In episode 32, I had a #CreativeConversation with my pal, Julie Verhage-Greenberg . She's the co-founder of Fintech Today , a community and content company focused on the Fintech startup ecosystem. She's also the host of Fint...
In episode 32, I had a #CreativeConversation with my pal, Julie Verhage-Greenberg. She's the co-founder of Fintech Today, a community and content company focused on the Fintech startup ecosystem. She's also the host of Fintech Today's podcast, Tux Time, which some have said is one of the best, if not the best-produced podcast of our time.
In this episode, Julie talks about:
Join my conversation with Julie today!
In this episode, I have a creative conversation with my pal, Julie VerHage-Greenberg. She's the Cofounder of Fintech Today, a community and content company focused on the fintech startup ecosystem. She's also the host of Fintech Today's podcast, Tux Time, which some have said is one of the best, if not the best-produced podcast of our time. In this episode, Julie talks about how she was the first person to attend college in her family even though that college was Michigan State University. It's something but, “Go blue!”
She also talks about what it was like to come on board and become a whole co-founder with somebody who was drastically different from her. We talk about the pros and cons of that aspect. Lastly, she also breaks down what it was like to elope with her husband during the peak of the pandemic. After you've read this full interview, head over to the Pol and Pals Newsletter, where I do a special breakdown on the key aspect from this episode that stood out to me, in addition to providing some helpful resources to help you create the life that you want to live. Without any further ado, let's get creative.
I want to start this episode by doing a, “This episode is brought to you by Fintech Today,” because I feel like if I do that, you have to invoice me for this episode, too. I’m going to sneak it in there, but thank you so much for coming on. I know we’ve been trying to do this for a couple of attempts, so I’m glad we’re able to get it done. I do want to let you know though, in all seriousness, I’m probably going to keep this short because you went to MSU. I went to Michigan and I want to keep a certain level of standards for this show.
I can’t believe that I agreed to this.
It took me so long to learn that you actually went to Michigan State, which is the craziest thing.
I always forget that you went to Michigan, too. You seem so nice. It doesn’t make sense.
Speaking of how we met, do you want to give a breakdown because you maybe put me in the newsletter. You maybe tweeted about me, but people were like, “Who the hell is this guy?” Interestingly enough, we met through Josh Kaplan, who had just randomly texted me one day. He was like, “Who edits your podcast?” I’m like, “I do it all.” He’s like, “Okay,” and I asked him why. He was like, “I’m just looking for somebody to help with these two people.”
I remember saying, “I don't know. Maybe I can find somebody.” I wasn't really interested in helping you guys with producing Tux Time. I was talking to a friend about the opportunity I came up and he got back to me. He was like, “Why didn't you accept that?” I was like, “I don't know. I want to focus on my thing and get better.” He was like, “No. Go back and ask.”
It was a good lesson for me because I think coming back and asking has been a great learning experience. I've never edited and produced for anybody before but I feel like working with you for Tux Time. Just help the next star and the success it’s had has been a great learning experience. Pursue those things that you might not know you’re good at but you'll learn along the way and it has been great.
I had no idea this was your first time editing and producing something, so you could have fooled me.
That's the key to life. Everybody's faking it and you got to just get in there, perform and do well. The funny thing is I didn't even know what I was going to be editing for. He had told me two people, so I’m assuming some random people wanted to start a podcast on their couch and I’m like, “I guess I’ll help.” I remember asking Josh like, “Are these people serious?” He was like, “Yes. They’re Fintech Today,” and I looked it up and I’m like, “This is an established thing.” It's been a dope experience. I want to ask you. We mentioned Michigan State and you might have told me, maybe you mentioned this. Were you the first of your family to go to college? I don’t know if that’s a random stat.
Yes, I was. My younger sister also went to college, but since I popped out earlier, I am the one that went to college first. Neither of my parents went. They both graduated high school, but they just started working. My mom was a waitress. My dad grew up on a dairy farm and he took the farm over. There was never necessarily a reason for them to have to go to school. Ironically, before he decided to take the farm over, he thought about going to Michigan, of all places, to be an architect. It was always funny. The only time he would not root for Michigan was when they were playing Michigan State. I'm like, “All right, fine, whatever.” I root for the Big Ten, so it's fine by me, but that was a fun, little battle in the family.
Do you feel like that's where you got your entrepreneurial spirit from watching your dad and mom manage a whole farm?
For sure, yes. For me, the idea of technically always working since when you run your business, as you know, you're always working, but also being able to structure your day how you want to structure it. If I want to knock out a bunch of meetings and then take an hour to go run some errands, read a book or go on a walk with my dog, I can do that but I am accountable to myself. I need to get my stuff done. Whereas when you're working in corporate America, you can't do that as much because your boss might email you or they structure your day a little bit. It's like, “In that case, it makes it a lot harder to do that.” I've always been someone that’s a hustler. I like being accountable to myself and setting my goals and executing on them. That’s who I am.
