Ahead of Our Time? Or the Biggest Blunder / Missed Opportunity 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 quite yet, but I mentioned it in an interview recently (Hypepotamus), so i figured I should put up a quick page to explain this really 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 what I was great at; BUT, I had yet to acknowledge what I sucked at.)

I had yet to have my “I am Not a CEO” Entrepreneurial Epiphany that would be the catalyst for my #BestDecisionEver (firing myself as CEO of my own company and bringing in a co-founder with complementary skills to run the parts of the business that I suck at… we would become a profitable 7-figure company almost immediately after that, but, unfortunately, that was 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), it was unfortunately never made a top priority. Not because I didn’t see the big-picture potential (I definitely did!), but because I was spread too thin, did not have personnel in place to manage it all, 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 coming on board specifically for the Humor Hotlines business (which was looking like — and would quickly become — a good 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” to create an ambitious master plan for 2018 and beyond, which I hope will attract Entrepreneurial execution / operations partners — with skill-sets complementary to mine. Visit www.ViralWhatever.com or www.StartupWhatever.com or more info and then contact us to potentially get involved!!!