The amazing adventure of a startup — told in song.
13 songs that defined our journey — so far
Starting a venture is an incestuous marriage of faith and imagination — a rocky start at best. But that what’s makes it so seductive. It is a journey of triumph and terror; vision tinged with delusion and where courage carries the day. Yet in this heady mix, the existential question always remains; will money run out before hope does.
Our own stomach churning, roller coaster ride of nose dives and last minute saves had its share of villains, heroes, schmucks, menschs and chivalrous white knights who stepped in more than once to save this damsel in distress.
This both humbled and emboldened me.
I persevered during the dark nights, quietly defying the odds despite management shake-ups and false development starts. Yet here we are; we’ve come out on the other side. Our platform is live with paying corporate customers. After nearly two years — we have our proof of concept.
This is a particularly precious moment in the life of a venture where rational doubters lost out to those who held the faith. So here is our story from incorporation until now marked by the songs that spoke to me in the moment that I was living the “startup dream.”
It was a journey of unexpected twists and turns. But through it all, the support of the team and our circle of friends has been extraordinary. Rarely has a venture been blessed with so many assets of support. So now is our time to show ‘em what we’ve got. As we move into 2014, we are more optimistic than ever.
We incorporate December 2011.
After about 6 months of hesitation given my lack of ambition to be a CEO of anything, I am persuaded by an advisor to get real and incorporate in Delaware so we can go after investor funds.
In that administrative moment — everything changed and I felt like I have fallen down into a “hyper hacker” rabbit hole where I clearly don’t belong. I am not young. I am not a guy. I am not a hacker or a coder. I did not go to an Ivy League school. And most egregiously, I never had a passion about being an entrepreneur. No wonder I feel as oddly out of place like poor Alice in Avril Lavigne’s song.
Tripping out … Spinning around
I’m underground … I fell down
Yeah, I fell down.
I’m freaking out … So, where am I now?
Upside down … And I can’t stop it now …
It can’t stop me now …
That last turn of the phrase always inspired me because it spoke to my hope that what starts out uncontrolled can be tamed through strength of will.
We get real in April 2012.
We close our first angel round. There is so much I don’t know except I don’t know it yet. Ignorance is never bliss but it is seductive.
And much like those early adventurers who took off for the North Pole high spirited, confident in their boats and provisions not knowing what dangers really lies ahead of them, we are embark on our adventure, buoyed by visions of what can be.
This song, Touched by the Sun by Carly Simon really captured the moment.
If you want to be brave and reach for the top of the sky and the farthest point on the horizon.
Do you know who you’ll meet there?
Great soldiers and seafarers, artists and dreamers who need to be close, close to the light.
They need to be in danger of burning by fire.
And I, I want to get there,
I, I want to be one…one who is touched by the sun.
Keeping it together — June 2012
The cracks are beginning to show as my lack of CEO savvy allowed some unsustainable relationships to continue. This created a cascading effect which starts to rock the entire boat. Crisis moment came when investors lost confidence in the some key people in the venture.
I had to clean house all the while shoring up investor confidence. Quite a trick as I had no management team, no funding leads and not even a clear tech roadmap.
Yet I am determined to persevere despite show-stopping obstacles. I keep saying to myself, mantra-like: “Hope is irresistible” as in this song Can’t fall down by Natasha Bedingfield
Change can be a new beginning — September 2012
Perhaps I was naïve or perhaps I was willfully naïve but in most cases the waves that hit us would have sunk most ventures. But I refused to be felled. Instead, I took this chance to regroup and reorganize. During these dark days of turmoil, these words from Carly Simon in Coming around again seemed to give my heart the courage it so sorely needed. “So don’t mind if I fall apart there’s more room in a broken heart.“
Failure is not an option — October 2012
All logical indications suggest that the challenges facing the venture may not be something we can recover from. In the quiet of the night, I wondered what compelled me to think this was something I could do. Yet, despite the night terrors, I knew we were capable of creating something special even if I could not articulate as crisply as I would have liked. I had no intention of being rational right now since failure was not an option. All I kept thinking: “Just a little more time … cuz just a little more time could open closing doors” as in this song from Corey Hart — Never surrender.
