Fintech startup Fast came and went quickly, blowing through $120 million of investor money it had attracted to help people expedite online purchases in what seemed like a good idea at the time, but one that went horribly wrong.
A one-click checkout software firm for online merchants, Fast was founded in 2019 by Australian entrepreneur Domm Holland, former Uber executive Allison Barr Allen, and Australian entrepreneur Joshua Abulafia. On April 5, Holland announced the company was shutting down.
Holland raised $120 million in funding from backers, including payments giant Stripe, Index Ventures, and Lee Fixel’s Addition, tech publication The Information reported. Fast promised to transform online shopping by making it easier to check out across a wide range of stores.
The company was set for another fundraising round, trying to attract new money at a valuation above $1 billion, which would knock it into unicorn status.
It all seemed promising, but Holland went through his funding fast on what insiders said were frivolous expenses such as high-end parties and paying the music group The Chainsmokers $1 million to play an event during a retail conference on Jan. 16 in New York City. Fast had hired hundreds of employees, including highly paid executives and a slew of engineers in Nigeria.
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There was also internal trouble. Holland and Abulafia had a dispute over finances and the direction of the company. Abulafia was pushed out, several former employees told NPR.
Calling himself “the fastest CEO in the world,” the charismatic Holland became known for media-grabbing hijinks such as race car stunts and skydiving. Although Holland was a serial entrepreneur, he has had trouble making his startups a success. Other businesses he started in his home country also went bust.
At the end, Holland told the Fast staff, “Sometimes trailblazers don’t make it all the way to the mountain top. But even in those situations, they pave a way that all others will follow.”
Paul English, a Boston-based angel investor who was part of Fast’s Series A, described Holland as a “brazen charismatic leader. He pushed things really hard. Investors and the press follow such leaders. In hindsight, it is easy to see now, Domm was overconfident and spent too much. But I would back him again.”
Photo: Credit:Maksym Kapliuk https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/Maksym_Kapliuk?mediatype=photography