I can tell. You wake up at 5:00 AM every day.
That’s the thing. You are also always awake. I’ll Slack you and I’m like, “Why is he up right now?” It will be like 5:00 in the morning.
I just never went to sleep. I’m trying to be better now and regulate my sleep schedule. You mentioned that you always had that as part of you but were there any other businesses or entrepreneurial things that you did even from when you were young on the farm or when did that really be like you made it a real thing?
I sold lemonade outside our house. Does that count? The OG entrepreneurial thing?
I always hear about that story, but I never meet anybody that’s done that. You’re one of the first. How was that?
It was fun. The thing is, you’re this eight-year-old cute little kid, so everyone is like, “Let’s give the little kid some lemonade or Kool-Aid or whatever it was,” and then I’m trying to think on top of that. I’ve always done side gigs. I did some freelance writing in college. I teach classes at Equinox. It’s a side thing. I was having the side hustles that were semi-entrepreneurial, but Fintech Today is definitely the deepest dive I have taken into that space.
You are like, “I got a whole company.”
I manage people and run payroll. It's weird.
I’ve always wanted to know. How is that working with your husband? Your husband works at Fintech Today but you’re also technically his boss. Do you ever see him on his phone like, “What are you doing? You need to be doing this.” How is that relationship?
Thankfully, he has not messed up or anything yet, which partly is probably the pressure of I convinced my co-founder to go out on a limb and hire him as a contractor, and then bring them on full-time. That was the pressure like, “My then-fiancé, now wife, has gone out on a limb for me. I better do a good job. Otherwise, that doesn't set a good precedent and whatnot.” There might be sometimes where I’m like, “Wait. Don't you have things to do? Why are you taking a nap right now or why are you making a sandwich? You're supposed to get this done,” but in all seriousness, he's done a great job.
Going back, you started doing a side gig writing, when did you feel like, “I need to be a writer. I want to be a writer.” Has that always been an interest of yours?
Ironically, in my sophomore year of college, I did an internship in wealth management in New York. I wasn't a fan of how slow-paced that is, given it's the summer, so all of your wealthy clients are all in the Hamptons and they're not going to come in and ask questions anyways, but I love finance. I was a Business major, but I wanted something that kept me going and each day was a little bit different.
I was also the person that when we got to work in the morning, the team would be like, “Okay. What's going on in markets and stuff?” I would be like, “These were the Wall Street Journal headlines. This is what we should care about.” The next summer, I did an internship in financial news and ended up going back to that company when I graduated covering financial news.
I'm into financial literacy as well. I was into Goldman Sachs. I remember going to New York and I was trying like, “I should probably do wealth management because that's my passion.” There was something about that summer that I hesitated. I don't know if it was the vibe of New York or seeing other employees and how stressed they were all the time.
Were you at Goldman?
No, I never worked there. That was one of the reasons because when you’re used to a good thing, you’re scared to step out of your comfort zone and switch to a whole new internship. I was like, “I already know these people and I was going to get paid this much.” Sometimes I think about it and I tell my brother. He’s also at Michigan. He made the right decision.
I tell him, “You got to make sure that you try to get as much experience as you can while you're in college because you just really never know when all that experience could come out and help you.” I never thought I’d be a podcaster editing videos, but I tested the waters and it's been enjoyable. When you graduated and you started writing for real, did you ever get the sense of, “I don't know if I want to be doing this,” or did it confirm your interest once you started for real?
Once I started for real, internships aside, I knew that was like, “I like doing this.” It's exciting there with any role, but especially in something like journalism. It can be a stressful job, given that if you're covering certain companies, Apple might break news on a Sunday and you just got to be on and start writing about it and whatnot. That part is stressful.
There are times that you question like, “Why the hell did I want to do this?” I always knew that I was good at writing. I'm passionate about business. It ends up being the perfect combination. If I wanted to be a political reporter or a health and science reporter, that would be something different. Politics, I'm most certainly not passionate about. That would be the worst reporting job possible. Health and science, I can get deeper into it, but I would come at it with an angle that I don't know as much about it since I wasn't a Chemistry major or a nurse or anything like that.
Do you feel that as a journalist, could you mention the whole breaking news? Especially now with newsletters are the thing and curators are the thing, and we’re going to get more to what Fintech Today actually is for those that don’t know. Journalists became stronger in the fact that you wanted to know what individual journalists are writing about. It wasn’t necessarily the actual whatever they worked for. When did you feel that change in journalism becoming a thing?
Part of it happened when Twitter started because you could start following the specific journalist that you liked on Twitter. Over the past years, with Substack coming out, ConvertKit and other platforms that where people can run their own newsletters instead, that shifted the gears. For better or worse, Trump also made it, so a lot of people questioned journalists at this point.
