Editor’s Note: There are always a million reasons not to do something. Starting a company means daring to ignore them. This guest post by Shlomi Atar is the inside story of two entrepreneurs from Israel who chose to fly 8,000 miles to participate in TechStars Seattle.
Things were looking up for me in April 2010. I was an engineer in a successful company. I had a good salary. My boss was my best friend. And we built beautiful products that customers liked and that made the management happy.
I was having a pretty routine lunch with Gilad Avidan (the boss/friend/co-founder) and another coworker. I remember discussing everyday stuff: work, news and technology.
So we started throwing ideas around about what a Facebook alternative would look like. What needs to change? What would we do differently? After a few minutes of enthused brainstorming Gilad stopped, looked at me and said: “Why shouldn’t we build it? We have the know-how. Why can’t it be us?”
I looked back, and I had a million answers in my head for why not: “there’s no time,” I might have said, or, “most web startups fail, why should we make it?” I had many more. But instead of blurting something out, I continued looking at him, and I just couldn’t find anything that would have been more than a petty excuse.
That moment changed our life. We decided to dare to try: to take the plunge and take advantage of this opportunity.
The following weekend we talked past midnight, planning our new social network. We slowly figured out the concepts (we planned it around an interesting privacy model) and what the interface would look like. We bought a domain name and we built a landing page. We even added a “manifest” explaining the idea and we sent it to a bunch of friends and to the podcast host who started it all. We received a lot of positive feedback and agreed that this is going to be our after-work project.
For some time, we worked in Gilad’s studio apartment, nights and weekends, programming, designing and planning. Very quickly we realized that our original idea was basically “Facebook 1.1” and that people won’t leave their beloved social network for something just a bit better.
We chose to change direction, and we did it again a year later when we realized that a social network centralized around blogging is not what we really wanted to build.
Our journey with Fireplace has been riddled with tiny decisions of whether to take opportunities we discovered, of trying the scary new thing that we’re not sure about, and that may or may not work.
That’s how it was with our pivots, with the decision to release our product even when it was far from ready, when we chose to leave our day-jobs and dive in, and when we decided to apply for TechStars.
Daring is difficult, and often is very unrewarding in the short term.
We worked hard on our TechStars application, going over it again and again, trying to figure out the best way to express ourselves through the laconic questions. We found ourselves frustrated; wondering if it’s even worth it because “probably it will amount to nothing anyway.”
We chose to go the extra mile and do it in the best way we can. We couldn’t believe it when we got the email saying we’d passed the first round and were invited for a face-to-face interview.
After the meeting in Vegas, Andy Sack (the main person behind TechStars Seattle) approached us and basically asked if we’d be willing to move to Seattle and join the program. We had to make a difficult choice: stay in Israel, with friends, family and everything we’re used to, or betting on our savings, moving to a new city neither of us had visited before, where we don’t know anyone and we don’t natively speak the language.
We chose to go.
Renting an apartment from 8,000 miles away is not a trivial feat; especially when you start explaining that we don’t have social security numbers and that we’re actually from Israel. After two weeks in the program, we know that it was totally worth it.
In the first ten days (that felt like ten months) we’ve learned so much: about Seattle, about starting a company, about business and about ourselves. We’re learning how amazing it is to be in the same space as dozens of smart, sharp entrepreneurs and to have fun with people like us.
Life is full of opportunities. Most are scary, dangerous and lead you down a path that isn’t necessarily an easy one. We’ve found that taking these opportunities, daring and challenging ourselves is a main driver behind making ourselves into better people.
Take a chance. Dare. Find out your limits and what you’re capable of. You’d be surprised.
Shlomi Atar, 25, is the co-founder of Fireplace, one of 10 companies recently accepted into the TechStars Seattle incubator. GeekWire will occasionally feature the musings of Atar and Gilad in a regular column as the entrepreneurial duo progress through TechStars.