There are many startups in a person’s life. Birth, first steps, first day of school, first day in the Army, first day on a new job.
But the startup that this blog is primarily named after is a type of business.
In December 2011, I suppose I had heard of startup companies. I had certainly dealt with them, such as a software company in Boston that had started by a couple brilliant developers, at that time it had graduated to a beautiful office in the northern suburbs that I had the pleasure to visit. A few years later, when having some problems with their software, we had to track one of the employees, who had scattered around the world, in Europe.
He was most helpful.
Such is the nature of many start ups.
I suppose I knew that the job I was being offered in Silcon Valley was a startup, in the most literal sense. I’d watched it grow, as the company I was with at the time had been one of their first big clients. The people of the startup company acted like they were big, but we knew after every meeting that at least one of the things they said they could do was going to have to be built “on-the-fly” in their offices, which were then in Connecticut.
But the owner was dynamic and charismatic, and obviously brilliant, and everything he said they could do, they somehow did.
By December 2011, I probably hadn’t ever used the word startup to describe a business, but I had an idea what it meant when the people in the company described themselves as one.
At that time, I had a much better idea what a “shutdown” was: A company getting smaller and smaller by the day. A company I had been with for a quarter of a century, that at one time had revenues of near 800 Million per year, but now was hovering at around 100 Million. I’d watched a challenging job, creating new systems and new business functions with a team of up to ten dwindle down to just me. Me, schlepping code, biding my time from day-to-day.
My job had reduced to maintaining what was there, and often that meant shutting down system and functions that my team had created. I hadn’t seen a raise in six year. I’d watched the office we inhabited empty out from hundreds of employees down to around fifty. Walking through it every day was depressing. Over a quarter of a century invested in the company, so many good memories, good friends, good experiences, wondering if tomorrow would be the day they'd call me into the office and say I'd been "downsized."
So when the brilliant man whose company I had watched grow from afar called me and told me how much he wanted me to join him in Silicon Valley, and made me a generous offer, I knew my choice was clear. I knew it was a gamble.
In January 2012, my wife and I boarded a plane in Baltimore on a very cold Sunday morning. When we got off the plane in San Francisco, the weather was beautiful, and the drive down the interstate to the town of Los Gatos, CA was perfect.
This was not the first time I had changed jobs. It was not the first time I had moved my household. It wasn’t even the first time I’d moved across the country. But I knew that this particular startup would be different than any other in my life.
First, I had to really come to understand what the word startup really meant...