and kind of judo that momentum into opportunity.

Tim Schigel: That's great. Yeah, people like to think of growth as some kind of smooth curve, and it's managed chaos, right? It's just a little out of control.

Steve Walchek: It's managed chaos. It's the best way I've heard it described. I love that. I'm going to start using that, managed chaos. Exactly. We sold SolidFire. AWS was reaching out to me at that time. I took over as head of technology partnerships there for a year. The coolest thing about Amazon, I can talk endlessly about the culture there and my experience there. I think it's an amazing company. It was wonderful to work for. They really encourage lateral moves. They want you to just go and explore. They say, "Once Amazonian, always Amazonian." So if there's an open role that you want to go explore. So I started off as the head of technology partnerships, kind of we had experienced amazing growth in that role. Wanted to go and lead go-to-market on some emerging services, things like IoT, AI, ML, and help them structure their go-to-market strategy across partnerships, across customers, and really think through how we were going to actually bring these things to light. In particular, these sort of sticky services and they're difficult services to deploy too, so that was really fun. I really loved the challenge of that. And we saw some really cool growth and some amazing use cases emerge from that. And some things that didn't work out as well, which was great.

Tim Schigel: I'm sure.

Steve Walchek: But the culture of Amazon was really I think the thing I took away. And getting around to today's role, and I'm sorry to spend so much time on my background. The culture at Amazon is really the thing I reflect on most highly. Jeff managed... I say Jeff like I know him. Jeff Bezos managed to create a culture where a lot of the early artifacts from being in a startup and having to put things together to build your culture, to reinforce a culture where high-performers were both attracted to it and were given the tools they needed to be successful, they kept that, they maintained that. There was 550,000 people at that company when I left, and it still felt like it was... The energy was new. It was like this small startup that we were changing the world, and everybody felt that going in and everybody was willing to, to the extent that they have the bandwidth, to help you, whatever, champion any idea that you had. But whatever they could do to help you, they would do that. It was so cool to see what that bred. I mean, it really created a culture where people were encouraged to innovate. I say innovate. To think outside the context of the role to say, "How can I make my customer's life easier today and tomorrow?" What does that mean?

Tim Schigel: That's that day one philosophy, right?

Steve Walchek: That's that day one philosophy, right? I love that philosophy. I'm a big fan of it. Every new employee that joins my team, I encourage them to read' 98 shareholder letter from Jeff Bezos in 2017, where he kind of coined, "It's day one still." So I love the culture, I pulled away. Now, there's a lot of things that I would not pull away from there, and I don't need to get into the good and bad of Amazon. Only that I was so impressed that as a company of that scale, they were able to maintain that, the drive and hunger and the energy to create new. I think that is so valuable and so important, and I carry that a lot into Worldpay, which then was acquired by FIS and here we are today. How we set up our team is really interesting too. I'm sure we're going to get into that in a moment. But that's my background. AWS for three years. A number of different opportunities to go and play in different roles and check out different services that they were launching and be a part of that. And then got to come to Worldpay and launch something new there before we were acquired.

Tim Schigel: Describe your role as you see it and as the company sees it, I guess, as Chief Innovation Officer. Hopefully, they're the same thing. Maybe they're different.

Steve Walchek: I love that question. I always laugh. The innovation is one of those weird words that means everything and nothing all at the same time. In particular, in a corporate space, everyone wants to hear about how you're innovating. I really loathe sometimes that's a part of my title. It sounds cool, but it also says, "What does this guy actually deliver?" I think it's neat, because innovation can look different contingent upon the party that is doing it. I say that meaning FIS has come from a company that was... I mean this with due respect to the history. They've been amazing at getting to the position they are today. The thing that I love is Gary Norcross, our CEO, is so focused on that notion of innovation of, "How do I think about my customer's needs today and tomorrow, and service both of them?" Our current product organization was a part of their line of business before, before 2020. In fact, Gary said, "I don't see the incentives aligned appropriately to think today and tomorrow about our customers. So I'm going to create the chief growth office," and they hired Asif Ramji to run that. And to me, I go, "That's what I mean by innovation looks different." That's innovation, to think about, "How do I incentivize my teams appropriately for my customers' needs today and for tomorrow?" And to pull them out of a, how do I say quarterly focus, to start to look at long- term opportunities. How do I stay relevant in this space? I love that day two companies are... They become obsolete, but first they fade to irrelevance. That's what Jeff Bezos has said. I took that away. I love that, because it's like-

Tim Schigel: []

Steve Walchek: ...day one companies are constantly changing, constantly shifting, meeting their customers' needs.

