Tucker is the CEO and co-founder of Quo Finance. Growing up in a household burdened with medical debt, he saw firsthand the hardships that the American credit system causes and the real impact that misaligned incentives have on everyday people. While attending Stanford University, where he received a B.S. in Computer Science, Haas started two startups and worked at Facebook in production engineering. However, his passion for solving the economic inequality he saw growing up pushed him to start Quo and reshape credit in America.
Frederick Daso: When did you first gain interest in being a founder?
Tucker Haas: From selling Yu-Gi-Oh cards in elementary school to scripting for online games in middle school and developing freelance mobile apps in high school, I have always had a very entrepreneurial spirit. From my earliest days, I have talked about taking ideas and turning them into businesses, no matter how good or bad those ideas were. It helped tremendously that my parents, as small business owners themselves, were always very encouraging of my efforts.
Daso: What were the essential experiences that helped you be in the position you are today?
Haas: I was a competitive gymnast for 11 years, training 20 hours a week from ages 8–19. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life, always pushing me physically and emotionally. I was never a hugely gifted gymnast, so I had to make up for it with sheer determination and hard work. It taught me how to stay focused under pressure, work hard, and strive for perfection.
Starting my first company the summer after my freshman year at Stanford also had a significant impact on me. It was my first experience in the startup world proper, and it was a big wakeup call. I learned not only how to listen to user feedback, direct engineering efforts, and code like crazy, but also how vital confounding relationships are, what burnout looks like, and ultimately when to know you have failed.
My family went through a rough bankruptcy when I was five years old. That experience shaped a lot about how I think about personal finance and the American financial system broadly. Specifically, it showed me that economic turmoil could happen to almost anyone at any time, leaving them with little to catch themselves on and few tools to help rebuild once the dust has settled.
Daso: Who were the important individuals or groups that contributed to your professional success, and why?
Haas: Early on in Quo, we pitched a lot of people: investors, advisors, professors, and anyone that would listen. Many were encouraging, providing valuable feedback and refinements that helped us polish our idea and business model, but many many more were outright negative. The most significant gripe they had was they did not believe the population that we were targeting existed or had any real need for a new kind of financial safety net. Some offered quips such as, “I can pay my rent with my Amex, why can’t everyone else?” While initially disheartening, it became one of our primary driving forces as it showed us that there was a massive market that a lot of people were not seeing and not going after.
Conversely, those that did believe in us were exceptional. Alireza Masrour at Plug and Play gave us an invaluable look into what investors wanted to see from us and what we needed to tweak in our pitch as well as giving us early validation and runway when he wrote our first check back in April of 2019. Cory Levy helped us expand that view and become more strategic in our fundraising, ultimately helping us close our seed round and become better founders. And my mother was always a source of inspiration, a sounding board for ideas, and provided constant encouragement to go after and help people like my family.
Daso: How did you prepare for yourself to become a founder?
Haas: I do not think there is much that can prepare you for the rollercoaster that founding a company is except for fostering a solid work ethic and having a strong community to support you through it. While I feel lucky to have had both of these, there have still been many challenging moments that I was woefully unprepared. Yet, I had to roll with the punches and learn along the way. At the end of the day, I believe as a first time founder that is the best one can hope for.
Daso: Were there any particular clubs at school that were useful resources for breaking into your current field?
Haas: Surprisingly, there are not that many clubs at Stanford that cater to becoming a founder or starting a company. The one that Neel and I found to be most helpful was Cardinal Ventures, which is a Stanford accelerator that pushed us to refine our idea, pitch effectively, and connected us to the VC community. However, the computer science curriculum focused on building scalable and intricate systems that I took was excellent preparation for becoming a strong software engineer. As a technical founder, it is the resource at Stanford that has best prepared me and generated the most value for Quo.
Daso: What do you think stops most people from becoming a founder?
Haas: The most common reason I have seen people stop short of founding a company or drop out of one in the earliest stages is losing sight of a vision and becoming disillusioned with their idea. I saw this time and again while at Stanford, where students would come up with the first draft of their plan, work on it for a few days or weeks (or sometimes months), and subsequently drop it because it “isn’t a good enough idea.” There is this misconception (that gets heavily promoted by a lot of “founding stories,” journals, movies, etc.) of the “lightbulb moment” where you get an idea, and that has to be the perfect final incarnation. Still, in reality, the best ideas are not first drafts but heavily edited revisions that you form over time and with hard work. Neel and I know this well: the first idea that got us to start Quo back in late 2018 was a (retrospectively) terrible idea around securitizing credit card debt, but we pushed to refine it and work out the kinks to come to a solution that makes us proud. I think if more people push harder on their ideas and are willing to refine and mold them rather than dump them at the first signs of trouble, we would have a wealth of new founders and startups.
Daso: Looking back, would you change anything about your professional path?
Haas: So far, not really. I have been extremely fortunate to work on the projects I have, get the internships I did, and attend schools that I loved. Even the mistakes I have made (and there have been many already) provided valuable insight, and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.
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