TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth;
“Where did you go to school and when did you graduate?” I sat there with one of my other co-founders in the room, in a press release interview for my startup MetricWire for a local paper. This is the one question that I often skirt and try not to get into much detail, mostly because I took the unorthodox route to get to where I am. I gave my usual response: “I went to Systems Design Engineering in University of Waterloo up until my third year, when I decided to defer indefinitely to build MetricWire”. It took a couple seconds for it to register and then the reporter looks up at me and goes “Defer indefinitely? Oh, I see what you did there! Why did you do so?”.
Lets roll back to 2 years ago, my day looked like the following: 1. Wake up at 6am 2. Work out till 8am 3. Class till 2–3pm 4. Go to the library and study, until 10pm(squeeze lunch, dinner and snacks in between) 5. On some days and weekends, I would go out and train for dragon boat racing with my team mates. It is the one thing kept my nerves calm and reduce my stress levels.
Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same,
I actually liked that level repetition in my schedule, it helped me get work done and stay focussed. Ever since I was a kid, I have been driven by the idea of building something that makes the world a better place. Having tried to start (and failed at it too) 2 separate startups in the past, I was constantly trying to set myself up to be ready to run a company once I graduate. Yes, you read that right, “…once I graduate”. I would read up on the latest trends in business, technology and news in my spare time. I had this burning interest for things I felt I was not learning in school and often told myself “just 2 more years and then I’ll be free to explore these new technology to my hearts desire”. You don’t learn about the latest cutting edge technology in the classroom because it can change fast. You get grounded with the principles and basics, then it is up to you to go out and explore the new world, equipped with these basic tools. But here is the thing, in todays world technology evolves so fast that if you are not doing what you can to stay with the current or ahead of it, you will get washed away.
So it was midterms season, I was browsing Facebook during a study break to give my mind a much needed rest from thinking when I came upon a post by a friend. “Looking for a web developer for a startup idea, message if interested”. Why not I thought, couldn’t hurt to see what the idea is and worst case I can say no and move on with life. This friend replied back in seconds and in a few mins I would have the meeting that would forever change my life.
And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.
“What am I even doing here? I should be heading to the library now…damn I am really falling behind on my engineering Models course”, I thought to myself as I waited at a coffee shop to meet my future co-founder. Once the greetings were out of the way and the idea was on the table, I was honestly intrigued. However, having being burned in the past by uncommitted business partners, I asked the one question I feel every cofounder should ask each other before starting off: “How are committed are you to this venture?”. “Well, I have a wife and 2 kids and I am willing to put my own personal money into this. Plus I have experience running my own businesses so I know with the right team, we can make this a big success.” Words cannot described how excited I got, this guy didn’t just believe in his idea, but was betting his entire family’s future on it. “F*ck it, I am in”. And that is how I joined and started MetricWire.
For the first 4 months, since I had already accepted my coop job at another startup, I worked on MetricWire at night. My schedule: daylight- 8–10 hours in the startup that hired me, moonlight- 4–6 hours in the startup that I co-founded. Squeeze in a workout, food and showers in between to keep a level head and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Those were probably the most hectic days of my life, but after my 4 month coop term ended, I was conditioned to continue that work ethic in this one startup that I now ran full time. Now before my coop term ended, I needed to decide whether or not to go back to school. I could go to school during the day and run the startup part-time similar to my coop term with the other startup. But is that the ethical thing to do, when the other person has put his entire family on the line? He has sacrificed spending time with his kids to build this company that has the potential to change the world. And as for myself, I could play around with all the cutting edge technology and implement it right into our company. Worst case scenario, I can always go back to school later, but as for this startup opportunity, as Eminem put it so eloquently “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo”. So the decision was made: “F*ck it, I’ll defer”, and I said the same thing 4 months after, and 4 months after that, until the university just stopped asking me if I am coming back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.
So where am I now? Almost 21 months since that meeting, the company has grown from 2 of us to 12 people and this May, we will be hitting 15 people. We got into the Y Combinator program last Spring and now we are constantly growing and moving forward. Not only have I been able to focus on playing around and building cool new technology, but also building an amazing team culture, which at the end of the day I feel is more important than the former. I have grown a lot as a person and a leader and have learned a lot of lessons that I don’t think I would have learned school. I do feel like the educational system has its merits and has a lot to offer, and not everyone should take the leap of faith that I did with school. But in my case, I feel like it was a combination of my past experience and meeting the right people and realizing the opportunity at the right time(yes, thats a lot of variables that need to be perfect), “And that has made all the difference”.
The poem verses quoted is from “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. I first learnt this poem in English class back in grade 6. I feel like this poem in entirety resonates with my lifestyle choices.