Never Give Up
Spero Ventures welcomes Sonny Mayugba as Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR)
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin
After evaluating the founder pitches for a recent accelerator class in late January, I packed up to leave when Sonny Mayugba, a founder with a huge smile and great positive energy, approached me to strike up a conversation. I had missed Sonny’s talk “From Napkin to Nasdaq,” which he had given to the graduating cohort earlier that afternoon, but I was excited to connect with him. What followed was a number of amazing conversations, immensely helpful portfolio introductions, and the beginning of a great professional relationship.
Sonny’s Entrepreneurial Journey
As I got to know Sonny, I learned that he was a serial entrepreneur with a winding path to success. In his 20s, Sonny and his friends started Heckler, a snowboarding and skateboarding magazine, and sold it years later to TransWorld media. Sonny then founded BiteClub, a social network for bar hoppers and foodies, which failed — but Sonny wouldn’t give up anytime soon.
Sonny’s passion for food and restaurants led him to open the Red Rabbit Kitchen & Bar in Sacramento. During a particularly slow afternoon at the restaurant, Sonny stumbled across his “aha” moment. What if customers could get discounts at restaurants during slow periods and pay a premium during its busy weekend hours? This led Sonny to recruit a few engineers and raise some angel money to start Requested, a “name your own price” mobile app for restaurants & bars. Shortly after, Sonny connected with angel investor Jason Calacanis and Requested became part of Calacanis’ 1st Launch Incubator cohort.
Despite early customer enthusiasm, Requested failed to sustain its initial momentum and soon the startup was on the brink of death. Unable to raise additional money, a lot of founders would have just thrown in the towel and quit. Sonny, however, refused to give up and eventually merged with another restaurant app, Waitr, which was finding early traction through food delivery in tertiary markets in the south. As Waitr’s founding CMO, Sonny oversaw its marketing and customer acquisition efforts during a period of hypergrowth. In late 2018, Waitr went public on the Nasdaq and Sonny and his original “napkin” founding team rang the bell during its opening day.
I admire Sonny’s “cockroach” mentality during his Requested days. No matter how bleak the startup’s situation was, Sonny was committed to landing the plane to make sure he took care of his investors and employees. He not only got to the other side by surviving; he and his team ultimately thrived.
Sonny & Spero
Sonny worked with a few of our portfolio companies on their marketing strategy and the feedback was so good that we discussed how we could expand his engagement. It is with great excitement that we welcome Sonny Mayugba to Spero Ventures as Entrepreneur-in-Residence (EIR). Sonny will work closely with our portfolio companies to advise on business & operational plans, and marketing and growth strategy.
What stands out most about Sonny is his boundless energy and optimism. With his ever-present smile, Sonny instantly connects with people, like he did with me the first day we met. He is someone who makes you feel better after having met him. His wife Lynn says of him, “He’s always been extremely exuberant. I think he’s the happiest person I have ever met in my life. Every day is like the best day of his life.”
Spero is latin for hope. We believe in the power of technology to build a more hopeful future — a future we all want to live in. In these desperate and uncertain times, we have both the hope and belief that startup founders will contribute to building a better future, by leading us out of uncertain times and into a brighter tomorrow. We are incredibly fortunate to work with people like Sonny and our portfolio founders who bring passion, optimism, hard work, discipline, and a never-give-up attitude to their work. They positively impact everyone around them.