Giving Up Everything For A Startup

After spending the last sixteen years in Philly, I packed my bags and moved to Boston on Monday. You’re probably wondering why, for those who do know me there’s an obvious answer. I moved to work on Fireflies, a startup I’ve been working on with some of my closest friends. Let me take a step back and tell you a story about what it felt like to make the move.

All of this was stuffed inside my suitcase

The decision to move didn’t really unsettle me at first. I knew it was risky and I was forgoing at least a year of salary and resume boosters. But deep down I knew I had to listen to the voice that was screaming inside me. I didn’t have to, but needed to take probably the biggest risk of my life. I was ready to leave behind my family and my friends, the social bubble I had built for the past twenty-something years.

A few months ago we all agreed to focus all of our efforts on the startup. No more distractions, no more working at tech companies or going to school. We needed an 18 month road map to build the technology company that we felt would add the most to the world. One where we were heavily invested in solving the core problem and building an innovative solution. The funny thing is that the three of us have really out of the box ideas. From having friends deliver your meals to automating your relationships, we even thought of how drones could be used to do chores or give you tours. We love pushing the realm of reality and it was one of the key factors that led me to move to Boston.

Even when I bought my ticket to Boston and booked my housing arrangements I was really confident about moving. However the days leading up to the big move were unsettling. I couldn’t believe I was moving. When my dad asked, “Are you coming back in two weeks to visit?” I realized that I had never really been apart from my family. The twenty-something years I have always been in some sort of social bubble. When I moved for college, I went to a school in Philly where my Mom works a few blocks away. Philly was always home. And moving to Boston felt like moving across the country. It is still in the northeast, people are similar, and the city does remind me of Philly sometimes. But I don’t have anyone who I really know other that my co-founder Sam. It is a city of unknowns and one left to explore.

Boston’s Back Bay

What really kicked in my nervousness was how my parents were okay with me moving. I felt they would put up a bigger fight like when I was younger. A part of me wanted them to, so I could argue with them and convince my inner-self. But that didn’t happen and I was forced to be a self-conflicted and a nervous wreck for the next couple days. Last Friday when I started packing that feeling of leaving got worse. I was really doing it. I’m crazy. I’m leaving all my hard work from the last couple years behind. But whenever I talked to my family and friends it felt like they were the ones convincing me to leave now. The last couple days, I spent as much time with my family as possible. And finally on Monday morning I went to Philly to grab my bus to Boston at 6AM. And it was late…

The bus eventually showed up and I spent the bus ride listening to music and trying to distract my brain from thinking about the move. When I reached Boston I sent a quick text to my landlord and called an Uber right away. During the Uber ride I was scared the place I had booked was going to be a nightmare. It was across the city but that’s what I get for trying to find a cheap place to live at before the move to the big house in a month. The Uber drive went through some sketchy neighborhoods, making the feeling worse. But I went into “fuck it” mode and said I had to deal with it.

The Uber driver dropped me a block off from where the actual house was, great. (Side note: Uber needs an improved Waze integration to tell the driver to stop before the destination b/c in nearly all cases the driver passes the pickup/dropoff location). I spent the next few minutes trying to find the right house and made my way over there. This whole time I was lugging a huge suitcase full of my life’s belongings. Why I’m telling you this is because of what came next. The steps up to the house were at least two stories tall. And I was living on the third floor… Yea this really sucked. Skipping leg day hit me and I was exhausted by the time I finally dragged the fifty pound suitcase up 5 flights of stairs. I’m in luck that the AirBnB is really nice. The fridge is full of bagels, orange juice, and water.

I messaged Sam and we both agreed to meet-up at 5PM. After a couple hours of unpacking, it was time to head out so I message Sam to make sure he was available. No reply. For the next two hours no reply. That nervousness inside me crept back. In my head I was thinking, why aren’t you responding. Might as well go back to Philly. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Around 7pm Sam sent a message saying he was sorry and that his meeting ran late and was ready to meet. The thought that the next couple months were going to be like this was nerve-racking. But, I’m no longer worried. We spent the meeting reviewing mistakes we had made and planning our roadmap for the next couple months. All the anxiety left my body during that meeting. This is what I came to Boston for.

I am more pumped than ever and super glad I had made the move to Boston. I’m ready for the challenges that lay ahead.

What the heck are we actually doing

Funny story is that that crazy idea about automating your relationships is what we’re building. There’s no point in building another “bot” for <insert here>. It is better to build something that changes and improves how we interact socially. Instead of having bots replace humans, why not have them improve how we interact socially and professionally? We should be striving to improve our lives and leveraging technology to facilitate the most important thing in life, relationships. A 75 year study conducted by Harvard found that strong relationships are what leads to success and happiness, not money or hard work. That’s what we’re building at Fireflies.