One Startup. No Secrets. Start at the beginning.
Earlier this fall I received a call while meandering from Boston to Maine by train. It was Morgen, calling from London to update me on his life after IdeaPaint.
Before I go any further, I want to give you the inside scoop on Mojo*. He is the epitome of a can-do entrepreneur; a leader without a hint of ego and a teammate with unflappable determination. I saw this first-hand during our time together in college and as a spectator while he and his colleagues turned IdeaPaint into a must-have product in companies, schools and homes around the world.
In fact, I’ve always hoped (and had a sneaking suspicion) that he and I would be able to join forces some day.
Back to the train.
I sluggishly reached for the phone, still a bit groggy thanks to the red eye flight from the west coast the night before, but otherwise excited to chat. I knew he was already working on his next venture, a spicy honey - making company that was conceived and launched in 30 days. He got me up to speed on where the company was today, and where he and Casey hoped to take it in the future.
That’s when he gauged my interest in potentially joining.
A slew of thoughts darted around my head. You see, I had spent the previous 4 years building a career in San Francisco, immersing myself deeply at a software company, building partnerships and selling an analytics solution to mobile app developers. Was I really ready to leave the technological epicenter of the world? Was I prepared for the pressure and responsibility of joining a founding team?
And what the heck did I know about food?
When evaluating career opportunities, I generally stick to a simple formula based on 4 criteria:
- Founders: Are the founders highly capable? What’s their entrepreneurial pedigree?
- Vision: Does the team have a strong and succinct vision for the company?
- Product: Does this product fill a need in the market? Will people pay for it?
- Fit: Am I the right person to fill this role?
As you saw in our previous post, I felt comfortable jumping right in with Morgen and asking detailed questions about the venture (in addition to many conversations we had conducted over the phone). I wanted to better understand their thoughts on these 4 criteria so I could make an informed decision about whether this was the right opportunity for me.
As I gushed earlier, Morgen is a proven entrepreneur. He helped start IdeaPaint and has just the sort of mind and temperament that I work well alongside. I didn’t know Casey but felt comfortable that if he passed Morgen’s test, he would be A-OK in my book as well.
This is where things started to get real. Were Morgen & Casey really trying to build a sustainable company off of one $14 bottle of spicy honey? Or was there a deeper vision for the company?
Without spilling any secrets, it was clear after my conversation about vision that we are going to have a unique, long-term perspective within the food industry. Their goal from the beginning has been to bring unexpected flavors together to make your meal un-boring. This will go well beyond spicy honey. Based on what we’ve started to build behind the scenes, I can’t wait to bring these ideas and products to market.
Product goes hand-in-hand with vision, as the world doesn’t need another energy drink or tortilla chip. Our challenge is to bring fresh ideas to liven things up in your kitchen and at your dinner party.
A traditional supermarket can have well over 100,000 SKUs on their shelves, so we need to stand out amongst the competition. Based on my early conversations with Morgen, it was clear they had a firm grasp on how to address these challenges. Additionally, talks with Casey about our product roadmap made it clear we weren’t going to approach product development in a traditional manner.
This is where the rubber meets the road. I believe if f the opportunity doesn’t fit my interests or my skill set, I likely won’t be successful. Fortunately, what Morgen and Casey were looking for in a partner was someone keen to roll up his or her sleeves, had experience with business development and sales, and wasn’t going to shy away from a challenging task.
When I sat back and took a look at my notes, the answer was simple.
I was in. Very in.
****12 Week Update****
So it’s been 612weeks since I started working with Morgen & Casey. We had originally hoped to publish this post before the holidays, but as many of you know, we got absolutely crushed with orders. Awesome, right?
Yes and no.
It was incredible to see people react so positively to Bees Knees. We think spicy honey is such a fun and unique product, and were ecstatic to be able to share it with so many people. But at the same time, we had to produce, fill, package, and ship nearly 8000 bottles. Eight-thooouuusssaaand bottles. All within a couple short weeks. How were we ever going to get all of that done?
These are the dark times at a startup that are typically glorified in stories on TechCrunch or in movies like The Social Network. Tall tales of eating ramen 3 times a day, clicking away at a keyboard until 5am or sleeping on an oh-so tiny couch. What they often don’t talk about is the emotional toll of having the weight of the company and your customers on your shoulders. It’s crushing. It also tells you a lot about the people you’re working with (hint: Casey is an absolute honey-making machine).
Each of the 5 days leading up to the shipping cutoff for Christmas was a marathon. That’s really the only analogy I can come up with: we ran a marathon each day, only to collapse onto our beds knowing that we needed to run another one the next day. We called in favors from countless friends, who selflessly donated their down time during the holidays to help. We relied on the good nature of folks at the post office who snuck us in the back door so we wouldn’t have to carry more packages around to the front. It was a trying time but also an inspiring time (and a time I hope to never live again anytime soon).
On Christmas Eve, a few friends who saw firsthand how taxing the holiday rush was asked me whether I thought this was still the right opportunity. The only response I could muster was...
“I’m still in. Still very in.”
*I just realized you probably didn’t know we nicknamed Morgen “Mojo” during his freshman year in college. We’ll save that story for another post...
Haven't tried our Bees Knees Spicy Honey Yet? Go ahead, order a bottle or two. We're so confident you'll love it that we'll give your money back if you're unhappy for any reason.