Last week, I did a post about my involvement in our online company, M35 inc. Mike and I were thrilled with all of the feedback so it got me thinking about another important part of our company history; the actual founding. I guess every company has a story behind it and this is ours. Hopefully you will enjoy and as always, feel free to ask questions, etc. Mike and I will do our best to answer them.
As you now know, Mike and I met in university studying at HEC Montreal. Before we even became friends, we were teammates. How so? The two of us as well as the 3 other guys teamed up in the multiple group projects at school. That is how we found out we had some common values and interests. One of those is an overwhelming desire to be “effective”. We also formed a remarkable team… doing what you may ask? Have you ever heard of “Tretrinet”? It’s a version of Tetris that you can (not sure if it still exists) play online with friends and we would team up… We didn’t lose many!:)
Why do team meetings on a Saturday if you can find a smarter and quicker way to do things? If one of us is an accounting genius, why wouldn’t he do most of the work in our accounting project? I know that many would disagree with this method of doing things but it worked for us in every possible way. Good grades, great time management and very good chemistry within the team. Within that group of 5, I had great working chemistry with two of the guys (one of them being Mike) making a month-long trip around Europe look like a decent idea.
Why only decent? Travelling with anyone can be a challenge, especially for a month. So leaving on a trip with someone that I knew only to a certain extent seemed fun but I think we both assumed that at some point we’d get tired of it and take a little break. It did not happen however. We spent over one month moving from one country to another and growing as not only friends but actually best friends. After that, we each went our own ways (him to France, myself to Poland) but in the following months, the friendship only grew stronger.
Both Mike and I are very dynamic, have huge ambitions and wanted to escape the rat race at all costs. Because of that, it seemed fitting for us to use our entrepreneur spirits and either found or buy some type of business. Being in school, with little assets or experience, we brainstormed a lot but never came to anything. To be honest, I think we were looking at all kinds of alternatives both together, on our own or with other partners. We probably both thought at that point that (I know I did) joining forces would be amazing as our strengths and weaknesses complement each other very well. As well, being with someone that you know and trust is priceless in business.
The logical thing to do was build an online venture. Why? As most of you already know, building an online project is generally one of the easiest businesses to start from the ground up. Why? The required upfront investment is minimal, you can get started quickly and it provides a lifestyle that is incredible from the start. How else can you get started and from day one be able to work from anywhere, no matter if you are in your basement or some random place in Vietnam. As I wrote about last week, I already had experience, knowledge and assets in the field making it even more obvious. But was it really? How can things work when one partner starts so far ahead of the 2nd one? At that point, Mike was far from the first person to discuss the idea of an online venture with me and while he was turning out to be a great friend, I did not really see how it could be done. Would I be running my current ventures on my own and then spending time on my new venture as well? Didn’t seem like a great solution. There had to be another way right?
After a few months of doing just that, I slowly but surely became convinced that Mike was a great match and that we could do something great. Why? Building an online business requires lots of work and patience, especially at the start. It takes weeks to get even a few visitors on your website and months to even start thinking about making any type of decent money. I had doubts if Mike could hold it up. He started off writing on this blog and I was shocked to see how much Mike trusted me on this. He spent time every day working on this project, writing posts for our 3 or 4 visitors with not even a prospect of making any type of money. Even making enough to pay for a Starbucks coffee would have been great at that point. Mike kept at it though and it slowly started making progress. On my end, it was a big challenge to spend time on both ventures… I needed to do something drastic… a merge of equals was about to happen.
The only way that I could go all in on our common project was to have it as my one and only venture. That meant merging everything I had online (both sites, knowledge, etc) with Mike. How would that possibly work? We established the basis of a merger as 3 required conditions:
#1-Be able to trust each other completely
#2-Start off with a more or less 50/50 contribution to M35 inc.
#3-Contribute equally thereafter
#1 was quite easy honestly – We did discuss some principles and overall we could agree on it
#2-This was perhaps the more problematic aspect of the merge. How could we equal everything out? It seemed unfair to merge everything together because I was going to be putting in much more than Mike. We did end up finding a solution however as Mike “purchased” half of the value of those assets from me. Not only did it resolve our problem of starting as equal partners.
Perhaps even more important is the fact that we were both putting in significant resources (especially at that time) into the company which gave a clear message to each other of how serious this project truly was.
#3-This was also fairly simple as we split out all of the tasks related to the company from content creation, programming, dealing with our designers, writers, etc. That all evolved over time but we did set out an initial agreement. As I wrote about last week, we also agreed to not count the hours, to simply do our best every week. That turned out to be a great decision as there have been many months when one or the other has worked significantly more than the other. Without this agreement, it would have been difficult for us to truly enjoy seeing the other putting more hours without worrying about him feeling that it is unfair, etc.
Our VA brought up some good points about how we’ve been able to keep things going well since then. One of the things is that we truly form a team and I can’t think of a single instance when we’ve argued about the effort or results of what one of us has been doing. The fact is that we do completely different tasks and while we have more focus on specific websites, it has always been about the progress of M35, not of an individual website, I think it’s easy to overlook how challenging that could be.
And finally, one of the major points of success is that to this day, even though we sometimes slip. We easily spend a day or weekend together with our wives with (almost!) no mention of M35 and the fact that we have all of these other points of interest which has been a major help as well.
So that is how M35 inc was created. Do you have any questions or thoughts? How was your venture started?
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