For a little over a year my brother and I worked at our little startup in our spare time. It was not always easy. I would dream of the day when I could work for myself during the day, and then have the evening off like normal people.
In late 2000 the opportunity to do this started to take shape. We had begun doing some work for a company that was going to provide Internet-access kiosks in shopping malls. Since they did not want people surfing porn at the mall, they came to us for help building a custom browser that would restrict access to those sites.
Over time we found we were doing more and more work for this company. In January of 2001 we approached them with an idea that would allow my brother and I to quit our jobs and work full-time on their project. They agreed. It would be a pay cut, but enough for us to live on, and we could get on with living the entrepreneurial dream.
With great excitement we setup shop in my garage (yes, we were a true garage startup), and got to work. My brother’s desk (pictured to the left) was a sheet of plywood attached to a set of shelves with 2x4s for legs. He kept getting splinters from the plywood so I covered it with black plastic. His chair was borrowed from my kitchen table, and he had a space heater to keep his toes warm. (To this day he likes to work with his shoes off.) I was fortunate enough to already have a desk so did not have to “rough it” nearly as much.
We were big time now with our 200 sq feet of office space where we had to shout in order to be heard over the sound of the house’s HVAC unit that shared the office with us.
The next order of business was to build a test kiosk that we could use to test the software we were writing. With my building skills proven on the desk, I figured I could handle a simple kiosk. It was wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done (pictured to the right). It was even complete with the actual keyboard the kiosks would be using, and the two monitor setup that was being planned.
With everything we needed now in-place we got to work building software for our client. Things went well for the first month. We were hitting our targets, and our client was paying the bills. At the end of second month no check arrived. By the end of the third month we had come to learn that the company was bankrupt, and that we should not expect any more payments.
This was bad news. A potential death blow. What we learned though was that we thrived in situations that others may have called, “impossible”. We learned not to be afraid to adapt. Most of all we learned to not look back, but to buckle down and forge new paths ahead.