Tim Schigel: That is a huge nugget there. My friend, Dr. David Goldberg, calls them polarities, right? I think Amazon, you had the same thing. A lot of that innovation comes from managing tension between two opposite thoughts, right? Disagree and commit, right? And today and tomorrow. Which is so awesome. How do you balance those two things? I'd imagine there's how do you deal with the sacred cows? How do you deal with end-of-lifeing something and said, "Hey, this is a great profit contributor, but it's not going to be one in 18 months."? Any examples you can give of that?

Steve Walchek: Well, I don't want to call out specific products more so that the creation of the chief growth office by Gary, with the insight that he had to say, "How do I create for today and tomorrow and incentivize the right teams to think correctly?" So when products are part of the line of business, they're tied to thinking quarterly. How do I serve my high-end customers? And they lose out. And again, now you see the innovator's dilemma play out, right? You have to serve your high-end customers. Here's your current products that's overserving a low-end customer. And then you have no ability to build disruptive innovation or disruptive growth against those, because your teams are now incentivized to serve your big margin customers. And then that allows for new market entrants to come in and eat your low end and then go up higher. I'll give you a great example of this happening to Worldpay before they came as a part of that by us, and then everything kind of got swapped around, which is phenomenal. Square came in and they said, "Look, we're going to go and eat up the lower than $250,000 in processing revenue a year," right? I'm sorry, $250,000 in processing volume per year. We're going to go and eat those customers. And Worldpay and other processors were going, "Well, that's fine. Go and touch them. We don't really care about those guys." And I'm not saying they don't care now, but historically, they definitely didn't. Whereas like, "We've got this. We're going to go and get them and serve them appropriately." What you then saw was Square went, "Well, now that I've gotten a hold of this one, I'm going to start to eat up market on these low..." They kind of start to go up the market into the 250 to 500 range, and then the 500 to a million range. And they started to take on a lot of things that were totally overserved by a product set. There are so many examples of this happening. You can go to the Blockbuster, Netflix. This notion of, "I have to serve my... And sustain innovation in one category, and I ignore disruptive opportunities." The reason that that is is because they're tied to particular incentive structures. So if product is a part of line of business, it's, "I've got to serve this quarter, and I'm thinking my roadmap is for this quarter or next quarter, or maybe at the most, 12 months." I'm not thinking two, three, four years down the road, citing trends, looking at what's happening, and seeing, "Where can I go and how can I best serve my customers' needs for tomorrow?" All I'm thinking about is today, and that's really difficult. Now, FIS did that today thing really well, but they didn't do the tomorrow thing as well. They thought about it, but they didn't have a team that was able to execute on it. This is, by the way, endemic of so many companies through the 2010s. I remember when I was at AWS and I would sit in these executive briefings and I would get these... My peers, actually, in the industry would come in and they'd bring their whole team and we would talk to them about all these cool emerging services. And then the next year, I would see that same team come back in, but that leader was gone. And I would say, "Where's so-and-so?" And they would say, "They got let go." I'd go, "Why is that?" Well, because they didn't provide any value, right? They didn't focus on value creation. They focused on pie in the sky, non-moonshot, just looking really cool at trade shows and building robots that swipe the credit card for you. Not super interesting. Really cool to look at. Really cool to look at. Will draw people to your booth, but doesn't provide value. So there's this notion of, "I have to still think tomorrow, but I also have to be creating value along the way to showcase to everyone, showcase to the world, to our customers that we actually know what's coming." So throughout the 2010s, you saw a lot of people migrate away from this innovation ether into a, "How do I incentivize the right teams to do so?" And FIS latched onto that opportunity and really, they created my role, which is to say, "How do I think about my customers' needs over the next three to five years?" And start to create opportunities for us to invest internally in organic growth ventures. So I have product design engineering underneath me, sales. We actually launched a street ventures out of my team that act like independent product sets, and they have their own growth metrics, completely differentiated from existing line of business. These line of business still have to sustain innovation for our existing customers, but we have to access the market entrants, we have to access disruptive growth opportunities, and we have to execute on them as quickly as we possibly can. We created the FIS Impact Labs, which is our innovation crew, which has a number of different ways in which we get to create organic growth across FIS. Our incentive is tied to growth, but it's about long-term growth with very key charted milestones along the way. We are not about innovation theater, we are about value creation. And we know that we're already able to do that in many ways, both short and long term.

Tim Schigel: So just like a startup, you're measured by and have to pass certain, I would imagine, product-market fit sort of tests, right? The market's going to dictate whether that innovation of yours provides value or not.

