Entrepreneurship Podcast post

I Am Unstoppable with Edrizio De La Cruz

George Grombacher September 14, 2023

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I Am Unstoppable with Edrizio De La Cruz

LifeBlood: We talked about how to get to the point where you can feel and know “I am unstoppable,” the qualities which are necessary for success as a startup Founder, deciding to be a victor instead of a victim, and how to shape your perspective to your benefit with Edrizio De La Cruz, former Y Combinator Visiting Partner who sold his company to MasterCard.       

Listen to learn the two things that make Edrizio different!

Ex-Y Combinator Visiting Partner shares 7 principles on how to turn obstacles into opportunities in his new book
In The Underdog Founder. Edrizio De La Cruz shares his odyssey as a Dominican immigrant who grew up in Harlem, dropped out of college and the US Air force, to become aircraft technician and help makes ends meet. He later returned to college, worked on Wall Street, and earned his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2013, Edrizio co-founded Arcus, a fintech company that was backed by Y Combinator, Citi Ventures, SoftBank, and Ignia. In 2021, the company was ultimately sold to Mastercard.

You can learn more about Edrizio at EdrizioDeLaCruz.com, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Edrizio De La Cruz

Edrizio De La Cruz

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Jury zo de la Cruz is a former Y Combinator visiting partner he is Dominican immigrant raised in Harlem after initially dropping out of college joining the Air Force. He eventually went on to receive his MBA from Wharton, co founded Arcus, which was eventually acquired by MasterCard. He is the author of the upcoming book, the underdog founder how to go from unseen to unstoppable. Welcome to Drizzy.

Edrizio de la Cruz 0:28
Hey, George, thank you so much for that kind of intro. Thank you for having me excited to talk to you. Yeah, excited to have you on the show. Tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do?

Absolutely. So as I mentioned, I wound up writing a book called the underdog founder. And what I discover is, it’s all about educating people and empowering people to look at their obstacles and thriving life not in spite of their obstacles because of them. So to dig deeper into, like my background, I, my first endeavor entrepreneurship was actually selling globalist, in front of my house. When I was growing up in Santo Domingo, I used to sell those for about 25 cents, and it uses the proceeds to buy actual candles for my family, because sometimes electricity will go up after that, emigrated to Harlem, which was kind of a rude awakening to what New York was this early 90s Be Giuliani and just witness a lot witnessed a lot from, you know, being assaulted, being robbed at gunpoint being exposed to gang violence, police brutality, I lost my best friend to again, all by the age of 18. So that was my worldview. By the time I was 18. So I had a choice, I can either be a victim or can be a victor. I tried to escape my my circumstances by going to college and joining the Air Force. But that was short lived, because my parents needed my help making ends meet. But one that dropped out of both to become an airplane airplane mechanic. Believe it or not, I was an airplane mechanic for six years at VIP airport, and decided to go back to college, age 22. wanting me to college, then City College. And after that for so many years, kind of going back and forth ebbs and flows. I decided, hey, if I’m going to go back to college miles will get the best job in the world. And at the time, that was investment banking, by investment banks didn’t want a Dominican immigrant that came from the projects as an investment banker. So I just kept studying, kept kind of honing my skills, kept doing research kept working, until I broke in as an intern, and parlay that internship into a full time offer at JPMorgan. And after that, it’s kind of like, wow, this is such a shift in my life doors because it was gone from being a blue collar worker, wearing coveralls working nights and weekends, coming home spending like fuel to now wearing a Brooks Brothers suit with my own assistant. So that was a that was a 180 Complete 180. And what happens is that you tend to believe more yourself. So instead of imposter syndrome, I kind of believe more that I could do more. So that’s when I discovered kind of like I believed, and I wanted to be in that ecosystem because all my colleagues at JPMorgan were finding leaks, I decided I was gonna apply. But there’s a test called the GMAT, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, that runs from like, zero to 100. So typically, to get into an Ivy League, you gotta get like a 750, I wound up getting a 570 That was my highest score, man. And, and I apply and I said to myself, Hey, I’m going to apply with my story. Now my score. That’s, that’s who I am. I’m not a number. I must I must story and, you know, I am all about distance travel. I apply long haul I got in and again, you know, reading to Wharton was another kind of another leap, you know, being surrounded with people that were just smarter than me and have what the compasses life just kept opening my horizons. And I just kept kind of feeding kind of my competence. To the point where I said to myself, when I finished business school, I’m going to start a company and that’s competent, fell into 13, which I ultimately thought, MasterCard and 2021. What a story. And thank you, brother. Thank you.