A white knight appears — December 2012
As the collapse continues, I have key management positions open and I am out of funds. I am quickly running out of options and yet I remain defiant. It is inconceivable that this venture will not have a chance to get born. And then at the last minute, a friend, colleague, a mensch comes to our aid and kicks in enough to keep us afloat for a few months. It is a lifeline that I grasp with gratitude. I won’t back down by Tom Petty is my theme song.
New Year: January 2013
The fact that we made it to the New Year was seemed an optimistic omen. I was still standing and we added some key folks from tech to creative. These people represented the best of what venturing is about — joining to help shape the vision despite the high risk. Our platform was nowhere near done. We had few funding prospects. Yet these incredibly talented and passionate people signed up one by one knowing our dire financial situation. The shared mission overcame the hurdles. We knew we were onto something special even if we couldn’t articulate it as clearly as we want for investors. “Let all the dreamers wake the nation” Let the river run — Carly Simon
The Resolution — March 2013
We are starting to jell as a team and we are making importance progress. But the further we into development we went, the more we had to accept that in creating a new consumer powered space, there were no models to emulate; no easy answers. We were forging a new space. We were creating Eden.
In survival comes renewed focus and purpose. The resolution — Jack’s Mannequin was how I felt.
There’s a lot that I don’t know
There’s a lot that I’m still learning
When I think I’m letting go
I find my body it’s still burning ….
Somebody clear the wreckage from the blast
Yeah I’m alive
But I don’t need a witness to know that I’ve survived.
I’m not looking for forgiveness,
Yeah I just need light
I need light in the dark as I search for the resolution
The ALPHA finish line is in sight — May 2013
Halleluiah. We have decided on a hard launch date and we are on schedule. I have fantasies of setting the marketing world on fire. This song Remember the Name — Fort Minor captures this ephemeral moment.
This is 10% luck, 20% skill
15% concentrated power of will
5% pleasure, 50% pain
And a 100% reason to remember the name!
Overcoming the demons in my head — July 2013
Funding is happening at an excruciating $10K or $25K at a time. But hey, it is happening — right? Trouble is I am spending too much time apologizing to investors for what I am not — a guy in his 20’s who is a hacker or at the very least a grad of some Ivy League school. These are limitations are demons that must be exorcised because: “It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back” from Shake it out — Florence and the Machine
Our first real sales — October 2013
Our platform is totally up. And as planned, we can get a community up in just a few days. Best yet, almost immediately we made two sales. It’s hard to describe the joy, the relief and the terror because now the real work begins!
And the stakes just got higher — by a lot.
Still, at least for a little, we are relishing the moment. We stayed true to who we are — an “agile” marketing platform that can keep up with a rapidly changing marketing tech world. “The sky is limit and I just want to float…. Free as a spirit on a journey of hope.” Weightless — Natasha Bedingfield
High hopes — November 2013
We enter November full of promise. We are having great partnership conversations with many different types of marketing pro’s. Best yet, our solution is being sold by agencies to their clients — just like we hoped. But the more we close and the more we pitch, the more stretched our hardy little team becomes.
Then, another white knight swoops in to give us enough of runway room to get additional help. It feels like the marines have landed and we are “Marchin On — One Republic”
A time of gratitude — December 2013
This is a poignant moment for us. As a venture, we are always vulnerable. Yet, the team is more optimistic than ever because they know we are surrounded by a wide circle of colleagues and friends that are going above and beyond to help. I can never thank them all enough except to ensure that we make this a wild success so their faith in us will be seen as prophetic (aim high J)
It’s a community of friends that launched this venture. Time and time again — we were so grateful. Thank you for being a friend (Andrew Gold)
I don’t know what songs we will be singing in 2014, but I do know we will be singing. And that’s a victory song no matter what happens.