Today marks the first day of our third year working on benja.
One of the many lessons I've learned as a first-time founder is that it's important to take a moment to celebrate your wins. Today, we celebrate the fact that we're still kickin'.
Rather than sharing a grandiose "we're changing the world" post or writing a bland thank you to our stakeholders, I thought I would use this space to share two quick stories from the past 24 months.
The One Where We Found Love in a Hopeless Place
There are a lot of keys to getting a startup off the ground - the most important is finding the right co-founder. In truth, I had a handful of good options but in my mind there was only one person who I wanted to go to battle with: Tommy Goode.
I met Tommy while working at another startup where he was a senior developer and I was an early business hire. We worked together on a few projects - I knew he was talented and I could trust him. There was one small detail: I needed him to buy in to the idea.
I was working remotely from Boston for the Gainesville, Florida-based startup and I didn't have a lot of one-on-one time with Tommy. I couldn't find a window to make the pitch. Time passed and as it did, I thought that we were going to miss the chance.
As we got into the summer of 2014, things started to change at our employer. Eventually, the company made a deal that included a big pivot and re-configuration. We were going to be free agents. This was my chance.
At the conclusion of my final trip to Gainesville, Tommy offered to give me a ride to the airport - I told you he was co-founder material. I hopped in his Chevy Blazer. My palms were sweaty. I pitched benjamin: sixty-second deals for the first time.
It took the full two hours. I stumbled. I didn't know what the app was supposed to look like. We had no vendors or partners. I had an idea for how to make money but no idea if vendors would dig it. We didn't know what to call the company. We had no financial backing - no connections at the ever-important startup accelerators. Neither of us had ever worked on a consumer-facing tech product before. We lived 1,200 miles apart.
... but there it was: Benjamin was born in a white 2000 Chevy Blazer on a stretch of I-75 South between Gainesville and Orlando.
You never know where this stuff is going to happen.
The One Where We uh, Failed to Launch
Getting from napkin to release took almost a year.
As we approached launch, we were accepted to the Blue Startups accelerator program in Honolulu, Hawaii. I went for the duration of the program. Tommy hung back on the mainland. I lined up vendors, worked on merchandising, and worked out how orders would be filled. Tommy plugged away, squashing bugs and making sure that people would be able to swipe for a pair of running shoes.
Our target launch date got closer. We lined it up to coincide with the conclusion of the accelerator program so that we would be able to stand up at demo day and announce that the app was available for download.
Tommy and our Creative Director Ben Adams flew to Hawaii. We would work together in the accelerator offices, explore Oahu, and celebrate our year-long journey together.
We hit submit. Even with Apple's 7-10 day wait period, we were going to be public in time for demo day. We went to a luau.
We were pumped. We spent the next few days testing the beta, making sure that we would be ready for any possible issue. We dug into some of the finer details, like how to tweak product images to make those Nike running shoes look just a little cooler.
That's when we realized something: we forgot to take the payment processor out of test mode before we hit submit. D'oh.
We fixed it. We applied for a fast-track acceptance by Apple. We pulled every string we could.
... and there I was on demo day, telling the hundreds of people in attendance that the app would be out in just a few days.
Somewhere between these two stories, I wrote a pitch e-mail to our Creative Director to be, Ben Adams. The subject line: "A LIFE CHANGING OPPORTUNITY LOL NOT SPAM."
The e-mail started: "To make a long story short, I had an idea for a startup a few months ago that I've sort of stashed away until now. There are a few reasons why it's coming out now -- one being that I really thought someone would have done it by now and they haven't . . . and another being that I can't help but think that this is a really huge opportunity that I'm going to regret not pursuing."
When I wrote those words, I described fear of missing a clear opportunity.
As we begin our third year, it's clear that this was an immature and foolish way to start the pitch. Our favorite moments didn't materialize because of the opportunity, nor did they appear because we were beating people to market or "changing the world."
The truth is that we've found happiness in the pursuit itself.
Mahalo to our users, our vendors, our shareholders and our team. Thanks to them, we get to keep this pursuit going. There's nothing better.
To many more,