2019

When I look back on 2019, it’ll be categorized as a year of change. The most notable changes include:

  • Blispay was acquired
  • We moved from Baltimore to South Florida

If you’re inexperienced in the startup world, then you likely read those two bullets and thought to yourself, ‘Dang, this guy got rich & ran off into the sunset.’

But only part of that is true. I worked at Blispay since day 0. It was epic. My lifes work to date. Starting Blispay was exciting for many reasons:

  1. We assembled a dream team (this post was one of the most fun things I’ve ever written).
  2. We were operating in a big market that we had considerable experience in.
  3. The risk/reward profile was great for a pre-product startup, better than any startup I could imagine committing to joining before closing a seed round.

We ultimately raised a total of $30M+ and operated with a lean, strong team of ~42 employees, but most importantly, we had delighted customers and partners (we were a b2b2c biz). On top of that, it’s an honor to be fortunate enough to work on products that people, including friends and family, can use every single day. It makes work a lot more fun and personal. It was such an incredible experience!

We did well (you can ask me about some of our growth stats), but acquisitions around the A>B stage is a common outcome for startups like us, especially due to how capital intensive lending businesses are. Our outcome (pretty classic acquihire) was certainly better than many startups who just have to fold up shop, but it also fell short of early investors and employees hopes, dreams, and potential. Although going from a ~40 person startup to a 5,000+ employee publicly-traded company overnight was an abrupt change, it wasn’t a new environment for most of us. (As an aside, I strongly believe spending time at small and large companies is valuable regardless of your job function.)

2019 brought the Blispay years of my life to an end, which has been challenging to accept. Not only because of how much I loved the company and my teammates but because we lost both of my wife’s parents to cancer during those years. The end of Blispay felt (and sometimes still feels like) the end of much more than just another startup.

‘Life awakenings’ happen to almost everyone, just at different times in their lives. We’re currently in our early 30s. All of the stress, care-taking, and ultimately the losses resulted in my wife, and I am re-committing to prioritizing self-improvement and creating new, positive experiences. That’s why we moved south to a beach town after spending most of our lives in Baltimore. The fate of Blispay was unknown for a short while, so we used that time as a catalyst to move (although now I work remotely for our acquirer).

We’ve been here for a few months and it has been everything we were hoping it would… relaxing, new, exciting, different, calm…

We’re both planning on continuing our focus on self-improvement and our health in 2020. While it’s effortless for my wife to be healthy, I have to try a lot harder. In 2019:

  • I consumed 0 beers or liquor. I average one bottle of wine/month. Here’s why I cut down on booze. I’ll probably continue this in 2020.
  • Introduced swimming each week.
  • While my Peloton time has been cannibalized by riding a real bike outside now that I’m in FL, I’m about to do my 400th Peloton ride.

I’m also going to try to pay it forward a little more in 2020. I’m starting to write more. It’s my way of getting occasional dopamine hits and is a simple way for me to help younger product managers (beginning with this series called, ‘A Product Manager’s Best Friend‘). My wife is starting to write, as well. She just started a blog for parents at PetiteNP.com. She’s very qualified, given that she’s a fantastic Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has had type 1 diabetes since the age of 3. Check it out if you have kids.

Some takeaways from this past year:

  • Create the future you want. If you want to move, find a way to make it happen.
  • Life is unfair, but it goes on. Bad shit happens to good people. Deal with it. Care-taking for loved ones for years is hard. It takes its toll. Losing loved ones is hard. It takes its toll. But life goes on. Surprisingly, it could always be worse.
  • Analyzing your Startup experience only as either a success or failure is not a productive way of looking at it. That may be necessary for investors but not for employees. I haven’t quite cracked this nut yet, but I’m making progress on coming to grips with the end of the Blispay years and looking forward to the future.