February 14, 2013
This post is part reflection, part conversation time-saver, and is definitely a long time coming.
tl;dr: Fetchnotes is staying in Boston after Techstars. I’ve moved back to Michigan for personal reasons and left Fetchnotes as CTO (forever a co-founder). Fetchnotes and I still love each other (too much sometimes). I’ve joined Ambassador (Techstars NY ‘11) as CTO after a 2-month statewide journey. I’m hiring from anywhere for anywhere.
My story starts back in Cambridge. My co-founder at Fetchnotes, Alex, and I are battling out one of our biggest decisions we had to make as a company at the time over a game of table tennis, a company pastime, in the Techstars Boston HQ. Do we stay in Boston after demo day or head back to our team’s birthplace in Ann Arbor? It definitely wasn’t an easy call, but in the end, we decided to remain headquartered in Boston. In addition, due to the incredibly tight-knit culture of our team, we knew we wanted everyone to be in one place.
While everyone else on the team wanted to be in Boston on a personal level, and Alex and I thought it would be the best place for the business moving forward given our momentum in TechStars, the same couldn’t be said for me.
Although I love Boston and have a great amount of respect for its ecosystem and the people there, if there weren’t other stakeholders involved, I would absolutely make the choice to locate in Michigan even if it wasn’t the most opportune location because one of my personal goals in life is to grow Michigan and its ecosystem - it’s an opportunity I’m very passionate about. In addition, my heart is in Michigan as are my family and friends.
Shortly after my conversation with Alex that night, I would learn of a pressing personal issue that affected my family, which I won’t discuss here, but it’s one that made my presence back home a necessity for someone who places family before all else. Soon after, I came to terms with the fact that I had to leave Boston.
After several long and tear/hug-filled conversations with my teammates, roommates, and best friends, i.e., the Fetchnotes team, I booked a flight back to Michigan and packed my bags. We weren’t quite to Demo Day, and due to the abruptness of my leave, I didn’t even have an opportunity to say goodbye to many of the amazing friends I had made at the office.
Back in Michigan, I decided that continuing as the CTO of Fetchnotes was not right for me. I would have had to serve remotely, and due to the tight-knit culture and processes of our team, trying to fulfill this role from a distance would have been a huge disservice and risk to the company. Coming from what we’d had together, it also would not have been enjoyable for anyone on a day to day basis. In the long term, I think it would have either caused us to flounder or fail.
As a result, I spent the next two months transitioning out of my role at Fetchnotes while working from Michigan, splitting my time between Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. The team understands and appreciates my decision and given the situation, we think this will turn out the best for the company. So far, they’ve continued our company tradition of crushing it, and I’m pumped to see where they go and how I can help along the way.
During my transition, I reconvened with many of my mentors who had helped me the past several years in order to figure out what I wanted to do next in Michigan. This process took me all over the state to learn from faces new and old, and I learned more each day about myself, our ecosystem, and the challenges we face as a community now as well as the ones we’ll be overcoming in the decades ahead. At some point, I hope to distill these leanings into another post.
At the end of this journey, I found my fit in the team at Ambassador with Jeff Epstein. Early in January, I began the process of onboarding as Ambassador’s CTO, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Jeff, while an incredible one-man wrecking crew through most of the company’s life, has surrounded himself with an amazingly talented business team and produced astounding results. I’m absolutely pumped to build out an equally awesome product team (contact me if interested in joining our mission). While there were a multitude of reasons Ambassador represented the perfect fit for me moving forward, I won’t go into those here other than to point out the obvious investor symmetry with Fetchnotes (Techstars and Start Garden).
A lot is in store for Ambassador and Michigan this year, and I can’t wait to experience and share it with you!
This post was made possible by my amazing girlfriend, my family and friends, the Fetchotes team past and present, Ambassador, my investors past and present, and all of my incredible mentors and other entrepreneurs who’ve taken the time to join me throughout my journey (I was going to compile all of your names here but decided I’d use that time to conquer the world in your honor instead - there are just too damn many of you to whom I’m incredibly grateful). Thank you!