Being able to follow a specific journalist versus the entire news organization, which a lot of people end up having issues with for whatever reason, journalists themselves could be the owners of their own content and create their own following where, “I'm the expert in this space and on topic X, Y, Z. Follow me. Don't worry about following the broader organization. Maybe you don't like the reporter covering this aspect of this news organization or this aspect or whatever. Focus on the ones that you do like and follow them.”
While you were at Bloomberg, you made some other journalism jobs. Did you ever have any moments where you sensed something out, reported it and then you’re like, “It's somewhat incorrect or I got to change something.” Have you ever had that situation happen to you?
The only thing that has happened is you'll misspell a name or maybe you’ll put the wrong analyst in there or something that. I've never had anything big that I can remember that went out and we needed a correction. I should say part of that is to Bloomberg's credit and not their editing process is very much like I would edit it, it would go to one other editor and go back to me, and then go to that editor’s editor and then it would go out. They made it, so there was very little room for a major error in there. That was good.
We talked about this when I was over at your wonderful house. We were talking about how sometimes, when it comes to breaking news or a story, a lot of it goes into whatever the headline is, which might not be the actual meat of the story. Sometimes you wish the actual content of the story was what sold it. How have you learned from that experience and have you tried to implement something into Fintech Today in your newsletters where you not embellish it so much but still try to keep it catchy?
There's such a fine line between having a catchy headline that does and doesn't resonate with the story, too. It was also hard with things like earnings reports and whatnot because there might be positive angles of the company's earnings, but if their stock is falling, you can't have a positive headline just because if everything was so good, why is the stock down 5% after reporting earnings?
I do think there is this something that I weighed on me towards the end of my time as a traditional journalist. There are so many negative stories in journalism, both from the political side and tech. Everyone hates tech right now. “Facebook is evil.” I'm not arguing whether it's true or not, but you would go into each story and it's so much easier to pitch a negative story and get a negative story published. Whereas if you're doing something that's more promotional like, “Here's this incredible founder or here's this company that's doing these cool things.”
It's harder. Your editors are more skeptical about whatever you're writing, which I get because you're going to look bad if something comes up where, “That founder is abusive to employees and you wrote this puff piece on them.” You don't want to be that person, but it's also like, “What if that founder is great and you tore down the company, too?” It's tough and that started bleeding into my personal life a little bit where you go into any aspect at work with this negative lens in and you start thinking about your personal life in a negative lens, too. You're constantly the glass half empty versus glass half full person.
I want to learn more about that. You don’t have to give us specific examples, but describe a time where that was starting to get to you? How you felt and got out of that? I don’t know if you’re fully out of that.
The perfect story example would be that Peloton stock has obviously done very well now given the pandemic, but when they initially went public, they weren't profitable. Their stock was down a ton afterward. I broke the news that they were launching a cheaper treadmill and they're still yet to officially launch it, but they are working on a rowing machine that there are prototypes for and everything.
What year was this?
This was 2019, right before the pandemic. I want to say it was late summer or fall. Instead of Peloton stock doing well, Peloton stock was not doing well at the time. I remember the story was about them launching these new products. It was a scoop. I was the first person to report that. I sent in a draft and then I get a draft back that had been edited and the intro was changed to something along the lines of Peloton, the money-losing fitness startup whose stock has done terrible since its IPO, is looking to launch two new products. I'm like, “I get that we need to mention that the stock has not done well somewhere in the story. That does not need to be the first line or two.” That makes no sense.
It’s because we’re naturally drawn to drama. There's a reason we watch reality TV shows. You have been tweeting a lot about FBOY Island. I still haven't watched it yet. I’ve been checking it out.
There are only six episodes. It’s very easy.
I just watched Too Hot To Handle or something like that.
That was funny, too.
They lure you in, but it’s just a natural human thing. If you’re a marketer, you know how to write copy, you’re going to sell that. I don't think that will ever necessarily change but I think that's what's also motivated people to start their own things like Fintech Today and you have the control. I do want to hear more about how that came to be because at this point, you’re Julie VerHage at Bloomberg. People know about you. What gave you the confidence once Ian Kar, your co-founder, hit you up and was like, “Can you come over here?”
At first, I started writing a premium newsletter for them. I wasn't a co-founder at anything at that point. Ian wasn't even necessarily a founder. It wasn't a company. It was this side thing that we were doing. That was March of 2020, right as the pandemic was raging and the world was shutting down. I was doing some other consulting gigs and I remember it was about mid-summer in 2020 where Ian was like, “I want to bring you on as a co-founder. We should raise some money, make this our full-time jobs and not focus on some of the other things that we both have been doing.”
