For the Single Founder Who Can’t Code

6/3/12

This post originally appeared on TechCrunch as a guest post.

Last summer when I started working on Undrip, I was in a tough spot. I grew up doing web and graphic design so I was a pretty good front-end developer and designer. But I knew nothing about back-end web development — loops, branches, dictionaries or functions were all foreign concepts to me. I was a single founder who couldn’t code.

Against the Odds

Every week I get emails from entrepreneurs seeking my advice asking how I did it before, and how I’m doing it now. They find themselves in similar situations in that they’re looking to build a tech startup with little to no technical skills. They’re frustrated by their inability to make forward progress and they usually either give up and fail, or outsource if they have some extra cash (which usually leads to failure).

If you’re a single founder who can’t code, your chances for startup success are near zero. However, there’s still a chance.

And a chance is all you need.

diceInspire or Die

There’s only one skill in the world that can make up for your lack of design or dev skills. It’s a skill you have to learn and learn to do well: You must learn to inspire.

Your survival will hinge on your ability to inspire, persuade, and convince makers that they should join you on this adventure. It’s the only chance you have. You know you can’t do this alone. You shouldn’t do this alone. And you won’t do this alone.

Easier Said Than Done

Some non-technical entrepreneurs are so incredibly charismatic, persuasive and charming that all they need is a clean napkin and a wide smile to sell the vison and get people excited. They’re able to attract talent with no problem. If that’s you, congrats. Run with it. As long as you have creators, makers and builders on your team, you’re in the game and able to fight. Give them the equity they deserve (a lot!). Make them owners not mercenaries. Your idea is worthless without them — accept that now and nobody gets hurt.

As for the rest of us, we’ve got more convincing to do.

When I was recruiting people to help build Undrip, I could have just dazzled people with designs. For many folks, that’s all you need to help inspire. But I wanted to take things up a notch. I wanted to personally build something that potential teammates could see, feel, touch and play with. I wanted to share a fully functional product that I would muscle together with my bare hands — Chuck Norris style. So I had to learn to code.

Becoming a Builder

I spent all last summer learning how to code [0]. I practically lived on StackOverflow, Github, IRC channels, and Google… soaking it all in like a sponge and working on a real product that would force me to learn. I had a few friends who answered my dumb questions and guided me through some snags. In the end, I built the first version of Undrip almost all on my own. It was perhaps one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. At the end of last summer, I felt like I could I do anything. It was an incredible experience [1].

It was never about learning to code so that I could be a one-man army. And it certainly wasn’t about creating a large-scale, production-ready web app that millions could use. In fact, not even a dozen people could use it [2]. It was all about inspiration — putting more arrows in my quiver so that I could get out and inspire people to join me. I wanted to demonstrate that I could dig in and learn, and that Undrip was a product worth fighting for.

8539414758_8fe3517993Handshakes & Smiles

As much as networking sucks, it’s a necessary evil when you need builders. You can’t inspire people if you don’t know anybody to inspire. I’d much rather be working, designing and getting stuff done.

Throughout the summer of me learning how to code, I did everything I could to meet engineers. I would go to python meetups and other hacker gatherings. I would search directories, github and twitter lists for python engineers in the Bay Area who I could meet with in person. It was never about asking them to work with me — that’s the wrong approach. it was always about cultivating the relationship and learning from them as I was doing my best to speak their language (python/django). They felt like they were “giving back” and helping a n00b. I remember meeting Mike Malone, Kenneth Love and so many others at Coffee Shops in the Bay Area. I drove to a small town in the East Bay to meet Kenneth at a local Starbucks. I was immersing myself into their world and building as many relationships as I could. Inspiration always starts with a relationship.

Money Can’t Buy Everything

When you can’t inspire people to join you, it’s very tempting to use that cash in your piggybank to hire a contractor/freelancer. You wanna pay to play.

That rarely works.

I was a design freelancer in college. I would ask for as much money as possible, and I would try to spend as little time on it as possible. That was the name of the game. Contractors just aren’t invested in the long-term success of your product. They’re gypsies moving from one thing to the next. The lack of ownership and commitment will cost you more money, more time and more heart ache in the long run.

