This month marked the end of my first startup experience and the beginning of my next one. I decided to leave Uloop after two years as their director of news, and take a position with Packback Books as their fourth full time team member and lead software engineer. Parting ways with my friends and colleagues at Uloop was a difficult decision, but I feel it was the right one for me at this point in my career. Leaving a job that I legitimately liked, compensated me fairly, and gave me the freedom to innovate may seem a bit crazy, but I have my reasons.
1. It was time
As I mentioned, I have been with Uloop for over two years now, and before that I was essentially pursuing the same goals with my own startup, MyUdaily. I hope to always pursue challenging and exciting goals like the ones I had at Uloop, but after changing my approach several times, I realized that I may not be the right person to change college news yet. It’s not to say that I look at my work with Uloop as a failure, but rather that it was a hugely important learning experience that brought me eons closer to my life goals than any other job could have done. I genuinely hope that my replacement and the rest of the team at Uloop will make it big, even if it means that I missed a golden opportunity by ducking out early.
2. Connecting with Chicago
Unlike Uloop, Packback’s core is here in Chicago, and while I don’t know if I’ll stay here forever, I do know that I want to align myself with stronger connections in the city. I firmly believe that the most important thing you can do in your career is build connections, and if I’m going to be in a great city like this, I want to take full advantage of the opportunity.
3. Strengthening my niche
My position with Uloop was a whole lot of everything. It gave me the opportunity to see how almost every piece of a web-based business works, and it allowed me to switch hats from developer to project manager to editor almost at will. That alone made the experience worth it, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I feel that I need to become a specialist more than a generalist. This opportunity with Packback will allow me to use my technical background, stretch my knowledge of web development, and manage people across the globe while staying in my niche: college publishing technology.
4. The team, timing, and needs were aligned
Finally, I can’t say enough about the fortuitous timing. I met Packback’s founder, Kasey Gandham, after a Technori pitch event last spring, and after grabbing coffee with him, I immediately knew that I wanted to keep him on my radar. At that point, they were still raising their first few dollars to make Packback a reality, and after a few months they had reached their goals. Kasey got in touch with me, and from the moment we began talking, I was ready to go. They needed a technical person who knew the college market, they had great connections with their target customers, and they needed to get going immediately. While there are plenty of startups in Chicago, finding one so well-aligned with my skills and experience and also had the funding to pay a living wage was incredible. Here’s a little from Packback’s founders, Mike and Kasey, who I now work with side-by-side every day. Enjoy!