Ahead of Our Time? Or One of the Biggest Blunders / Missed Opportunities in Startup History? (maybe both?)

The year was 2005…


[TL;DR: Identical service sells to Google for $95 Million a year later]

FYI, I wasn’t planning to write up this story, but I mentioned it in an interview recently (Hypepotamus), so i figured I should put up a quick page to explain this great/terrible story :/

The year was 2005… my “Rejection Hotline” and a few other “Humor Hotlines” were super-viral, reaching millions of people, tons of media coverage… and I had a few other random (viral) ventures that were reaching a million or more people as well. (I had figured out the FEW things I was GREAT at… *BUT* I had yet to acknowledge the MANY things I SUCK at.)

I think this was probably 2002-ish that I was first on CNN. We were receiving MILLIONS of phone calls and a ton of great media coverage, but, contrary to what most people thought, I wasn’t actually making any money yet… Because I was not yet familiar with concept of #SelfAwareness and I had yet to have my “IamNOTaCEO.com” Entrepreneurial Epiphany that would be the catalyst for my #BestDecisionEver (when I Fired Myself as CEO of my own company and brought in a co-founder with complementary skills to run the parts of the business that I sucked at). And then, almost immediately, everything magically changed… within 3 months we had raised $1 Million in funding, and 6 months later, we were a profitable 7-figure company (after YEARS of no revenue)… But, I’m jumping way ahead in the story — that was all still a couple years away at this point in 2005:

While “The Rejection Hotline” was, at least theoretically, an option to give to someone you did NOT want to hear from (and your REAL number was obviously for those you DID want to hear from), I recognized a need for secondary phone numbers (for dating, business, CraigsList, etc.).

I haphazardly launched ScreenNumber.com in 2005

(Don’t judge too harshly — remember, it was a LONG time ago!)

Despite decent traction (~8000 free users, ~1000 premium/paid users), I unfortunately never made it my top priority. Not because I didn’t see the big-picture potential (I definitely did!), but I was super-ADD (though I had yet to purchase IamADD.com) and I was spread too thin, had not cofounder, had no personnel in place to manage it all, and I was literally juggling 5 different sites reaching over a million people each (logos for some of which are at the bottom of the page above — I think it was a year later that Get Over It Day would be featured on Good Morning America and ESPN SportsCenter, and the AskTheCollegeGuy site was being read on ~1000 campuses and syndicated in multiple college newspapers), and my future business partner and our investors were about to be coming on board specifically for the Humor Hotlines business (which was looking like — and would quickly become — a decent 7-figure business), so most of my other ventures were de-prioritized and put aside…

On Sept. 25, 2006, a company named “Grand Central” launched the same service (11 months after us).

Admittedly, Grand Central did it much better than I did with Screen Numbers; no question about that…

But, it still kinda stung when I learned, a year later, that Grand Central had been acquired… by GOOGLE… for $95 MILLION… and it became Google Voice. :)

P.S. No, I’m not joking (or exaggerating).

Semi-related to everything above, I totally empathized with the guy who used all that BitCoin years ago to buy a pizza! :)

P.P.S. The smiley emoji above is intended to convey that I’m not bitter or devastated or in any way negatively impacted by the experience. If we ever meet, feel free to ask about that — or other similar stories — and how some of the lessons I learned from those experiences are a big part of our future “Startup Whatever” plans…

I have MANY startup concepts, ready to launch, (many of which are potentially-viral and have already been through my “viral testing process”) — but I have understood for a while now that I am NOT the right person to run/manage/scale all my “Viral Whatever”… so, I’ve spent a few years “ReThinking Startups” and am putting together some ambitious plans/programs to hopefully attract some great Entrepreneurial Execution / Operations partners — with skill-sets complementary to mine! Contact Jeff@StatupWhatever.com to discuss — and/or to potentially work together!



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