What happens when your freelancer is “done”? We all know products are never done. So soon you find yourself back at square one, having to pay someone to fix bugs, tweak features, etc. That hole in your pocket gets larger and larger.

For most that’s just not sustainable. Sooner or later you’re gonna need to inspire people to join you. You’re gonna need partners, owners, motivated team members. A little contract work is never bad when you’ve got people who can maintain, manage, and build the product where it leaves off.

Only One Way Out

In the end, you’ve got just one path ahead. There’s no other way around it. *You have to inspire.* You can learn to code. You can learn to design. You can learn to hustle. You can learn to do a lot of things. But all of them should be mere tactics to your end goal: inspiring others to believe in you, your vision and your product. That inspiration needs to be so strong that they leave everything they’re doing to jump on that life raft with you to start paddling.

It’s insanely hard. It’s insanely crazy. And it’s insanely rare.

But it’s possible. May the odds be ever in your favor.

—————————–
Footnotes:

[0] I started off with the Head First Programming book. I then moved on to Google’s Python Class and MIT’s OpenCourseWare class. I also used Think Python, Learn Python the Hard Way, and Dive Into Python as additional resources. Most importantly, I used friends and the interwebz to get through snags.

[1] It’s not like riding a bike where once you know it, you’re done. I have a good foundation of understanding to work from… but I still have so much more to learn. I’m confident in my ability to learn and progress though. Something special about having ideas and also being able to execute on those ideas.

[2] The entire app would crash when more than just a few people would use it. It was incredibly unstable and shaky. We’ve since had to rewrite and gut the entire thing now that we have experienced engineers — which explains why we’re still in private beta. Nonetheless, I’m still contributing and love it.

Staying The Underdog

5/21/12

At the end of last summer, my first startup was acquired by Chegg. We had around 70 employees at the time and revenue growth was strong. Our vision was to create a global brand in education and we were well on our way in doing that. Chegg gave us an offer we couldn’t refuse so we took it. That exit was a huge success for everyone involved and I’m honored to have been part of it since starting it out of my Princeton dorm room in 2006.

Because of that successful journey, I’m often invited to speak at universities, join panels at events, or judge business plan competitions. I get phone calls, emails and other requests from young entrepreneurs seeking advice. Some would argue that I’ve “made it.”

Ugh.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 22.22.59That feeling is a death kiss no matter who you are — but especially if you’re a successful entrepreneur chasing a new startup dream. It’s a dangerous feeling — complacency isn’t easy to wake up from.

It’s rare for entrepreneurs to have multiple successes. It remains insanely difficult to create something people want whether you’ve done a successful company or not. Odds will always be against you. Just ask Kevin Rose.

I think the best entrepreneurs preserve that underdog mentality no matter how successful they become. They treat their next thing like it’s their first. They keep that chip on their shoulder and work like it’s day one. They’re still willing to run through brick walls and work harder than anyone else. They remember that their poop still stinks and that nothing will come easy.

Guarding, cherishing and preserving those feelings are key. I’m still sitting at the kids table. I’m still on the outside looking in. I’m still that scrappy, young college dropout that no one will listen to.

I’m still the underdog. And this underdog won’t rest.

How I Measure Success

5/19/12

Some judge success by fortune or fame. Others judge it on the quality of relationships (friends, coworkers, family) or the positive impact one might be making in society. Success can mean different things to different people.

I’m not here to debate what success is. But let me tell you what success feels like.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 22.17.38Every morning feels like Christmas morning to me. I wake up bouncing off walls and ecstatic to unwrap the gift of the day ahead. I’m oozing with passion. I enter the #KobeSystem. I’m a hungry savage ready to be unleashed into the wild.

16 hours later…

I hop into bed. I spend a few moments reflecting on the day — the challenges, the triumphs, the lessons learned. Then I start to look ahead. The heart starts to race. It feels like Christmas Eve. I can’t wait to open the gifts of tomorrow. I wish I could just instantly be starting the next day. My mind is like a bag of popcorn in the microwave, popping and crackling with ideas, plans, and dreams. My mind stubbornly fights to outlast the battle-worn body. My mind always loses.

