Sean Sperte
Jun 6, 2017 · 4 min read

Six years ago when I decided to leave my career and help start Tagboard, it was so I could learn how to build a company and product from scratch; to understand what it takes and how I could eventually do it myself.

Meme creation helped our focus.

Making something out of nothing is both incredibly hard and rewarding at the same time. I still remember the “where to start” feeling as Josh and I rattled around our 1700 square foot office filled with a dozen or so desks — also equipped with a dart board and Xbox, of course. The sheer number of possible directions, opportunities, ideas, and unknown challenges made even just the first step overwhelming. Eventually, after months of whiteboarding and “brainstorming”, we finally shipped what we considered a glorified prototype: a cross-network hashtag search engine I built in a matter of days. It was ugly and embarrassing (to me), but good enough to help demonstrate our vision. It is a proud memory, especially because it represents the hardest step of all: from zero to one.

My work on Tagboard’s product during the early days quickly turned from hands-on design to management and decision making. Learning how to iterate and evolve the product for both impact and scale wasn’t easy. If saying “no” is one of the most important things you can do in product design, the ultimate skill is finding balance while still moving forward. The metaphor isn’t a see-saw. It’s more like a multi-dimensional puzzle, with ever-changing physics and conditions. Fortunately, we had strong design convictions, and many early users and customers that helped us stay grounded. The rails of progress, I discovered, are delivering real customer value through design and experience.

This offsite meeting has become a legend.

At some point, my role and focus shifted to building the people and team more than the actual product. Again I found myself taking first steps from nothing to something as I learned how to create job postings, a recruiting program, and an on-boarding system. In an industry with high average turnover and transient employees, I’m proud that some of our first hires are still with Tagboard today.

As Tagboard grew, I was able to apply design thinking to the company itself — systems and processes. Some of my fondest memories are of our CTO, Jordan Larrigan, and me waxing philosophical about culture, leadership, and vision, and how we continued to experiment with ways to institutionalize our values and philosophy so as the team scaled, we wouldn’t lose our soul.

That one time One Direction used something I helped design to interact with millions of fans on a live stream being broadcasted to those millions of fans.

I’ve learned so, so much during this rollercoaster ride of a journey, and I’ll be forever grateful for it. I wanted and expected a crash course, and what I got is more like a master’s or PhD.

And now the moment where I’m excited to announce I’m stepping out of my comfort zone to find out what’s next.

I’ve made the decision, with full support of the team and leadership, to take myself out of the day-to-day so I can continue my individual journey, and so I can help the company more from the outside. It’s a new role for me as a founder and I’m again at the now-familiar “where to start” spot.

Oh hey, we’re in a magazine.

I’m incredibly proud of what we have built at Tagboard. The work our team has done to create an amazing product, and to generate revenue — and billions of impressions monthly — is truly remarkable. I’m continually inspired by how our team works and how our customers use what we build.

I believe Tagboard’s future is bright, and I’m excited to see it grow and mature. Tagboard has become an essential part of the social media ecosystem and will continue to both lead and inspire innovation in the industry. The team that’s been assembled, the clients we have, the tech and brand we’ve built… all of it provides a solid foundation to build upon. I’ve never been more confident in Tagboard’s future. It is partly because of this confidence, that I am able to step out on my own.

As for what’s next, I’m stepping out in faith, not knowing exactly where I’ll end up. I’m full of excitement to explore the possibilities and start this new season. If you’d like to reach out to me with thoughts or ideas, please don’t hesitate!

Deckers and Spertes: friends and secret agents for 18 years and counting…
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