Ep. 80 - Doing Business Globally With Ripple SVP Of Global Operations, Eric Van Miltenburg

Ep. 80 - Doing Business Globally With Ripple SVP Of Global Operations, Eric Van Miltenburg

Eric van Miltenburg is the SVP of Global Operations at Ripple. In this episode, Eric dives into international operations and the tools you can use to identify target markets in the fintech industry. Eric and Cameron Herold probe into the differences in cultures around the world and why it’s important to adjust accordingly, especially when you’re the COO of an international company with offices around the world. Eric shares his insights on the number of women in the industry and how Ripple tackles diversity as a company. Lastly, get some key insights on company growth and how exponential growth has affected Ripple.

Eric is the SVP of Global Operations at Ripple. He has twenty years of leadership experience in business development, strategic planning, and business operations and corporate development areas. Prior to joining Ripple, he has held senior positions in high growth startups and Fortune 500 companies including Adobe, Yahoo, Hightail, Red Swoosh, Work.com, and Excite@Home.com. He’s also known for his extensive experience in solving complex business problems and executing strategies that helped technology companies systematically accelerate growth. He’s also lived in the Bay Area for years. He’s seen the entire startup ecosystem happen and the maturity of the whole system. Eric, welcome to the show.

Cameron, thanks for having me. I’m glad to be here.

Excite was in ‘98 or ’99?

Excite@Home was the merger of both Excite and @Home. I started on the @Home side. I joined in ‘97.

We were buying banner ads back then on some of your properties way back when. That was a long time ago. Tell us really briefly about Ripple so we understand what Ripple is and then we’ll dive into some of the backgrounds.

Ripple is a FinTech company. We provide a software solution to financial institutions. That could be banks, payment providers, money service businesses, where we leverage blockchain technology to help them send money cross-border. Cross-border payments are far more efficient than they can use legacy technologies. If you think about a personal experience where you’re sending money as a remittance to a friend or colleague overseas, or even a small-medium business up to a large enterprise, sending money cross-border tends to be incredibly difficult, far more so than you realize on the surface. Part of that stems from the fact that we’re still using technology that is decades old, even pre-internet. We’ve come in with a different approach. We leveraged blockchain technology. Our customers are these banks and financial institutions and we deploy that software. Once they have that, they are able to see far faster, cheaper and more reliable cross-border payment experiences than they have historically.

With Ripple itself, what’s the size of your operation in terms of the number of employees or where you’re operating? Are you remote? Is it one centralized team for the most part?

We’re quite distributed actually. We’re based here in our headquarters in San Francisco. We have about 360 and counting people around the world. I’d say about 2/3 of those are here in San Francisco but we have offices in London, Singapore, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Dubai and New York. We’re actually quite distributed and that’s largely a function of the fact that our business to my earlier point is, it’s about helping people move money across borders. There’s no domestic version of Ripple. There’s no US-centric version. As a result, we’ve needed to get closer to the markets we serve. Get closer to our customers, understanding the regulatory environment, the partner prospects, media relations and etc. We’ve actually made a concerted effort over the last several years to open up those businesses around the world and achieve that intimacy with the market.

Ripple was one of the biggest ICOs in the last bunch of years, wasn’t it? Was it an ICO?

That’s a common misperception. It wasn’t an ICO. One thing maybe to clarify is, there’s oftentimes confusion between Ripple, which is the company I work for, and we produce the software solution that I just described, and a digital asset called XRP. XRP is not unlike Bitcoin or Ethereum is a digital asset that’s run on top of a distributed decentralized, permission-less blockchain. That blockchain is called the XRP Ledger. There are common roots in terms of the folks that actually created the XRP Ledger are the same people that later created the company, Ripple. In that process, Ripple happens to hold quite a bit of XRP but we never went through an ICO process, which was all the rage a couple of years ago. The company is distinct and separate from that digital asset.

There is some similar ownership or core that ties in but not in ICO in terms of its launch?

Correct.