I had some talks with some friends about it. One of them was a VC that I was consulting for and some others that I admire in the space. They're all like, “There's definitely a pain point here. You're young. You don't have kids that you need to be accountable for anything. If there's ever a time in your life where this would make sense, this is it, so go for it. It'll be hard.”
The other important thing, we don't have Ian on here, but if you know me and Ian, we were both very different. Ian has Ritalin pumping through his brain, his veins and everything. He's amazing at finding these new ideas and being one step ahead of the game but he's not as good at executing on all those ideas because he gets distracted by all the other good ideas that are out there and that come into his head. Whereas me, I'm not as good at coming up with incredible new ideas, but I'm good at the execution part. It's such a good match that way.
You make a good point. One of my questions is the whole you and Ian dynamic because I think it's been interesting working with you and understanding how different you are, but the fact that you still have this company that's running is amazing. You interviewed her and I interviewed Kinsey Grant and she had talked about how she’s working with her co-founder, Josh Kaplan, and they're different in how they operate as well because he benefits her shortcomings. You've explained your shortcomings. I want to know what are the cons of having a co-founder that's drastically different from how you operate. Have you had to overcome certain things?
The biggest thing that people have to keep in mind co-founding a company is one, don't get someone exactly you because it doesn't even necessarily have to be the whole big idea versus execution point, but if you're very tech-savvy, you probably don't want another technical co-founder. I would look for someone that solves another pain point in the area. If you're working on fintech, someone from tech as well as finance makes a lot of sense that way.
It’s being aligned on the overall mission of the company and the vision of where you're seeing it going and having mutual respect for each other. You're going to have arguments with each other and everything, but if you're still aligned on the broader vision and have respect for that person and their ideas, it makes all the difference.
You’re not going to start a Patreon on it and go fully explicit. That's good and something that I've thought about too, is I want to make Pol and Pals bigger. I haven't even gotten to the whole founder portion. One of my best friends, who's also my creative director, Juan, is figuring out what we're good at and what we're not good at. That's something that we learn every other episode every week. It's been interesting to see how you have grown that. We've been talking around about it, but I want you to give a good description for somebody that's never heard of the word fintech or Fintech Today, how would you describe what you are doing and what you are building?
I always say think of something like Venmo or PayPal, but also think of how all the finance apps are on your phone. Think about whenever you connect your bank account to something else, and it offers integration where you don't have to type in your account info. Remember when PayPal used to be like, “We're going to put two small deposits in your bank account, please type these in and we'll verify it.”
Fintech makes it, so you don't have to do that 99% of the time. It can magically integrate it together. That is fintech. It's taken off a lot during the pandemic, given that people could not go to bank branches or buy things in the store. You have to do everything online or on your phone. Fintech Today is a newsletter publication and community platform.
There are other things that we're working on that keep you up-to-date on everything that's going on in fintech, as well as our premium subscription offers, access to a Slack community where you can connect with other founders and experts in this space. As well as a premium newsletter that's going to be deeper dives into what's going on. It's not going to be this analysis of, “Here's what's been announced in the recent days and what you should care about.” It's going to be, “Here's what's been announced.” It’s like, “Why should I care about that,” or like, “Here's this big new trend that we're watching that's coming out.” It takes it one step further.
You do a lot of work. I see your emails and sometimes I'm like, “Is she emailing me about the podcast or is she just sending out another newsletter?” I want to know the behind-the-scenes of your creative process because curators are the new creators and the fact that they make all this content that's out there. They make it easy for us to consume. I want to know how do you consume all that and then curate it for all of us? What's the creative process?
There are different websites that I go to and this is my job of trying to make it easier for the readers. I don't want you to have to go to TechCrunch, The Journal, Bloomberg, CNBC, Finextra, and all these places to find out what's going on. I want to do that job for you. Some days are easier than others. There are some days where there's so much going on that you have to wean it down a little bit because I don't want the newsletter to be so long. Max, I want ten stories in there and even that's pushing it because we've divvied it up between company news, funding and M&A news, and then crypto news. Between all three of those, having more than ten, it gets to be such a long email.
Some days where it's like, “Okay, cool. There are these eight big stories. We're going to focus on those.” There are other days where it's like, “There are twenty different things and fifteen fundings that happen. How do I pick which one that we need to write about?” A little bit of it is my own discretion based on my years of experience in fintech. I go based on what people are posting about in the community, having questions on and seems like they are interested in.
Other times, if there's this big round in Latin America versus this tiny seed round in the US, I'm probably going to focus on that massive round in Latin America because it's like, “Latin America is hot now and it's a big ground, so probably someone like Tiger, Sequoia or something that, let it, and our community needs to know about it.”
Let’s say somebody didn't subscribe to the newsletter yet, would a good description be the Morning Brew of fintech or do you not want that comparison?