Steve Walchek: That's absolutely right. The thing is... And Tim, I hate the term fail fast, so I don't want to use that. Or the phrase fail fast. The idea here is that we learn more about what the market thinks of our product, and then if the market says no, then we just shelf it. May not be right now. There's all sorts of reasons why product-market fit doesn't happen. Doesn't mean your product is poor. It just could have been a timing thing. So we shelf these ideas. So we can-

Tim Schigel: It's something we talk about with startups-

Steve Walchek: Go ahead.

Tim Schigel: ...all the time. Your initial revenue. I think revenue in two phases, your first million or so is like your test revenue, versus your scale revenue. That test revenue, you want to optimize for learning, not necessarily for growth, right? So you're engaging the customer, trying to provide innovation. It sounds like that's how you're thinking about it.

Steve Walchek: Tim, I love what you just said there. The way I phrased that exact same sentiment to my team is that most startups spend their entire series A seed and pre-seed rounds on trying to find product-market fit. And hopefully, they've done it fast enough to raise their B, so that they can go and actually accelerate in the market now that they've found their fit. A lot of VCs don't have patience for that. This is what's so neat about our doing this internally at a large company is that I have access to all of the things that FIS has set up. Wonderful channels, great brand equity in our existing spaces, really great partnerships across a number of different vectors within payments, within banking, and capital markets. So I can go and look at something that I can create that I think has value and extraordinary value in three to five years, and I can go and test that product-market fit really quickly. I mean, in 10 weeks or less, we aim to go and test the product-market fit and viability of an opportunity. If we, at any point during those 10 weeks, don't see it, we kill it and we move the next idea into the funnel. And we can keep testing until we find the thing that we know our customers are going to want today, and also is going to provide them value over the next three to five years. And then we have a-

Tim Schigel: It's a great advantage.

Steve Walchek: Yeah, it's a phenomenal advantage. It's hard to do. Don't get me wrong. And it's not as easy as I just made it sound. The hard things are you have to navigate all sorts of existing... In some cases, we're building things that a man that's competing with products that we have today. The goal here is to say, "Well, that might be true today, but is that going to be true tomorrow? And if we don't take advantage of this, who's going to eat our lunch?" Look, there's a lot of smart people in this world, and they have a lot of great ideas and they're thinking about this stuff. If we can move as fast, at least as fast as those people, or even just catch the calmer waters behind the icebreaker, great. That's not a bad place for us to live. For every Uber, there's going to be a Lyft, right? So I'm okay with either/or.

Tim Schigel: It sounds like you'd make Eric Ries proud. Your lean startup methods there.

Steve Walchek: That's right. I know, I know. He's a fan. We love that methodology too on this team.

Tim Schigel: Can you describe kind of how you interface then with the general managers or business line owners of, let's call it, the more mature product lines?

Steve Walchek: Yeah. We actually have a role carved out on our team specifically for driving relationship development. It's interesting because we launched and onboarded a large team six months into the year. So we started our hiring for everyone in June of this year. We went from four to 46 people in a very short period of time. In a COVID space, so there's no office time and building trust there. We have a role that we carved out specifically for building relationships with different parts of the organization. I said that earlier part to kind of go in a non-COVID era, we would be able to have him fly all around, go meet these people, take them out to dinner, get to have these relationships. We don't have that opportunity. So it's a 30 minute meeting and you have to go and build relationships with them really quickly, help them understand the value that you're going to bring them, and then make sure we have good headway into those. He's done an excellent job of that. The hardest part here has actually been... We've already launched our first venture. It's very quiet. It's in stealth right now. It will go very big next year and it's going to be really exciting. It's in the payment space. I can't wait for everyone to be able to talk about it, because it is something that everyone will use. But that's our first example of that being put into action. It was early bit of pain trying to tell the story of, "Hey, we exist," in the same sentence of, "We need you to help us sell something." Right?

Tim Schigel: Right.