I’m friends with the parents of the Founder of Ethereum, Vitalik’s parents, Dimitri and Maria. We’re in a mastermind together. You talked about moving currency between countries. I’m curious about what it’s like moving ideas between countries with the people that you have. You mentioned Mumbai, London, Singapore, Dubai and Sao Paulo. What’s it like working with a different leadership in different countries? What do you think they’re doing better in some of these countries or regions than we are in North America? What are they doing differently?

It’s a lot of what I spend my time working on. Part of my role is a subset of global operations. I call it international operations. It’s identifying our target markets where we want to launch these new entities. We started in Mumbai, launching an Indian entity about a few years ago. I hired a country manager there. His remit has expanded through all of South Asia. We saw a lot of success, repeated that in Sao Paulo and Dubai as mentioned. We had an office in Singapore for a few years and I’m adding somebody to be our head of Southeast Asia based out of Singapore. It’s a fantastic asset and luxury to have folks that are intimate with the market.

They understand everything from the specifics of how the payments world works in their part of the world, but also just the cultural sensitivities and realities. One error I know I made earlier in my career was, you go in and you don’t mean to, but you can’t help but almost imposed your way of doing things. The American style of business in other cultures and it just doesn’t play that way. You have to take a little bit of a step back. What we’re getting better as a company, back to your question of sharing ideas is, is making sure that we take full advantage of the fact these folks are in the field. They are all domain experts in payments of some sort. That’s why we’ve hired them but also, as they get up to speed on what Ripple can do, they added a unique perspective in there.

They can be a source of new ideas that we can then propagate around the world. Sometimes it’s purposeful, and it sounds like we were brilliant and smart, the strategy works. Other times you happen to run into things. We were having great success in South America, for example. We targeted that, along with many other regions. We sold a few customers and after being there for a while, we have a large fraction of the payments that are running over Ripple Net, which is this global network that we’re creating with all these financial institutions. A large fraction is touching on Brazil, specifically South America, more generally.

We’re learning the pain points associated with moving money in and out of that part of the world are acute. Our solution, while it’s effective globally, it’s even more pronounced the degree to which we can make an impact in Brazil. We’re leaning into that, we’re investing more and we’re seeing it is a place where we can try out some new ideas and other product offerings. When you’re moving fast and you have people are all around the world, oftentimes, your native instinct is to just to tell. It’s to inform and keep people up to date, try to create a unified culture. It’s also so important to listen.

Give us some specific examples. How does a leader manage differently in Sao Paulo, in Brazil than they would in Mumbai or than they would in Dubai? How did they recruit differently? How did they solve conflicts differently? What are some things they’ve done that are like, “That’s unique?” I’ve been to India four times working with CEOs over there. They hire ten people to solve one problem because they can just hire so many at such a low cost. In Thailand, they would never tell their superior anything wrong. It’s all about saving face. They almost bow down every time they talk to a superior. What do you see that’s different from that we could learn from them?

SIC 80 | Doing Business Globally
Doing Business Globally: The benefit of cross-pollinating is huge.

 

In South America for example, there’s a different pace and developing that relationship in a certain way. You can come in and I’ll stereotype as an American. It’s super hard-charging. You figure if you have the best product and a real tight pitch from a commercial standpoint, you just want to get the right to closing the deal and making it happen. The pace at which you develop a relationship varies around the world. The people working at Ripple around the world are all incredibly diligent and hard-working, but there is a different cadence that I see evolving in different areas.

India, to your point, the drive, the push and the work ethic are incredible. There’s the ability to put more cycles against it and maybe a bit more of a directness, at least in terms of the people that we’re dealing with. We have a fantastic joint venture partner in Japan, for example. A company called SBI Holdings. There’s definitely a hierarchy and a process that you have to be respectful of. Sometimes you can’t help but fall back on your natural instincts of doing things a certain way and you quickly realize, “They seem to like what I said. The product solved their needs and yet I haven’t heard from them.” It’s a matter of, “It’s all fine.” You just have to go back and spend some more time. It’s just being attuned to that.

