The Short Stack 🥞 Vol #28

First emailed to newsletter subscribers on July 1, 2017

Good Morning All ✌️

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

It’s officially summertime in NYC. This time of year always brings with it a certain nostalgia. That feeling when everyone seems to emerge from their apartments, the streets are filled with smiling faces and offices empty out as people flock to the beach for long weekends. For us though, there’s a different kind of wistfulness floating around. Jakt started in July 2012, and this year is our five-year anniversary! And at the same time, this month marks my own one-year tenure at Jakt.

To celebrate, Anthony wrote a brief company history below. Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of our journey so far.

Have a safe and fun holiday weekend.

-Mike
🌭 🍔 🕶 🏖

Making Movies 🎬

Episode 028, by our CEO Anthony Tumbiolo.

Inside the episode:

  • Hiring for Sales and Marketing
  • May revenue recap
  • The June slowdown
  • Discussing second quarter targets

Thoughts 💭

☝️ Here are the things we’ve been thinking about this week.

Jakt Turns Five.

It’s officially summer in NYC. This time of year always comes with feelings of nostalgia, and this year it came on extra strong. Sure, there’s that all too familiar sense of summertime that emerges as everyone in New York simultaneously seems to emerge from hibernation. For me, however, summer in NYC brings on a different feeling. I started Jakt in July of 2012, and each year around this time I remember what it was like to take that entrepreneurial plunge. This year we’re turning five years old, and honestly, I can’t believe it. I’m not much of a celebratory party person, so I figured instead I’d write a blog post. (Though Mike is going hard in getting me to change my mind on that. We’ll see…)

I’ve never told the Jakt origin story publicly in its full form. The five-year mark seems as good a place as any, so let’s start from the beginning.

I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of my life. In high school, I ran an e-commerce operation. Ok, so it wasn’t precisely an e-commerce “operation.” In truth, it was more arbitrage business than anything else. In the early days of eBay, when people first started transacting D2C (direct-to-consumer) over the Internet, the market for physical goods was inefficient. The transactional nature of the exchange worked just fine, but wide pricing discrepancies existed between the price you could pay for physical items offline, and the price people were willing to pay on eBay. I did my research and identified an opportunity — my primary product was bags. Yes, women’s purses. I would buy designer bags not available online and flip them on the web; profiting on the spread. Not the most inspirational business ever, but it worked. In no time, I was making more money than my high school friends and learning the power of the Internet.

Fast forward to NYU. In college I ran an events business. Ok, fine. It wasn’t exactly events. I was your standard NYC club promoter, at least in the beginning. Getting paid to go out is a pretty sweet gig when you’re in college with no real disposable income. I eventually became bored with my little nightlife operation, found a partner, and together we ran “Intern Bar” — a network where interns new to NYC could find each other and a place to go out at night. We started with NYU and then scaled to other schools, spreading the word through campus clubs, Greek life, and sports teams. The key to this was identifying influential people on campus and incentivizing them, and in return, we gained access to their network. Not so different than what brands do today with influencer marketing campaigns on Instagram. What intern doesn’t want to experience NYC nightlife and meet new people when they first get here? If my eBay gig taught me the power of the Internet, and its ability to connect me with anyone, my nightlight business taught me the power of leverage. I didn’t have to hunt down 100 individual new customers for Intern Bar. I could instead work with one person who could then appeal to 100 more.

Now comes the third major piece of the puzzle — the power of software. I studied Finance at NYU, though I never practiced the trade professionally. (I had one internship at a L’Oreal, which is a story for another time.) I liked numbers, though I was more enthralled by general business acumen — inking partnerships, developing relationships, closing deals, etc. More important to the story, I learned that I genuinely liked helping people and businesses problem solve. A career in Finance wasn’t for me.

My past business endeavors had always leveraged platforms that already existed; from eBay to “IRL” communities like college fraternities. Through grit and hard work, my strategies utilizing these communities worked. But like anything that works, it only works until it doesn’t. Eventually, I stumbled across an opportunity that no existing platform could address and realized I wasn’t comfortable relying on what others had already built. How could I continue to innovate if I wasn’t the innovator myself? The restrictive nature felt drove me crazy. On nights and weekends when I wasn’t studying, I taught myself how to code and built my first application.

