Ask a fintech founder: Will Reeves, Fold

On Bitcoin rewards, choosing the right partners, and the highs and lows of entrepreneurship


Bitcoin has been around since 2009, but it has been slow to reach the mainstream. Like anything new and innovative, it can be intimidating.


Brands like Fold are lowering the barrier to Bitcoin adoption by making it easier. Fold Co-Founder and CEO Will Reeves hailed from the world of loyalty and rewards and realized it was one way to get more people into Bitcoin.


 “Bitcoin can be a scary thing to get involved with at first, and we make it simple,” he says. “You don't have to buy it, you don't have to risk your own money. Instead, you do what you do every day: buy your groceries or gas with your Visa card, and you'll earn Bitcoin as a reward.”


Here, Will shares how Fold is adding a Bitcoin twist to credit card rewards.


What problem were you trying to solve when you started Fold?

I was a founder in the Bay Area in the loyalty and rewards space, and very quickly I was able to bring together my two passions and skills, which was number one, consumer loyalty and how do we change consumer patterns with number two, Bitcoin. Both of these things came together seamlessly. Rewards and loyalty provided the perfect entrance into the space for people to get started.


Who can benefit from Fold?

We believe Bitcoin is for everybody. More specifically, Fold is for those who have heard about Bitcoin, have had a friend or family member who is involved or is interested in it, and they're curious about it, they want to get educated about it, but maybe they're not quite ready to take the full step into buying it. Fold provides a risk-free, easy way to start earning Bitcoin rewards instead of loyalty points or miles.


How are Fold cardholders using their Bitcoin rewards?

We've experienced two primary things. Number one, people love it as a way to increase their savings. The average millennial and Gen Z has very little, if anything, in savings. For users earning with our platform over two to three years, they start to accumulate a rewards balance that looks a lot like a savings account. It starts from thinking about ‘What is Bitcoin?’ to ‘How does it fit into my investment portfolio or my savings strategy’?


On the other side, inflation has gone up. Groceries are more expensive, and as the rewards increase in value during this time, our customers can use it to increase their purchasing power. Ultimately, it comes down to a central idea that Bitcoin is an asset that can help people increase their savings and their purchasing power.


What makes you unique from your competitors?

The [digital asset] space has been dominated by solutions that I don’t think serve a mainstream mass market audience. Many of them serve people who already understand Bitcoin or are already using it and just want to earn more of it. Fold is about meeting mass market consumers where they are today with a traditional product like a Visa debit card and a rewards program. The only thing different is that they earn Bitcoin as a reward versus an airline mile or a hotel point.


How are you working with Visa to help grow your business?

Fold is one of the first Bitcoin-focused programs that participated in the Visa Fintech Fast Track process. Visa has always been on the cutting edge of new trends in money and finance and payments. They worked with us to conceptualize a debit card that earns Bitcoin rewards and helped us launch it. From an operational standpoint, I don't think there's a better partner for going to market with a payment method that allows you to reach hundreds of millions of end merchants and customers in a short period of time.


What's one thing you wish you knew when you started the company?

Operating a payments company appears very simple because everyone has a card and everyone spends money. Once you get down into the actual workings of how payment networks actually operate and the amount of organizations and entities that are involved in any given transaction — from the card manufacturer, to the anti-fraud mechanisms, to the actual distribution, to the merchant acquiring side — it is a fascinating but extremely complex network. I would say we were very lucky to choose Visa as the right partner for our payment network to build on, but many other entities are involved in this and it's a similar decision with all of them. When you're making decisions at the beginning of a company, sometimes you optimize for speed to market or low cost and sometimes you don't think about more long-term things, about flexibility, about the ability to grow a program, and can they grow with you? That suddenly becomes much more important down the line if you become successful.


What is your idea of success?

For Fold, it is to further the savings and spending power of my customers. I want them to be introduced to something unfamiliar and experience a magical moment where instead of being educated or reading about something, they experience the value of it by using the product itself. If I can improve someone's financial situation without necessarily changing major behaviors and what they do on a daily basis, that's a major win for us. Luckily, it's something that Fold has been able to do for hundreds of thousands of people and it's one of my favorite parts of my job.


What keeps you up at night?

Back to the complexity of the payments industry, it is both something that at once feels like it doesn't change very often, and on the other side, things do change very quickly. From a regulatory perspective, we are constantly seeing new legislation come through that has a direct effect on card issuance, on payments, on new financial products. That happens almost quarterly, that if you're not prepared, can really turn your business upside down.


What excites you most about the future of payments?

We're going to see the infrastructure of payment networks start to evolve toward the customers' new requirements and new needs, and at the same time we're seeing the emergence of new technologies like Bitcoin that naturally settles near instantly. It is designed to be globally accessible to everybody and not liable to the whims of regional economic conditions. It provides a playing field for everybody. I think the convergence of both these things are going to totally transform the payment industry, both from an infrastructure level and from a consumer retail provider level. And that's a lot of opportunity for new entrepreneurs, but more than anything, it's going to be an absolute boon for consumers who will have fundamentally better experiences.


What's one word that describes your life as an entrepreneur?

Chaotic, but chaotic-good. It is a life that I was very lucky to experience early on and I immediately knew that this was the path that I wanted to take. And at this point, being a decade-plus in, I've seen the absolute highs and the absolute lows of entrepreneurship, and I still wouldn't trade it for a single thing. I get to live the exact life that I wanted and I'm lucky that I have a team and a product that's continuing to let me do that, and hopefully do it for a lot longer.


Learn more about Fold and accelerating your growth with the Visa Fintech Fast Track Program.

Tag: Payment technology

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