Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Starting a Startup

I know I’ve apologized for being quiet in the past.  This is not one of those times because (as you’ll soon find out) I’ve been hard at work and only now can I finally talk about it.

Six years ago I was spending most of my time working with Asterisk and AstLinux.  I spent a lot of time promoting both - working the conference circuit, blogging, magazines, books, etc.  Conferences are a great way to network and meet new people.  I did just that.  With each conference I attended came new business opportunities.  Sure, not all of them were a slam dunk and eventually I started to pick and chose which conferences I considered worthy of the time and investment.

For anyone involved with Asterisk Astricon is certainly worthy of your time and energy - the mecca of the Asterisk community.  Astricon was always a whirlwind and 2005 was no exception.  We were in Anaheim, California and embedded Asterisk was starting to really heat up.  I announced my port of AstLinux to Gumstix and announced the “World’s Smallest PBX”, leading to an interview and story in LinuxDevices.  I worked a free community booth (thanks Astricon) with Dave Taht and was introduced to Captain Crunch (that’s another post for another day).

It was at Astricon in 2005 that I also met one of my soon to be business partners (although I certainly didn’t know it at the time).  While I was promoting embedded Asterisk and AstLinux I met a man from Florida named Joe Rhem.  Joe had come up with the idea of using embedded Asterisk systems as the cornerstone of a new way to provide business grade telephone services.  Joe and I met for a few minutes and discussed the merits of embedded Asterisk.  Unfortunately (and everyone already knows this) I don’t remember meeting with Joe.  Like I said Astricon was always a whirlwind and I had these conversations with dozens if not hundreds of people at each show.  I made my way through Astricon, made a pit stop in Santa Clara for (the now defunct) ISPCon and then returned home to Lake Geneva, WI with a stack of business cards, a few new stories, and a lot of work to finish (or start, depending on your perspective).

A couple of months later I received an e-mail from Joe Rhem discussing how he’d like to move forward with what we discussed in Anaheim.  Joe had recruited another partner to lead the new venture.  Norm Worthington was a successful serial entrepreneur and his offer to lead the company was the equivalent of “having General Patton lead your war effort”.  After some catch up I was intrigued with Joe’s idea.  A few hours on the phone later everyone was pretty comfortable with how this could work.

Now I just needed to fly to Sarasota, FL (where’s that - sounds nice, I thought) to meet with everyone, discuss terms, plan a relocation, and (most importantly) start putting the company, product, and technology together.

A short time later I found myself arriving in Sarasota.  It was early January and I coming from Wisconsin I couldn’t believe how nice it was.  Looking back on it I’m sure Norm and Joe were very confident I’d be joining them in Sarasota.  Working with technology I love “in paradise”, how could I resist?

(Continued in Building a Startup)