leaving Snoball Oct2012

The Short Version

Friday, October 5th, 2012 was my last day as ceo and employee of Snoball. It's been a wildly fun ride and it wasn't an easy decision. The team is incredibly gifted, the platform is world changing, and the time is right for the idea.

I'll be retaining my seat on the board of directors and am more excited than ever about the future of the company. It's well built, adding users daily, and ready to radically alter the way fundraising occurs.

The Less Short Version

About two years ago, we started working earnestly on Snoball with the typical startup feel -- long hours coding into the night, lots of what-if conversations. We built a really solid demo and went into fund raising mode.

After closing the funds, we had a celebratory dinner and went back to work the next day. A couple of months later, we moved the entire company (and very understanding wives) to Austin. Things were speeding up and we needed to be in a bigger city.

I was naive going into it. I didn't imagine how big of a factor the legal, accounting, hr, investor relations, fund raising, etc would all end up being. I thought I'd be coding on something big, but I let myself end up a beaurocrat.

I loved technology and the team and speaking with donors and nonprofits. I did not love raising investment, but that became more and more of a focus. It's wearying. I began to dread working on the thing I'd lived and breathed for so long.

The tipping point for me was hearing from an advisor, "Your job isn't to focus on the product. You're the ceo and you need to be always raising money." Whether I agree with it or not, for the size company we'd become and our level of revenue, he was right.

It didn't help that I was always sick. It was the stress, no sleep, no exercise, etc. At home, I was distracted and mentally gone. I'd be around my family and not even realize they were speaking to me.

Burned out.

It took nearly two years of 80+ hour weeks on Snoball, but it caught up. It didn't help that I'd been working on my phd for the 2.5 years prior along with balancing a career and family.

I don't want to do something unless I can do it well. It was time for a change.

and now

I stewed for a couple of months. I tried to back away from the day to day, but at this stage of a startup, that's impossible and unfair to everyone else on the team.

I stepped down. For the good of the company, for the good of my family, for my health.

I want to be present when my children are on my lap or my arm is around my wife.

I just want to do things well.

what's next?

As a way of solidifying some of the lessons learned, in the near future I'll be writing about:

  • leading a team vs building a product vs building a business
  • starting a Startup in Small Town, USA
  • securing investment
  • startup theater

For now, I just want to kiss my wife, hug my kids, hack on something fun, and do things well.

These thoughts are my own, unless they're yours. And if they're yours, we may have metaphysical problems beyond simple concept ownership and should probably talk soon.