This is a pattern I’ve recognized over the years. My feelings of success can be directly measured by how I feel when I start and end the day. When I have that relentless drive to pursue, dream and achieve… I believe I’m on the right track. When every morning feels like Christmas and every night feels like Christmas Eve, I know I’m doing something right.

I love where I spend my time and who I spend it with. I’m happy and excited to “attack the day with a level of enthusiasm unknown to mankind.” [1]. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed.

To me, that is success.

[1] Jack Harbaugh (father of NFL coaches Jim and John Harbaugh) would tell his boys this every day growing up when dropping his sons off at school.

My First Exit

9/15/11

Today it was announced that Zinch has been acquired by Chegg. What a special day. I’m excited, grateful and proud. I never would have imagined this happening 5 years ago when I dropped out of Princeton to join up with Sid Krommenhoek and Brad Hagen. This is the sort of thing every entrepreneur dreams of…but it rarely happens. It’s been an amazing journey.

The Zinch team deserves all the credit. What a talented group of people. They’ve worked incredibly hard to make Zinch what it is today. Enough can’t be said about them.

And without Anne Dwane, our CEO, none of this happens. It was the best decision we ever made when we decided to hand the reins over to her. She is one of the best CEOs in Tech today. Not enough people know that. I’d tell Yahoo! to hire her but then we’d be losing out on a powerful leader. :)

Zinch still has a lot to prove and a lot of work ahead. I’m certain that it’ll reach its full potential under the wings of Chegg. The future is most certainly bright.

Zinch is a perfect fit for Chegg. For years now we’ve worked with Chegg as an advertising client and they’ve always been impressive. They’ve got great investors (Kleiner Perkins, Foundation Capital, Mike Maples) and a great CEO. And they are on a tear. There’s no company i’d rather be selling the company to than Chegg. They’ve quickly established themselves as a leader in education and of the “student graph.” It’s a high growth company and i’m ecstatic to be a shareholder.

My first startup exit is now under my belt. And it feels awesome. Hopefully this is just the first of many — once you’re lucky, twice you’re good.

Now let me go savor this moment — the last 5 years haven’t exactly been a walk in the park. I love this game. #startups

I’m not delusional; i’m an entrepreneur

8/31/11

I started my first company in a state of innocence, inexperience, and naivete. I had no idea what it would take. I had no idea what I didn’t know and I had no idea what to expect.

This time around I know all those things. I know what to expect. I know what I don’t know. And I know what it’ll take. I know how gut-wrenchingly difficult it is. I know the price, the pain, and the sacrifice.

Most rational, sane people would not go down this path once, let alone twice. Yet here I am, going down this path…again. Why am I doing this?

I’ve come to the realization that it’s because i’m different. I have a condition: i’m delusional. My sense of reality is distorted and i’m border-line insane.

For better or worse, my mind is programmed to ignore the chaos all around me — the risk, the cost, the pain, the disappointment, the heartbreak. My mind simply just blocks it out. I’m living in a fantasy world. A world where I always seem to get what I want and where I always win.

In the past couple weeks, i’ve had a few conversations with non-startup friends asking about startup life. Sometimes they remind me of what’s at stake and all the things that can go wrong. They remind me how crazy I am, in the nicest possible way.

When things go wrong, sometimes big and sometimes small, I see glimpses of that reality. I see the world as they see. The risk. The recklessness. The obsession. The possibilities of failure. The collapsing walls around me. The reality.

And I panic. I wig out. I question myself, my vision, my everything. It’s a terrifying feeling. It’s a nightmare.

Then I wake up the next morning…

And somehow, someway… it’s all gone.

I’m back to my fantasy world. Back to my dream where everything is going to plan. The woes of yesterday are history. I will make this work — brute force if necessary.

Most entrepreneurs are a little bit delusional. We live in our own little world and see things in our own way. It’s a fascinating condition. As sure as the sun comes up, we’re recharged and refreshed. We’re ready to take on today’s Goliath, again and again and again. We ignore the battle scars, no matter how deep they may run. We’re relentless in our pursuit.

It’s one of the many miracles of entrepreneurship. We always bounce back. We continue marching on. We’re limitless.

I love this game. Ooh rah.

