Information about my professional and entrepreneurial experiencesfirstServices Legacy FourKites
Lessons learned: Virality is part branding and a whole lot of luck, understand when and when not to sell
For as long as I can remember, whenever I did work on a project, homework, housework, etc I always listened to music. I believe life is boring without music, it adds color
to the mundane tasks of life. In the early 2010s, when spotify was becoming more popular and mainstream, I began making public playlists and promoting them to friends. After years of working on a
particular playlist, the Superior Study Playlist, the playlist was featured by Spotify and I started getting hundreds and thousands of new followers every week. This was my first exposure
to virality and the idea that easy to use creations can have a disproportional impact on large groups. Individuals, artists, artist managers, and others started reaching out to be featured
on the playlist so they themselves could get streams. While the playlist grew, it eventually attracted the attention of Warner Music who I negotiated with for several months to sell the playlist.
I was deeply conflicted about selling the playlist, but through negotiations I was able to get the sale price from $5k to over $20k. In the end I decided not to sell the playlist and very soon after Spotify removed all user playlists from being featured and only featured their own algorithmic playlists. I missed out on a first exit, but in the process I learned a ton about creating value, leverage in negotiations, the branding and quality that can make virality possible, and I met a ton of cool artists that I still work with to this day.
Lessons learned: People will pay lots of money to offload chores, long term hustle and persistence can transform any business
When I began college at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, I needed to support myself financially. Before school even began I already had a work study job lined up, picking up and delivering the laundry of my classmates. While it was not ideal, cool, or fun, it helped ignite a desire to succeed beyond this station. Over the course of the next 3 years I started taking leadership roles in the organization that delivered laundry (firstServices) and rolled out new product lines that would appeal to the same students that got their laundry done. Proposing, creating, marketing, and operating new product lines was extremely formative in my entrepreneurial journey because real money and customers increased the stakes. In my four years working for firstServices, I helped double the revenue from ~$150k annually to over $300k annually, and significantly expanded the workforce of work study students all while learning a ton about leadership and managing a growing business. It was extremely gratifying to give other students work that would allow them to support themselves. firstServices continues to be a thriving business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Lessons learned: The foundation and early stages of a new business is disproportionally important, make sure the founding team is strong, you will have more energy/put in more effort if you love the output of the business, always start with the simplest solution to a problem, think of stakeholders beyond the business
I've always been curious about creating a business that directly intersects with a life passion, is the quote "if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life" really true? I had to find out.
In late 2016, one of my dance instructors broke off from his previous studio and was looking to start a new dance studio in Humboldt Park, Chicago. I had grown close to this instructor and jumped at the opportunity to be a founding partner in a new studio (thinking this simple business would be no match for my strong business education and acumen). His brother, the instructor, and myself began the journey of getting a dance studio off the ground by creating a class schedule, starting teams, renting out the space, and throwing events in our 3,300 square foot studio. It took over a year for us to get into the swing of things but eventually we started making small amounts of profit every month. It was extremely fun to see the direct impact of my work on the growth and success of the business, but I knew there were major issues related to the building and the relationship I had with the partners. After making some poor decisions to rent the space out late at night that angered the neighborhood, on one January evening there was a shooting at the studio. This event exacerbated the underlying weaknesses of the business and removed several streams of revenue for the studio, I knew at that point we were destined for failure.
Working for nearly 2 years to help the studio thrive was formative in teaching me about how important the founding of a business is. A poor foundation and poor initial decsions can doom an otherwise healthy business. Interestingly, I also learned that I was willing to put in a ton of hours with no pay simply because I loved the output of the business: dancers and expression of culture. I will always remember that a business around the right subject matter that is meaningful to an entrepreneur will get a boost in effort and passion, I believe these are key ingredients for a businesses eventual success.
Lessons learned: Technical skills and technology solutions
After a year and half stint at Deloitte Consulting, I was ready to join a startup and make a tangible impact. Luckily for me, FourKites
had just gotten $35 million of Series A funding and was hiring for entry level roles. While I knew I could get a higher salary or higher position
at another firm, I was enticed by the possibility of rapid growth and learning what it takes to make a Startup succeed. I started in the entry level Operations role and
over the course of my nearly 5 years at FourKites I started and have grown a globally distributed technical Business Operations and Analytics function. I've learned so much
in my time at FourKites, from the random (It's smart when a company is small to give employees Macs because they need less IT resources to maintain) to the profound (I basically
taught myself full stack web development in the role) to the warm and fuzzy (I got to manage my first globally distributed team).
FourKites will be the experience I look to the most when I begin my next venture, I've learned from smart leaders and we've made a huge impact on the logistics industry in a very short amount of time. I'm glad to have had a role in that.
Lessons learned: Starting a business from scratch is really hard
I'm in the process of starting my next venture, it is centered in the Arts and Technology space. Look forward to more updates in 2021 and 2022.