Two Startups, Two Cities: Building a Tech Company Outside of Silicon Valley

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Charlie Youakim has successfully built two companies outside of Silicon Valley. His first company, Passport, a parking and transit mobile payments company, was founded in Minneapolis in 2010 and moved to Charlotte, NC in 2011 where it grew rapidly. Passport has supplied numerous major cities in the USA and Canada with its software systems for parking and transit ticketing. His second company, Sezzle, was founded in Minneapolis in 2016 and is thriving here. Sezzle is another payments company that was built around the mission of financially empowering young consumers.

In this session we’ll interview Charlie to get his view on the pros and cons of building a tech company outside of Silicon Valley. We’ll cover fundraising in Minneapolis and Charlotte at different stages of growth, recruiting and retaining talent, and the other tradeoffs that exist between building companies outside of the start-up capital of the world. Bring your questions.

Charlie Youakim

CEO - Sezzle

Charlie combines an interest in technology and business strategy with his skills in management, leadership, and technological development to create great companies. He is currently CEO of Sezzle, a cutting-edge fintech company present on hundreds of e-commerce sites. Sezzle’s mission is to financially empower young consumers. Only one in three millennials own a credit card, and the vast majority of millennials possess a subprime credit score or no score at all. Sezzle's payment platform offers interest-free installment plans at online stores, which helps increase purchasing power for consumers while providing merchants with more sales and larger basket sizes. Charlie holds an MBA from the Carlson School of Management and an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering also from the University of Minnesota.

Erik Muckey

Graduate Student - University of Minnesota

Erik is a current Master of Business Administration and Master of Public Policy student at the University of Minnesota, with focuses on rural development and policy, entrepreneurial finance, and nonprofit administration. 

Outside of his graduate studies, Erik is founding CEO of two social ventures: Lost & Found, a nonprofit equipping college students with strategies for lifelong resilience, and PASQ, a rural economic development consulting agency. Erik is a 2019 Sands Family Social Venturing Fellow at the Carlson School for his work with Lost & Found and is an incoming Summer MBA Strategy Associate with Sunrise Banks.
Raised in the small farming community of Corsica, SD, Erik is a diehard South Dakota Coyote, an avid runner and biker, and loves testing out new coffee shops and breweries in the Twin Cities.