george grombacher 4:36
I think it’s extraordinary. And there’s so many valuable things. I’m interested in talking more about the making the decision to either be a victim or a victor. I’m interested in, in thinking about yourself as just a number and a large sea of numbers or seeing yourself as an individual. These are all really, really important things. But just your perspective, how, how much were you thinking about your perspective moving from selling 25 cent guavas to living in a really horrible environment in Harlem, you know, it’s like, or is it just day to day.

Edrizio de la Cruz 5:19
I kind of just at that time, at that age, I would love to figure it out. But I was just kind of going rolling with the punches as best as I could. Part of me felt like, I was always a fish out of water. Like I grew up in Dominican Republic, where everybody is a great dancer, a great baseball player, I am neither. I was, I was this chubby kid that have members that couldn’t dance and couldn’t get a fastball. So I just, I was fished out over there. And then I emigrated to South Bronx, a Harlem and you know, with the limited naked in the projects, where I just couldn’t speak English. And I just wasn’t as cool as everybody else. But I think being a fish out of water in every ecosystem, when it was from Domingo Harlem, or, you know, every maintenance or JP Morgan to Wharton kind of gave me an advantage. Because if I could never feel comfortable. And I was always, I always had the perspective that I’m going to learn from my environment. And I am going to work my ass off no matter what, no matter what circumstances. And if I could do those two things, something good will eventually happen. Like, I have no idea what’s going to happen. And I have no control of environments reacts. But I do have control on how I approach it from a learner mindset. And what I do, which is be maniacal about execution and getting things done, I’m working really hard moving as fast as possible. And I was never the smartest kid or the most network kid. I just knew I had those things in me. And if I kept doing that over and over again, ultimately, I was an excuse, which is ultimately how I think I got here today.

george grombacher 7:09
Yeah, turns out you’re right.

Edrizio de la Cruz 7:14
Yes, yeah. And that’s exactly what I want to like teach in the book. I want to give that perspective, by not give the perspective from here I am, follow what I did. But in fact, the opposite is like, the other things that I did wrong. These are some of the things I did, right. So you, the reader can put into perspective, and can take that knowledge and apply it to where they are. The book, I take the approach of kind of being radically candid about all my errors, mistakes, failures and lessons learned on the way. It was funny, I was talking with my lead investor. He was like I told him like, you when you read the book, you probably regret it. You funded me. I put out all my dirty laundry. Like, yeah. So it’s really funny. I think that’s I think that’s the weird learned.

george grombacher 8:10
How do you think about not today versus just just today? That sense of urgency, and knowing how important time is and execution is and being patient and waiting for things to come?

