An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Danijel Velicki (founder and CEO) of Sqwire, which was honored in our:
Tell us the origin story of Sqwire – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
I’ve worked in the financial industry for 20 years, and after serving individuals and families across so many different industries for so long, I kept encountering one common issue that came up again and again. My clients were at the top of their game in their individual fields – doctors, lawyers, military officers, etc. – but outside of that, more specifically, when it came to how they were managing their finances, they were lost. They had never received financial education of any kind, and they were ashamed to admit that most of the choices they were making with their money came as a result of a “fingers crossed guesstimate” that they hoped wasn’t causing too much damage or risk. That wasn’t ok with me and I knew something needed to change.
I created Sqwire to be a stress-free, no strings attached, educational curriculum that allows learners to move through self-paced lessons covering the “hot spots” of everyday finances that most often cause confusion and a sense of inadequacy. My ultimate goal and commitment is education for everyone. No matter where they come from, where they went to school, or where they work, everyone should have access to the tools and resources needed to help them make confident decisions about money. As Maya Angelou so eloquently stated, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. Sqwire is all about accessing the information to know better so that individuals can do better.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
We officially launched Sqwire at the end of 2019 and 3 months later, COVID hit. As you can imagine, that presented significant challenges for us just to keep the doors open, but we pushed forward and made it through. And then there has also been the struggle to just teach the market exactly what our product does (and does not do). We’re not a financial planning, investment, or sales tool. We’re an educational resource that helps people to feel more confident in their financial decision-making which, in turn, reduces stress and gives them the ability to be better spouses, parents, employees, and humans.
What does the future hold for Sqwire?
We are actively growing and working to make a bigger impact every day with our eye on starting at the root of the problem. We’ve recently launched a higher education platform that is geared toward helping young adults aged 18-24 to learn about personal finance management before they join the workforce and live independently for the first time, giving them the opportunity to make smart money choices right from the start rather than making costly mistakes simply because no one ever took the time to teach them about money. We can’t wait to see the impact it will have on institutions all across the country and are excited to contribute to the success of the next generation of leaders.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Norfolk?
Despite its small size, Norfolk is home to quite a few great tech companies and we are grateful to be counted among them. But truthfully, we don’t think about where we are so much as what we’re working toward. We’re focused on the passion that guides us to build something that offers a solution to the national crisis of financial literacy and helps to make the world a better place.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just start! Take that first step, even if you can only start part-time until you’re able to prove your concept and can dive all the way in. Only 1% of people have the guts to become an entrepreneur. They are the ones that actually took that first step. And, yes, it’s scary. The unknown is terrifying and overwhelming. But you have to think… what if it works? What if it’s great? All it takes is that first step. Then, once you do take that step, set yourself up for success. Find yourself a great team, an amazing supporting investor who will have your back when things get tough, an expert CPA, and a great attorney that understands your business and can build you a moat of legal protection.