I’ll confess, I don’t pretend to be an expert on how that cultural reality plays out around the world, but hiring people that do, that are credible locally and then also making sure to listen to them. Not just if something isn’t going right in a part of the world, you can’t just assume, “I’m going to tell them how we do it here,” and impose that perspective. You have to say, “I hired these folks for a reason.” They’re infinitely smarter around how business works in that part of the world and let them do their job. It’s a bit of a balance.

Do you move people around from country to country or is it hiring people locally in their countries, keeping them and growing within?

We’re just reaching a point in our company where we’re starting to do that. For example, I’ll speak personally. Back in January, I put myself on assignment. I moved for five months to Singapore. We had a small but growing office in Southeast Asia. There’s so much change happening in payments and FinTechs in that part of the world. I said, “I need to eat my own dog food.” My wife and I packed up on January 1st, we got on a plane and landed in Singapore. I spent the next five months there which was fantastic. I meet the team and support them, meet our partners, our customers and witness firsthand the pace of change going on in the region.

We’re actually starting to push on that a little bit more. There’s another woman who’s going to be moving from our headquarters and spending six months another office. Once I got back, I got an augmented passion for mobility programs. One level, you say you’re a 350-person company, you’re just at that stage where you’re trying to make sure you keep all plates spinning in the air and not letting them fall. It’s a great time to start developing that habit of allowing people to be more mobile and the benefit of cross-pollinating is huge. We’re at the cusp of it. When we talk next time, hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you.

How many people were at Ripple when you joined about years ago?

It’s about 120.

You tripled in terms of the headcount. Has revenue been similar?

Yeah. We don’t go into specific numbers but the core thing we track is how well we’re doing in growing this network, Ripple Net. We had a handful, let’s say less than twenty production contracts signed with financial institutions when I joined. We announced earlier, we pressed to 200 production contracts in place. When I joined, we hadn’t yet been operational in terms of helping financial institutions move money over our network. I saw the stats. There’s over $3 billion had been moving over Ripple Net aggregate since I’ve been here. It’s still a relatively small drop in the bucket when you’re talking about global cross-border payments.

Huge growth to manage. In that growth, I had lunch with Clate Mask, the founder of Infusionsoft and I was reading some stuff that Ben Horowitz had written in terms of leadership’s ability to scale. It talked about mid to senior-level managers find that it hard for them to go through two doubles in terms of revenue or headcount. It’s tough for them to go through one triple. How have you managed that? How are you managing and growing people through those transition points?

We’ve been somewhat proactive, just in terms of creating a discipline around learning and development here at Ripple. You could say, for a company of our size, that seems to be a little premature, but we anticipated the growth. We’re creating forums we’re the folks at that level, the key lieutenants to the senior leadership team and that super important that the mid to upper mid-tier of management, have a chance to interact with each other. Given we’re relatively distributed around the world. These folks don’t always have impromptu opportunities to get together. It’s now twice a year, we bring that team together in one place and hold multiple days off-site. Some of it is skill development, but a lot of it is just making sure that they get a chance to interact and have that shared experience.

We see dividends paid when you see these connections forming. Some issues that maybe would take a lot longer to get resolved, it’s not rocket science, you make sure that those bonds are formed. There’s a common empathy formula. As with a lot of companies, there are people that are great at that zero to one stage, but aren’t as impactful or don’t even enjoy it as much going from, 1 to 100 or 100 to 1000. A lot of those folks self-select and they want to do the next startup or their employee number four and then others love the journey. They love the growth that comes with it and a new set of challenges, and they’re well-suited to it. We find those people and we nurture them. We’re thrilled that they still find Ripple an exciting place to be.

On the tech side and women, it’s been tough in the last number of years. Women in the technology sector, they’re getting a bigger voice, finally. I saw an article that Forbes that came out with the top 100 innovative thinkers and one woman on that list of 100. They’re going to get decimated in the media for releasing that which they should. How are women doing in the global markets in leadership? India has always had a problem with it. Are they being accepted more? Are they catching up with North America there? What’s going on that side?

