Wow, I’ve felt bad about neglecting my blog. Not guilty-bad (though there’s a bit of that too), but bad because I feel like I have a LOT of stuff I want to write about. I literally have 15 or so blog posts that are pretty much just titles and topic sentences that I’m eager to write.
This isn’t one of ‘em.
John Cook just wrote that I was leaving RescueTime, and I feel like it makes sense that I should talk about this a bit to clarify what’s going through my head. Though I have to admit that it’s tempting as hell to do what Alex Payne did– which is pretty much leave it at “I just quit Twitter and I’m doing something new“.
Leaving any job is a personal choice with a lot of factors. Leaving a company that you’ve founded and nurtured from idea to prototype to product to business can be downright agonizing. The product is your baby and the team and investors you built it with are your brothers-in-arms. You think about it so long and so constantly that it gets to be an addiction. Not in a BAD way, mind you. The years I’ve spent on RescueTime have been some of the best of my life.
So Why Leave a Good Thing?
This is the most common question I’m getting right now– “If things are going so well at RescueTime, why leave?”. I’ve asked myself that question a TON over the last few months as I’ve been considering this move. RescueTime is enjoying some pretty awesome growth (51% quarterly revenue growth on average over the last 4 quarters– solid!). Not to say that there aren’t daunting challenges ahead for RescueTime, but all of the graphs are moving up and to the right. So, why the heck would I leave on the cusp of profitability? My reasons are largely internal… I know, I know. “Seriously, Tony? The ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ breakup line?’”. Seriously. Leaving RescueTime is like breaking up with an awesome women who you know you could be happy with, but no longer believe is the right woman for you. I have a mess of specific thoughts, but they all boil down to the fact that I’m more excited about what could be next– and I’ve always been driven by the “Regret Minimization Framework”. Watch this short video below:
Jeff’s boss’s response? “This sounds like a good idea. But it sounds like a BETTER idea for someone who already doesn’t have a good job!” I clearly have a great job at a great/growing company. But there are new things that are happening in technology/business that I find too darn exciting to not dive in. I want to get uncomfortable again, and trade reliable growth for blue sky. Given the stage that RescueTime is in, I think this is a reasonable time to make that leap. We’ve got a growing company that’s providing a livelihood for a great team and that (eventually, I hope) will provide a great return for the investors who made their bet on RescueTime (including myself!).
What’s next for RescueTime?
RescueTime’s focus right now is to scale, get new customers, and grow. We’re pretty convinced the entire team could answer support requests and play checkers and we’d grow every month (a testement to the fact that we focused on scalable marketing). But the team is going to continue to rock on A/B testing, outreach to our growing collection of Fortune 500 customers, back-end scaling so the servers don’t melt (processing hundreds of thousands of man hours of attention data per day isn’t easy, folks!), and (of course) making the product a little bit better every day.
I’m going to keep working with RescueTime on a few initiatives, and I’ll always be a founder (and advisor for as long as the team thinks I’m useful). Don’t be surprised if I answer a support request from time to time or do some writing on the RescueTime blog.
What’s next for Me?
(second most popular question, behind the “Why?”) Short answer, I don’t know– and that’s exciting. Longer answer, I’m looking for early stage opportunities in a few markets that I find particularly interesting. I want an opportunity where I can be strategically involved (hacking on business models) and tactically involved (managing UX, doing PR/outreach, A/B testing, writing copy, slinging pixels and CSS). Upside is a must for me– I’m eager to have skin in the game as opposed to a steady paycheck (though some combination of both could be interesting). I’ve written a bit about how I think stock options for most employees are a bit of a sucker’s bet unless you’re getting in VERY early (it turns out the only way to get meaningful reward is to buy it with risk). But at the end of the day, I’m only partially motivated by upside. I’m more motivated by the opportunity to make a BIG impact, the autonomy to do stuff that I think is important, being in a “fast” environment, and being surrounded by people I respect and like. This seems theoretically possible at a larger company, but seems likelier the earlier stage you go on the spectrum. It might ultimately mean that I have to start something new.
High Five, RescueTeam
The team of hackers that work at RescueTime are breathtakingly good. With a small team, we’ve built and maintained a windows app, a mac app, a web app, and a monster data warehouse that processes hundreds of thousands of man hours of attention data per day, all with a hosting bill that any startup would envy. We’re adding 600-1000 new users and 15-30 new paying customers per day without a single marketing dollar and without any marketing effort. We’ve built a machine that we’re really damn proud of.
I read the other day that 85% of venture-backed companies are dead inside 3 years– I’m damn proud of the fact that our business and team are going to be in the 15% minority. High-five guys, and godspeed!