I had the opportunity of meeting James the day he left his law firm to start a company. He’s one of the most affable, able, and ambitious people I know. He told me that he wants to “Go big or go home” and for him its closer to the truth than you might think.
James and I worked very closely for half a year. I’ve never had a peer with whom I had such a close working relationship. How close? I spent more nights at his apartment than his girlfriend and kept an extra toothbrush in his bathroom.
It was six months of engineering and entrepreneurial bootcamp. James and I traveled to Boulder, Colorado to check out the Techstars incubator program. We flew to Vancouver, Canada to roll out our beta in an effort to acquire travel bloggers as our core users. I remember landing in Vancouver the day the city’s hockey team, the Canucks, won the fifth game of the 2011 Stanley Cup. James and I waded through 100,000 drunk, loud Canadians running through the streets with outstretched palms motioning for high fives. (Being from Boston, the city of the opposing Bruins team, I feared for my life the day the Canucks lost the championship and Vancouverites set police cars on fire.)
I met Ben and Nan, two Berkeley computer science graduates, through James. I’m glad to have met such smart advisors and friends who are insightful, patient, and frank. Launching a startup is do-or-die. I needed colleagues whom I could count on to call it like they see it and, when necessary, respectfully say, “You’re doing it wrong. Do it this way.”
Ben taught me how to build scalable websites, use Vim, and understand Git. He helped me on implementing input box autocompletes to job hunting. He’s a great mentor and genuinely likes teaching. He once said, “Teaching you Vim makes me happy.”
Nan helped me see why certain services or business models worked. He explained why companies like Tumblr and Gilt Groupe were able to become successful. Tumblr became popular because it created a new type of content by being like Twitter on steroids and having great UI. Gilt took advantage of distressed luxury inventory during the last recession (which I think never really ended).
Even after Shoutbound ended, James, Ben, and Nan have been tremendously helpful. All of them helped me transition to my new position.