In Conversation with Jed Simon, CEO of FastPay

September 28, 2016

Tricia Kemp - OAK HC/FT

Patricia Kemp: What is FastPay? What is the biggest challenge you are addressing?

Jed Simon: FastPay is a liquidity platform that reduces working capital friction for digital media businesses. Despite the sophistication of today’s digital ad technology, the back-end process of invoicing advertisers and receiving payment is slow and inefficient. FastPay targets this challenge by providing a platform to accelerate payments while offering a functional and streamlined process for buyers and sellers to manage these transactions.

PK: How is FastPay disrupting the conventional payments process for media and advertisers?

JS: In media and advertising, the invoicing ecosystem is still managed manually. We have built technology to digitize and optimize the process, which is a significant, positive change for the entire industry.

Historically, companies advertised with individual, large media sources. For example, a mega-brand like Campbell’s Soup might place advertisements on a network television channel. These advertising buys were paid upfront in full, with pricing based on the gross audience projections from data providers like Nielsen. But with the advent of online advertising, this simple formula for pricing and reconciliation doesn’t work. Online ads are sold by the impression in real-time, rather than billed up-front in one go. Online ads also involve multiple vendors for targeting, delivering and measuring the performance of each impression. This happens billions of times each day.

To reconcile that financially, despite the immense volume of data involved, all these media providers typically email Excel spreadsheets and call each other to confirm media delivery line by line to arrange for payment. Furthermore, the large buyers often leverage their powerful market positions to pay bills slowly to their thinly capitalized media providers. That’s the problem FastPay’s platform is targeting and solving.

PK: How does technology play a role in your company?

JS: Technology is front and center of everything we do.

For example, because we deal in an immense, data-rich environment, there is a need to access and analyze data real-time. Our platform has connections to hundreds of programmatic buyers in the marketplace, and is linked to all the financial data sources, accounting systems and bank account feeds. All that data is analyzed to power our underwriting and real-time risk management processes.

We are in a credit business. To date, FastPay has originated over a billion dollars in transaction volume and lost very little money. This accomplishment is founded in our data-driven approach: we leverage our data and connectivity to monitor the payment flow to avert fraudulent transactions and behavior. Through the use of technology, we end up with a better product; we make faster credit decisions; we provide more capital; and we offer less expensive capital with a more convenient process.

PK: How do the rapid changes in digital media and online advertising impact your business and industry?

JS: Stability is important for traditional capital providers. But for us, change is our ally and the digital media industry is changing rapidly.

Consider traditional capital sources and credit providers. Their metrics are premised on having been in business a long time. Traditional banks want to see borrowers with five to seven years of business history, and an applicant’s consistent profitability is very important. The way to process transactions is very focused on stability, too. On-site audits; physical inventory checks; meetings face-to-face. These are all at the center of underwriting credit policies. It’s how banks look at the world.

For us, we pride ourselves on being highly adaptable. When we started the business, mobile didn’t really exist, and now it is one of the predominant revenue drivers in the advertising world. New formats come online every day, like native advertising and virtual reality, and our platform has to be aware of the billing and cash flow cycle for all of them. Our ecosystem rapidly evolves to embrace change. I think that it’s a key component of what makes us competitive and unique.

PK: What were a couple of key defining moments that led you to where you are today, as CEO of FastPay?

JS: First is my grandmother, Silvia, who lived to be 100 years old. She was born in Chicago and graduated from university in 1930, which was an incredible achievement for a woman during that period. At 90 years old, she moved to LA full time from Chicago. This allowed me to see her nearly every day in the last several years of her life. I learned so much from her, and I was privileged to enjoy a robust relationship with her. Additionally, I played a major role in most of her healthcare decisions toward the end of her life. My relationship with my grandmother gave me the confidence that I could be a business manager, run an organization and be responsible for the lives and livelihoods of others.

Another occurred in high school, when I had the opportunity to play on USC’s Junior Olympics water polo team. The team itself had won the tournament three years running, and the expectation was that the team would win again that fourth year. Fast-forward to the semi-finals — toward the very end of the game, the referee called a penalty on me, causing the other team to take possession of the ball, score and win. I felt personally responsible for our loss, jeopardizing our place in the tournament, destroying our winning record and disappointing all my teammates. But later that afternoon, in the next game of the tournament, I scored the winning goal — against two future Olympic athletes no less! For me, it was an apt precursor to building a start-up; experiencing extreme lows and highs alongside a highly motivated team, often all in the same day.

PK: Where do you hope to be, as an executive, in 5 years?

JS: I’m enjoying the journey, and FastPay presents a new set of challenges and opportunities every single day. On one hand, I focus on recruiting and challenging my world-class team. On the other hand, I’m maintaining the unique culture we’ve put in place here. In reality, both of these go hand in hand, and they’re the two key challenges. Some of the problems we are currently solving did not even exist five years ago, which pushes my team and me to stay innovative and entrepreneurial.


If I weren’t a CEO I would be… A music producer.

My favorite movie is…The Godfather Part II

My favorite musician is… Bruce Springsteen

My favorite hobby is… Swimming

My favorite food is… Pizza. I rarely ever eat it but it’s still my favorite food. Especially from some of my favorite places in L.A., like Milo and Olive or Mozza.

Do you have any pets? I don’t, but my sister is a veterinarian and I’m godfather to her dogs, Joppa and Trevor. Or maybe that makes me their uncle?