Most CEOs don’t make their grand public debut in a new city by doing donuts in a speeding truck, then crawling out from the window to applause and wild screams.
Even for Domm Holland, the wakeboarding, skydiving founder of online payment services startup Fast, that was a new one.
“We were given about three minutes of practice getting out of the truck about five minutes before the event — and it was raining,” Holland said with a laugh. “But it was a lot of fun.”
It was a Bransonesque first impression for the self-styled “world’s fastest CEO.” At Fast’s Aug. 3 press event launching the company’s first East Coast hub in Tampa, the Australian Holland was flanked by celebrities like the Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov and the Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier, with aerial and water stunts taking place in nearby Garrison Channel.
Standing out in a crowd has helped Fast grow, well, rapidly. The San Francisco company operates as a one-click stop for online payments, meaning no more new accounts and logins at Fast-enabled retailers. Since 2019, it’s drawn more than $120 million in funding, including a $20 million investment from global online payment giant Stripe. Locally, it’s teamed with the Lightning to enable Fast Checkout at TampaBaySports.com; Holland says a wider partnership is planned this fall at Amalie Arena.
Holland, his wife and two kids moved to Tampa over Independence Day after splitting much of the pandemic between San Francisco, Palo Alto and Australia. Tampa, he said, reminds him a bit of their native Brisbane, a coastal hub with a river down the middle and plenty of modern infrastructure. Several senior executives have joined him here. And while the company has encouraged remote work all over the country, Holland anticipates growing Tampa’s workforce in the coming months.
“We do think it’s a great quality of life and it’s a great place to live,” he said. “I have no minimum, hard requirements for anyone to be here in Tampa, or to be based in a Tampa office. But I think that we’re going to see a lot. Having senior people here, from the CEO to the global head of engineering to senior engineers, there’s no question we’re going to attract more engineering talent into the Tampa office.”
Over Zoom recently from Fast’s coworking space in Sparkman Wharf, Holland, 34, talked about the future of Fast, and why he leans into his outsized tech-exec persona. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
This role of the colorful, larger-than-life CEO is something of an archetype in the tech world. How and why did you decide to embrace this persona as the way you want to publicly run a company?
Let me tell you, our head of communications would love it if I wasn’t jumping out of planes. So it’s definitely not a strategy. I also wouldn’t classify myself as an adrenaline junkie, to be frank. I did say to one of my VPs recently, ‘I consider myself to be very laid-back.’ And she’s like, ‘You’re one of the most intense people I’ve ever met in my life.’ So maybe I don’t see myself in the same way as others.
The reality is, if you think about our investors and what we’re doing, my job is to take risks. We’re here to build big businesses, and try and do really difficult things, and it’s a super high-stress activity. There’s no better way to not think about the stresses than being in a super-stressful environment where you’re fighting for survival, basically. It would be a hard thing for investors to expect somebody to take a lot of risks professionally all the time, and then suddenly go home and crochet.
At some point in your development as an entrepreneur, though, there has to be a choice to go with a more buttoned-down look or a more colorful persona. Were there CEOs or business leaders that you looked at and said, ‘That’s the path I see myself walking’?
I haven’t lived at home since I was 14. My parents will tell you that I’ve just always done my thing. I got my first tattoo when I was 14. It’s not about extreme activities; I think a lot of founders have a different lens on the world. It’s true to my character to be like that.
At the same time, it is good marketing. Fast has a big social presence. You’re a big, bright personality at the top of the company. You sell apparel and have celebrities at launch events. Do you have a philosophy behind good corporate marketing?
Honestly, I think part of it is just having a lot of fun. Is somebody watching having fun? Are we having fun? If we’re having fun, people are probably having fun watching it. B2B companies, especially, find it hard to think like that. They’re like, “All right, we need to explain a whole bunch of features to this audience” — but your job is not to explain features, it’s to build excitement. How do we make people feel excited? If we’re doing exciting things, and if we’re showcasing exciting things, then people are going to feel that excitement.
What have you learned over the last 18 months about how people shop and consume goods online?
Ecommerce was already a very hot, in-demand spot pre-COVID. Every year, the growth and shift of traditional retail to online was significant. We were solving a problem that billions of people have every day. COVID increased the amount of online spending for those people. Everyone’s parents suddenly started buying groceries online for the first time. And that’s not going to stop, is it? It’s not just millennial women that are buying more stuff online, it’s more traditional shoppers that have converted. So the very core problem that we set out to solve on day one just became a much bigger issue for more people.
I associate Fast with retail. Are financial services an area in which you see the company growing?
Financial services, definitely. We’re considered a fintech as a business; we sit at the intersection of financial services and ecommerce. And both of those spaces are very interesting to us. But to be frank, great engineers have worked in lots of different categories. Some of the biggest companies out there build software for logistics or shipping companies, or whatever else. They’re transferable skills. It’s really about having great engineer talent.