How Spending $4K To Meet Richard Branson Changed And Made My Life
At 17 years old, I didn't know how to spell “entrepreneur,” let alone know what the word meant. But, one year, one tweet and one million dollars later, my brother and I embarked on a journey that labeled us as entrepreneurs.
My brother, Scott, came home to Phoenix from college at USC for a few days during winter break in 2010. Per usual, we sat on the kitchen counter tops as our mom cooked holiday food and spent time talking about all things Internet-related we thought were cool.
But, a couple days after Christmas, my brother's computer crashed. We drove down the street to the Scottsdale Quarter Apple Store and the worst thing imaginable happened: His computer was dead, done-zo, not coming back to life. Everything would be lost.
For the rest of the break, he tried to assess the damage and start to recreate his most important documents: When was the last time he backed up his files on a hard drive? Were his files on Dropbox? Google Docs? And, most importantly, was his Excel sheet with all his usernames and passwords backed up and updated? Would he be able to access his USC login? His Facebook? His email?
Turns out, no.
So, he spent the next couple of days thinking of all the websites he used and clicking “forgot password” to create new ones, and I spent the next couple of days playing computer games on his floor.
Talking throughout this whole process, we started thinking of ways we could log in to websites without usernames and passwords (because remembering, typing them into every website and resetting them is way too time-consuming).
But, working within the constraint that every website requires them, we started ideating a vault that would allow us to store our usernames and passwords online.
Over the next couple of months, while he was back at USC, we kept talking about this idea. And, in May, Scott came back home to Arizona to watch me walk across the stage at my high school graduation. Two days later, I packed my bags and the two of us drove back to Los Angeles to start building our idea with a friend Scott had met at USC, Shiv Prakash.
That summer brought us into the life of a classic startup: one rundown apartment in South Central LA, three kids, unhealthy food, trying to get our feet wet in building this website and racing against the clock that would send us back to college.
Halfway through the summer, I woke up, walked two feet to the living room (where we worked out) and decided to log onto Twitter. I saw a tweet from Sir Richard Branson come through my general feed that said something to the effect of, “Meet me in Miami for intimate cocktails, $2,000 to charity.” The next tweet gave an email address.
Without thinking, I told my brother about the opportunity and sent a short email to the address explaining we would love to meet Richard for cocktails (even though we weren't legally old enough to drink them) in Miami.
We got back to work, and late that night, I got an email back: “Donate $4,000, be here in 48 hours and you can meet him.” Being the broke college kids we were, we called our dad: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We recognize it's a lot of money, but can we borrow $4,000 to go meet him?” we asked.
He said, “Write me a proposal. Include why this opportunity is important, where the money is going and how you plan to pay me back.” So, with 48 hours to go, we started crafting our proposal. Early the next morning, we finished, sent the proposal to our dad and called him to see if he could review it ASAP.
An hour later, he called us and said he would loan us the money if we paid him back by the time school started. So, the ball was in our court in terms of taking the loan or passing up on the opportunity. We ultimately figured out the wiring information, donated the money and got on a plane the next day.
Once we arrived, we hailed a cab (we also weren't old enough to rent a car) and went to the hotel to get ready for the first of two events, cocktail hour. In the cocktail room, there were about 20 of us. I stood next to the door with Scott and politely introduced ourselves to the others in the room as we waited for Branson to arrive.
When the door next to me opened, I turned right around, stuck out my hand and introduced myself. As he was ushered to his seat, he proceeded to ask us all about our backgrounds — where were we from, what were we passionate about and whether we were working on anything significant. So, we shared our story.
Three months after that event, we ended up raising $1M from Richard, Jerry Murdock (of Insight Ventures) and Alex Welch (of Photobucket) for MySocialCloud.
Throughout the course of the next 18 months, we had extreme ups and extreme downs that might only seem like something that would happen in a movie. We grew our team to 10 people and were acquired last year by Reputation.com.
“Entrepreneurs” is the label we get now when we talk about the experiences we've had throughout the past three years. Sometimes, the word proceeds after “serial,” as we embark on our next startup journey in New York City.
But, now, I understand what the word means: the excitement, the sweat and the tears.
This post only portrays “the excitement” part of the story. For the rest, find me on Twitter @staceyferreira.
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