That Hot Dancer Chick Started The Company, Not Me

2/1/11

A random encounter with a hot chick at Princeton is what put me on the path i’m on. Let me tell you how it happened…

It was the first week of my freshman year at Princeton. I was excited about the atmosphere, the people, the prestige, the professors, all of it. I was soaking it all in. I had reached my ultimate goal of getting into an Ivy league school. I proudly wore my Princeton hoodie everywhere I went. I was a Tiger.

There was an all-school event in one of the gyms where all the student clubs, organizations and groups could showcase who they were and why all of us eager freshmen should join their organizations. It was like a big expo or fair — each organization had their own booth. The place was packed. A capella groups. Newspapers and literary magazines. Comedy troupes. Heritage clubs. Athletic teams (not varsity). Drama geeks. Volunteer orgs. Dance groups. All the freshmen were being bombarded with promises of an amazing experience. We all felt loved; it was an exciting time. The friendships we would form would surely change our life forever.

The Dancer Chick

As I was literally walking out the doors, backpack full of flyers and handouts, someone grabbed my shoulders and pulled me back inside. I was startled — was I about to get into my first college fight. Was someone about to get beaten down. Nope. Instead, a really cute girl asked, “Do you dance?”

That was the moment.

“Sure,” I slowly muttered. “I don’t so much dance… but I like to dance. If that makes sense.” I grew up shaking my latin booty in mirrors and at local parties. I loved to dance but I was never trained as a dancer.

“Tryouts are later today. We’d love to have you.”

She handed me the flyer, gave me an upperclassmen wink and smile, and went on her way. Me joining that dance group seemed out of the question and crazy. I had never had to memorize a piece of choreography in my life.

I remember lying down in my bed when I got back to my dorm, just looking up at the ceiling. Pondering. I kept thinking about that cute girl. Kept thinking about how college is a place to test your limits, explore and try new things. I also thought about all the other cute girls I was certain i’d meet if I went and danced. Ohhhh yeeeah.

I decided to go for it. I auditioned (in my jeans). I got in (surprisingly). I was the newest member of BodyHype.

My time with BodyHype was memorable. It was the closest sense of “team” and “community” I felt during all my time at Princeton. We practiced hours at a time, three times a week for the entire year. We hung out all the time. I loved those people. For those interested, you can see a few pics/posts of my BodyHype days here, here and here. Lol.

The Accomplice

One friendship I formed in BodyHype was with Jeremy Johnson. He wasn’t much of a dancer (like me) but he was eager to try something new. He’s an innovator, a leader, a thinker. I don’t doubt that someday he’ll be a senator (or something like it) after a very successful career starting companies. He was a junior at the time and running for Student Body President. I helped him run his campaign, passed out flyers with him, built his campaign website, and did whatever it took to get him elected. Unfortunately, he came in a close 2nd.

We hung out a lot and started thinking about startups, entrepreneurship and hustlin’ in general. He had a sharp mind and I enjoyed discussing the most random of topics with him. I had just finished my college admissions process and along with another student, Joe Perla, we started thinking about how we could solve some of the massive inefficiencies in college admissions. The whiteboarding, brainstorming, and researching began. We spent our entire summer together, attacking this problem from all angles. In the end, things fell apart with the team and we went our separate ways. Some went back to school, some went on to work with other startups. But the inspiration and the seeds of what would later become Zinch all started during that time together.

The Outcome

I dropped out of Princeton. I moved back to my home state of Utah and joined up with Sid Krommenhoek and Brad Hagen to start Zinch. Fast forward 4+ years. VC-backed. We have more than 3 million users. We work with more than 900 colleges and universities. We have more than 60 full-time employees. We have offices in 3 locations with reps all over the world. Zinch is doing great.

Zinch would have never started had I not spent an entire summer thinking about college admissions with Joe Perla and Jeremy Johnson. That summer would have never happened had I not formed a friendship with Jeremy. I would have never met Jeremy had it not been for BodyHype Dance Company. I would have never joined BodyHype had it not been for Natasha Kalimada stopping me that day at the fair.

It is crazy to think that it all started with a cute girl asking if I liked to dance — such a seemingly small and insignificant moment. It was just a blip on life’s radar. Yet…it altered the course of my life.

Zinch has been the best experience of my life. I’ve met great people and i’ve learned more than what 10 years at Princeton could have taught me. Zinch has shaped who I am. It has broadened my vision for who I can become. And as a bonus, it has paid the bills (except in the early days). It has fed my family. It has allowed me to do what I love doing, creating. I have a wonderful wife and son and we enjoy life in San Francisco. The big “exit” hasn’t arrived yet but i’m confident it will someday.

The Conclusion

I’m not one who believes in destiny. I’m not one who believes in fate. I believe we all have a choice — a choice to do what we wanna do, to be who we wanna be, and to become who we wanna become. But there are moments, the smallest of moments, that can significantly alter our path. There have been various moments like this in my life, though few as defining and clear.

Life is so interesting. Our journey is full of surprises. These moments are happening all around us. Sometimes they come and we embrace them. Sometimes they come and we don’t recognize them. Sometimes we have to go out and create them. But they are there.

What will be your next moment? Underestimate nothing or no one. The path of Zinch got started with a cute girl asking me if I danced. Crazy.

Serendipity is looking in a haystack for a needle and discovering a farmer’s daughter.
– Julius Comroe Jr.

Update: That hot dancer chick chimes in. She left the below message on my facebook profile.

  • Hang

    Did you end up getting a date out of Bodyhype?

    • http://www.mickhagen.com/ Mick Hagen

      Oooh yeah. The chicks were hot. :)

  • http://twitter.com/sethellsworth Seth Ellsworth

    Thanks for sharing this Mick. Always wondered about the story behind the story… and the “outlier” moment.

  • http://joshuadance.com/ Joshua Dance

    Great post. Thanks for taking time to think back and remember and share.

  • Nate

    Thanks for sharing Mick! We gotta talk soon.

    • http://www.mickhagen.com/ Mick Hagen

      Thanks Nate!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/حسنين-بابل/100003086816656 حسنين بابل

    thank u for all and please visit your website above

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