Your point, Cameron, is super warranted. In tech in general, we’ve done a far less than stellar job of making sure there’s the right representation of women. Frankly, diversity in general amongst our leadership and certainly it’s a focus of ours here. About 30% to 40% of the folks at Ripple overall are women. It is a priority as we think about recruiting. Amongst our leadership team, we have 1, 2, 3, 4 members of leadership are female.

Would you have a similar percentage globally?

I’d probably say yes, and I’m doing that more from memory than having any stats that I’ve seen.

I’d almost guess like yes, more in Singapore. Yes, more in Sao Paulo. No, more in India. Yes, more in Dubai.

SIC 80 | Doing Business Globally
Doing Business Globally: The tech industry, in general, has done a far less than stellar job of making sure there’s the right representation of women.

 

You’re correct. Having spent time in Singapore, the mix in that office is healthy. The team in Sao Paulo is still small. The sample size isn’t big enough for me to feel like it’s representative. We have a couple of handful of women on our team in India. That’s probably directionally correct. In our London office, New York office, San Francisco office, we’re certainly much more well-represented.

It’s an interesting time. I love the global questions just because we don’t get that much exposure to it as North American companies. Whenever I can be around it and learn from it, I love pulling any insights I can. What’s changing in the technology or tech sector right now, especially in the Bay Area with recruiting? It seems like it’s a bloodbath down there and the ability to try to attract and retain talent, everybody just pays more. Is that changing at all?

It’s still a challenging market, especially if you’re talking about engineers. There’s a ton of demands. There’s a lot of capital that’s been infused into this market and people are able to and therefore willing to dig into their pockets and pay up. Is it changing? More and more companies are looking for other places beyond Silicon Valley to locate tech teams. You see some of that may be rationalized a little bit but we’re fortunate enough to be in a position where we’re Ripple is in an incredibly interesting industry and incredibly interesting point of time. We’re probably the only enterprise blockchain company that actually has a commercial product that is in production and up and running.

We’re focused on a particular use case and that’s these cross-border payments challenge that people almost unanimously believe is a real pain point. We have a solution that addresses it. We’re able to offer some compelling business challenges, challenges to employers. As a result, we’re seeing great interest in joining Ripple. As you mentioned, we’ve grown three X since I’ve been here in a few years. Even this year, our growth is going to be substantial. That’s not to say we don’t have a lot of open wrecks and we don’t want more people checking us out, because there are lots to be done. To answer your specific question, I don’t see it changing anytime.

You touched on one which is a lot of companies are looking to open offices outside of the Bay Area, finally, as well. I have a friend who’s got a client. He a technology company based in Indianapolis and he’s got a couple of hundred employees there now. He’s just like, “I was from here and I thought I’d run a company from here and I found out that a lot of smart people moved away and they want to come home.” What about growing people? As you’ve scaled the company, you’ve gone from 100 to 320 employees. What have you had to do as a company to grow your team? Where do you focus on soft skills? Where do you guys focus on growing your leadership team and managers?

I don’t know if there’s any one formula I point to. It’s being able to engage and identify some of the folks who think are well suited to move to the next level and then investing time there wisely. I referenced this real effort on that second-tier of leadership and we’ve made investments there to double down, if you will, on growing them. We have a whole variety of programs, everything informal like lunch and learns where people can get smarter on new topics. We have a program where we will pay people, if they’re interested in learning a new skill be it formerly like take a class to code in another language, etc., or simply go to a conference to build their personal network which obviously is an important aspect and asset to have as you move forward.

I don’t know if there’s any one particular approach. We obviously love promoting from within. Our space is relatively new. Once you’ve been here and invested a couple of years to get that domain expertise, that’s a pretty scarce commodity. Blockchain cross-border payments for ten years, people have been doing payments as people who are doing FinTech, but we’d love the opportunity to nurture and promote from within. The good news is that we are growing quickly, the challenges are plentiful. There are lots of interesting meaty problems, both business and technical, that we can put talented, aggressive people against. It’s nice in that we don’t have to search high and low for the next challenge for somebody. It’s usually right in front of them and you’ll actually see the folks rise to the occasion and proactively, take that challenge without even necessarily pointing them at it. We’re nothing but supportive when that happens.

