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How Bryan Leach Went From Practicing Law To Saving People Money

How Bryan Leach Went From Practicing Law To Saving People Money

Benzinga's Fintech Focus Podcast features conversations with the biggest names in fintech. Subscribe to the Fintech Focus newsletter to get a roundup of industry news delivered to your inbox weekly, and check out upcoming programming at Benzinga events.

In this episode of Fintech Focus, we spoke with Bryan Leach, founder of Ibotta, a consumer app that throws some seriously great cash back at its users when they make everyday purchases. From online retail to picking up some squash and grapes at the grocery store, ibotta offers its users rewards in real time.

Interestingly enough, Leach’s background has nothing to do with shopping or startups apps or the tech sector, not even close. In fact, Leach studied law at the holy trinity of Harvard, Oxford, and Yale before clerking for former Supreme Court Justice David Souter and starting his own successful practice in Denver. But that’s not where his passion was. So, he decided to take a gigantic leap of faith and dive into the world of e-commerce in 2012.

Although Leach didn’t go to business school, didn’t know the first thing about starting a business, and had virtually no technical prowess to claim, he had a vision. And that vision has expanded into a company that boasts 31 million downloads, over 500 employees, and funding of nearly $100 million. 

Listen to the full interview below to hear more on how Leach made it happen. 

Here are some highlights:

You were pretty established in law and you had a career mapped out for yourself and you decided to pivot hardcore. Can you walk us through what happened?
One day I was coming back from an international arbitration conference in Rio and I watched a woman using her smartphone on the plane to take a picture of her receipts for expense reimbursement and I had the idea wow, what if you could take a picture of your receipt and earn instant cashback rewards based on what you purchased, and that was the birth of what we now call Ibotta.

I had never started a company before, I had never been in a consumer facing industry. I didn't know anything about mobile technology, I certainly didn't know anything about consumer packaged goods or about how to use rewards to influence the purchase of consumer packaged goods or in any other way have much familiarity with the product development process, lean startups, rapidly iterating scrums, any of that stuff.

There are a lot of cashback apps out there, but can you explain how your app works?
The function is kind of like a digital gift card would if you will, and then it basically gives you your three to 5% cashback instantly. You get a push notification saying, "Congratulations. We've added money to your account." And then as you build credit on your Ibotta account you an either cash that out by putting that on to PayPal Holdings Inc (NASDAQ: PYPL) or Venmo, or you can reinvest that right back into your next Pay with Ibotta experience. So you can actually pay with your previous balance.

Ibotta also works at thousands of other locations, so you can connect your loyalty card at Kroger Co (NYSE: KR), you can connect your loyalty card at over a 100 chains, and you just shop as you normally would and we find deals or cashback deals for you or in places where there is no loyalty card like Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT), we even have a way for you to take a picture of your receipt and get instant cash back. You can use it for online purchases, you can use it for offline purchases, and overall people have earned over $500 million using our free app.


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