There it was, so sadly appropriate.
After reading the excellent article on the demise of Powa, once one of the most promising payments startups in the UK if not the world, by Rory Cellan-Jones on BBC.com, I went through my trade show materials collected over the last year. I wanted to see if any Powa representatives were in attendance.
On the 2015 Transact 15 San Francisco tradeshow itinerary, it leapt off the page:
Wednesday, Apr. 1
4:00-5:00: Networking Happy Hour
Sponsored by Powa
Advice for the Powas That Be
Instabill partners with many agents, ISOs and even competing payment service providers worldwide, though we never had the opportunity to discuss such an arrangement with Powa – which, we think, offered a terrific product. If we could, we would offer the leadership at Powa these bits of advice:
Be present, yet anonymous
We’re big fans of Apple CEO Tim Cook, who runs one of the most powerful companies in the world, yet flies under the radar.
So, to us, the most disturbing part of the demise of Powa was its use (or misuse) of public relations to inflate the company’s value. Powa’s founder, Dan Wagner, had a habit of spewing prematurely about partnerships, particularly that ‘joint venture’ with China UnionPay. After he gave a BBC interview about it, UnionPay backed off, furious.
Whether or not Mr. Wagner and Powa were using false or inflated claims to spur their products, we’ll never know. It’s better to promote your products and after they’ve been tested, and let them speak for you.
Selfless. Not Selfish
Mr. Wagner was the face of Powa’s 500-plus employees, though a poor representative of them, evidenced by the photo of him dressed as Ziggy Stardust e-mailed to staffers in Janurary (at a time when the company was unable to provide its employees paychecks or benefits).
Employees Have a Voice
We feel for the former employees of Powa, many of whom aired their frustration on the employment website Glassdoor. In reading many of the negative Powa reviews, it was evident that the company had a talented, committed staff and terrific products only to be misdirected by its leadership.
Other judgement errors
There was that ostentatious office space in downtown London and its satellite offices around the world. There were reports of lavish spending, expensive parties (hence its sponsorship of the Networking Happy Hour at Transact 15) and trips on the company dime.
All the things that led to the demise of Powa had one common theme: Arrogance.