PALM SPRINGS, Calif., Nov. 13, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Steve Streit has been named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2011 Financial Services Award winner. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year is the country's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The award encourages entrepreneurial activity and recognizes leaders and visionaries who demonstrate innovation, financial success and personal commitment as they create and build world-class businesses.
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Streit was recognized for creating prepaid Visa and MasterCard branded reloadable debit cards, now sold at more than 50,000 retailers nationwide. Green Dot is transforming the way many Americans bank. Streit was honored at the Entrepreneur Of The Year gala, the culminating event of the Ernst & Young Strategic Growth Forum® in Palm Springs, California. The Forum is the nation's premier gathering of high-growth, market-leading companies. Awards were given in nine additional categories. The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners were selected by an independent panel of judges from approximately 300 regional award recipients.
"In order to be an entrepreneur success story, you need to have the right combination of leadership, confidence, tenacity and drive," said Bryan Pearce, Americas Director, Entrepreneur Of The Year, Ernst & Young LLP. "This perfectly describes Steve Streit. He was originally a broadcasting executive with little knowledge of the financial services industry, but that certainly didn't stop him from finding a void in the marketplace and filling it, and at the same time changing the face of banking for many Americans. He used his life savings to get him started, and though the road was rocky, the company has persevered and gained tremendous success. Streit embodies entrepreneurship and is very deserving of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Award."
From disc jockey to financial apprentice
Streit, a back-up disc jockey to Casey Kasem and broadcasting executive throughout his career, had little knowledge of banking, payment cards and technology. However, he was not deterred, and for each challenge that presented itself, Sreit worked to find a creative solution.
Although Streit knew he was onto something good when he first conceived of Green Dot, he wasn't sure how to bring his idea to fruition. At the time, there was no technology infrastructure to support it, and retailers had never sold such a product. Streit had no interest from investors, and no banks or card associations wanted to partner with him. To most, the prepaid card industry is misunderstood — who would want to pay a nominal fee to put their own money on a card? However, Streit saw a need in the industry — cards for people living from paycheck to paycheck who may not have bank accounts or people who have trouble obtaining credit, especially in economically disadvantaged environments.
Finding an audience
Streit ultimately obtained investment from Sequoia Capital, one of the largest venture capital funds in Silicon Valley, to help scale the business. The first card was sold in 2001 during a pilot program at Rite Aid drug stores. After a few months of sales, Streit and his team came to realize the card was selling to a different consumer base than the one they had targeted. Streit thought youth would be the top consumers because they were looking to purchase items on the internet, but in fact, the top consumers turned out to be adults — the millions of Americans who were not utilizing traditional banking services. In just 12 years, the company has grown beyond Streit's bedroom into the purveyor of the product of choice for those who use prepaid debit cards to manage their finances.
In 2010, the company reached a new level of maturity as it went public, becoming one of the most successful IPOs of the year. Today, Green Dot is financially sound, and income continues to grow: 2010 sales were up 40% year-over-year. The company has also applied to become a bank holding company and is awaiting approval from the Federal Reserve to acquire a bank, which will allow it to further grow the business and help to credentialize it as a premier financial institution in the US. Streit's vision for Green Dot is for it to one day be the "people's bank."
National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Financial Services finalists
In addition to Streit, the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year Financial Services finalists are: Chairman and CEO Peter R. Kassabov of Digital Risk LLC, based in Maitland, Florida, a leading provider of mortgage risk management solutions, providing buyers and sellers of mortgages and mortgage-backed securities with analytical, technological and risk management services; Chairman and CEO James Reynolds, Jr. of Loop Capital Markets in Chicago, Illinois, a creative and highly client-focused provider of a broad range of integrated capital solutions for corporate, governmental and institutional entities; and President Scott Thompson of PayPal, based in San Jose, California, the global e-commerce business allowing payments and money transfers to be made through the internet as an alternative to paying with traditional methods like checks, credit cards or money orders.
National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Overall Award winners
Reid Hoffman, Chairman, and Jeff Weiner, CEO, of LinkedIn Corporation were named the Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 Overall Award winners.
Video and photos
To view video clips of all of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Award winners, please visit
Photos of the winners are also available by request.
Founded and produced by Ernst & Young LLP, the Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards are pleased to have the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as a national sponsor.
About Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year
Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur Of The Year is the world's most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The unique award makes a difference through the way it encourages entrepreneurial activity among those with potential and recognizes the contribution of people who inspire others with their vision, leadership and achievement. As the first and only truly global award of its kind, Entrepreneur Of The Year celebrates those who are building and leading successful, growing and dynamic businesses, recognizing them through regional, national and global awards programs in more than 140 cities in 50 countries.
About Ernst & Young's Strategic Growth Markets practice
Ernst & Young LLP's Strategic Growth Markets (SGM) practice guides leading high-growth companies. Our multidisciplinary team of elite professionals provides perspective and advice to help our clients accelerate market leadership. SGM delivers assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services to thousands of companies spanning all industries. Ernst & Young is the undisputed leader in taking companies public, advising key government agencies on the issues impacting high-growth companies and convening the experts who shape the business climate. For more information, please visit us at ey.com/us/strategicgrowthmarkets, or follow news on Twitter at @EY_Growth.
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