29 1 / 2013

laugh. inspire. help.

Yesterday, I lost a fellow entrepreneur, mentor, and friend Jody Sherman.  The last 15 hours or so has been a complete shock.  For most of that time, I’ve been scouring the internet trying to find more articles like this, this, and this about Jody while hoping and praying that’s it’s some bad dream or joke.  But it’s time to keep hustlin’, because that’s how Jody would’ve wanted it, so I’m going to share 3 stories about him.  


I first met Jody while in the 500Startups accelerator, where my co-founder Jennifer and I were trying to figure out what to do.  We were heads down working in the main space, when Jody approached my co-founder, and said, “Hey, congrats!  I saw you in Inc. magazine today — that’s awesome!”  Jennifer was totally confused.  There’s no way we would’ve been in Inc. magazine then — we didn’t even have a product!   As it turned out, Jody was thinking of Jessica Mah, founder of inDinero, who was in Inc. magazine.  Though we may #alllooksame sometimes, we especially had a good laugh about that, because Jennifer was about 7 months pregnant at the time, while Jessica Mah was not.  :)


When we were thinking about moving our company LaunchBit to Vegas, it was a decision that Jennifer and I did not jump into quickly.  Jody had already moved his company Ecomom to Vegas, and was the first 500company to move.  So, naturally, I pinged him to pick his brains about Vegas.  He responded to my email within just a couple of minutes and said he’d be happy to chat with me about it.  At the time, I was quite apprehensive about the idea of moving our company to Vegas.  Why would you just pick up and move your startup to some place that basically has nothing and is kinda a big wreck?  When I met up with Jody for coffee at The Beat (basically the only coffee shop in downtown Vegas right now), he didn’t try to pitch me on Vegas at all.  As a natural salesman, Jody agreed with me that there was basically nothing in downtown Vegas, and he built rapport by saying that he himself was apprehensive about moving Ecomom at first.  ”I surf.  Why the hell would I move to the desert?” he asked. He knew exactly what to say to my critiques of Vegas.  How can you argue with someone who both acknowledges and agrees with you?  And then he painted the vision of Vegas.  Yes, Vegas has a long ways to go, but that’s exactly why you join now — to be part of that growth, to be one of those early shapers.  The rest of my visit sealed the deal, but Jody was the one who was instrumental in inspiring us to move to Vegas.  


I don’t want to speculate on how he passed on.  So, I feel a little apprehensive in talking about this next part.  But, I think it needs to be said.  Last week, he sent out an email saying he wanted a bunch of founders to get together for a “It’s lonely at the top” meetup.  He wanted us to bring our founder friends from anywhere to get together to talk about stress, frustrations, and difficult decisions.  There was resounding response amongst the entrepreneurs he emailed.  So many founders wanted in.  He thought that it should be something we should do regularly as founders.  After figuring out the day most people could meet, he set the time and place for last night.  Despite organizing the event, Jody didn’t show up.  It’s unclear whether his passing was related to his setting up the event in the first place, but like I said, I don’t want to speculate.  But I bring this up, because I do think it is a good idea for founders to regularly get together and honestly talk through things.  We keep things to ourselves, because no one else talks about the difficulties of starting a business.  It is indeed lonely at the top.  And it is hard to start a business.  For those who have friends who are starting companies, ask them how they are doing rather than how their companies are doing.  And, for those who are starting companies, I encourage you to find a group of entrepreneurs whom you can trust and open up to and talk candidly about issues.  

Jody will not be down here with us to be a part of his “It’s lonely at the top” gatherings.  But, I will always remember how generous he was with his time to lots of entrepreneurs, myself included, to help them cut through the BS, laugh, inspire, and find clever ways to improve their companies.  He was the model-entrepreneur, whom I aspire to be more like - persistent, charismatic, passionate, logical, and always helpful.  We all get so busy, but in Jody’s legacy, I hope we, as entrepreneurs, make the time to get together more often to open up a bit.  Let’s be a little less lonely at the top.  

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