The Types of People I Wanna Work With At My Startup

7/20/11

As I talked about in my last post, I believe people are the absolute biggest factor on if a startup will succeed. Not the idea. Not the market. Not the competition. It’s about the people on the team.

I’ve been talking to a handful of folks who are looking to work with me. As I meet with them and speak with them, I find myself repeating the same things.

Skill sets and talents aside, these are the types of people i’m looking to work with…

People Who Want To Win
I grew up playing sports and in a house of four boys. I’ve always had to fight for that last slice of pizza. I’m competitive. I hate to lose and I love to win. Simple as that. Everyone on my team must have this attitude. I want people who are driven to succeed. People who are motivated and hungry. People who strive for excellence. People who push to be the best.

People Who Get What They Want
I want people who are used to getting what they want in life. People who take the bull by the horns and kick the crap out of it. This is the first thing I ask of candidates. I want examples of when they got what they wanted… whether in work, school, dating or other. I want scrappy hustlers who simply find a way to succeed. It doesn’t matter how big or small the task, these types of people deliver. They refuse to lose. Startups are hard. We get knocked down. We get discouraged. We get beat up. I need to know that my team will stand with me and keep at it until we collectively get what we want: victory.

People Who I Can Trust
It’s critical that the team be completely open, honest and transparent with each other. We have integrity. No secrets. No politics. No drama. We’re an elite squad of special forces who move swiftly as a cohesive unit and we always have each other’s back. We inspire, support, teach and train each other. We don’t care who gets the credit, as long as the team wins.

People Who Aren’t A-holes
I want people who aren’t jerks. We will spend more time together in a given day than we will with our loved ones. It’s a “No Douchebag” zone. Life is simply too short to be working with these types of people. No matter how amazingly brilliant these people might be, they are not worth keeping around.

People Who Are Curious
I want people who are constantly learning and growing. They like to challenge themselves. They like to improve themselves. They are spontaneous. They explore and discover. I want people who are willing to try something completely new and adventurous, even if it means looking silly or being embarrassed. I want people who are not afraid to fail.

People Who Work Hard
I want people who are productive. They get an insane amount of stuff done in a short amount of time. It’s not about hours or time. It’s about being smart, organized, and disciplined. They are ruthless in their prioritization. They don’t make excuses and they always deliver when they say they will.

People Who Are Passionate
I want people who are passionate about what they do. When you talk to them, you can feel their fire. It’s contagious. They’re bouncing off walls. They’re so high energy that you wonder if they aren’t a little ill. They’re happy with who they are and what they do. They love life and they love challenges.

People With Imagination
I want to work with people who dream big. They imagine themselves doing great things and building amazing products. As entrepreneurs, it’s normal to be a little bit delusional. Our sense of reality is distorted. If we knew how hard the path, we wouldn’t begin. I wanna work with people who imagine doing the impossible. They see it in their mind and they believe they can do it.

Conclusion
I’m fine running solo for as long as necessary. I won’t rush the people decisions — they are everything. :)

If you think you meet the criteria above, let’s talk.

How to do a web startup (the second time)

7/6/11

These last 6 weeks have been crazy. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been pretty radio-silent on my blog and twitter. I’ve been heads-down writing code. 14-16 hour days, sometimes more.

A lot of people email me asking how I’m starting this company. This is my second startup, the first is all grown up and well past startup stage. So what am I doing differently if anything? What’s my plan? What’s my approach? What’s my strategy?

First off, there are a lot of ways to get a company going. There’s no silver bullet. It’s hard. It’s complex. There a lot of moving pieces. It takes good timing, good luck and and incredible amount of determination to keep getting up when you get knocked down. Despite what “experts” may say, there are no secrets. It’s more about survival at this stage than it is about world domination.

But let me tell you some of my approach for startup #2.

Product

Right now I’m 100% focused on product. I’ve done plenty of customer development and i’ve played the #LeanStartup game. I’m past that. I’m heads-down coding. Nothing else matters right now. A picture is worth a thousand words — so is a functional product. No matter how well I can articulate my vision to potential investors or hires, it comes to life with a real product — something they can use and play with. They see it. They see what I see. A light goes on. It’s a tangible representation of the vision in my head. And that’s powerful. My dreams at night are in Python and Django. Product has been and will continue to be the biggest priority.