In 2012, the demand for software engineers in NYC was on the rise and the supply for was limited. Especially at a price point that most entrepreneurs could afford. I started consulting, and for the first time, I was utilizing the power of the Internet in a way that was completely my own. I loved controlling the entire end-to-end experience. I was hooked. Coding replaced my desire for nightlife. Even though it wasn’t incorporated yet, Jakt started when I was an undergraduate student at NYU.

I didn’t realize it then, but my three business ventures resulted in three important learning lessons: 1) The power of connection and scale through the Internet, 2) the power of leverage and working with one person or business that could then affect many others, and 3) the power of creating your own software. After college, I knew I wanted to do something that impacted a lot of people. Given my experience, it was clear that technology was the best way to affect people at scale.

I first set off to develop my own software product which I planned to build into a company. Toying with several different ideas, none of them stood out. In the meantime, I began offering my product and development skills to entrepreneurs for free, supporting myself through my events business. I eventually landed my first paid gig, and the rest is history.

I started Jakt in July 2012 on the realization that I loved helping other entrepreneurs and businesses succeed. I didn’t need to build any particular software product and turn it into a company. Instead, I could build a company that helps create other companies by offering innovation as service. I could make the impact I wanted by ensuring my customers made products that enhanced the human experience. Indirectly, I could affect millions of people.

The first years of Jakt weren’t glamorous by any means. I started the company with a partner, each us contributing ~$500 to create a legal entity. We learned on the job and did all of the work ourselves — business strategy, product, UX and development work. In 2014, we got our first office and grew from 2 to 10 people. Things were going great. Then, at the end of 2014, the bomb dropped. Having different views on where the business was going, my partner left.

Losing a co-founder is a serious deal, and anyone with one knows it’s like marriage — constant communication, shared finances, and we had even lived together as roommates for a couple years. Co-founder divorce was one of the most mentally and emotionally challenging moments of my life. I thought about shutting Jakt down.

To make a long story just a tad shorter, I fought. The year 2015 ended up being the best year in the company’s history through sheer willpower and determination. Then in 2016, revenue started to fall again. This time there wasn’t any co-founder divorces to blame. I had my biggest revelation to date.

Building a business, including hustle, winning customers and executing, is different than building a company. A company has culture, brand equity, a leadership team, and many other things I didn’t focus on in the early years. And becoming a leader requires emotional intelligence and management training that you don’t learn in college or learning to code. Unfortunately, there’s no “CEO School.” Today at Jakt, we’re focused on building a company.

At the end of 2016, I added my current partner Mike. Having another business partner was something I never planned, but sometimes you meet the right person, the timing is right, and things change. Mike and I share the same passion for innovation and positively impacting people. We’ve worked hard to re-invent Jakt over the past year. I finally feel ownership over the CEO title for real. I’m becoming a leader, and watching the team learn and grow alongside me has been my most enjoyable business venture yet.

I could keep ranting, but I’ll cut it off here for now. Before I sign off, here are just a few of the things I’m most proud of accomplishing over the past five years —

  1. Our people — I love my team at Jakt. Our employees are family to me and they are helping solve real problems and affecting people’s lives.
  2. Creating jobs — We’ve created a number of jobs directly at Jakt and indirectly through our partners.
  3. Our partners — Jakt has played a significant role in the creation and growth of a number of successful companies. I’m proud of our partners and the millions of people they affect every day.
  4. Doing our part to improve education globally — Jakt worked with Library for All to create the first version of a cloud-based education platform for children in developing countries without access to books.

Thank you to everyone who’s been a part of our journey so far. Your continued support keeps us going. Special thanks to my parents, Sasha Aurand, Jakt employees past and present, Elizabeth Pitt and Mike Saloio. Without all of you, none of this would be possible.

The best is yet to come.

-Anthony


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