To a certain extent, yes. The free newsletter is definitely like a Morning Brew of fintech. The paid one is more of a deeper dive that would be less Morning Brew. That one would be more like a lot of the Substacks that you might subscribe to like Eric Newcomer, Casey Newton and other people that are charging a little bit of money every single month to have access to the stories and exclusive news that they're doing.
I'm curious about your team. We mentioned your husband, but what is the team that's there for you that's able to keep this constant and not burn you out?
My husband and I do most of the content and community stuff, whereas my co-founder, Parker is Chief of Staff. They do a lot of product management, thinking through what we need to launch next, helping out with a talent and job board. They are keeping me and Jordan in check on the community and content side as well.
You mentioned community. Ian told me about how that community came to be and now he has a whole Slack. What's that experience been like having to manage that and what have you learned from having to grow that organically?
I've learned that community building is a lot harder than you think it is. I've learned that Slack works well because most people are already familiar with it and how it works given their jobs. If you try to use something like Discord or something else, there's a little bit of a learning curve there that might change in the future, given that there are more and more people using it.
I've learned that every community needs some power users. You need people in there that are constantly engaging, where there's a constant stream of thoughts and whatnot. I'm not worried that there need to be hundreds of messages a day. In fact, Slack sends you analytics and most of the messages happen in private DMs versus those public boards that you and I would see.
I still want some stuff happening in those boards like, “Did you see this funding round or so-and-so is looking for a co-founder in this space. Does anyone have someone in mind?” I want that to still be happening multiple times a day. In the summer, I'm not as worried about it because everyone's gone. There definitely needs to be some people that are constantly checking and looking because if all of a sudden you have people asking questions and no one's responding, it becomes a lot less useful.
Was that a little poke of, “You want to be this,” or did you see that grow that people were so into it or how did that become a thing?
We're lucky in that a lot of people naturally did that and many of them are writers for us, too. Charley Ma writes for us and part of that is because I've known Charlie for a very long time and so has Ian. He was already posting a lot in the community. He also has done Medium posts before. He has experience writing and I'd read them. I'm like, “You know what? You would be a good guest writer for Fintech Today. We should do something.” The same thing with Jenny Johnston. She posts a lot in Slack and is one of our writers. John Collins, if you're reading this, you should post more in Slack. You're a great writer, but you never posted in the Slack and people would love to hear more about regulation.
That's interesting because I've realized that the power of niche. The benefit of fintech is you know if you're into it or not. You're not trying to find like, “How do I promote to fintech?” The moment you say fintech, people that are looking for it are going to find it. Now that I feel you have this upper hand and you have a unique name, do you ever feel there's a certain responsibility you have as, in a way, the voice of fintech? Do you think there are any cons to being a curator?
Not necessarily cons, but definitely a level of responsibility, I would say. Maybe even less so in the curator, but more so in that specialized content that we're putting out. I would never want someone to read something and be like, “This is inaccurate or read something and feel like we're missing the point.” Anytime you read something, you don't necessarily have to agree with it, but I want you to read it and come away with the feeling like, “I don't necessarily agree with that stance, but I can see why someone would get to that point and the analogy behind their thought process, too.”
That's a fair answer. With that being said though about the fintech audience, at least for your newsletter, I would say, executives, people in that background. Do you have anything that you want to do to make the common person be aware of fintech? Do you think that's necessary for whatever the products are out there?
I could see us doing that in the future. The first step between where we are now and that would be helping people that aren't familiar with fintech, but just got their first job out of Fintech company or are interviewing at fintech companies and looking to make a move into this space. They want to read up and figure out what's going on and what they should know, who they should be talking to. That's the next step then eventually, I could see us doing that something a little bit more broad-based where it's everyday crypto stuff, personal finance with fintech apps, and everything, but that's a little bit farther off.
I like that you mentioned personal finance because I'm big to that. I've been wondering I want to contribute. The one thing I've learned about personal finance is that you sometimes assume the average person knows the basics. Sometimes you might be talking to somebody and you might mention an IRA or 401(k), and they're like, “What does that mean again or how do I use that?”
It’s very detrimental because all you need to do with stuff like that is as least start as early as you can, but because people don't understand it or they're not taught that in college or school, it’s hard for them to get a grasp of that. Do you feel there's a way for you to somehow get in that lane or maybe fintech as a whole, what's it doing in that realm?
There is a lot that they're doing in the more retirement space. Robinhood wants to. I'm a little questionable about them doing that in the future. People will always think of it as more of a trading platform, gaming, gambling and stuff, but there are companies like robo-advisors. They were some of the first companies that I covered that are doing a lot on the retirement space, both from ETFs as well as I have an IRA at Betterment and they offer 401(k) products and whatnot as well.
