Why I Left FIM
Some of you have picked up on the fact that I left FIM in February. I really appreciate the well-wishes--thanks to everybody who dropped me a line! I enjoyed the time I spent at FIM working with great people on projects like the FOXSports Blog Community. It was time to move on, though, for three major reasons.
First, I wasn't learning as much as I wanted to. Most big companies practically require specialization. I am a generalist, and while I had a lot of freedom to tinker at FIM, ultimately I felt like I was atrophying. That's not a knock against FIM, but more a comment on what I need to thrive. Big company life wasn't providing the kind of lessons that I knew would be useful later on in my career. Stuff like learning about customer behavior, how to have the stones and patience to invest in R&D to cannibalize your existing businesses, how to build innovative products quickly, etc. Even the Labs group couldn't move quickly, which hindered our ability to rapidly prototype and launch products.
Perhaps I was naive going in, but the incentive systems were set up to encourage the classic innovator's dilemma. There was very little patience for building new products that wouldn't be producing seven or eight figures of revenue at launch, which is fine, but certainly not what I was expecting in a Labs group.
The best way that I grow is to learn by doing, so I needed to seek an opportunity that would put me in new situations and require me to stretch more than I was comfortable with. FIM simply wasn't set up to provide that opportunity.
The second reason I left is because I want to work on a product that is personally meaningful. The mantra of much of corporate America is "build shareholder value," which is a terrible way to motivate people (it's an outcome, not a goal), as are financial rewards. I love what Eric Schmidt said at Web 2.0 last year:
people don't work for money, they work for impact. If you can figure out what your company is doing that will make an impact, you'll be ok.And while there were lots of interesting startup opportunities out there, few were personally meaningful. So I needed to find something that would make me happy with the potential to make the world a better place.
Finally, I didn't want to have any regrets. I'm a pretty even-keel guy, but after too many days of being miserable, I realized it was because I wasn't happy with my job. I was earning a lot of money, had just gotten a promotion, lived in a beautiful apartment near the beach with my rad girlfriend, but none of it was floating my boat. And, FIM's no-blogging policy was making me waaay unhappier than I expected. I finally accepted that life is too short to be depressed, and in mid-December, gave myself a February 1st deadline to leave FIM (I missed it by about a week.) I've always wanted to start a company that is trying to solve a meaningful problem while creating a culture that values its employees first. So I finally did.
I've partnered with my buddy Jon, who I met at BarcampLA last year. We've started a company called Education Revolution, and we're building something interesting in the online education space that will solve a real problem. The project has big potential economic and social impact, which are just about equally exciting.
The short-term returns of leaving FIM have been huge, despite currently having an income of exactly zilch. In the last month, I've learned more about myself and how to move a business forward than I have in probably the last year. I had a lot of flexibility at FIM, but I finally feel like an adult--the paternalism of corporate America is absent from my life now. Most importantly, I'm having fun and enjoying life again. The opportunity to work on a Big Idea with someone as smart, driven, and passionate as Jon doesn't come around every day, and we're philosophically aligned on how to build the company.
It's funny. In only several weeks, I see the significant positive change in how I feel. And I see the same change in Geneve, who has quit her pharmaceutical sales job to pursue her dream of working in the food biz--she's going to culinary school, working at a super high-end restaurant in NYC, and is now employee number five at a rad chocolate startup called sweetriot.
I've realized that all the obstacles we erect to prevent us from doing what we really want to do are largely self-imposed. There's always a way to make it work, if you can stop living up to others' expectations, and worry about what makes you happy. It's possible to create your own reality. It's scary as hell sometimes. But that scary part also makes it fun, and all the more rewarding when you achieve success, however you define it.
So, here we go!