Steve Walchek: But over time, that message has become fluid because they hear the customers, their customers start to respond. All it takes is a few of them before the word starts getting around, people start talking to each other, and then they start to realize, "Wow, this new team really has something interesting for customers that can provide value," and they care immensely about that. So the hard part is just kind of breaking down to the initial, "Hey, I have no way of knowing who you are because you're brand new. I've got a bunch of competing priorities. You can't come fly and so we can't get dinner, we can't build relationships in the traditional ways." So we've had to kind of be... I told you about resilience earlier. You've got to be resilient, you've got to be tenacious, and you've just got to keep moving. And eventually, they've been amazing. They've opened up the doors to us, to customers. What we've also been able to do is we do these Google Ventures style sprints, where we work with a bunch of different leaders from across the organization, whether that's in product, engineering, in customer service, and sales. We bring them into a room and we start to go and say, "Here's a big theme. Let's go and build some concepts. Let's just go and see if we can create some concepts against that together." And we run these really great sprints against that too. So all these little ways help foment that relationship and build that credibility. But we never go in assuming credibility. We just always believe we have to continually earn trust. We care immensely about that and we guard our reputation really highly and spend a lot of time developing that. So it's a bit of a multifaceted approach. Sorry, it's a big answer to your question, but it's been hard, to say the least.

Tim Schigel: Well, it just shows how multidimensional the issue is and how it's so relational-oriented, just like a startup, just like an entrepreneur, right? You're buying something from some new company. Well, you're buying it from that person. You're buying it from Steve, right? You've got to trust him. So it starts at a trust layer and then," Okay, are you credible? Can you deliver what you say you're going to deliver?" Yeah, it takes a lot of skills. Good for you.

Steve Walchek: Yeah, I'm grateful for the people on our team. Yeah, it's been super fun and we've got... I mean, Gary, our CEO, and my boss, Asif Ramji, and the rest of the organization have just been so supportive of pushing this forward. They understand. That's what's so exciting. They understand what it's going to take for FIS to not be a day two company, and they care about that. They want this to remain a day one company, and I love that. It's why I'm here. It's because that hunger to be the change. It's been so fun. I love this company a lot.

Tim Schigel: That's clear, based on what you're saying. And kudos to Gary Norcross because this sort of activity within a company, if you don't have the full not just support, but encouragement from the CEO, from the top, I just think it doesn't work. It just can't work, right? So clearly he's providing that, giving you the platform and the context, right? Not just you, but the whole organization to embrace this idea of innovation.

Steve Walchek: That's right. Well said too. Absolutely. I always tell my team, if you thought this was going to be an easy job, you definitely signed up for the wrong team. If you thought this was going to be a non-risky job, you signed up for the wrong team. We all decided to run off this cliff together. We took, arguably, the hardest job in all of corporate, any large company to say, "We're going to go and innovate and be the arm that helps drive value for our customers over the next three to five years." You've got to remember what you signed up... You signed up to do the hard thing, but the hard things are what provide the highest value and highest return. It's kind of mission-oriented and value-oriented too. People really feel that. They love that this is the hard work. They love that they signed up for arguably, the most difficult job in all of corporate. And we steered clear of innovation overall as a titling pro. That's why we're called FIS Impact Labs, because we want to deliver impact, not be tied to a notional idea of creation.

Tim Schigel: That's great. So when you think about the future, I'm thinking about... I don't know if you know the author, kind of futurist leadership author, Bob Johansen, who wrote Leaders Make the Future. We mentioned managed chaos before. He said, "In the future, leaders have to bring clarity to chaos," right? So as you think about the future of technology, so many different issues to think about, machine learning, and AI, and big data. You have to navigate that space successfully and kind of put on your goggles here in terms of looking at the future. What's the future look like? Not only for FIS, but the industry and for the companies, the merchants, the startups, eCommerce. How is that all going to change 20 years from now?

Steve Walchek: I love that you're asking this question. It's an easy one to try and overprep for, but every time I'm asked that, I don't do any preparation because I like to start to think about... The way I look at it is the future is frictionless in commerce, right? As you look historically, what has happened, we've just reduced friction over and over and over again in commerce. We've made money changing hands across borders, across barriers easier and cheaper, frankly. So let's fast forward 20, 30 years, 40 years ahead of time. We're in a world of frictionless commerce. I'll paint a better... Did you ever see the show Westworld, Tim?

Tim Schigel: No.

