Here’s a brief timeline of how I came to be who I am right now.
Online Poker: Seeing the Matrix For The First Time
When I turned 18, I deposited $100 in an online poker account after having played with friends in high school. I devoured a few books on limit poker and hit the ground running.
I started to win. I quit limit poker and switched to no-limit texas holdem. After a while, I realized that playing poker was just having a job with an abnormally high hourly rate, so I got into both coaching and investing in poker players.
Fortunately, I was able to fund my schooling and some travel post-graduation. This experience opened my eyes to a world outside of the accounting job I was slated to pick up post-graduation, and I’ve been on an interesting ride ever since.
When I came back to the states, I decided to continue playing poker until early 2010. Eventually, I saw the writing on the wall with poker legislation and decided that it just wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my time anymore.
However, I didn’t have anything else to turn to, so I spent 2010 exploring a myriad of hobbies and professions:
- I spent a month and a half surfing for 4-5 hours a day.
- I wanted to see what life would be like if you lived opposite to everyone else, so I purposefully slept in the day and lived at night for two weeks. Most of this time was spent pursuing night photography and light painting.
- I spent a month playing drums for 6-8 hours a day.
- I began studying to become a real estate agent, then quit when I realized it was not even close to what I wanted to do with my life.
While it was fun to pursue whatever interests I had at the time, after a while I learned that devoting myself to my hobbies 100% wasn’t the best way to go about living. I wanted to do something else that had more personal meaning, as well as the potential to actually help people other than myself.
The First Business
Since I knew a good amount about the web, I began offering web design services. I closed my first client without actually having built a website of that scale before, but it didn’t really matter — I learned how to do it. This went well, and I began doing websites for small businesses, professionals, and nonprofits.
I had to learn the same lesson twice, though. Designing websites was a non-recurring revenue business where I was doing all the work myself. To solve this, I began offering online marketing for my clients and expanded outside of the local space, doing marketing consulting for a number of software startups via my boutique agency, Supreme Strategies.
Building off of the skills I learned helping clients perform better online and mixing in my love of gardening and growing plants, I started a local company called Espiritu Microgreens. This business was a direct response to spending so much time on the computer moving bits and bytes around for money.
For about a year, I grew and sold high-end microgreens to some of San Diego’s finest restaurants. I shut this down because I wanted to travel, and building that business required me to be in the same place to succeed.
The Startup Dream
Through a consulting project, I met a fantastic developer and we formed a fast friendship. We rustled up some investment, and we started a company called GreatMate.
The idea behind GreatMate was simple: technology has done a great job at getting people from single -> not single, but not a great job at getting people from OK relationship -> great relationship.
GreatMate was your personal relationship manager. You gave it a bit of information about your partner (significant dates, interests, musical tastes, etc.) and it spit back out hyper-unique gift ideas, date ideas, and reminders.
We got a few iterations of our MVP out and weren’t able to get enough traction with the app before running out of funds and failing to secure more. There are a whole host of reasons that GreatMate failed, most of which stem from the “you don’t know what you don’t know” concept.
Startup Dream, Round Two
After GreatMate failed, I was hired at my friend Zach Obront’s budding startup, Book in a Box. I gave an absolutely atrocious interview to him and Tucker Max, Zach’s cofounder. Despite this, I was hired as employee two at Book in a Box and would remain there for 18 months, helping the company grow by developing book marketing services, running book launches for our authors, and running marketing for Book in a Box itself.
My time at Book in a Box felt like a constant widening of my perspective as far as what it took to build a company, both from an idea perspective and an execution and strategy perspective. It was one of the most illuminating experiences of my business life, and I’m forever grateful to have been given the opportunity to work there.
I left Book in a Box at around 12 employees, right as my role was being split into 2-3 different hires. Staying would have required me to significantly narrow my role, and I was getting antsy and slowly losing interest in the work. It was the perfect example of it being “time to go” from both ends of the table.
I moved on and began pouring effort into a side project called Epic Gardening as I planned my next move. As I put more effort into the site, I realized how much I enjoyed it. It began to return more income, and I decided that I’d build it to the point where it matched my income from my previous job.
I’ve hit that goal, but don’t feel compelled to stop working on the site, so I’m still going at it.
Every so often, I invest in other websites, do some marketing consulting, or do some writing, but for the most part I’m working on scaling my gardening site to reach more people around the world.