Inspired by a tweet linking to Bijan Sabet’s post, I thought I would reflect on those who took a chance on me.
I still vividly remember the day the big envelope showed up from Stanford. The university and some admissions officer took a chance on me and it has had such a tremendous impact on my life from the amazing people I met to the the opportunities it has created for me.
One of the amazing people I met in school who took a chance on me became my wife. We started off as dorm mates, then friends and she decided to take a chance on this slacker of a CS major that used to make fun of where she grew up. What a ride it’s been, nearly 11 years later. With the arrival of our son, it feels like we’re just getting started on a great journey.
Professionally, the first person to take a chance on me was a senior director at Aplix. When he brought me on to his team, it opened up a lot of new experiences for me. I traveled around the world to work on a standards body, learned and came to deeply understand the nuances of the mobile ecosystem and got an inside track on Android well before it hit the market.
That inside track on Android led me to T-Mobile, where I found a VP that was a fantastic mentor. He took a chance on me and supported broadening my experience by branching out from T-Mobile to working with T-Venture. The US managing director at T-Venture also took a chance on me to provide him with technical due diligence on a number of startup opportunities being reviewed while learning a bit about how venture capital works. This was critical to getting Mobilisafe off the ground.
It was early on at T-Mobile that my co-founder Dirk and I would joke about doing some kind of startup thing. While starting a company with a partner is a two way street, Dirk was taking the bigger risk. He had experience at startups shipping products, but I had never been a startup CEO, never fundraised, never done a lot of the things you need to do to get a company off the ground. And yet, he took a chance on me and we’ve had an amazing ride together.
It would be nice to say that Mobilisafe would have happened with or without investors, but at the time it was important for Dirk and me to have some investor validation. The teams at Madrona and Trilogy took a chance on me. We had something that resembled a prototype and a pitch deck when they committed to invest. With Mobilisafe’s exit, we provided a great return in a relatively short period of time.
I had been thinking about this concept a bit in the back of my mind in light of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book and some of the commentary around it regarding the importance of having sponsors. Bijan’s post really pushed me over the edge to write this post. Sponsors take a chance on you. They invest their time in you with the hope that you will be better for it, likely because someone did the same for them earlier in their career. I’m grateful for my sponsors and I hope to continue taking chances on others as well.