I’m more than halfway through a 14-hour drive, when the red and blue lights catch my attention.
I merge into the left lane of Interstate 70 thinking a Kansas cop has pulled someone over, then notice a yellow sign lit up: “Drug and currency checkpoint ahead.”
Then another one, “Dogs in use.”
I suck in air as my heart skips and starts beating faster. My subconscious makes me touch the breaks. I’m riding dirty, having just picked up two weed chocolates, three pre-rolled joints and a pain-relieving weed gummy, all medical grade.
There’s an exit!
But no one else is slowing down. No one is pulling off. Surely I’m not the only one driving out of Colorado with marijuana? Maybe I should just toss the bag out the window.
I call up a friend in Missouri and he starts investigating.
“Don’t pull off. It’s a ruse,” he says. “Which actually the courts recently ruled was not a good enough cause to pull someone over if they exited the highway.”
Why are the roads such a scary place for road trippers now? The days of Thompson and Kerouac aren’t the only things in the rear view.
When did we start allowing people in power, in this case cops, to trick us into doing something wrong? When did we start allowing them to get away with entrapment?
I’m sitting in a conference room in a nondescript office building in Fairway, Kansas. Outside the window is the growing metropolis that is Kansas City, expanding across the flatlands into both Missouri and Kansas.
Is it sleep deprivation from the six-hour drive this morning or the rhythmic click of ping pong in the breakroom that’s making it hard to keep my eyes open?
Or maybe I’m just not as interested in traditional finance as I used to be?
The thoughts vanish, C2FO is right up my alley, a business moving money quicker into the hands of small business suppliers for large corporates, a commendable model.
Because generally suppliers have been made to wait months for payment. Individual industries have standards for procurement, usually standards that were decided on decades ago before the Internet and the real-time revolution.
Corporate clients (which could be Coca-Cola or Amazon), working with C2FO, put a certain amount of money into a pool each day that C2FO then rations out to as many of the company’s suppliers as it can ahead of the agreed procurement date.
If not all the suppliers can be paid out early with the pooled money, C2FO looks at the buyer’s rate of return (interest rate) with a particular supplier and what discounts the supplier is offering the buyer to pay early. C2FO works to get the best deal, every day, for the buyers. And the supplier’s benefit is access to quicker cash, which can then be used as working capital instead of the supplier having to go through the traditional financial system which makes borrowing money difficult, expensive and risky for the supplier.
In my mind if it worked the opposite way, where C2FO works to get the suppliers, the little guy, that best deal, that’d be ideal.
But alas, this is how the payments industry is innovating today. Because changing the procurement processes of whole industries where the large corporates don’t see a benefit is a tough change, but building an opt-in platform that benefits both parties is doable.
At a conference recently he started talking to someone about the “broken financial system.” “Everyone knows it’s not a good thing to hold money hostage,” he says, although that requires a long-term view that might cut into short-term gains.
Not only does C2FO provide mutual benefit, but another reason the company continues to grow is because Americans are awkward when it comes to talking about money.
“A lot of these suppliers don’t want to talk to their buyers about terms and payments,” says Emily Crafton, marketing communications director at C2FO. C2FO, she says, “keeps the buyer/seller relationship out of it.”
A supplier asking the buyer for early payment hurts the relationship, because it makes it seem like the supplier is cash strapped, says Crafton.
C2FO has 35 active buyers and 250,000 suppliers on its platform with 50,000 to 100,000 of them sending invoices in any given month.
The company is one of a growing number setting up in the Midwest. C2FO has also helped Midwestern fintech by building a 20,000 square-foot public workspace intended to be shared with entrepreneurs and early-stage startups.
One of those companies includes InReturn Strategies, which connects employers to associations for people with disabilities looking for work.
According to Jim Atwater, founder and CEO of InReturn, about 75% of people with disabilities are unemployed, and it’s not because of dispassion.
“A lot of these people are taking [hand-outs] because they’ve given up, not because they don’t want to work,” Atwater says. His voice gives away a hearing impairment, but it’s a nice sound, knowing that the company is headed by someone that understands its target market’s struggles.
“Businesses can’t see all these people,” Atwater says.
But there are proven business models in hiring people with disabilities.
When a company employs an individual with disabilities, there’s 48% less turnover. According to Atwater, this is because it’s challenging for people with disabilities to find jobs, so when a person gets one with support they’re not going to up and leave.
There are also tax incentives for businesses that employ people with disabilities.
Half of Walgreens distribution center employees are people with disabilities, Atwater says. So whether or not, the executives are making that decision for altruistic reasons or whether it’s to keep costs down, the legislation is creating an incentive for entrenched players to do good.
I continue driving, wary about the exits even far past the checkpoint… It’s another 20 miles before I pull off.
I’m lucky, but the checkpoint is one of many. They’re created by institutions of power, ones that figured out their interests aligned and that by aligning those interests they could increase their revenue and stay in power, and keep us in a state of uncertainty and fear.
But, we’re a bit guilty, too. Because we don’t pay attention, not until we realize we’re driving into the trap.