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Episode 34: Lunch with a Shark

November 7, 2012

It’s always good to get some inside advice when heading into a big project. I mean, you can’t just mindlessly plow into the online dating market where there are 1500 competing sites–especially when you don’t plan to go niche, but instead stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. So, if you’re launching a Silicon Valley startup and you want some advice, you might pay a visit to the Shark Tank–a venture capital firm.

I called my good friend Frank, who happened to be a VC, and asked if we could have lunch. Frank and I had worked together previously at a networking startup–I had gone on in my networking career; he moved into venture capital. I knew that Frank would be able to shed some light on how to approach successfully birthing a company into this crowded, highly competitive market space.

Frank and I met in Palo Alto. Palo Alto is where sharks go for lunch. Over a club sandwich and fish, I gave Frank an overview of Magical Matches and asked what we thought.

Like I said in Episode 19 Part 3, VCs are like Publishers–both crowds are fairly skeptical. Frank, predictably, was pretty skeptical about online dating as a venture. With a saturated market, it’s difficult to see how anyone can really compete. Or course, he was right. His opinion didn’t bother me too much as I knew that would be his take on our situation. I indicated that I was looking for engineering help to build the site in exchange for equity in the company . He said that I would never find a team willing to work for stock and that I should instead find an angel investor, get some cash, and hire a team.

But this was not really the road that I wanted to take. Taking on investment was one strategy, but that also meant inviting another person who might possibly want control over the direction of our company. That wasn’t the path I wanted to go down.

I left the meeting pondering where to turn next. I trusted Frank’s insights but, at the same time, I had a different direction set in my head.

I got in my car and started driving down the road back to Fremont, where I worked my day job. Not five minutes down the road, my phone rang. It was Terry, a genius engineer I had worked with in the past. Terry said, “Hey, that idea you had last year; I have time to work on it now.”, referring to my ideas around how to use Bluetooth more fully.

I said, “I’m not working on that any more, I’m working on something new. It’s in a billion-dollar pre-existing market. You interested?”

Terry replied, “You always have great ideas, Troy. I’m in.”

And just like that, we had a lead engineer…and not just any engineer, but one of the most brilliant people that I’ve ever met. I sent him a Non Disclosure Agreement (remember, we’re in stealth mode still–Episode 23) and he joined Team MM.

I was surprised, but I probably shouldn’t have been. After all, we’d gotten a publisher in 15 minutes, easily discovered a therapist to join the team, and found an editor that was also a publisher and ghostwriter.

Everything that this project needed just seemed to magically appear at the right time.

Click here for Episode 35: The FriggingChillerDontYaSpillerKillerita

One Comment
  1. I love how your team appears on cue!! Amazing!!

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