My Story

Don’t bring silver medal home

My father was a refugee at the age of seven from the Soviet soldiers in Finland during WWII. He brought me up tough telling me when I was 7-8 years old:

“Son, you can’t ever bring the silver medal to this house. You have to always bring the gold medal.”

I took that to my heart and I ended up winning in all sports I played - running, skiing, skating and playing hockey.

Winning became an obsession for me.

Hockey with the best

This obsession to win took me to USA - St. Louis Missouri when I was only 16 years old.

I didn’t speak English, there was no internet (1991) and I couldn’t call back home to Finland. I played hockey and kept winning. In the memorable state championship final I scored three goals in the last three minutes and we won.

Hockey took me even further, to Canada to play with the best players in the world.

Winning had become my trademark.

Back to America - to New York

I came back to Finland and took over our family business in my early 20s. My father who taught me how to win was still breathing on my neck to take care of the family business which I did - buying the business from him.

But my heart was in America.

I fell in love with chasing the American dream. I wanted back. I got a one way ticket to New York City in my late 30s. I had no money, no work visa and I didn’t know anyone.

Only thing I had with me was my obsession to win.

Building a bank

I settled in New York to live there for 10 years. I got my first consulting gig, got my O-1 visa (extraordinary ability) and became almost an overnight success. Well, not exactly - it took me 4-5 years to get myself to a good spot. New York is tough.

If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.

I built a cash back app called SPENT from scratch. Team of 30+ people, over 1 million merchants, $15M capital and over $3B dollars going through the product. We became one of the top cash back players in the US. Banks started to want to work with us.

Today I have combined this cash back expertise to banking experience. I am building Benjamin Bank which is a modern loyalty banking product for 30M American small businesses to get more new customers and save up to 30% on their business spending.

Winning isn't everything?

When I was playing hockey in Canada, they told me this: “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

That sounded like I had heard it before.

That’s my story. I hope you like it and want to join me in this journey!

Erno Tauriainen