The Story and State of Revyver
As the little firm that could turns two tomorrow, I wanted to be able to take a step back and take a look at what got it where it was today. If nothing else, this is a moment of self-reflection for me. As I've told those closest to me since turning 25 almost three months ago, I've learned to be a lot more honest with myself about what I can and cannot do. The direction that Revyver's taken even in that time span has been greatly affected by my state of mind. With that said, this post could get quite lengthy.
From the moment I discovered the possibility of going into business as a 13-year-old in high school, I've wanted to start my own firm. I started getting into design that same year and the dream to start a firm in general turned into the dream of starting a design firm. Said firm was supposed be named Avalonstar; we all know why that didn't happen.
This continued through college, as I constantly tried to pull out the basic shreads of knowledge on how to start Avalonstar, even though I was being taught how to start a resturant. I remember being the only person in my Introduction to Entrepreneurship class my freshman year who presented a business plan that wasn't related to food. But there was no getting me out of this mindset, no matter how many times I felt left out of the group or how many times certain professors would stress the importance of finding the right building.
My company's going to be on the internet, do I really need to learn how to get insurance for my non-existent kitchen?
Granted the knoweldge is always good to have, but still.
By the time I left college, I was pretty convinced that I didn't have what it would take to start Avalonstar right after graduation. With all the risks I had taken and the mistakes I had made, I didn't want to risk screwing up from the getgo. So, I started looking for management trainee jobs in Savannah, Georgia. When that didn't work, after some prodding from my father and the sheer kindness and assistance from one Evan Eckard, I was able to get the interviews at LinkedIn and Facebook.
A good number of you followed my journeys through Facebook, so there's really no need to rehash that. While working there was one of the best experiences of my career, the causes of my immenent departure would become a recurring theme. So this is the first point in the narrative where I am going to respect one of Revyver's five adjectives--transparency.
Passion, motivation and actuality.
I'm a person driven on two things, passion and motivation. My motivation to do something when working is directly related to the amount of passion I have for the said task or project. With any project of mine, there is a process of depreciation. While this term is usually used to describe tangible assets, the principle works in this situation. Depending on the circumstances that happen over the life of a relationship, motivation depreciation can either accelerate or decelerate.
This is what happened at Facebook right around the time that I entered the then two-person marketing department as Creative Director. The reason I made the change in the first place was an effect of a degredation in motivation. I was the guy who knew how to fix IE bugs, but I didn't want to be doing that, and as my primary role was evolving into one of browser compatibility, I left. I don't think Mark will ever really forgive me for that. The total demise of said motivation happened after a Director of Marketing was hired accompanied with the overall "corporate" feeling at the time.
So, what happens when you run out of motivation and don't do anything about it? You get let go. That's what happened to me. Although I was told that I couldn't move at the pace of the rest of the company when I was called to the table on that fateful afternoon in May, I had lost my will to work at least a month prior. So I did leave Facebook, just not of my own accord.
I just was never the person to stand up for myself. I was weak and probably still am in that regard.
About a month ago, after the Facebook fiasco, I said that I had a few things up my sleeve. [...] Revyver stands for many things as it is derived from the word â€œreviveâ€. The revival of my entrepreneurial spirit (caused by the events of late) and the will to revive things that have been lost in time.
So the design firm was brought back and on July 1st, I did show the world that I finally achieved my dream to start on my own. But that's not the end of the story.
Welcome to the end of the beginning. :)
If I only knew what I really meant by that when I wrote it.
Problems with the priorities.
The first weeks of Revyver would have been nothing without Will Pate, as he was able to get me a meeting with Bart Decrem, and later, the task of redesigning Flock with Matt Downey. All-in-all, there was thankfully a bit spurt of work to keep us going, but there was quite a struggle after Flock was done and paid for.