Edrizio de la Cruz 8:26
That’s an excellent question. That’s an I struggle with that every day. So in the interest of urgency, I, I’ve learned that good things happens to those who wait while they hustle. So there are things that are inherently just take long, there are processing like these take a long time, by nature, whether you are talking about enterprise sales, we’re talking about fundraising, we’re talking about like, having a baby takes nine months, right. But that outside of control, there are things inside of your control that you can do. There are things that you can learn, there are ways to prepare. There are different processes, you can run parallel to each other. And again, I’m a big fan of like optimizing, nap for results by by poor learning. And when you take that approach, you’re less upset, right? The other results and the best case study, just fundraising. One of the narratives I shared in the book is when we go on to raise our Series A so went to racing series in 2017. And we were out in market, one month in and we had 20 meetings, no results. 50 meetings, the results. 100 meetings, no results on employee for meetings. One Yes. That was in August 2017. I had just gotten married. I was super excited. I was on top of the world. I got a $10 million term sheet from one of the five biggest bank in the United States. I’m excited But banks being banks, they take a long time to do diligence. So we signed a term sheet, and it’s a two month timeframe. And then it’s a month I was going to actually fly to Phoenix for a conference. And in that conference, I was going to announce the deal. $10 million term sheet with a bank and we have a customer boom. Three days before the closing, I get a call. From my contact at the bank, in Russia, there’s somebody I need you to speak with him. And he sound not exciting. I think the call out of the office because I suspect this something. And the gentleman on the other line. He’s in Texas, I had a German accent. So immediately I was thrown off. i He tells me a visa, we decided that we’re not going to do this deal. And immediately that hit me like a Mack truck doors. I didn’t know what to do. I try to bargain. So you’re gonna do 5,000,004 321? No, we’re not going to do it. Mind you, I only have four weeks of runway. I say I will. I’m flying to this conference. Anyway, I am not going back in the office until I fix this. I take my I take the flight up to New York to Phoenix. I think about 35 investors. Some of the say no, some say maybe in one says yes, come over. But that one investor, their partners are in Mexico. So I need to fly to Phoenix, Mexico. No problem, not the flights. I get on the plane. Thanks to my hiccup what happens if you recall, in 2017, there was an earthquake in Mexico, one of the largest earthquake on record. That to happen the same day, I was flying into Maine. We do an emergency landing meeting gets pushed. And I said to myself, You know what? I will not get on that plane until I screw the situation. What are you going to go bankrupt on but I’m not going to go get on that plane. So I wait for about a week, get my meeting. It’s in Spanish that never really pitched in Spanish. But I nailed the doors. I got I got the desk almost the same day. And I took that death. And I ran it all the way to an $8 million series A which we announced on the Wall Street Journal in November 2017. So nice job, man. Thanks. Thank you, brother. And it’s the ebbs and flows absent flows, journey. Things like that happen all the time. But it’s because of the experiences that I had early on. It allowed me to be better prepared for those types of situations.

george grombacher 12:43
1,000% and just Yeah, instead of saying, Oh, well, you know, I guess we’ll go do something else. Like, no, I’m not going to stop until I unscrew the situation or I, you know, I fix this or whatever it takes. And if I need to fly to Mexico, and if there happens to be an earthquake while I’m flying there, and I have to wait a week, then I’ll do that. And I have my hand. Even though I don’t really know, I’m that’s not something I do all the time, then I’ll do that too.

Edrizio de la Cruz 13:14
Yeah, and it’s just that approach the mentality and the attitude that I I discuss in depth in the book that things will go wrong. As a founder of an entrepreneur, you can’t control how things happen. But you can control how you react to them. Life is 10% What happens 90% How you react to them. Now having the approach on the attitude. Boyd mentality, if you will, that that things will go wrong, but it’s how you react to them and how you approach them with the mindset that really makes you a winner. Amen.

george grombacher 13:50
What if they would have asked you to dance or throw a fastball?

Edrizio de la Cruz 13:55
Thank God they didn’t, man. I got in bed at the dancing part. But baseball card number. I’m good at fantasy baseball. Okay. I’m forfeiting my league right now.

george grombacher 14:06
Someone tells me you would have figured it out. As Do you think my perception as as you just kind of look out and you’re looking at social media and reading stuff on the internet, is that we are experiencing a time where a lot of people are leaning into victimhood and almost celebrating victimhood, which is contrary to your entire existence. Do you think that that’s a real thing that’s going on right now or is it overblown?

