2012 Forty Under 40 Winner: Ben Milne
Friday, March 16, 2012 7:00 AM
Age 28 | CEO, Dwolla Corp.
Ben Milne doesn’t like to buy into his company’s hype.
The founder of cash-based payment system provider Dwolla Corp., Milne has seen the company written about in the local and national press. He recently negotiated a $5 million investment deal, and has earned praise in the Des Moines start-up community as an example of how a technology company can succeed.
“We have so much more work to do,” Milne said. “As soon as you buy into the hype, you’re dead. As soon as you believe the things they write about you, your company is irrelevant. It’s really good to see the company progress, but we have so much further to grow.”
Milne started Dwolla when he was running his first company, Elemental Designs LC, a manufacturing company. Elemental Designs paid about $55,000 a year in interchange fees, and Milne discovered there was no solution to that. Dwolla became his way to fix the problem and help others do the same, by allowing transactions of less than $10 to happen for free, and charging only 25 cents for transactions of more than $10.
The concept worked, the company gained momentum and Dwolla now handles more than $1 million in transactions per day. Milne originally anticipated selling the company in its early stages, but has since decided to take it as far as the market will let him go.
An entrepreneur by nature, Milne said his passion is driven by “people who think we can’t do it.” But as Dwolla has become more successful, it became less about proving people wrong and more about “where can we go?”
In the meantime, he intends to keep his foot on the gas. Milne doesn’t take vacations, though he enjoys traveling as part of his work life, and he admits that he hasn’t figured out how to hit his “off” switch yet.
“I get to get up every day and go play with Play-Doh that might change the planet,” Milne said. “We think that’s really amazing.”
Five reasons he’s a 40:
• Has turned Dwolla Corp. into a company that handles more than $1 million in transactions each day.
• He’s a leader in the technology-related start-up scene in Iowa.
• Invests in early-stage Des Moines companies.
• Dwolla has garnered the attention of the national media, with more than 150 articles being written about it.
• Board member for the Des Moines Social Club.
Milne’s perfect day is one that keeps him constantly stimulated and interested in everything he is doing. That could involve playing with Legos, seeing a movie, eating at a new restaurant with his girlfriend or figuring out the next innovation with Dwolla.
Meet the 2012 Forty Under 40 Honorees
• Michael Abbott - Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
• Sondra Ashmore - IBM Corp.
• Shannon Baird - JE Dunn Construction Co.
• J. Eric Boehlert - Ahlers & Cooney P.C.
• Nataliya Boychenko - Holmes Murphy and Associates Inc.
• Becki Brommel - BrownWinick
• Catherine Cownie - BrownWinick
• Spencer Cox - Vending Services Inc.
• Scott Crawford - RDG Planning & Design
• Tony Dickinson - Wells Fargo Bank
• Shannon Duval - Mercy Foundation
• Meg Fitz - Greater Des Moines Partnership
• Tim Hayes - McLellan Marketing Group
• Christi Hegstad - MAP Professional Development Inc.
• Naura Heiman Godar - StruXture Architects LLC
• Danielle Hermann - OPN Architects Inc.
• Sara Kobilka - Science Center of Iowa
• Liz Lidgett - Kum & Go LC
• Holly Logan - Weinhardt & Logan P.C.
• Matthew Marckmann - Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
• Bryan Michael - Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc.
• Ben Milne - Dwolla Corp.
• Suzanne Mineck - Mid-Iowa Health Foundation
• Nikki Miras Mordini - Davis Brown Law Firm
• David Nelmark - Belin McCormick P.C.
• Anthony Nguyen - Wells Fargo Bank
• Lynh Nguyen Patterson - Delta Dental of Iowa
• Matt Nuetzman - InFocus Partners
• Brad Phillips - Farm Bureau Financial Services
• Tina Potthoff - MidAmerican Energy Co.
• Erin Schneider - Censeo Solutions Inc.
• Steve SchraderBachar - Wells Fargo Home Mortgage Inc.
• Jamie Schug - Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority
• Kristina Stanger - Nyemaster Goode P.C.
• Nate Stewart - Perishable Distributors of Iowa Ltd.
• Jason Stone - Davis Brown Law Firm
• Mellisa Stover - Bankers Trust Co.
• Tray Wade - Hospice of Central Iowa
• Eric Wieland - Federal Emergency Management Agency
• Geoff Wood - Silicon Prairie News
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