Source | LinkedIn : By Tom Goldenberg
Despite all of its shake-ups, 2016 was a year of personal achievement for me: I helped a startup rise from obscurity to having Fortune 500 clients; developed great products alongside a fantastic team; and received recognition for writing about the tech industry.
This is exactly why it was hard for me to leave everything behind and start fresh, with nothing promised — to start a startup.
Half a year ago, a friend introduced me to John Zettler, a former hedge fund manager who wanted to build a simplified platform for investing. I decided to meet with John, even though I wasn’t seeking any side work at the time. We planned on meeting for thirty minutes after work, but our conversation was so engaging that I didn’t leave until three hours later. I was impressed with John’s passion, insider knowledge, and easy-going nature.
Fast-forward five months, and after several of these meetings, John is asking me to join his company as CTO and Co-Founder. This came as a surprise, and despite my desire to jump in, I had to weigh several priorities. My wife and I had just found out that we would be having our first child in 9 months! How could I leave a great, well-paying job for a risky startup venture, all the while foregoing a salary until we raise investment?
My wife Jess and I had several conversations, both privately and with John. After a week, I told John that I would only be able to join full-time on one of two conditions: either the company had to raise sufficient capital to pay me a minimal salary, or we had to get accepted into a startup accelerator, a rite of passage for many early stage startups.
John had already applied to several accelerators and had so far been unlucky. The largest, Y Combinator, sent a rejection email a week earlier. I felt bad for not jumping on this new opportunity, but I knew that I had an obligation to my family.
Two days after the conversation, I received a call during my lunch hour from John.
“Tom, I just wanted to share the news with you. We got into an accelerator!”
I couldn’t believe it. This is what I’ve always wanted to do, at least since I learned how to code — become a founder of an accelerator-backed startup. I immediately called Jess, who was preparing to drive to Connecticut for the holidays.
“Sweetie, we got in! We got into an accelerator!”
On the other line, I heard a long pause, followed by something in between a question and exclamation, “Okay…. Great!”
Since that day, Jess and I have made a plan to go forward together. I’ve also met with startup founders with families to gather information on how to balance family- and work-life. I’m proud to announce that as of Feb. 11th, I’ll be joining John at Commandiv as CTO and Co-Founder full-time. I’m hopeful as I look to the future and eager to get started simplifying investing for our customers.
I’ll also be sad to be leaving behind a great company, currently an exciting player in the New York AI scene. Agolo has grown so much since I first joined in October 2015, and it will continue to do so. I thank my bosses Mohamed and Sage for proving to me that employers can actually care about their employees and lead by example. I hope that I help lead Commandiv with the same integrity and passion that they have shown me at Agolo.