Ok, deep breath. It’s been so long since I’ve published that just breaking the ice and writing anything seems like a daunting task. For whatever reason I tend to overthink the act of blogging and try to imagine some epic post that never seems to get written. Rest assured that it would be epic if I did write it down!
I had an interesting year and I’m going to actively avoid trying to capture it all in one blog post for fear of never publishing again. Sometimes you just gotta start typing.
I took the last part of 2013 off after being RIF’ed from my last job of 7 years. I wanted to take time to think about my next move before just leaping back into another “job”. There were some things I wanted to accomplish like learning Obj-C, publishing my first iPhone app, riding my bike more, spending more time w/ my family, and just generally not intending to do anything so as to keep my options open and explore.
I really wanted to do a startup. For all the wrong reasons it turns out. We hear so much about startups now that it seems everyone has one… and needs one! This is absolutely the wrong reason to start a new business. It’s a solution looking for a problem to solve. I didn’t know any of this at the time.
I attended a class on startups called Venture Forth at the TechRanch in Austin, TX. It was an 8-week class where a cohort of entrepreneurs would meet weekly and work together to launch their ventures. Looking back, I started w/ a token of an idea just because I wanted to work on something. The experience was worth it though and I’m glad I took the time to figure that out.
The class finished and I was quickly finding out the limits that my wife found acceptable in terms of financial burn rate. With neither of us working and two kids I needed income. She was very supportive but I also didn’t want to push it too far. To her credit, she never once demanded that I go get a job. She did often tease me about “not doing shit” though. lol.
I decided that I wanted to stick w/ pursuing my idea for a startup but at this point I figured out a critical fact.
You are more attractive to other entrepreneurs if you don’t have a job and you’re working on your own thing… even if the idea is weak.
I was aware enough to know that if I took a salaried job then the startup experiment would be over.
In need of cash and zero desire to “go back to work”, I networked my way into some hourly contract opportunities w/ a new mobile services startup, Jackrabbit Mobile. Starting at 5 hours a week, I wasn’t pursuing it as a salary replacement, I just wanted to control my burn rate to continue pursing what I really wanted to do.
I backed into the best idea of my year in transition.
If you want to build a real network, work with as many people as you can.
It’s one thing to meet people at networking events and it’s an entirely different thing to roll up your sleeves and work next to someone. You really get to know a person when doing the latter. With the benefit of hindsight, I can tell you without a doubt, if you want to change your path you should be willing to work for free just to work next to people who are doing what you want to do. If you commit everything to it, it will lead to something interesting. No doubt.
By June, I had the perfect recipe to move forward. I was optimistic. I had balance across family, work, and fitness. I was working with people I enjoyed working with. I was making less than I made 10 years prior! I was working for a startup out of Capital Factory leading mobile software projects for other startups in Austin who needed mobile applications. I was inundated w/ contacts all in the space I wanted to be in.
I had no idea what this would lead to at the time. I was working on a better idea for my own startup at this point and trading work w/ the Jackrabbit guys to help me build it (I was helping them establish the processes needed to run a services team and they were giving me design work on my app).
By mid-June I was asked to lead a new mobile project for Michael Dell’s son. He had a startup and was gearing up to launch a mobile app at UT in September for the Fall semester… they had a design in a Keynote presentation and little else. It was risky as hell and I knew there would be some long hours ahead to make that deadline. I dove in headfirst… I needed to see what was behind that door.
Skipping ahead, we did work long hours, we did successfully launch a 1.0 product at a huge party at the Fiji house, and I did get asked to join their team.
Was this the opportunity I had been waiting for? Did I have a better shot owning a smaller piece of the pie joining their team than I did owning the whole pie for my own product idea? Would there be something better to come along later?
Long story short, I joined Thread as a Co-Founder and CTO. Over the next several months until now it’s been a lot of hours getting that initial 1.0 product to where it is now. I should really take the time to write about some of those adventures. I will.
I remain appreciative of the Jackrabbit team which initially introduced me to the Thread team. I stayed on to run two other projects for Jackrabbit until they wrapped up by the end of the year. I felt like that was the right thing to do even though launching a startup and running two additional mobile projects put a ton of strain on me personally. Balance gone. Fitness vanished.
I took off the last two weeks of December (well mostly, but that’s a long story). The last of my Jackrabbit projects are all closed out. I have balance again, fitness is in progress, and I’m optimistic about Thread in 2015.
The big lesson of last year reminded me of something my High School football coach once said:
A lot of people will see a team that wins and say “yeah, but they got a lucky break along the way” and that’s just bullshit. Good teams put themselves in a position to have a break go their way by preparing for success and then working hard everyday until “luck” happens.
History will decide if 2014 was my “lucky break” year but one thing is for sure, I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t do the “risky” thing by actively avoiding going back to work, making less money, having less certainty where my next check would come from, and just keeping my options open.
I’ll be very impressed if you made it this far. Damn epic blog posts…