How about funding? How are you guys funded?

We are funded both by the traditional venture route. We’ve raised a little over $90 million in venture capital. In our early days, back in our seed rounds from some more traditional Valley names like Google Ventures or GV or whatever they’re calling themselves these days and Andreessen Horowitz. Beyond that, we’re proud that some of our early customers, large financial institutions like Standard Chartered or Santander wanted to participate in our second round of funding. That’s exciting and it underscores the fact that we’re on to something and they want to be along for the ride and more than just the capacity of a customer. Beyond that, we do hold a significant amount of this digital asset called XRP. On occasion, we will sell some of that into the market. That one generates some incremental funding for us, but it also helps create more liquidity in the whole ecosystem, this the ecosystem for that digital asset. I won’t get into the weeds in terms of how some of our products work, but having liquidity in markets around the world for XRP is a big part of what will make our products over time successful. It serves a dual purpose.

It creates a little more velocity in that supply. What do you focus on the day-to-day?

It’s a variety of things. I wish I could focus on one thing every day. There are two core elements. One, I have a business operations team. At our core, we’re there to try to ensure that the communication and focus, especially across the leadership team is crisp, that we don’t get easily distracted by all the other things that could happen in our space, in our company. Tactically, we run our weekly leadership staff meeting. We do quarterly business reviews, which the name probably is somewhat self-explanatory. We hold twice a year, multi-day leadership off-sites. It’s the cadence of communication and makes sure that that team is in sync, aligned and staying focused on the things that we’ve identified as our top priorities. That’s probably especially critical given that we are this international company. Some of our senior leaders are not in San Francisco and we don’t have as much time to see them in the halls and just catch up. Having a predictable cadence of meetings and communication is important.

Beyond that, my business operation’s team, either champions or inherence other cross-functional initiatives that we drive. They don’t fit neatly into any one function. Ripple is a company that is functionally organized, head of sales, head of marketing, head of engineering, CFO, and etc. We try to jump in and play that role of a little bit of utility infielder, if you will. To make sure that we’re giving the right level of senior attention. I spent a good chunk of my day helping to manage that initiative or that set of initiatives. Beyond that, having a team that is geographically distributed, I’m on the phone a lot. Sometimes early morning on the drive-in or late at night on the drive home, just trying to make sure that we are staying in sync as a team. Understanding where the opportunities and issues lie around the world and trying to figure out where best we can double down our attention and investment to take advantage of that, that could range from issues related to customers. Obviously, moving money around the world is highly regulated. We work with regulators around the world and make sure we’re compliant and they understand what we’re doing. It’s a broad array of topics and depending on the day, can vary quite a bit.

Tell us about your business area reviews, BAR meetings. What makes a good business area review meeting?

We do QBRs every quarter. It’s not a super complicated formula. What each senior leader is asked is, what did you promise you’re going to do in the prior quarter? What did you do? How did you do against your stated OKRs, so to speak? What did you learn, as a result, both positive lessons and tough lessons? Therefore, what are you going to do next quarter? We also make sure to have a conversation about how the team is doing, who are the stars? Are there any challenges? Are there any cultural things we need to fix? That sequence of questions is meant to tee up conversations. The real compelling, meaningful, impactful quarterly business reviews are ones where you’re not just rotely going through a set of facts and figures. People’s eyes glaze over, but it’s where you’re having real authentic conversations about both opportunities and things you want to lean into, also, challenges and being intellectually honest about what’s going on. Realizing we’re all probably facing similar things in our different slices of the company, and trying to get the collective wisdom, if you will, of the team around the table to see how we can do better going forward.

Do business areas challenging each other at those meetings or is it more leadership challenging each business area in front of the rest?

