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  • Writer's pictureMartin Piskoric

How can I transform life's toughest challenges into groundbreaking opportunities?

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Portrait of Edrizio De La Cruz, confident and visionary fintech entrepreneur, against a neutral background.

When you hear stories of immigrants making it big in a foreign land, the tales are often laced with challenges and sheer determination. One such tale is that of a young Dominican immigrant from Harlem who embarked on a journey through diverse career paths, only to end up revolutionizing the fintech industry. This narrative unravels the captivating journey of our podcast guest, who paints a vivid picture of his life's trajectory – a journey of unparalleled grit.

The Journey Begins: A Young Dreamer from Harlem

Edrizio's life in Harlem was far from glamorous. College seemed like a distant dream, leading him to drop out and join the US Air Force. He later turned to aircraft maintenance to make ends meet. Recounting his experience, Edrizio shares, “Yeah, I remember Martin, when I was about 25 years old...I was working as an airplane mechanic nights and weekends on holidays.”

Yet, destiny had grand plans for him. Recognizing the power of education and the doors it could open, he returned to college, took the corporate route on Wall Street, and later earned an MBA from the esteemed Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Fintech Revolution: The Birth of Arcus

Fast forward to 2013, and Edrizio is at the helm of a groundbreaking venture. Arcus, co-founded by him, was a fintech beacon backed by industry giants like Y Combinator, Citi Ventures, SoftBank, and Ignia. In 2021, in a monumental move, the company found its new home with Mastercard.

The Spirit of an Underdog Founder

Edrizio's life is the quintessence of turning challenges into opportunities, a theme he passionately discusses in his book, The Underdog Founder.

"My way of putting everything I've learned into the context of a story is to help motivate and inspire people who've experienced extreme obstacles," he says.

This book, with its nuanced subtext of stoicism, aims to elevate the unseen, the underdogs, the ones often overshadowed by the looming giants of tech.

“Tech is all around us. It's ominous. But I've met people that built these companies. What I gather is that there are a number of people like you and I who made lots of mistakes, who also struggled physically, mentally, psychologically,” Edrizio states, emphasizing the idea that success is achievable for anyone willing to endure and adapt.

Turning Obstacles into Milestones

Edrizio elucidates some core principles that were pivotal in his journey:

  • Find Your Fuel: Understand what drives you. “Because ideas may change... But what doesn't change is what drives you,” he emphasizes.

  • Surround Yourself with Brilliance: “Just hang out with smarter founders...and you'll naturally become the best version of you,” says Edrizio, stressing the importance of networking.

  • Cultivate Grit: This, according to him, is the biggest trait shared by successful founders. His recollection of Twitch's story illustrates the significance of tenacity in the entrepreneurial world.

A Leap of Faith

Reflecting on a life-altering decision, Edrizio reminisces about the time he rejected a stable job offer to continue pursuing his dream, a move that marked a pivotal point in his career.

“I said to myself once I got out of there, Edrizio, if you take this job, you will regret it the rest of your life...So I kept applying...and I never looked back.”

His story serves as a testament to the philosophy that sometimes, moving forward means having nothing to go back to.

Conclusion: Grit, Growth, and Giving Back

Edrizio De La Cruz's odyssey from Harlem to the pinnacle of fintech success is not just inspiring but instructive. His narrative teaches us the value of resilience, the importance of finding purpose, and the unmatched power of grit.

For those standing at a crossroads, uncertain about the path to choose, remember that every obstacle and setback can be the stepping stone to unprecedented success, provided one has the mettle to persevere.


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