In the end there are coffee cups.
Midway through 2010, tired of one too many “rock paper scissors” to decide who got the task of setting up a mail server for the latest thing we were building, we hatched the idea of a simple cloud service to send out transactional email. We were early but not alone. Our prototype had a dashboard inspired by Chartbeat and brought a vitality to a system that had been heretofore opaque.
Five years later, our third CEO, Paul Midgen, texted me that the service was offline.
PING messagebus.com (188.8.131.52): 56 data bytes
Request timeout for icmp_seq 0
Request timeout for icmp_seq 1
Request timeout for icmp_seq 2
Request timeout for icmp_seq 3
We raised more than $18 million to change the way apps and services send and think about email. Despite talent, experience, pedigree, confidence, top-tier angels and advisors, and a lot of money, all that is left are some coffee cups with the old logo crowdsourced using 99designs.
I never bought into the con that last season’s Silicon Valley so skillfully mocked. Message Bus failed. There is no post-mortem. There is no blueprint for a successful startup and there are a thousand different ways to screw them up.
Personally, this experience has left me with three thoughts which I am happy to share and if you want any more detail on these contact me or comment.
First, the speed with which the technology stack has been changing and evolving crossed a threshold and can now be a true distraction.
Second, you can’t see what you don’t want to see.
Finally, and this is just so obvious, don’t put square pegs in round holes.
My only regret is that I won’t be able to mock the VCs that turned us down along the way especially the guy who emailed me the same rejection letter twice.
I owe a lot of thanks to the following folks.
True Ventures is the real deal. Thank you Jon, Om, and Phil for backing this from start to finish.
Thank you to my co-founders Nick, Jeremy, Ted, Steve, and Mahir for chasing this elusive dream. There were many rough spots, hurdles, stress and I appreciated having you along for the ride.
Julie, thank you for having the patience to listen to me complain and bear the stress of fundraising cycles.
David Liu, you were invaluable and taught me an immense amount — wishing you the best with Eva Automation.
Midgen, thank you for salvaging the pieces of the recap, busting your ass, and nearly getting us there.
Heartfelt thanks to everyone who worked, contracted, labored, advised, and cheered for our success. We had great folks. Many have already gone on to large and impactful roles at key companies. It is a singular joy to have seen former Webshots alums James Park and Eric Friedman go on to build Fitbit and my hope is that xMB folks go on to do amazing work with great success.
Just yesterday, I was on GNN trying to visit every website in existence.
And tomorrow, I am starting something new.