5 Years In, Taking a Deep Breath and Settling in for the Long Haul

This weekend Sarah and Greyson have been in New York for a special Mother-in-Law birthday trip, so I have been able to catch up on a lot of work, spend a lot time alone (which is unusual for me), knock out a bunch of things on my Todo list, and achieved my normal Inbox Zero, which has helped clear my headspace.

I miss both of them dearly, especially as I look at the photos of Greyson taking the Big Apple by storm, but I also have recognized how much I needed time to recharge.

For whatever reason, most of the month of May my Inbox and Todo list kept growing. I felt like I was on my heels on defense, and I was pretty fucking tired all the time.   I haven’t had a real vacation for a very long time, and it also rained  most of May in Colorado, which didn’t help matters.

But, about a week or so ago, the sun came out, I got a bit of rest over Memorial Day Weekend, and finally got a critical hire for the future success of FullContact completed, so I’m feeling pretty good about that.

In May the FullContact team also blew away revenue numbers, so that feels awesome.  I had to make some fairly big changes to the team last year for a variety of reasons, so it feels good to know that the changes are really paying off.

Now, starting in June, I feel like I’m on the offense a bit more and able to strategize and think a bit longer term about FullContact and where we’re at after 5 years of working on the business.

In the midst of all of this, I had three distinct interactions that made me think deeper about where I am personally in the context of thinking about FullContact.

The first was Friday afternoon. I received the following question in FullContact’s #ask-me-anything channel on Slack:

slack_question

Here was my response:

slack_answer

To be clear, I was totally happy to answer this question.  It’s a great question. We have always strived for transparency and candor in how we operate.

It’s super important for people at FullContact to know how I am thinking about the business and the question helped me clarify my thoughts.

It’s also important for everyone at FullContact to know that we’re building a business for the long haul – and not simply a product to try and get acquired.

The second was on Friday afternoon. I had a beer with a founder that started his company in Y-Combinator, but ultimately decided to leave Silicon Valley for Colorado to escape the noise.   The company has bootstrapped a SaaS business, has done amazingly well with little or no press or fanfare, and is choosing to ignore all the Silicon Valley hype about Unicorns and Decacorns and simply go about his business.

He has an opportunity to build a meaningful, long term business that will be a huge success for him and his co-founders.

It might take a while, but it will eventually be a life changing endeavor for him.

Will he be famous?  No.

Will he be labeled a Unicorn and lauded in the press? No.

But he’ll be more successful than the vast majority of founders chasing the Unicorns.

The third was on Saturday morning. I had a great conversation with my amazing angel investing partner Brett Jackson about the nature of the macro environment in 2014/2015 and our experiences in 1999/2000 and 2007/2008 and what we learned as a result.

Our conclusion was simply this:  we will continue to take a long term view in our entrepreneurship and investing activities.

The craziness that is happening in early stage valuations won’t last.   There will be a dip in the Macro.  It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Lots of Unicorns can and will die.  And that’s Ok.   Because as Steve Jobs said “Death is very likely the single best invention of life.”

Historically, some of the best companies are forged during the crucible of a downturn.

Brett and I decided will keep focusing on long term outcomes and entrepreneurs who are in it for the right reasons.  These need to be reasons beyond making a quick buck and “flipping” their company in a year or two.

It’s important to never forget – Sam Walton took 12 freakin’ years to open Walmart Store #2.

Yes, there are the SnapChats and Ubers of the world.

But for every meteoric rise, there are equally spectacular falls.  Remember Enron?  Or AOL-Time Warner?  Or MySpace?

Building something of real, lasting value takes a long time and is a hard, difficult journey.  Like 7, 10, 20 or even 100 years.  Maybe sometimes more.

Microsoft is 40 years old.  Apple is 39 years old.  Even the youthful Google is 17 years old.

Warren Buffet has been doing it for 50+ years, earning 20% compounded annually.

And so after taking these interactions into account and letting my thoughts roll around in my head this weekend, I meditated along Boulder Creek this morning, a practice I’ve been doing daily since last year (though most days, I meditate on the bus).

I spent 10 minutes taking deep breaths.

When I was finished meditating – I had a moment of profound clarity.

I realized that I am extraordinary excited for the next 5 years of my life. Not just for FullContact, but for my life with Sarah and Greyson and for my own evolution as a human.

The last 5 years have been amazing.  At FullContact, we’ve achieved an amazing amount in the technology and the data problems we’ve solved.  But more importantly we’ve assembled an amazing team of 60+ people in Denver, Latvia and Nashville and developed our own unique culture centered around “Being Awesome with People.”

On a personal level, I met and married Sarah.  We had Greyson.  We moved to Boulder and have started creating deep roots in the community.

And that makes me even more excited for the next 5 years, which will take FullContact’s age to 10 years, our marriage’s age to 8 years, and Greyson’s age to 6 years.

All of these numbers feel like incredibly young ages to me.

So. I’m taking a deep breath, settling in and getting comfortable for the long haul.

I can’t wait to see what the next 5 years brings.

Image credit:  https://www.kksblog.com/2013/07/the-long-road-ahead/

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