I can tell you as someone that has had a 401(k) at a big company, the platforms that they use are so hard to understand where I find that Betterment does a good job of keeping me updated on it like, “What is my allocation? Am I on track for retirement? What could I do differently?” Things like that and I find that so useful. This is coming from someone that studied finance and I didn't even understand the stupid 401(k) stuff that Empower was trying to tell me.
I'm very grateful. I got into financial literacy because it was my first time ever interning and I interned at the company. They let the interns participate in the wealth benefits. I remember this one guy. I think his name is Robert. I can't remember the name, but shout out to Robert, if he's ever reading this. He changed my life. He's like, “Just make sure you're contributing to the 401(k).” I'm like, “Then what?”
He literally sat down with me. It was for lunch break and he walked me through all the wealth benefits and that day changed my life because growing up, my parents immigrated here from Nigeria, so they had to learn a lot of things on the ball. They didn't have that background or education. I've had to be very knowledgeable about money. Sometimes when you get it, you are scared to spend it or you don't know what to do with it because you have this fear of, “I don't want to lose this.” It's a very dear thing to my heart, so I'm always wondering how I can give back. Maybe we can talk about that in the future.
One thing I want to ask you about is because you're a little bit more knowledgeable than the average person is. You are married and finances and marriage is always taboo topic. I want to know if you're willing to share with us some details about how you and your husband, and maybe how fintech has helped you navigate that space.
We're lucky in that we both had very similar credit scores and prior to Fintech Today, we both had similar salaries. I had more in savings. I was better at being the person that was saving money and Bloomberg had a very good 401(k) plan. I had more money in that. In terms of basic things, we were very much on the same page, which a lot of people when they get married are not on that. You might have one person that has a terrible credit score and one person has a great one. One person that makes six figures and one that does some freelance work, and doesn't make as much or is unemployed for a little bit you said. It gets complicated.
I invested in a company called Ask Zeta, which is trying to tackle a lot of this problem because if you're one of those people in that relationship where you are so different, and even for me and Jordan where we are on very similar standings, it's different for you to bring it up versus Ask Zeta. It’s an app and they’ll give you prompts like, “Have you and your spouse thought about doing this instead of or changing this?” They use Plaid and other things to integrate and understand like, “Here's how much you spent last week. Here's how much you have in savings. Here's some advice that we give you.”
It's different when the app is telling you to do that versus, you're bringing it up because if the person you're talking to is like, “I don't know if we should. It's not me suggesting. It's the app suggesting. Don't get mad at me. Ask Zeta told me to do it.” We are lucky in that. I've made it, so our salaries are substantially different. I'm the Founder, so I make more, but it's not something where I'm making double or triple what he is. He also has a little bit of equity in the company.
I obviously have more of the equity and it makes it easier for Ian to say yes to these things too and like, “I'm still only paying and giving you X amount. You're deferring it up a little bit differently than what I might have done. I probably would've paid Julie a little bit more and Jordan a little bit less given the change in job titles, but it’s going to the same pot regardless.”
I've talked to some other friends about it too and some of them will do things like the mortgage payment on the house. If the one spouse makes 25% more than what the other one does, then they'll put a little bit more towards the mortgage payment than what the other one does. I do always think it's important to have some money separate that if you're going to make a big purchase on your own, for me, I'm very excited to buy the Peloton treadmill when it comes out again. Jordan loves buying expensive road bikes.
We always tell each other we're planning to do these things, but we come in it from the same standpoint of like, “It's technically their money. I'm not putting money towards it. They have the fun cash that they can do whatever they want with. That sounds good.” We do that in the understanding like if something comes up with the house that we're going to have to fix, want to go on a vacation or when you have kids that there's something you have to pay for with the kid, we still need to have money aside for that, too. We're both contributing to that.
With Ask Zeta, because I haven't used it, is it when you connect your individual accounts and then your joint account? Is there insight into like, “Jordan has this much this month.” What is the openness about the app? It is very clear and distinct on what everybody has?
You can tailor it a little bit, so you can make it so they could only see the total in that account or you could make it so they can see more about like, “Here are some of the transactions that we're going through.” You can toggle things on and off depending on what you want your spouse to see. You can mark accounts as like, “This is an account that both of us have, this is Julie’s account or this is Jordan's account,” and manage it that way a little bit, too.
You got married during the whole COVID thing. Was that right when you were about to be a whole founder? Take us through the pandemic a little bit. How was managing all that?
That was before Jordan joined us, but it was a few months after I had co-founded a company. We got engaged in Christmas 2019. We were initially going to get married in May 2021. It wasn't in during the pandemic technically that we were going to. When everything started, we're like, “Thank God we're getting married in 2021. This will be way over by then. It's going to last two weeks.”
It got closer and closer and the anxiety for me over wondering, “Am I going to be able to host 150 people? Am I not going to be able to,” and all these things that it was like, “I'm an introvert anyways. The idea of a big wedding was never that appealing to me?” We decided to elope the day after Christmas 2020. It was just us, a photographer and five of our closest friends.
