Sramana: I think it is great that you not only started the company while you were in College but that you were earning revenue as well. At that time it was very rare for an Internet company to actually have revenue.
Nick Mehta: That was a crazy time as you know well. In June of 1998 we all had a big decision to make. We were all on the traditional college to job path. One of the co-founders had a job lined up at McKinsey and I was ready to go work in technology investment banking for Credit Suisse First Boston. We came up with a grand plan to work on our website through the summer and then sell it for $100,000 before heading off to start our jobs. We felt that starting off with $25,000 dollars a piece was a great way to get our professional careers going.
Then the summer of 1998 hit. Our business started to scale and ecommerce started heating up. We ended up raising a venture round from Sequoia. We brought in a CEO and a professional management team. We saw the good and bad of the dot com bubble.
Sramana: What was the outcome of that company and your role in it?
Nick Mehta: We ran out of money as we were making our push for the IPO. The market fell out before we had our IPO and we needed venture money to survive. It was very hard for Internet companies to raise money at that time so the company folded. We ended up selling the assets at the end of 2000. I left right before the very end in September of 2000. It was not a fun way to end it but it was an amazing experience.
Sramana: I was an entrepreneur during that timeframe as well. I started my first company in 1995 when I was at MIT in graduate school. I did three startups until the bubble burst. It was an amazingly compressed experience. It is very hard to assimilate as much education in any other fashion.
Nick Mehta: That is a great way to say it. People always ask what I learned from that. One key lesson for me was to carry confidence in yourself. Back then there was a playbook for doing startups. You would raise a lot of money and then hire experienced people thinking they had the answers. The reality is that nobody had the answers for those markets. If anything I think we could have trusted our own judgment more and that is something that has been useful for the rest of my career.
Sramana: What happened next?
Nick Mehta: I briefly went to another startup called XDegrees. It was a very early stage company that had technology conceptually similar to DropBox, just a decade earlier. It was started by some Stanford PhD graduates who had interesting ideas about building file sharing technologies. RedPoint funded the company and I was introduced to the founders through RedPoint and I came in to run Product Management. That was my first real job. The company was acquired by Microsoft in 2002.