I officially pulled the plug last week on a 2+ year startup/side project called BumblePost. It was my baby for the majority of that two years, with many late nights spent working on the site, creating product, and doing the startup tango. I spent over $20,000 trying to create the simplest greeting card company on the planet, and to see the plug finally pulled hurts in a lot of ways. Most of that is pride or ego, but it hurts a lot regardless. It is also, without a doubt, the best money I have every spent. I could get all fluffy about how much I learned in the process, and the value of that knowledge, but most of that would be bullshit. Life itself is a learning lesson, regardless of what you’re doing. The real return on investment came in the form of jobs. Two of them to be exact.
During the winter of 2011 we (BumblePost) applied for the TechStars program in Boulder, and focused the majority of our efforts on getting into the program. We had already built the Beta version of the site, had active users scheduling and sending cards, and were getting great feedback from customers. What we needed was the brilliant talent behind the TechStars program to help us turn a basic, yet cool, greeting card company into a tech startup (think API for CRMs). Through the application process, I met an awesome mentor in Jim Franklin, who is the CEO of SendGrid. Jim helped us through the app process, and gave us invaluable advice during it. Somehow we made it as a finalist for the program, which at the time was the top 30 out of ~600 applicants. This was a huge accomplishment for us, but it made the sting a lot worse when we found out we didn’t make it into the final 10.
Not long after getting rejected, Jim shot me note telling me I should try to get a job at another startup. That advice didn’t take much convincing, so I ran with it. Jim put me in touch with Walter Knapp, the COO of Lijit, who had sales positions open. I ended up getting a job at Lijit, and became one of the better performing reps on the team. I got to watch and actively participate in a startups’ hyper growth of over 10X in 6 months. This led to Lijit being acquired by Federated Media, and not long after the acquisition I was promoted to manage the sales team. Selling something and managing people who are selling something are 2 very different ball games. I learned a ton about myself and about my own leadership style during this time, and after about 8 months of managing I got the itch to proverbially “fill it up again.” I was craving a small team, with a cool tech product, and trying to reproduce that hyper growth story.
I met a couple guys through the TechStars application process who had built a tool called Who Sent It. They were also applying for the program, but they didn’t get the same rejection email I got. They graduated from the program last fall as FullContact, and seemed like some really smart dudes building an interesting product. I reached out to Dan Lynn, one of the co-founders, to feel out where they were with hiring. Fast forward some coffee, some beer, and 2 months of time, and I find myself here. Sitting in the FullContact office, writing a blog post, and in my second week of employment with them. I couldn’t be more stoked about where I am. Learning product, starting from scratch, and working with people far more intelligent than myself is incredibly exciting, and I owe it all to my “failed” venture.
I may not know the key to life, wealth, and happiness, but I do know that following your passion is a hell of a journey to get there. When you follow your passion, the road may fork or take a u-turn, but at least you’re in the right car. And I think that’s what it’s about at the end of the day. The world has a funny way of working itself out for those willing to enjoy the ride. Thanks BumblePost. It’s been real. You were the best $20,000 I ever wasted.