The meetings that we have, those quarterly business reviews are just among leadership. We will invite guest speakers in if we’re deep-diving on a particular topic. One of the things we want to ensure is to have real candid conversations amongst the leadership team without necessarily creating any other byproduct turbulence to the greater team. It’s challenging each other. Not in the accusatory or trying to make somebody feel an inadequate way. It’s, “We’re all on the same team.” As my boss or CEO says, “At the end of the day, we all wear the same jersey.”

If somebody wins, somebody loses, that doesn’t mean we’re all winning. It’s trying to instill the sense of alignment and not being afraid to say, “I tried this and it failed.” “I’m going to do something differently next quarter,” but also getting hopefully some real authentic and direct feedback from your colleagues, because we don’t realize it but we all have blind spots. We don’t see and having somebody else who might be able to point that out to you is great. Somebody said, “Feedback is a gift and sometimes a natural inclination is to bristle a little bit. Being able to embrace is important.”

How do you get all your business areas to work together as a team versus the silos forming?

SIC 80 | Doing Business Globally
Doing Business Globally: Building a personal network is an important aspect and asset to have as you move your business forward.

 

I think we do a better than average job of it given that I’ve been around the valley for a while. I’ve seen a lot of different approaches. I won’t say it’s perfect. We have to constantly be diligent looking for the emergence of silos, especially when you’re growing so quickly. There’s a lot of pressure every quarter to hit those objectives. We’re actually having a conversation almost real-time about how to set up our objectives as we look to 2020 in a way that ensures we’re not pitting one against the other. One function, one department against the other and obviously, you never do that intentionally. It’s a matter of being willing to call it out. I’ve been around areas or companies, oftentimes when you’re public that you have to hit the quarterly number at all costs. A part of the benefit of being private is you can say, “I know this was the number we were supposed to hit.”

We hit it. Sure, we can jam something through and hit a sales number, hit an employment number or whatever the metric in question might be, but that is setting us up for sustainable, meaningful growth going forward? No, we’re all mature leaders. We can say, “If we don’t hit this target this quarter, we’re not thrilled about it, but we’re doing it for a reason,” which is that it’s going to give us a higher probability of winning in the long-term. Being willing to have those conversations, not being too embarrassed to say, “I’m not going to be able to deliver what I said, I’m going to deliver this quarter but here’s the plan to make it better. I think it’s best for us as a company if we stay on that track.” That willingness helps to prevent a situation where you’re just going to do something regardless if it’s truly the best long-term decision. It oftentimes can create tension obviously, between two departments or two functional areas.

How did you select Ripple? How did you get involved with them?

I’ve been in tech for a long time, always on the business side, but I’ve been in tech for well over twenty years. I knew nothing about cross-border payments, truth be told. The initial awareness of Ripple comes from the guy who’s currently our CEO, a guy named Brad Garlinghouse. Brad and I had worked together in companies over the past fifteen years on and off. He and I had a strong relationship. He was here at Ripple for a couple of years and was transitioning from being the company’s COO to becoming the CEO. He gave me a call and said, “Eric, as a result of this transition, I’m going to have to spend my time, days and hours focused on a different set of things. I need somebody who can help me make sure that as we scale, to make sure the trains running on time and thinking about how we scale efficiently.” At first, I was like, “I don’t know anything about cross-border payment and etc.” I’ve been following the space obviously, this was 2016. Blockchain wasn’t quite off the charts in terms of awareness and hype, but it was clear to me that there was something truly special happening with this technology. Having known Brad from past lives, I followed Ripple and thought they were on something pretty compelling. That was the initial touchpoint.

It was hard enough for me. I own a lot of Ethereum over the years and Bitcoin for probably 5 or 6 years. You went through the massive upswing with XRP and then the complete decimation of the entire industry. They’re coming back again, but how did you manage people and their emotions and their psyche through that? Even though you’re not the same company, but you’re holding a lot of that digital asset. How did you manage people through that?

