Eli Wachs

Eli Wachs|Investor Update

March 1, 2023|7 min. read

Losing the Super Bowl: Learning from Loss (Update #)

My hometown Eagles lost the Super Bowl last month. I didn’t bring this up to many people, but many people brought it up to me. Not the loss—most people are far nicer than Philly sports fans. But the anticipation. Countless people asked me in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl run how I felt about it.

I feigned excitement. How could I not? I went to an all-boys school from Kindergarten until I graduated high school, before going to a college where a lot of my close friends were on the football team, some of whom would even go on to the NFL. And I truly loved the Eagles growing up. But I just didn’t care about this run all that much. Everyone I knew wanted them to win. I certainly didn’t want them to lose.

But I think I got way more out of their loss than if they had won. I think a victory would have just resulted in more apathy from my side, but a loss caused me to reflect on why I didn’t care. Perhaps in this guilt, I started watching post-game press conferences, and for the first time fell for Eagles QB Jalen Hurts.

Jalen is a phenomenal player—he finished number two in MVP voting for the year. But what impressed me more was Jalen’s phenomenal press conference after the loss. He embodies grace and leadership. He remarks that “you either win or you learn.” The team captain is able to reflect on cherishing the good mixed amidst the sting of such a loss. In my mind, the only way things can hurt is because we were able to care. And we were only able to care because of all of the good wins we had to put us in that position. Jalen is quick to resolve this paradox: derive joy from how they got there, and then learn from the pain and agony of the loss.

It reminded me of another press conference I loved, also given after a defeat. Israel (Izzy) Adesanya is one of the greatest UFC fighters of his generation. He’s a bit of a quirky guy—which is fine; I certainly am too. But I wasn’t necessarily his biggest fan as he went on an unprecedented winning streak. He then tried to accomplish a rare feat and become the champion of a second division by going up in weight. Izzy was known for his confidence—which would border on arrogance. I was surprised when he did a presser after his first loss in the UFC. Not only did he speak, I’d never seen him so calm as he patiently took every single question. He had no regrets. He was proud of himself for “daring to be great.”

In sports—and life—we glorify the winner, and tell their story. I learned a lot more from Jalen and Izzy when they lost than when they won. Perhaps because everyone is open to talking after they win to tell how they got there. But the “loser” often may have a more compelling story. Jalen led a team to a super bowl. They were the second-best team in the NFL in 2023. Adesanya was still the champion of another division. They had stories to tell and were brave to tell them. I’m cognizant that the only two times I’ve spoken about failure now were the month we came out of stealth and now our first month after going live with our first customer. I picked high points to feel safer to be vulnerable.

The topic of vulnerability is one that I’ve been especially focused on this month. In addition to watching that Jalen presser to start the month, I read The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown(to be honest, I listened to an audible of this. Normally I would still say I read it, but the audible was of her giving a six-part lecture on the topic, so I’ll come clean). Brene speaks about how vulnerability is the acknowledgment that we can not selectively control our emotions or how we want to engage with ourselves. To Brene, “vulnerability is not about winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up even when you can’t control the outcome.” Vulnerability can be difficult for people like me who are obsessed with that control.

To be honest, I even think a lot of my vulnerability in past updates can sometimes be performative. I mean what I write, but I sometimes write things because they are a level of vulnerability with which I am comfortable but believe will come across well to those who read the updates. I joke that my updates take a few months to resonate with me. A few months after my update on The Rehearsal, I found myself becoming more empathetic. The same could be said with vicissitudes and viewing life more from the lens of an integral. I do think by merely starting conversations—with ourselves and others—of topics that are perhaps unchartered, we can start a process of embracing those beliefs. A final quote from Brene, which seems especially apropos given this update: “vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”

We talk a lot about winning gracefully, yet I’ve never heard much of a discussion of how to lose with that same etiquette. Perhaps it is because I think “lose” can be improperly applied. What does one specifically “lose” in life? The Eagles lost the Super bowl. But I think the season was a definitive success.

To be honest, I in part love these press conferences because I want to get better at losing. And I don't view that sentence as remotely defeatist. As I’ve written, the sum of progress—the integral—is positive. But the derivatives are not. It’s amazing that we have customers using Footprint now. For the numbers game we are playing, and with what we need to prove, that is a great result. But it is also comical the amount of nos that I get each day along the way. Let me say: I don’t think about them. I often put them in a Keep In Touch column in our CRM—to just push back the victory until a future date. If you view each of those small meetings as defeat, I think it would be a defeating mindset.

