2015: The year it all blew up.
I mean that in every way.
I started 2015 by flying to CES in Las Vegas, sleeping on the free, extra bed of a longtime friend, and carrying around a broken prototype of our crazy idea to NVIDIA and few other potential partners.
It was the last of my money.
The First Boom
In January 2015, I spent the last of my dollars on Infiniscene. I had no money to pay my rent or even buy groceries. It was time to give up. A friend had reached out with an opportunity at a major publisher and it looked like that was my only choice. To give up and shut down.
My landlord called. I explained the bad news and that I would be moving out. He said he believed in what I was doing, my ability to deliver it, and that he had seen this before. He wanted me to keep going: 2 months rent free and a reduced rent after that. I was stunned and so very grateful.
Some friends showed up and offered various support. Sharing something as simple as a whiskey to take my mind off the stress. All the way up to groceries. It was hard to accept and a strange position for me considering the past years I had been in a position to be so generous. In the end, I accepted help from a few. Only barely enough to live. And I got back to work. (While I have since paid them back, I’ll never be able to fully express the gratitude in my heart.)
They believed in me, our team, and what we were doing.
So I dug in.
It was during the next 2 months that we applied for Techstars, arguably the top accelerator in the world with a 1% acceptance rate. We were nervous, but put in our best effort.
We were not only accepted into Techstars, we were early accepted. We used this vote of confidence to raise a small round. This was just enough money for my co-founders to quit their jobs and join me in Chicago for the 4-month intensive program. At the start of the program, I received my first paycheck in nearly a year and half… and it was from my own company. My co-founders felt the impact of that moment too. We had the start of something real.
To protect what we had just experienced, we all took only what we needed to live. Five grown men who left behind their girlfriends, wives, kids, and pets to live in a 2-bedroom apartment with 5 twin-sized beds. This is where we ate and slept just a few hours a day. The rest of the time we were at the Techstars office inside Chicago’s 1871, seven days a week, doing our best to take full advantage of an incredible opportunity.
We failed. We won. We slipped. We overachieved.
I’ve never experienced more people doing such consistently incredible work.
During one of our weekly 1–1 meetings…
Stu: How are you?
Dan: I am doing my life’s work.
The Second Boom (the good one.)
We showed up to Techstars with a barely working product. Infiniscene was completely rebuilt from the ground up in the first 4 weeks. We launched a closed beta to a few hundred testers. We launched a waitlist while we refined our core technology, filed our patents, met with countless mentors, and started to gain investment interest. By the end of Techstars, we were very proud of what we had become.
4000+ people on our wait list.
Amazing mentors with incredible backgrounds.
Too much investor interest.
(Turning them away was as hard as finding them in the spring.)
Incredible new talent hires.
Incredible technological improvements.
An enviable roster of mentors, investors & supporters.
2016: We enter with gratitude and humility.
We go into 2016 with 9 full-time, amazing employees. We have enough funding to keep building well beyond 2016 even if we double that team. It was an incredibly humbling year with many trials. We not only survived, but we came back with a ferocity to build something we truly believe in and love. There is much more work ahead, but we are so damn excited to get started.