It was pretty crazy, two-plus years ago, the prices of digital assets were going through the roof then it came back down. We stayed focused on our mission, which is solving these cross-border payments use cases. Certainly, the value of XRP is an important factor for us. We’re a big champion of the digital asset. It serves a specific purpose in our long-term product strategy. It’s a far more efficient digital asset for a payment use case in terms of the settlement fees, the speed of settlement and the number of transactions you can do per second. If you’re looking to do payments, specific cross-border payments, it’s well-suited to address the liquidity challenge associated there. We view it as a component of our broader solution. What we emphasized to the team is this is a long game.

This isn’t a game that we measure in days, weeks or months. It’s a matter of years. As a point of comparison, when I started at Ripple, the price of XRP was well under $0.01. Now, it’s somewhere between $0.25 to $0.27. Roughly speaking, it’s going up a ton. Now, compared to where it was in mid-2017, it’s come down a lot, but it’s all a matter of perspective. It’s about looking at the long game and we measure our success, not on the price of XRP but on how much value we’re delivering to these financial institutions. That’s largely a function of, are they using our technology to move money around the world? That curve is going up into the right nicely. That’s what gives us a lot of energy and enthusiasm about the future.

You’re positioned nicely on it. If you’re to look back at your career for the last twenty odd years, where do you think you’ve focused your growth in terms of being a leader or second in command?

I’ve prided myself on being a bit of a generalist, which doesn’t always seem intuitive or like the best path. I’ve always invested the time to understand all aspects of the business and be able to look at a problem from different angles. As a result, as I engage with my peers or with the CEO, I can often bring a slightly different or nuanced perspective to a conversation. I’ve made a concerted effort to invest the time to do that and I think it’s paid off well for me. I may not be the deepest when it comes to marketing strategy or funding strategies, etc. I can see the whole picture.

Something I try to do often is also being a good listener, engaging people around the company, being responsive and hopefully, present so that you hear certain things and you sense patterns. Way back when before I was a consultant and a lot of that was just about looking for patterns, making sure that you’re being diligent around what’s going on. Try and minimize, using a term I used before, the blind spots so that you can bring that perspective to the table. It’s served me well. The good thing is you never stopped learning. It’s not something that you say, “I’m done.” There’re always new challenges.

I loved Ray Kroc from McDonald’s quote. He said, “When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you’re rotting.” Better not be done. Eric, if you were to lean back to just graduating college, you’re starting out in your business career. What word of advice would you give yourself that now you know to be true, but you wish you’d known back then?

Enjoy the journey. Back then I probably thought everything had to be so scripted. It was going to play out, you were going to progress in your career. The reality is and maybe it’s somewhat a function of being in this part of the world and Silicon Valley in tech. Part of the fun is you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Early in my career, I was resistant to that, trying to force it and trying to predetermine outcomes. Some of the best experiences have been going into things where you weren’t sure exactly how it was going to turn out. Not that you were just rolling the dice and didn’t care but even as I look right here at Ripple.

Again, I’m not a payments expert, per se. My partner said, “What the hell are you doing? There’s a lot of people who’ve been doing payments for twenty years,” but I understand how to help scale tech companies in an efficient way in. Spot interesting growth opportunities, that’s a skill that you can apply to different areas. It’s great learning from other people and you add another dimension to hopefully, what you bring to the next venture. Enjoy the journey and don’t try to get too hung up on what’s supposed to be happening or what path you’re supposed to be on.

Eric van Miltenburg, the SVP for Global Operations for Ripple, thanks for joining us in the show.

It’s my pleasure.

That was great. I appreciate the time.

Thanks so much. I enjoyed it.

Important Links:

About Eric Van Miltenburg

SIC 80 | Doing Business GloballyEric has 20 years of leadership experience in business development, strategic planning, business operations, and corporate development. 

Prior to joining Ripple, Eric held senior positions with high-growth start-ups and Fortune 500 companies including Adobe, Yahoo!, Hightail, RedSwoosh, Work.com, and Excite@Home.com. He is known for his extensive experience in solving complex business problems and executing strategies that help technology companies systematically accelerate growth.

Leave a Reply