People

As the alpha product nears completion, a fraction of my time will move away from product and into recruiting/hiring. This is where the fun begins — the real work. And these decisions keep me up at night.

A lot of people wanna work with me because they know i’m a pretty good entrepreneur. I’ve already interviewed dozens of folks. But so far, i’ve been and will continue to be insanely cautious and patient when it comes to people. I know this might slow me down a bit, which is risky. But i’ll take my chances. There are so many unknowns in a startup. The more unknowns you can minimize, the better your chances are at success. People — especially people i’ve never worked with before — present huge unknowns to a young enterprise. If they are stars, they can make an incredibly huge positive impact. If they are bad, you can lose months and months of precious time and work dealing with their drama, damage and distractions.

These early people decisions are the absolute biggest decisions a founder can make at this stage. My idea will change. My product will morph. But my early people are constant. Startups die because of people, not competitors.

Investors

I plan on raising some seed capital. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of unknowns in a startup. Startups are extremely fragile. If you don’t have extra cash in the bank, with one stroke of misfortune and bad luck, you can be out of the game. Out of money and into the dead pool. Done. Check Mate. I’ve been through near-death experiences before. I don’t wanna flirt anywhere close this time around. Nothing ever goes according to plan. It’s impossible to flawlessly execute. So much is beyond our control. Consumers are fickle. Market conditions change. Competitors come and go. You hire the wrong person. Yadda Yadda Yadda. Crap happens — it always does. So much of starting a company is not what you do but how you react. Not having cash reserves is just a little reckless and irresponsible.

To really hit the ball out of the park, you gotta take a good amount of swings. Sometimes even the best entrepreneurs strike out. It’s to be expected. But the best entrepreneurs make sure they put themselves at bat long enough to connect. It’s a numbers game. Money can buy you more at-bats.

As far as who I take money from… unlike startup #1, I plan on being super selective. Everything I said about hiring/recruiting applies here. I’m looking for investors who are patient and see my longterm vision. And they either need to be top-tier (great brand) or incredibly valuable (proven distribution, product strategy, well-connected, etc). All money is not equal.

Conclusion

I’m going big and aggressive with this startup. This isn’t college admissions anymore. This is a growing market and a massive opportunity. I’ve already created a company that’ll value north of $100mm with startup #1. I’m now working to build one that values north of $1b. That’s practically impossible. All the moving pieces need to fall nicely together. And yes, it’ll take some good luck and great timing. But that’s where my sights are set.

I’m having the time of my life. Every day i’m bouncing off walls and oozing with passion. I love startups. I love creating something out of nothing. It’s hard. It’s challenging. But i’ve been down this path before and I know exactly what to expect. Much of it can be prepared for, but much of it can’t. The unknowns are what make this ride so exhilarating.

I’m still an outsider here in the Valley. I moved here last year and i’m still unknown. Recruiting the best people and getting to know the best investors will be challenging. But I will find a way. I always do.

I’m 100% committed. The boats are burned. There’s no turning back now…

Back to the hustle.

Finding Balance as a Startup Founder

6/15/11

I’m in Hawaii on a cruise this week. It’s a vacation with my wife’s family. I wasn’t originally planning on attending, but I’m glad I decided to go.

No laptop (but ipad). Lotsa reading and some writing. And most importantly, i’m having fun with family. I’m definitely still thinking about my startup. My mind doesn’t stop. But since phase 1 of my alpha product is near complete, this has been a fitting and refreshing break.

For some time now I’ve been doing 16-hour days of heads-down coding. Like any startup, I have a ton to get done. And I know how deadly missing one startup week can be. I was very close to not coming on this trip.

But if there’s one rule I’ve always tried to live by, it’s this: live every day like it’s your last. Enjoy the journey. Seize the day.

Dangerous Minds

I can easily see myself slipping into the mindset that if I work ridiculously hard now while I’m young — skipping out on vacations and other family/friend outings — then later in life I’ll have everything I ever wanted and more. I’ll one day be able to spend all the time with family and go on all the vacations in the world and do whatever I desired. I just have to pay the price now.

