On June 1, 2010, I moved into the SpeakerCave. This wasn’t the plan A, mind you––more like plan C––but at least it was something. And definitely better than plan D, which is to say: SpeakerTent.
The plan, well, plan A was to raise a bunch of money from the top angel investors in Silicon Valley and New York and then move to San Francisco. And that plan failed.
So the SpeakerCave it was.
It had started in mid-May when M2, Tyler and I interviewed with Y-Combinator. Paul Graham gave us the bad news. “Your team hasn’t know each other long enough,” he told us––or something like that. But they’d be happy to talk to us again, later, in the fall, assuming we hadn’t self-destructed already.
That night, the one remaining investor we thought we had for sure backed out on us. Two hours later, someone broke into our rental car. They stole my laptop, housekeys, iPod and––worst of all––my copy of Steve Blank’s Four Steps to the Epiphany. T’was a dark day.
And two weeks later we reconvened in Pittsburgh. Ahh yes, Steel City. It was no Manhattan, but M2’s roommate had just moved out so we had a place to stay for two months. M2 and Tyler had bedrooms, I had the dining room, and we used the living room as an office.
PG’s hesitation was understandable. Things hadn’t really worked out with my original co-founder. M2 had joined in April after an intro from a mutual friend. We had hit it off instantly, but in truth we hardly knew each other. Nonetheless, his technical chops were first rate: a coder since junior high, a web hacker since 2000, a summa cum laude graduate of the Iowa State computer engineering program and the former CTO of CampusMunch, a web-based food delivery startup. On top of all that, M2 had just graduated from the Carnegie Mellon Master’s program in Robotics. He had worked on the computer vision software and machine learning alogorithms for autonomous farming robots actually deployed somewhere in Florida.
Tyler had joined back in October 2009. With my alumni discount, I had setup a booth at the Columbia Engineering Job Fair, looking for fresh talent. At the time, Tyler was a senior at the University of Rochester. Rochester is a good engineering school, but not a great one. Tyler was the best engineer in his class, or so said the Rochester engineering faculty. Truth be told, he had passed up Harvard for Rochester, accepting the full tuition scholarship they had dangled before him in lieu of the Ivory tower. The previous two summers, he worked at IBM and Lockheed-Martin, excelling technically but feeling unchallenged.
Tyler joined SpeakerText first as a freelancer, helping us build v1.0. We paid him for that with an iPhone camera mount called an OWLE. By spring , he had fielded offers from GE, Lockheed-Martin and a few other dev shops. These were real jobs, and he turned them down to join SpeakerText as a full-fledged co-founder.
Tyler and M2 met at San Francicsco International Airport two days before our YC interview. Two weeks later we moved in together. Tyler and M2 had bedrooms, I had the dining room. Our credit line was maxed out. We had $1,200 in the bank.
To Be Continued…