Cody Acquired: Our First Years

I finally get to share some exciting news: we’ve been acquired by Alo Yoga!

You can read more about it here.

This is a big moment for our team and everyone who has supported us over the last 5.5 years. Thank you to the tribe of people who believed in us and made this milestone possible.

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the first couple years of the company in particular, because it’s what my co-founder, Paul, and I go to in high and low times. In high times we always marvel at how close we came to shutting down on multiple occasions and in low times we remind ourselves that we’ve made it through worse before.

I recognize that these stories romanticize the startup struggle, and its always easier to share things like this when you’ve made it to the other side, but I ultimately think its best to share because even worse is people not believing that most success only comes when you’re lucky and persistent enough to survive many bad breaks.

I was looking through the first deck Paul and I ever made. Back then the company was called Nudge. You can barely recognize our current company in this deck, but I’m still drawn to our opening line:

“When you really want something, Nudge gets the world to help you achieve it.”

I don’t know if we’ve truly pulled this off as a product, but I can say that this sums up our journey well.

All smiles in our first week working on Cody

The first two years of Cody in particular were tough; nothing came easy and a lot went wrong.

Our plan was to get our first funding from Techstars Seattle 2012, just a few months after quitting Microsoft. We didn’t get in. Or into Techstars 2013 or into any of the YC classes or any second meeting with VCs either.

Paul and I sent dozens of emails asking former colleagues to campaign on our behalf after learning we were waitlisted with Techstars

We spent nearly 12 months living off the meager savings Paul and I had cobbled together. We worked out of Paul’s apartment and did everything including the coding and design ourselves (not bad for a couple of MBAs).

At some point we gave up on pitching investors. We only had a few months of savings left and no real prospects of raising, but somehow we remained calm enough to keep coding.

Coding late into the night with a hookah

Our luck turned when I caught up with a former Microsoft colleague, Sohier Hall, at a coffee shop. When I gave him a demo of Cody, he suggested we meet his business partner, Ken Irving, who was looking to make investments in this space.

I’ll never forget flying down to San Francisco and meeting Ken and Sohier for breakfast, and Paul and I feeling like this was our last shot. Without this we probably would’ve re-entered the corporate world just a year after leaving it with our tails between our legs.

Site of the fabled breakfast

As you can guess the breakfast ended with Ken saying he was going to fund us. And the funding from Ken allowed us to make a lot of progress.

We spent the next couple months re-building Cody as a native iPhone app. Launching it was one of the prouder moments for me and Paul. We had really high hopes and started pitching ourselves as the “Instagram for Fitness”

Our app at launch. Cody was a robot fitness coach!

But the euphoria didn’t last long. No one was downloading it. We’d get like 20–30 per day. We tried, failed and eventually succeeded in getting featured in the App Store. Same with getting written up by TechCrunch. We iterated on the app like crazy averaging a new major release every 2 weeks. But ultimately after a year and a half, we finally accepted that our concept was flawed.

We were forced to admit it because our cash balance was down to just $30K. Even with our lean operations, we had only 4 months left before having to shut down. We literally sat around thinking about the quickest ways to make some money with what we had— and got it into our heads that selling workout videos was the way to go.

So we bought a handycam off of Amazon and started filming.

All we could afford at the time

Our first video plan was with a popular local yogi, Patrick Beach. He taught at a studio in the Greenlake area and Paul started attending his classes religiously and hounded him until Patrick agreed to film.

We filmed in Patrick’s apartment, the lighting sucked, and there’s even a cat running in and out of the frame as Patrick was teaching. We priced it at $20 and Patrick posted on his Instagram and we waited. And lo and behold it started selling, and in the first month we did $8K in sales.

Patrick Beach and cat

The next month we launched a plan with an Olympic weightlifter, Diane Fu, and did over $20K in sales. Then the next month we did $40K. Then $80K and over $1M in the first 12 months.

That was 3 years ago and it’s not like things have just been happily up-and-to-the-right since, but it sure has been less harrowing. Those first couple years were our “wilderness” years. Looking back now, we did a lot of dumb things. But mostly what I appreciate now is that we had enough grit to keep going — and sometimes that’s enough.