That’s a common mindset for the ambitious and motivated. It’s how we justify our lack of balance, lack of family/friend time, and general lack of completeness. We’re giving up now for the promise of tomorrow. We mask it as vision and sacrifice. We feel like martyrs for the cause.

It’s enticing. It’s reasonable. But to me it’s wrong.

For many, the promise of tomorrow never arrives. For the lucky few who achieve it, it takes much longer than anticipated. And usually, the sweet taste of success will leave us wanting more. Our commitment as a young, hungry mercenary — work insane hours now to play later — is long forgotten. We never believe we arrive. Tomorrow always stays a day away.

That’s a treacherous path.

Gone in 60 Seconds

I don’t wanna let life pass me by. I wanna be there to see my son take his first steps. I wanna be in the bleachers cheering for him the first time he scores. I wanna be side by side with my wife at parent teacher conference, hearing of his struggles and triumphs. I wanna tell him bedtime stories at night, and make him scrambled eggs in the morning.

I wanna be there. For my son. For my wife. And for all the others who matter most to us. I wanna be present.

Life will always be busy. I will always be working on something big and important. I will always be out hustling and creating. I will always have a default excuse of “I am simply too busy.” It’s my reality. It’s the path I’ve chosen.

But my most important work will never be a startup. The startups I create and the riches I acquire will not go with me to the grave or into the after life. The relationships I build will. Making myself available for those closest to me — whether a cruise in Hawaii or a walk around the block — must be a priority to me.

It’s not easy — especially when work is so fun and fulfilling. To actually leave work — physically, mentally or emotionally — requires work. A lot of it. And for me, will require years of discipline and practice. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m still trying to find the perfect formula for balance.

Beauty and the Beast

I’m terrified of an outcome on the other end of the spectrum. One that involves me at my death bed, with all the riches in the world, but with no one around me. A world of regrets — wishing I would have spent more time with my wife and kids. Wishing I would have strengthened my relationships with good friends. Wishing I would have served and helped more people. Wishing I would have found the things that bring true happiness. A world of everything, but with nothing.

I’m happy to err on the side of too much friends and family. They bring the most happiness to my life. And they are who matter most. Maybe I just don’t know enough old people, but I’ve never met an old person wishing they would’ve spent more time at work.

Be careful when you give up today’s joy for tomorrow’s unknown. The destination will be sweeter if you stop to enjoy the path.

Back to catching waves…

Burning The Boats

5/25/11

Note: Since I announced the news early last week, i’ve been inundated with messages — requests from investors, notes from supportive friends, and inquiries from folks who wanna work with me. It’s been humbling to see the response. I apologize to any who have not yet heard back from me. As you can imagine, i’ve been very busy. Now for today’s post…

The ancient Greek warriors were some of the toughest fighters of the time. It wasn’t so much their training or their weapons or their tactics. It was their unwavering commitment to win. When they would arrive on enemy shores, the first orders from their commanders would be to “burn the boats.” And they did. They torched their boats. The message was loud and clear: there was no turning back. There was no retreat. No surrender. The only way out was forward. Victory or death. No other outcome.

It’s told that when Cortes landed in Mexico in the 1500′s, he had the same thing done. The ships were burned. He made sure his crew had no way back, except as heroes.

I could have easily started building my startup as a side project, working nights and weekends. I could have saved any possible embarrassment, because no one would have known if I failed. I could have continued to learn and validate my idea. I could have started assembling the team. A great six-figure salary would have continued and I wouldn’t have put my family at such great financial risk. There would have been no pressure. There would have been no downside.

So why did I choose a different path?

Because I believe the best entrepreneurs burn the boats. I wouldn’t call myself a Founder otherwise.

When the boats are burned, you are fully committed. Your heart and mind are 100% focused. No distractions. No side-projects. No looking back. It’s all-in and all-the-time. You can’t retreat back to your day job. You’re out on the street and forced to hustle. No flight, only fight. You will win or die trying.

It’s a beautiful thing. I’ve landed on this island, my boats are burned, and I have no other choice but to make this new startup work. The savings account gets smaller and smaller every single day. The clock is ticking. It’s uncomfortable and it’s hard. But nothing will force me to move faster and perform better than the raw instinct of survival. I must deliver. There’s no such thing as a mulligan. Moving forward and #winning is the only way out. I will find a way. I always do.

