Meeting My Co-Founders

The following is an interview with I did for a startup I’m adivising called CoffeeMe, think Tinder but for professionals.

About Decide.com

Decide.com provides unbiased advice to help you save money and avoid buyer’s remorse. Based in Seattle, they’re a team of 30 that’s raised $17M from Madrona, Maveron and Vulcan. They’ve been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today.

What do you do at Decide?

A little bit of everything depending on what stage of product development we’re in. If it’s really early, I’ll be sketching and wire framing. Once we have a basic idea of what we want I’ll do more program management, fleshing out the details and working with development. Towards the end I’ll do a little bit of development, these days mostly HTML and CSS, to make sure everything works right and help out our engineers.

How did you meet your co-founders?

Well one of them is my brother (Hsu Han) so that was easy (or hard depending on how you think about it). Brian and my brother worked at Zillow pretty early on. I don’t think they were on the same team but it was much smaller back then. I think they just liked each other. They’d go to lunch, play ping pong and talk about startups.

A few months later, Brian left Zillow to start his own thing and tried to recruit my brother. My brother told Brian he should talk to me too because I was into startups. Brian pitched us his idea (it was terrible in all the classic ways) and we started to work together on weekends. At some point Brian brought his brother onboard but I don’t remember meeting him. I think he just showed up one day.

How did you choose to work with them?

I’d love to tell you I asked a lot of really smart questions and we just clicked immediately but honestly it just kind of happened. We all started showing up to my brother’s house on the weekend to work. I don’t know, we didn’t talk about it much. There was never anything official.

I was happy to just find other people that wanted to spend their free time building stuff too. We had fun and they seemed nice enough.

Weren’t you worried you wouldn’t get along?

I probably should’ve been but I was so naive at the time. I guess we figured we’d only be working together for a few months anyway. We’d either get sick of each other, build something that didn’t work, etc. There’s so many ways for a startup to die. I didn’t think we’d be working together 5 years later.

How did you meet Oren Etzioni?

Ian was taking one of his classes (he was still in college) at the time. He had just sold Farecast to Microsoft and was talking about it to his class. Ian, very naively, walked up to him after class, introduced himself and told him about what we were doing. Frankly we weren’t doing much of anything at the time but Oren agreed to meet with us. He took a chance on us.

Now that I think about it, when Ian told us we had a meeting with Oren we didn’t believe him for a few days. Finally he said something like “Guys, I think we should start preparing for our meeting with Oren” and our response was “Oh you were serious about that?”

What kind of people are you looking to meet on CoffeeMe?

I’m happy to meet with most anyone. I enjoy meeting other entrepreneurs (I can’t believe I spelled that right without autocorrect), first-timers or people that’ve been through a few. You learn a lot from both.

First-timers have so much enthusiasm and optimism, it’s infectious. After you’ve been duking it out for a few years, it’s a refreshing reminder of why you got into startups in the first place. Hopefully I can help them avoid the mistakes we made. We made a lot.

It’s fun to listen and share stories with more experienced entrepreneurs. There’s so many things that happen behind the scenes at startups that never make it into a blog post.

Who in startups have you always wanted to meet? Why?

Marc Andreesen. When I was getting into startups, I read his Guide to Startups series on his blog. He writes about all the reasons you shouldn’t do a startup, mistakes you’ll make, how the VC game is played, etc. I ate it up, it sounded exactly like the type of thing I wanted to get into. Since then I’ve wanted to meet him.

Oh, also because he seems smart and has started a few things.