Pitches and Car Crashes
The following is Part 3 of a series of posts chronicling the story of Tioki. To start the series from the beginning, click here.
The prize for winning Startup Weekend was the opportunity to present as guests at Founder Showcase in San Francisco. Mandela and I were extremely excited about the opportunity, but because the event took place on a Thursday, we would both have to take off work to attend. This was a difficult task for me, in particular, as I was still in “busy season” at my accounting firm.
After pulling teeth to secure the time off, we headed to San Francisco. Mandela had a DVD player in her car, so we made sure to stack the car with motivational feature films (i.e. The Social Network, Ali, Pursuit of Happyness, etc). This was our first time driving to the Bay Area, and we actually went the wrong way initially, veering onto the 99 and heading towards Bakersfield as opposed to staying the course on the 5.
Regardless, after 7 hours or so, we made it to the Bay and stayed in Oakland with Dave Philips and Robbie Trecheny, who at the time were working on a project called Bibbil, along with Jesse Sung. Bibbil was trying to embed video chat into Facebook, and were making great progress with it (please note: this was about a month prior to the Skype/Facebook partnership announcement). As a trade-off for providing couches for us to sleep on, they attended Founder Showcase as our “development team.”
Our presentation at Founder Showcase went very well for what it was. We were not allowed to use any slides, and only had about one a half minutes to present Tioki to an audience we felt didn’t know a ton about education. Mandela did MUCH better than I did at the presentation (I used to have a bad habit of under-preparing, whereas she recognized the power in rehearsing), we got a great reaction from the judges and crowd, and before you know it, we were already exiting stage left. Aside from presenting on stage, there were other perks to attending the event. We started to get the Tioki name and mission out there, we got the opportunity to test out or pitching and networking chops, and we even met our first Silicon Valley VC. One of them was John Lanahan of Launch Capital, who we scheduled a meeting with for the very next week with.
Founder Showcase was great, but by far, the best thing that came out of the bay area trip was meeting Andreas. An iOS/web developer from Budapest, Andreas was in town visiting Robbie and other friends in San Francisco. He told us that he was in the U.S. just for the summer, and really didn’t have much going on at the time in terms of work. With Robbie vouching for his development skills, I immediately started trying to recruit Andreas for Tioki, and only increased my efforts after I found out that he did have some interest in living in Southern California. We didn’t have much time to convince him though, as it was already 10:30pm on Thursday in San Francisco, and both Mandela and I needed to be back at work in Los Angeles by 8:00am Friday. We would have to revisit this conversation later. And so we took off the same way we came – just Mandela and I – and started our drive back to SoCal. After pausing to sleep in the car for a bit somewhere in Kings County, we arrived in Los Angeles just in time for work.
Over the next week, we came to an agreement with Andreas that he would build a website for us in exchange for hosting him in Los Angeles and letting him borrow my car while in town. We also had our first VC meeting with John from Launch, who helped us understand we were a tad bit too early for funding, and needed to focus a bit more on development. With Andreas now on the team, that’s exactly what we planned to do.
So a few week’s later, we headed back to San Francisco to pick up Andreas during Pride Weekend 2011. We stopped downtown to see the historic Pride parade for ourselves and then headed back to LA that same day. After such a long drive, I did not have the energy to drive Andreas to his parent’s property in Glendora. In all honesty, I had no idea where Glendora was, which led me to believe it was pretty far. So, I decided to let Andreas drop Mandela and I off, and take my Honda Prelude for the night. He agreed to return to Venice the next morning to start working on the site.
Andreas was a little late getting to Venice the next day. Summer traffic in Venice Beach is pretty horrendous, so Mandela and I weren’t alarmed. When he finally did arrive, he called me to go outside. Until that point, it had never dawned on me that in Budapest, they drive on the opposite side of the road and I didn’t ask Andreas if he was prepared to drive in the U.S. Walking out of Mandela’s house in Venice, I saw Andreas blocking both lanes of traffic on North Venice Blvd. He was completely perpendicular to the flow of traffic, and trying to back into a parking spot on the wrong side of a Venice side street, all the while fighting a violent battle with the curb.
After laughing at the situation for a minute or so, I decided to give him a hand. I walked up to the to driver side door to let him know he was parking on the wrong side of the road. Andreas looked up at me through the open window, and said very matter-of-factly, “I crashed the car.”
Part 4 coming soon.