Not all great entrepreneurs have the same style or build their businesses the same way, but certain qualities and visions in each of the 10 greatest clearly demonstrate why each of them were able to be so successful. In this article I read, the “10 Greatest Entrepreneurs” included Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Charles Merrill, Sam Walton, Charles Schwab, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates. These people created products that changed the world, redefined entire industries, and they are rightly known as the World’s Greatest Entrepreneurs. I have never had the pleasure of working with anybody on the list, but I have worked for two entrepreneurs that are pretty incredible.
Bill Clerico and Rich Aberman graduated from BC in 2007 and founded WePay in 2008. In 2017 they sold their company to JP Morgan Chase for $400 million. I think their story is as good as any other story about the worlds greatest entrepreneurs, and is one that is incredibly relatable to everybody in this Tech Trek class because this is where their passion for entrepreneurship really started. Bill and Rich came up with the original idea for WePay because they ran into a problem. They lived with other friends off campus at Boston College and their landlord wanted the monthly rent to be paid in one check instead of getting a separate check from each tenant. Bill and Rich then came up with their idea, a group payment platform that would make monthly rent, group trips, and any sort of group activity where multiple people are paying, much easier. WePay has transformed over the journey of its life, but it remains connected to this idea of group payments.
When Bill and Rich graduated, Bill went to work at an investment bank, and Rich was headed to law school. They were traveling down different paths, but the idea that they come up with their junior year at BC was still in the back of both of their minds. Because Bill hated working at the bank and Rich didn’t think law school was right for him, they decided to go all in with their idea and commit to starting the company in 2008. All jokes aside, the two of them stayed committed to their idea, and more importantly to each other ever since they came up with it when discussing off campus rent.
WePay is now the leading payments company for platform businesses like marketplaces and crowdfunding sites. Bill and Rich have dealt with plenty of adversity on this journey of starting a company, but their entrepreneurial mindset and constant innovation resulted in building a company recognized as one of the fastest growing private companies in the U.S., being on multiple best places to work lists, and being acquired by JP Morgan Chase for $400 million.
The Tech Trek West class visited WePay in years past and my guess is that everybody in the room believed Bill and Rich were great entrepreneurs, and were encouraged by the idea that two people from BC can create something so exciting, so quickly. I interned at WePay and got to really learn what makes these two guys so special. At WePay every single employee is excited about coming into work. The office is very cool, with a nice open floor plan. The people are very friendly, lunch is catered everyday, there is a bi-weekly all hands meetings that Bill runs, and the different teams at the company are all run in a very efficient way. Bill and Rich somehow found a way to create a company culture that is laid back and fun to be a part of, but also very driven because people work very hard to make sure things get done. This combination resulted in WePay being a place where people want to work, and a company that is trusted and loved by its customers.
The greatest thing about WePay’s success is how relatable it is. This phenomenal company started when two juniors at BC had a problem with paying rent. Bill and Rich were backed by YCombinator and Highland Capital Partners, and their idea was able to become a reality. That is what entrepreneurship is about to me. Bill and Rich were passionate about fixing a problem, and they were able to build a team early and receive financing, and they worked to build a company in a new and growing online payments market.
Whenever the idea of entrepreneurship comes up, Bill and Rich talk about it in a way that is very encouraging and not completely unfathomable. To the two of them starting WePay was never some crazy idea. They saw a problem, they have always wanted to start a company, they were passionate about building something great, and they were able to make it happen by building a great team and constantly adapting. Their story is why entrepreneurship is so exciting, and is a huge reason why I am taking this Tech Trek class and so interested in startups. Bill and Rich’s story shows me that it is all about the people and the problem they are trying to solve. I am extremely excited to meet and read about many other similar entrepreneurs in this class this semester!