Steve Walchek: Westworld on HBO? Okay. There's a scene where the main character in that, she's walking through an apartment building. She taps into her AI assistant and she says, "Get me an apartment here." And the AI assistant says, "Negotiating," and says, "Congratulations, you now have a one-bedroom, city view. It costs you $3,000 a month. Would you like to proceed?" Yes. Done. Frictionless, right? Now think about all of the things that need to be true for that to be the case, right? First of all, you have to have natural language processing so your AI can actually interpret what's being said over the phone. So we'll start there. That's not really that interesting from a payments perspective. But you know where NLP is right now, and it's not nearly that capable. The things that are much more interesting is that today, if you were to go rent an apartment, or if you were to go apply for a mortgage, the amount of background checks that need to be done if you're renting a place. They have to do a background and criminal history check. They have to do a credit check. All this set of information that exists in disparate pools that make up Steve Walchek, right? It's Steve Walchek the father, Steve Walchek the homeowner, Steve Walchek the chief innovation officer. That's me. That's my identity in the financial sphere. They exist in disparate spaces. To make it happen such that I'm in an apartment building and I say, "Lease me a space here," and it says, "Done," is basically all of those things to be instantly accessible. They need to be automated in their evaluation. So there's no human in between. The ability for the dollars to be exchanged needs to be fast, cheap, and easy, and seamless. So that's the future. The future is frictionless commerce, but there are so many things that need to be true for us to get to a place where there's not 20 people evaluating my loan documentation, and my loan officer giving me a call every time I apply for a mortgage, saying, "Can you give me 15 pieces of documentation across 15 different sources?" It's not easy. That's the future. You can tap in all the different technologies there, but when I think about the world, that's the world I want to live in is this very seamless, very simple, frictionless commerce world. That's what payments 2060 looks like, or commerce 2060 looks like.

Tim Schigel: Which businesses, which eCommerce companies, not companies specifically, but maybe segments or product offerings are kind of pushing the boundaries today in terms of their business models? Do you see anybody out there doing interesting things?

Steve Walchek: I think there's a lot of interesting movement happening. Ethereum is doing for cross-border payments and the notion of tying it to a stable price when you're thinking about payments across geographic regions or countries. And Forex too. I think there's really interesting opportunity there that the crypto space can solve. Mum's the word on whether or not they are solving it, but I think there's a lot of opportunity and interesting use cases there to be tackled. That's one example of there being less friction in me paying you and you living in a different country. But if you kind of look across the gamut, right? I think Shopify has done a phenomenal job on all sorts of means. I love the Stripe, Shopify announcement that just came out where Stripe launched Treasury and Shopify was consuming these banking APIs to offer checking accounts for their merchants. I thought that was a phenomenal use case, right? Because what have they done? Well, they've looked at the SMB. So we've got your entire suite. We've got payments, we've got website launching, we've got logistics handled for you. Now we can make sure that it's really simple for you to manage money, right? And it all happens in one place. One of the biggest things I hear from SMBs is that there's too many different spaces where they have to manage... I'm managing my QuickBooks over here, my bank account here, my payroll over here, and these things aren't talking to each other. And Shopify is saying, "Listen, merchant, we've got you. You just go and focus on selling your things, and we're going to help. "I think there's so much opportunity in that space. Shopify is one player. So to remove friction in commerce across those categories to centralize where money's being managed for merchants. And this is a fun space that FIS... We have merchants, we have banks, we have all the software that powers those two. So we get to start thinking about, "What does it look like to provide these types of value to our customers as well?" So there's so much opportunity in the SMB space. But that's just e-comm. There's also opportunity in SMB brick and mortar. I think there's a lot of exploration happening around that for us too.

Tim Schigel: That's terrific. I'm going to remember this. Frictionless payments or frictionless innovation, right? You create something that creates value, and the next job is removing friction so that other people can leverage that value, right, and experience it.

Steve Walchek: I don't think innovation will ever be frictionless. Otherwise, guys like you and I are going to be out of the job.

Tim Schigel: That's true. That may be true. Well, thank you, Steve. That was terrific. Thank you for taking the time and sharing that with us in a friction-free sort of way.

Steve Walchek: That was awesome. Tim, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Tim Schigel: You've got it. Thanks for listening to Fast Frontiers. If you like our show and want to know more, check out our website, fastfrontiers.com. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with others and leave us a review on your favorite podcast platform. Again, in this first week of Fast Frontiers season two, we have three great conversations to share. You can listen to them all right now. Join us next week when we bring you my conversation with Noor Sweid, General Partner at Global Ventures.


Today we’re bringing you my conversation with Steve Walchek, Chief Innovation Officer at FIS. In this episode, we dive into his experience with technology and entrepreneurship in various capacities from founder to product manager, to business development and everything in between. Then we discuss the commitment to Innovation by FIS and the team Steve is leading as they look to meet the customer's needs of today and tomorrow and service both of them well. Finally, we take a fun look ahead to 20 years in the future at what Steve sees regarding frictionless payments and commerce.

Please click on any related resources below for more information about what we discuss in this episode.

Today's Host

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Tim Schigel

|Managing Partner at Refinery Ventures

Today's Guests

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Steve Walchek

|Chief Innovation Officer at FIS