Stories from Eight Years & Two Months: Part II.

Between South by Southwest & graduation, AJ & I talked every couple of days about VaynerMedia. He’d call me after meetings. He assigned me random research projects. He’d give me peeks at what our world was going to be like, & look like.

First vaynermedia.com mockup — the live version looked similar, but it was green & had actual text, not Lorem ipsum.

A Google chat between me & AJ on May 12, 2009:

me: yes. i have a final in 2.5 hours
AJ: gl!
me: thanks. then a project due at 4 and then i’m DONE!
:D
alright latez
AJ: :) :) :)

[10 hours later]

me: doneeeee
i IMed gary saying the same thing and he fed me two links. one to his book and one to his most recent wltv
lol

I remember distinctly the day I arrived to New York. I remember the outfit I was wearing. I was way over-dressed, if you can believe it. & I remember how overwhelmingly excited I was — we were — for the unknown that was to come.

It was the wild wild west. Truly. Social media marketing was just getting started, & we were at the forefront. (For context, the day before I got to New York, AJ sent me & the only other full-time employee Dave Zhang an article called The Awesome Potential of Retweet. How far we’ve come.)

Our first office was a conference room at Buddy Media. It could fit… several people. Luckily it had a good AC. Buddy was founded a couple of years before Vayner & had a good-sized team based in Columbus Circle. They were a company we could look to, proof of what was possible.

A few days after our first day, Gary’s daughter Misha was born. When Gary & AJ left the office I remember thinking, “Well, now what?” Four days in, there wasn’t a whole lot of direction. We were all 22 (besides Gary) & none of us had ever worked at an agency before. I’m sure we figured it out.

Less than a week in.

A couple months later, we moved into a co-working space called Sunshine Suites down in TriBeCa.

The early days were full of trial & error, testing & failing & testing & learning. We were fast & furious. We had full-team morning jam sessions that would guide our direction for the day or for the week. Some of our early failed thoughts & attempts: a deal site called Patient Panda, a social voting / gaming platform called Daily 1 to 10, & a series of blogs called the At Lunch Network (you’d get your daily dose of content at lunch… get it?).

We worked hard. We played hard. Especially ping pong… We played a lot of ping pong. But only after 6pm — & then long into the night. & we did unlimited sushi & sake most Fridays.

One of VaynerMedia’s longest-standing traditions (if not the longest-standing tradition), Wine Wednesday, was born. Gary’d actually bought a wine-based social network called Cork’d, & that team worked out of our office as well. So, on Wednesday evenings, we would get together & drink wine & get to know each other & play games & form bonds.

We were family — 100%. & it was in those early days where our culture was born. Heart. Hustle. Speed. Scrappiness. Trust. Friendship. Curiosity. Collaboration. Communication. Optimism. Passion. Team.

& we never looked back.


After eight years, I’m leaving VaynerMedia. I wrote about it here.

My last day is not until Friday, July 28th. Until then, I’m focused squarely on Vayner. After that, well…

Read a great book recently? Listened to a stellar podcast? Working on something cool? Just want to talk? Hit me up. I’d love to connect… listen… share… help. How can I help?

[sam@samtaggart.com on email. @gosam pretty much everywhere else.]

Much love.