As I am writing this article, I’m putting the final touches on closing down Vetd, a business I started with my cofounder Zach Shapiro two years ago.
For as long as I can remember, I had the itch to start my own company. Two years ago, I took the plunge to quit my job at Sidecar to open Vetd, a company that I hoped would change the way people buy and sell enterprise software. For two years I had a sporadic salary, pitched dozens of investors (mostly unsuccessfully) from Philadelphia to San Francisco, stayed in some less than desirable motels, and learned lessons big and small.
Would I advise other want-to-be entrepreneurs to take such a risky plunge? Absolutely, and I would tell them to do it in Philly.
Philly is where Vetd was born and bred. Before I founded Vetd, I had worked at local startups RJMetrics and Sidecar. The Philly tech scene has something to prove but leans more toward “build your colleagues and cofounders up” than it does “succeed at the expense of others” (City of Brotherly Love, right?). It was easy building my network while I worked at these companies, as it was something both startups encouraged. And lucky enough, some of my most engaged and active mentors to this day are my former bosses, Bob Moore and Steve Tutelman, originally from RJMetrics and Sidecar.
The network I built as a startup employee paid dividends when it came time to get advice on the business and ultimately to fundraise. I was introduced to local founder AJ Bruno, who has become a friend and mentor. I was encouraged by many to work with Kiera Smalls and Jaclyn Allen of Philly Startup Leaders and to apply to the 2019 PSL accelerator. That program expanded our network further and made me realize, to the extent I didn’t already know, that the founders of the Philly tech scene are a close-knit community. I will miss my monthly Philly Founders’ dinners with the wonderful people from Jenzy, Wearwell, On the Goga and Cue9 Podcasts. Those dinners proved to be a necessary outlet to vent with other cofounders about the stress that comes with running a new business.
So why did Vetd come to an end? After all, we had early funding by a West Coast VC called Village Global, we were named one of the top 10 startups to watch in 2019 by Technical.ly, and we were members of the 2019 PSL accelerator class. At our peak, we had hundreds of users, experienced rapid growth, and built a team that looked poised to scale.
Looking back, our mistakes were many and pretty common for first-time founders. Two stick out more than the others: First, we tried to build a company that needed venture capital in order to succeed instead of building a sustainable business that relied on early revenue. It was a risky strategy that ultimately didn’t work for us. Second, we made some hiring mistakes that cost us time and money — neither of which we had in extra supply.
So to those want-to-be entrepreneurs: It seems obvious to suggest not to make the same mistakes that I did. But most importantly, never underestimate the value of your Philly network for help and support. Early on in Vetd’s life, I spoke with a supportive Philly founder and asked how I could thank him for his time and mentorship. He replied simply that when he was in my shoes, he had so many people help him on his path to success. The only thing that he asked of me in return was to give back to the next class of founders.
So with that, my time, mentorship, connections are all available to you — the next class of Philly founders. I am more than happy to help in any way I can. Aside from me, there is a network of help in Philadelphia, just waiting for you to ask. So ask!