Let’s build our hut and find some grub. I’m hungry.

“When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.”
- Walt Disney

My Graduation from Zinch

5/15/11

It’s a really strange feeling writing this post. It’s both sad and exciting.

tl;dr: I’m leaving day to day involvement at Zinch to start a new company. I will continue to be based out of San Francisco.

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I lasted one year at Princeton. So in many ways, Zinch has been my schooling. What a unique education it’s been. It was a five-year program — but I feel 20+ years wiser, smarter, and more experienced. It was the world’s most effective trade school: I was taught first-hand how to start, build and grow a successful company.

Professors

Since day 1, i’ve been learning from Brad Hagen and Sid Krommenhoek. You couldn’t dream up better cofounders. We will always have a unique and special bond because of what we endured together. Zinch would not have made it past year 1 had either one of them not been there. I owe them a lot. I want them involved on every company I start, at least as advisors.

For the last 2 years, i’ve had the honor of learning from Anne Dwane, our current CEO. She has been the ultimate professor during my schooling here at Zinch. She’s a masterful communicator and an exemplary leader.

She’s always been so generous, supportive and patient with me. Only she knows how often I’ve screwed up (a lot). But every time I did, she took the opportunity to train, teach and help me learn. Our relationship didn’t come without challenges (none do), but overall i’ve been very lucky and fortunate to have her as a teacher, mentor and friend. The apprenticeship will hopefully continue, as i’m sure i’ll be reaching out to her as I face my own challenges as CEO. For me, she has set the gold-standard for what it means to be a great CEO. I will work hard to emulate her example.

Zinch

Zinch is in great hands. From inception, we’ve worked tirelessly to surround ourselves with people who are smarter and more talented than us founders. We were convinced that it’s how you build a great company. And we still believe that. As a result, today we have an incredibly talented, smart, passionate, hard-working, and committed group of stars.

I couldn’t possibly be more optimistic and confident about the future of this company — because I know the people behind it know how to win. It’s what has allowed me to make this decision without any hesitation. I’m proud and honored to have rubbed shoulders with these folks. They’ve taught me so much and I hope to work with them again someday.

Early this year, my wife and I sensed that this year would be transformational. And we were very right.

My day to day involvement with Zinch is ending, and I will be starting a new company. I will always be a founder of Zinch. I’ll continue to be strategically involved and will continue to be Zinch’s biggest cheerleader. I have a very large vested interest to see that Zinch succeeds. It’s all i’ve known. It’s my entire career. It’s my baby.

However, as Zinch has grown and stabilized, my heart has had a growing desire to get back into early-stage startups. One of the many things that Zinch has reinforced in me is that I absolutely love building businesses and creating products. I love it so much in fact that I wanna go do it all over again. Again and again and again. The ups and downs of growing and building a startup are feelings very difficult to describe, but for me it’s incredibly fulfilling. I absolutely love it.

Next

The ultimate challenge is creating a product that millions of people want. It’s near impossible to do. But i’m ready for the challenge once again. It’s calling my name. I know it’ll be hard. I know the odds are stacked against me. But I have been schooled and trained by the best. I’m ready. I’m confident. And i’m hungry to get out and do it again.

I won’t share the specifics of my next venture quite yet, but I will say that what i’m about to take on is scary big. It’s ambitious and it’s daunting. It’s in a young, but fast-growing market. Not in Education. And it’s primarily mobile. It’s an area i’m very passionate about because it’s a problem that i’ve had for a long time now — and still hasn’t been solved. I’ve been watching from the sidelines for some time now, just waiting for someone to create this product. No one has created it yet. So with each passing day, i’ve been itching to throw my hat in the ring. The opportunity is wide open and up for grabs, but big players are starting to take notice. The company who wins in this space will be a big winner. It’s the next Holy Grail of sorts.

This will be the biggest challenge i’ve ever faced. But I’m ready to dance in the eye of the storm. I’m excited. I’m happy. And i’m oozing with passion..

Round 2 starts now.

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