I don’t know why I woke up the day after the Eagles lost the Super Bowl and cared more that day about the team than any day in their magical run to the game. Yes, it’s easier to miss what we don’t have. And yes, the whole year they were just, well, good, and I expected them to keep being, well, good. Perhaps because seeing the vulnerabilities can be more powerful than seeing the strengths. I respected Izzy so much because he jeopardized his own legacy and a perfect record in his own weight class to try to do something no one asked him to do. He was no longer in it to prove people wrong—he wanted to prove himself right. But as Jalen said, a loss can help you memorialize and celebrate the wins that go you there.

I wrote about my Grandma Roz in Update 6. She was the most optimistic person I have ever known, and very much remains an inspiration to me. After she died, I started a daily gratitude journal, where I write down one good thing that happened that day before going to bed. I’ve done it for the past 1,801 days since she passed. Optimists change the world. It also sounds pretty miserable to me to live with a different mindset.

But what if loss and defeat weren’t the opposite of victory and optimism? I don’t think we should glorify “losing”. But this all goes back to how we define losing. I think we should "lose more”. In fact, I think Footprint has a better chance at success in the long term if we lose more each week. Because we already do it in small ways.

Since the Super Bowl, I added another nighttime ledger. I call it my Jalen Journal. I write one lesson a week from a mistake I made. My Roz journal brings me close to my Grandma—I do it to feel optimistic and move our integral forward. The nascent Jalen journal is where I learn. Don’t just move onto the next one. Look at the mistakes, learn, and then win the next one.

I’ll admit that perhaps I was so caught up in Footprint I was unable to give the same care I usually would to my hometown team. The moments after the loss for the first time let me realize all that the team had accomplished to get there. It’s a good lesson—the first one in my Jalen journal: “1. Enjoy the journey: Don’t wait until an ending feat to celebrate the wins.”

In a way I needed to feel the loss of the Super Bowl to remember why the team used to excite me. Life is forgetting feelings to rediscover them. Like a good (Avicii) song. We sometimes need to forget to rediscover. We need to acknowledge mistakes to appreciate our limits as humans and build armor where it is needed. I'm much more confident Jalen win the Super Bowl next year due to his ability to learn from this experience. And I'll be excited to watch that journey in real time.


Goals From Last Month
A note here—going forward we will be publishing a change log of monthly product development
Company Top Focus

KYB Early preview

  • Finish scoping and start implementing our KYB offering. Goal is to get an “early preview” mode of KYB by end of Feb.--Done 
  • Vendor Integrations--Signed
  • Footprint flow plugin--In-progress
  • Data model + APIs--In-progress
  • Designs for Dashboard (Target: March)--Done

KYC/Core Product

  • Continue advancing our core KYC product offering
  • Redacted Data Vendor integration--Signing this week to complete
  • Iterate on early feedback and issues we discover via Footprint Live

Vault Proxy

  • Take our initial early ‘alpha’ version to production-ready for customers--Shipping next week

Additional Product Features Shipped

  • Major developer experience improvements to sandbox testing
  • Launched Webhooks
  • Biometric/pass-key support now works on desktop

Goals For this Month/Quarter End

  • Ship KYB

Other Notes

  • It was very cool to see a Footprint customer migrate all previously onboarded records into Footprint vaulting this month. To me this is a testament to the fact that we truly have built a security company—there is no KYC company that would have even offered this functionality.
  • On the note of being a security-first company, Footprint is now officially on the AWS Nitro Enclave website as one of five featured companies to deploy the technology to customers.
  • One of the features we mentioned last month was building out our IAM. It was great to see a Footprint customer start using that feature before we had even told them about the product shipping!
  • I was on Zach Pettet’s For Fintech’s Sake podcast speaking about Footprint.

Where we could use help

  • Always looking to meet rockstar frontend engineers
  • And would love to speak to the below companies :)

Company Intros

  1. Earnin
  2. Line
  3. Kafene
  4. Carputty
  5. Level
  6. Backer
  7. Best Egg
  8. Jenius Bank
  9. Sila
  10. SecureSave
  11. Paceline
  12. Bankjoy
  13. Apto Payments
  14. Papaya
  15. Spiral

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