So Revyver's stay in the front of the pack was cut off as you know what happened next. A few weeks after Webvisions 2006, I was working for Automattic and many of you also followed my tenure with them. While working with WordPress and a truly talented team was a great pleasure, the effects started to happen again within 4 months of my entry. For the sake of not being redundant, I was let go for the same reasons as my departure from Facebook.
Revyver made a swift comeback after those events and once again had a big name to catapult it back to the front of the pack, Mashable. Working with Pete was a pleasure and a little painful at times, but what client project isn't without its bumps?
2007 in general was Revyver's time to shine with clients, doing some great work for Groovr (work I actually forgot to announce) and Coffee Cup Software. It was a great learning period for me, but something didn't feel right. I didn't feel right. I was done working for "the man," but the same symptoms from the working world started to creep in on my freelance work. Thus, my state of mind began to change. Each of those relationships didn't end as well as they could have and it was my fault.
My blessing and my curse.
My blessing of being free also came with a curse, I wanted to be free to work on my own projects. The fact that I had started to learn Django had aided in my push away from client work. It had given me the tools to accomplish my own ideas, Wii SportsStar being the first proof of concept. By the time I had added Jen to Revyver before its first birthday, we had begun to think of ideas for our own products, most of them stemming from Jen's side of the web.
But client work was a way of life. I couldn't just drop everything and start creating products all day, there were bills to pay. Also, I didn't feel any of our ideas were "Web 2.0 enough" to garner any investments. Who would want to invest in a trading card game organizer or a ranking game? We were convinced that there weren't any venture capitalists or angel investors that would "get" us, so we decided that client work was the only way and that I would have to find time in between projects to build our flagship products.
But the more and more I worked with clients, the more history kept repeating itself. The projects themselves were great, including more work for Coffee Cup and recently, the gaming social utility GameStrata, but the relationships quickly deteriorated because of my inability to stay passionate about the work, ultimately killing my motivation and the project.
As 2008 started to progress and I was getting closer to relaunching Avalonstar, it was clear that I had completely demolished the dream I had since adolescence. How could I have a fledging design firm when I just couldn't made client relationships work? I couldn't lie to myself anymore. I started to refuse clients who specifically wanted my style, because I knew what would happen. I couldn't very well go back to work for a company, because we both knew what would happen. I no longer wanted people to have to deal with me and my crap.
So we made the change official in March, we were going to create products for niches that have yet to be benefited by great design and web applications. Could I make exceptions when it came to design services? Sure, but I would start those relationships citing the reasons why I stopped taking them in the first place. As long as that was clear, I would feel better about roaming free and that client would understand me better, otherwise, I would gladly point them to either Sidebar Creative or one of my freelance partners.
The follow-through and the future.
Since then, it has been nothing but excitement for the both of us as our ideas start to take shape. Theyâ€™re coming together slowly, but surely. Mentally and emotionally, Iâ€™m a lot happier than I have been.
What I find funny about all this are the lengths weâ€™ll go to be comfortable. Some people would call that selfish, and I feel that my changes and actions as of late have led to an unfavorable image amongst certain groups of my peers. But when it comes down to it, being comfortable with our situation leads to better things overall.
As part of Revyver, Iâ€™ve chosen my battles and Iâ€™ll do whatever needs to be done to keep this going. Iâ€™m no longer lying to myself to get where I need to go or acting fake to befriend specific people. Iâ€™ve made some very tough decisions and I know Iâ€™ll have to make many more in the future, both personally and otherwise. I feel Iâ€™m prepared for whatever comes our way and itâ€™s because of Jen and the support of my friends that I feel that way.
The direction that Revyver's taken has been greatly affected by my state of mind and I can finally stand up, be proud and say that Revyverâ€™s here to stay. Weâ€™re going to create awesome products, hold awesome events above all make sure that Jen, myself and everybody involved are enjoying every minute at it. We only have one shot at this, thereâ€™s no reason we have to hold back anymore.
I have a new dream now and as Revyver turns two and the days go by, itâ€™s starting to feel more and more like a reality.