Act 1: Inception
Finding the Founding Team
I wish that I could claim more than luck on this front, but ultimately, it was luck. Or divine providence. Or something. Here’s the story…
Brad and I were playing with the concept of RFMConnex (oof, what a bad name), but we were two business guys with coding skills roughly on par with our proficiency in ancient Sumarian… that is to say, that we couldn’t code a single line and needed help.
As it turned out, Scot Catlin was in the hunt for his next job, and was eyeing an open position at Bronto Software. Scot was connected to Brad McGinity through LinkedIn, and reached out for an informational interview and a possible reference. Brad was in UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Full Time MBA Program at the time, and while he couldn’t blindly refer someone he didn’t know, he was happy to get together for lunch and chat.
As they sat together, it became obvious that what Scot had done at LSSi was similar in concept. In that business, LSSi was aggregating directory information for the purpose of directory assistance and marketing. You know when you move and change addresses, how you get that little flood of mailers that says “welcome to the neighborhood, here’s 20% off of lawn care…” They were one of the leaders in maintaining that type of database.
So Brad shares the start up concept we’re working on with RFMConnex, and Scot says “wow, we should get my former boss Chris Humphres involved!” Excitedly, Brad and Scot set up a lunch for the meeting of the minds.
Ted’s Montana Grill – Sales Schmoes and Geeks
I’m not sure how we picked it, but it was decided that Ted’s Montana Grill at Southpoint Mall was where this epic meeting of the minds was to take place. As we all arrived, we assumed the positions… Sales Schmoes on one side, Geeks on the other. One side leaning forward and jabbering excitedly. The other side contemplating intently, with a subtle hint of cynical suspicion clouding their eyes.
It was the first time we’d met Chris. As anyone who knows Chris would attest, he’s a hard interviewer. Let’s just say that the collaborative, generous spirit that we know and love Chris for doesn’t shine through in a first meeting (unless you’re a rabid Crimson Tide fan, in which case you get fast tracked to pure love and devotion). Brad and I are both Tarheels, so we got pointed questions about RFMConnex that highlighted the inconsistencies in our logic, and clearly demonstrated our need for some engineering talent. In spite of the tough inspection, Chris said he liked the idea, but that he had something else brewing, and if it worked out that he’d be pursuing that with someone he already knew and trusted.
However… and this was a big moment…. If that didn’t work out, he might be interested in exploring further. Within a few weeks, the other thing didn’t work out, and RFMConnex suddenly became a real possibility for Chris and Scot.
Playing Company, Again
So, we were back to “playing company” again, but with a new idea and a new cast of characters. We met at my house a couple of Saturdays. We had a few other folks that had expressed interest engaged as well… so there was perhaps 5-7 of us poking around on this concept. Powerpoint slides started forming. Sketches of the first tech concepts started to come together.
But no one was on a payroll, no equity had been decided, no articles of incorporation formed. Just guys futzing around in their free time.
The next couple of posts will be important ones as they set up one of the most important early stage moments of commitment to “just jumping” and to defining the equity splits.