When I think about elope, I always think about running off to another country and getting married. When you say eloped, you didn't tell your parents or you did tell your parents?
No, we did have a Zoom where people were joining and stuff like that, too. Eloped in the sense that we had one of our friends get ordained or whatever it is.
What did your parents react the most? Maybe you and Jordan were living together before marriage? You are eloping or are you going off to found a whole company?
Probably us living together before we got married. We ended up moving in together fairly early. It was the 5 or 6-month mark. I come from a very religious family where I remember I always wanted to live with the person before I married them because you end up learning so much more about that person living with them. You know this.
I'm filming this live from my girlfriend's apartment.
They were always very much against that idea. They waited until they were married to move in together, but the thing that made them feel a little bit more okay about it was that I was in New York and they're in Michigan. They’re like, “At least you have Jordan to protect you if something happens now.” They can feel a little bit more at ease with our baby girl in big old New York city and whatnot. The elopement, they were a big fan. One, they didn't have to spend a ton of money. The whole thing costs $5,000, so they gave us a little extra money to put towards our honeymoon and everything off of that. I think the only thing that they were sad about is my dad didn't get to walk me down the aisle, but they got it.
I'm going through that a little bit because my house is going to be finished. I don't even know at this point, but anyway I brought that up to my dad and he was like, “Wait, what? You want to live together?” It's so funny because I remember we were talking about this when I was in Austin with some of our friends and nobody even blinked an eye of living with somebody prior to marriage. For us, it makes sense. As you said, tradition and then religion, even though I Googled it, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible you can't live with somebody before you marry them.
It's been interesting having that conversation and trying to deal with that, but hopefully, we'll see what happens. That was a tangent, but I was curious to know, you had mentioned earlier one of your other gigs is you're a teacher for Equinox. How long have you been into the whole fitness? Has that been a passion of yours or where did that come from?
I've always been athletic. I played volleyball, softball and basketball for a lot of middle schools and high schools. I never did any college sports or anything, but I always loved movement and I was good at that. Whereas my sister is more of the artsy one where I can’t draw shit, my thing was always sports. After high school, I still wanted to stay active so I would do things running, going to the gym and cycling classes. When I got to New York City, I fell in love with the boutique fitness scene with a lot of cycling classes. There are some HIIT classes.
ClassPass made it very easy to test out a bunch of different options. I loved the whole aspect of music, motivating people and being on stage telling people and running a class essentially, sort of owning the room and whatnot. Probably in 2016, I auditioned for Equinox and they have a fairly short program. You audition, go through a little bit of a training process, learning how to run a class and how to pick music and then go audition to get out of it, too. I want to say it was around then and I started teaching at Equinox after that.
The most permanent classes I ever had in a week were 4 or 5. I'm just subbing at Equinox in Austin because I'm a little busy with the other things and stuff, too. It was such a good way to meet and connect with folks. Some of my best friends are people that I met at Equinox. It's such an amazing way to find people that are of similar age groups and interests and make new friends.
You're doing a lot of things on the side, running a whole company, podcast and Equinox, but I'm curious how do you even manage your day? What is it that keeps you so consistent and able to be accountable for all these different responsibilities?
Lots of being organized and waking up at 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning where it's like, “I love that time because everything else is still off.” I know no one's going to email me and bug me about something. Nothing's going to happen outside or whatever. It's time for a couple of hours of me being able to get focused, do what I want to do, and get things done.
Being a morning person is huge and then focusing on the things that you know you have to get done and are important and then things that aren't as important. If they don't get done, maybe they can wait until tomorrow. It's okay. Focus on what you need to get done, running payroll, sending that email, or getting that product out to market or whatever it is. Focus on that and let the other little things wait a little bit.
I can vouch for that. You are the best email person. You reply to an email like it's text. It's crazy. I'll reply like, “Did she already send that back?” I love that and I also even saw a little preview of your calendar. Has that been a big thing that helps you using that very actively?
Having that for like, “This podcast is going to go out this day or this newsletter is going to go out this day or here are my meetings for the day.” The other key is always make sure that if it's a meeting of some sort, you have a ten-minute reminder because if you don't have the reminder, then there's a much better chance that I forget and five minutes later, I'm like, “I had a meeting with so and so right now. I need to log on.”
I learned that in college because I use Google calendar. Now I make it so that every single meeting has a set default 15 and 1-hour reminder. I remember I was late for a study session and the test didn't go too well. I want to comment on you saying that waking up early because I used to think that I was a night person. I remember even tweeting one time like, “My mind comes alive in the nighttime.”
