Fast: An Autopsy
Why the Stripe-backed checkout startup failed, and what we can learn from it
Failure is a great teacher. Fast, a high profile one-click checkout startup backed by Stripe, went belly up on April 5th. The company’s failure offers lessons for investors and operators.
Fast 101: Passwords Don’t Scale
Stripped to the chassis, business is basic arithmetic: cash in versus cash out. At some point, the former needs to exceed the later. If not, the lights go out. Fast, a now defunct one-click checkout startup, is a case study on the cold logic of this basic arithmetic.
Fast was founded in March 2019 by Domm Holland, a brash Australian entrepreneur and skydiving enthusiast, and Allison Barr Allen, who led Global Product Operations for the Money Team at Uber. Over its short lifespan, the company raised over $120 million and was valued at $580 million. Investors included payments giant Stripe, which led both the Series A and Series B, as well as prominent venture firms like Index Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, and Susa Ventures.
Holland pitched Fast as bringing Amazon’s one-click checkout to the rest of the internet. The company’s goal was to speed up e-commerce transactions. Its one-click checkout button launched in September 2020 with 100 merchants. The key to speed is solving identity: knowing a customer’s shipping address, payment credentials, and the other information required to complete an online transaction. With Fast, customers just needed to fill out their credentials once. After that, they could checkout in Fast’s merchant network with one-click. In the blue sky scenario, Fast eliminates the need for a checkout form. Instead of creating an account for each merchant, customers would only need one account to shop online.
One of Fast’s benefits was letting shoppers checkout directly from a product page, avoiding the checkout flow entirely. More than 50% of Fast checkouts happened this way. Another was batching. By integrating with merchant’s backend systems, Fast allowed customers to add to their order post-purchase, helping merchants upsell and save on shipping by aggregating multiple items in one box.