Edrizio de la Cruz 14:39
No, I agree with the sentiment. I think you’re right. I think that a lot of folks, I think comes from a good place. I think it comes from an uneducated place, unfortunately, of getting what you want and what you need. And I think that what tends to happen is Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of folks out there reaching out to those folks and providing a different perspective, which is part of the reason why I wrote the book, I think a dramatic, dramatically different approach to it. And look, likely things will happen. And life is not fair. But there’s different ways, different mindsets, mentalities, that can help you get to a particular goal. It’s all about the goal. And it’s all about like, how do I shift the mindset? What can I do in order to radically improve my chances of getting to that goal? And that’s what I go into depth in the book, right? In the book, I have a chapter called Find your field. And I talked about, you know, one of the lessons I learned is, to win the game, you got to understand the game, you know, and when it comes to BC, specifically, you need to understand how VCs operate. You know, what I’ve been mandate, I think I will make selections. and myself included. I didn’t know that early on. And you know, I was someone that will get angry a lot of VCs, but helping understanding what happens behind the scenes. Not only you can empathize more, but improves your chest.

george grombacher 16:18
Yeah, I appreciate that. And being able to effectively channel, all those emotions that, you know, undoubtedly go through that we all go through from being pissed off angry and excited and elated and be able to just keep doing what you need to be doing. Sometimes in spite of those who sometimes because of those feelings.

Edrizio de la Cruz 16:40
Yes. Yeah, that’s exactly right. One of the things I talked about in the book is this notion of stoicism. In the last chapter, you know, I talked about how I was going through in 2020, which is a dark time for a lot of us. You know, in my personal situation, you know, I, my wife, and I had just, you know, miscarriage our first baby, I lost my grandmother to COVID. I had lost my co founder parted ways, and he was my best friend for 50 years. And my other co father wanted me out of company. So I was like, temporarily outside, all these things happened, like stuck in like, one six month timeframe. And I just told him, it’s kind of this deep bout of depression and just kind of like lack of self belief. And that’s when I picked up the book on stoicism, called meditations by Marcus Aurelius. And I stumbled upon like one quote, that just completely kind of radically shifted my mindset, which was the impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way become the way and that’s when really this mindset for me, you know, you know, Marcus Aurelius, you know, the Roman emperor, he opens the book by just thanking everyone that doubted him and try to kill him while he was Emperor. He talked about how those things actually made him stronger. You know, the concept of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger isn’t a story that really comes from that book. And it’s a pretty interesting mindset that to adapt. And it’s been adopted by a lot of entrepreneurs, because it is so practical, it’s become kind of a entrepreneurs, religion, if you will, if there is such a thing, because it’s so functional and practical and pragmatic. So, you know, I was going to write this I was going to actually title the book that story father for a while, but that book definitely change my mind and my life in terms of how I approach everything. And from that, you know, I got out of my funk and went up actually raising Thursby from Softbank and city and then got into promass car and that growing the business and one of the seven Tasker kind of a year later, I love it

george grombacher 18:53
doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. The entrepreneurs religion. You know, you just never know you open the book and you read a sentence written 1000s of years ago and it just hits you like a truck, you know?

Edrizio de la Cruz 19:08
Yeah, it did for me, man. I was I was got sent. I was I was just looking randomly. I’m a big reader. So just I’m just looking at random but I wanted to look at something different. And just stumble upon that on Amazon order. And lo and behold kind of just completely radically changed my paradigm

george grombacher 19:31
magazine as your book will do for someone else. So a measure is you thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you and how can they get a copy of the underdog founder how to go from unseen to unstoppable

Edrizio de la Cruz 19:48
Thank you George so they can go to my website if it Ethio de la cruz.com

george grombacher 19:53
Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed this as much as I did, showed resale your your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who all So appreciate good ideas, go to a three co de la cruz.com It’s Ed RIZIO de la cruz.com. And check out all the great resources get your copy of the underdog founder and track along and follow along with all things addressed to their Thanksgiving JCL.

Edrizio de la Cruz 20:23
Thanks so much, George. I really appreciate it.

george grombacher 20:24
And until next time, remember, do your part like doing your best

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