I realized I was saying that because I was procrastinating the whole day and I waited until 2:00 AM or whatever to do stuff. Now I've been forcing myself to go to sleep at 11:00 and it sucks because sometimes you want to work on something, but it's way better to wake up naturally at 6:00 the next day and start grinding. I've definitely learned that. I know we're wrapping up here, but one thing I'm always curious about is when I've interview people that are doing all these great things and they're known for this. Let's say somebody didn't know you or you want to have a certain legacy, what would you want to be known for?
That’s such a good question, but also such a tough one, too. I would say making a difference. You don't need to be known for making a lot of money, having a ton of friends or running this massive company or anything. Having a positive impact, whether how big or small, I want to be remembered for that.
Somebody had sent me a message one day. I posted a story because I try to post insightful things that I see when I'm reading a newsletter or on the internet. They send me this long message of like, “Thank you for all this stuff.” It hit me because I never knew the impact you're making. Sometimes I even get overwhelmed. I feel I'm doing too much, not doing it enough, or not doing it right. What you said, making a difference is very important to me because I think about my life and the opportunities I had.
I got to America because of a freaking lottery. That's so random, so I try to take as many days I can for granted and I feel being able to help your fellow person is one of the best feelings. I’m not selfish. I want to help you selflessly, so I feel good. That was a great answer and to follow up on that, if you weren't doing Fintech Today, if you weren't known as a Julie VerHage-Greenberg, what do you think you would like to be doing on a daily basis?
It still would be something in fintech because I feel this space in particular, there's so much that we can do to have a positive impact. I don't know exactly what it would be, but I do think it would be something in this space, too.
I wanted to ask you about your maiden name. Was that a thing that you always knew that you're going to keep the VerHage in your name or did you get to the point of everybody already knew you as Julie VerHage?
I think because everyone already knew me as Julia Julie VerHage, so legally it's Julie Verhage-Greenberg. I’ve got the other one in there too, but I was giving up VerHage. Our kids will have Greenberg as their last name, but I was like, “It's just easier.” People won't get confused that way and stuff, so it makes more sense.
For some reason, the first time I met you, I remember I thought that was your middle name. I was like, “She really likes her middle name because she says the whole thing on her podcast.” This has been great. To go back to making a difference, that's one of the reasons that I created this show is to show my journey as a content creator, but also to interview other people, to inspire people to also create content. If I had to ask you one question of words of advice, I would love to know what words of advice would you give to somebody on how to best create the life that you want to live?
I would say mentors and people that you look up to are the biggest things, someone you can reach out to and ask for advice. It's priceless finding the right person or two for that. You can ask them like, “I feel I'm managing too much. How do I fix this? I am thinking about launching something new or thinking moving into a new career. What are your thoughts?” Having someone that you trust and who is there for you when you need them makes all the difference.
How have you gone about finding that or working with that?
My first boss in New York definitely was a hard boss, but he still to this day is there whenever I need advice or anything. There were a number of VCs that I worked with while I was at Bloomberg for different stories and staying up-to-date on everything that was going on that they became more than the person I had talked to about stories that were going on. It would be a person that I'd reach out to. When I was thinking about leaving Bloomberg and stuff that, to make sure like, “Am I crazy for wanting to leave Bloomberg? This is a good cushy gig. Do I want to do something new?” Unanimously, the answer was yes, go do something new. That was a good thing.
That's one thing I've probably have got to work on the most is the whole mentor thing because I always feel like I want that person to have time for me or be able to dedicate time, so I always feel bad because I feel they're doing so much dope things that like, “How can they give this much time?” I've been doing a little bit better trying to be open and asking questions. I appreciate those words of advice.
You’ll find that most people, despite how busy they are, like helping people, especially promising young folks, so don't be so scared to do it.
I’m promising? Thank you, Julie.
Even though you went to Michigan.
I love the callback, but for people that want to follow and support you, where can we find you? What should we do? Just promote yourself.
It's @JulieVerHage on Twitter and follow us at FintechToday.co. You can sign up for our free newsletter, paid newsletter and the Slack community. Everything is right on that website for you and then you also obviously need to check out Tux Time, the show that Pol produces. That's on any podcast platform.
It is soon to be on YouTube. I'm working on that and then we'll see how that blows things up. Thank you so much for your time, being so open and for being a pal. To anybody reading, always remember to stay creative. Peace.
Thank you for tuning into that creative conversation. I hope it was able to inspire you. If you'd like to continue getting inspired, there are three main ways you can do that. One is to watch all the YouTube videos. That's the full-length episodes and also clips, to get a little preview about what each episode might be about.
Two, you can go to all podcast platforms, which are Apple Podcasts and Spotify, or wherever you happen to listen to podcasts. Please feel free to leave a rating or review just to help me out and also get word of mouth out there. Three is to subscribe to Pol and Pals Newsletter, which is basically a written summary of each episode, in addition to my takeaway, so that I give what the episode made me think about what I got from it. Without further ado, always remember to stay creative.