Fab CEO Jason Goldberg offers his 16 startup lessons after a tumultuous 2013

Jason Goldberg

Jason Goldberg

It’s been a roller coaster for Jason Goldberg over the past few months.

The co-founder of Fab reached international superstardom in 2013 after raising $150 million at a valuation of more than $1 billion. For a time, Goldberg and Fab were riding high.

But as the outspoken CEO’s public profile was on the rise, Fab was facing a rocky road. The company cut more than half of its staff and saw the departure of co-founder Bradford Shellhammer and COO. Just today, the New York company announced that it would significantly curtail its operations in Europe, choosing to only offer a line of furniture.

So, as is his wont, Goldberg, the former head of now defunct Seattle startup Jobster, took to his blog to issue a 3,500 word post about the lessons he learned over the past year, akin to the post he wrote following the flame-out of Jobster. This time around, though, Goldberg’s reflections read like something closer to an apology for what’s been going on with him and Fab over the past year.

“The Fab mission is to brighten people’s lives with design,” Goldberg wrote. “In our pursuit of growth though we lost sight of that mission and the Fab mission became just selling a lot of stuff.”

Goldberg took it on the chin in a piece in November in The Verge titled: Demolition Man: why does Fab’s CEO keep building big companies that suddenly implode? That piece included comments by GeekWire co-founder John Cook, who closely covered the rise and fall of Jobster. In fact, there certainly are some parallels between Jobster and Fab — tons of capital, hypergrowth and the outspoken remarks of Goldberg along the way.

Goldberg’s latest blog post offers 16 lessons that he learned in 2013. And while filled with great advice, one needs to ask why Goldberg didn’t learn at least some of those lessons back at Jobster.

Take, for example, lessons #12 and #13. He writes:

12. Don’t toot your own horn.

Super hard especially when your achievements are shared with others and you so want to shout the success from the rooftops. Stop. Think.  Be thoughtful. That success will still be there, and in context, three to six to 12 months from now. Wait. Let others discover your success in a time-appropriate manner. There’s no rush. Oh, and btw, today’s hero is tomorrow’s goat. Build success over time and let others recognize it for you.

13. Shut up. Despite what you may tell yourself, not many consumers actually want to get to know the CEO of the companies they interact with.

It’s not about you. It’s all about the product.

In fact, some of those comments mirror what Goldberg said back in 2011 as he reflected on his time at Jobster.

One of the biggest things I learned was the importance of the product. Everything is about the product. The thing that I look back on my Jobster days, and I said I would never repeat again was, on day two of Jobster I was no longer the product manager. I was kind of this general manager/CEO. And it just killed me ever since then that I wasn’t able to kind of manage what was actually going to be our product, our user experience. And the focus was on building the team, building sales and all of this stuff…. I said that I would never do that again. Product is my passion, and the user experience I think, especially in a Web-based business …, it is all about what is the product that I am interfacing with. And it really became this thing where I think the CEO needs to own the product, and put their personal touch on the product, much like say Steve Jobs does.”

  • Jim Masterson

    Pretty sure he’s not the guy to listen to about startups.

  • guest

    Here’s what I said in the comments of the $150m funding article…” Wow, do people actually go for this guys shtick?”. Question still stands. Didn’t he threaten to kill somebody when he was at Jobster??

  • seeThisMovieBefore

    Quoting Jason himself: “I made every mistake in the book,” said Goldberg, who burned through
    $48 million at the helm of Jobster. “I … basically got educated on that
    $48 million on how to start companies.”

    This will be his “$150M lesson on how to start companies”.

    • N9

      Except one thing. It’s not his money he’s losing, he’s raked in millions of dollars by cashing out investor money. It’s investor money he is pocketing and leaving them out to dry.

  • RunTheNumbers

    Not that everyone can’t learn as they proceed, Jason’s advice is rookie-level material for someone who was entrusted with $150 million of investor money.

    I’d say those lessons could be learned for substantially less money. If I’m one of those investors, I’d be embarrassed.

  • CrackerJack Insider

    No, No, listen to what he says. Start a company, gives gifts to online sites to get positive reviews, put out fake sales figures and projections, raise Series C cash, then cash out like crazy, then raise Series D money from the Chinese to pay off the Series C money. Then don’t give a damn about he business.

    Goldberg and Shellhammer cashed out 5 million dollars of fab shares when the Series C money rolled in while the business was losing 3 million dollars a week. that should have been your clue it was a glorified Ponzi scheme. THESE TWO BELONG IN PRISON.

    So Goldberg’s strategy is great, pocket cash from investor money and leave the investors out to dry

    • Bing

      His strategy may be stupid, but it isn’t illegal. He cashed out from a money losing startup in a transaction with major league investors who agreed, in writing, where the money was going. His investors look like idiots in this transaction.

      I have no idea why anyone would put big money behind him, and even less idea why he is still CEO after this very poor performance but this isn’t an illegal ponzi scheme. It is poor management and strategy by him, stupid by his investors.

  • guest 2

    He learned (or relearned as GW points out) 16 key things. Generating a positive return on invested capital was not one of them. Nor is there any mention of building a sustainable long-term business that customers love. Jason Goldberg is a huckster and a self promoter, not an entrepreneur or businessman. He is right out of central casting for American Hustle.

  • Jim

    There is really only one lesson learned here… but you can say it 16 times: Don’t back this guy again… ever!!