Here’s yet another great case study of a successful bootstrapping whereby the entrepreneurs developed a solid product business eventually.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Patrick Sullivan: I was born in California. I eventually went to school at Santa Barbara and got a degree in Computer Science. I graduated in 1999. I moved back to Tahoe to be a ski bum for a year to get that out of my system. Then I moved to San Francisco right before the dot-com crash happened. It was a pretty awful thing from a career standpoint.
Sramana Mitra: What brought you to San Francisco?
Patrick Sullivan: I came to San Francisco because when you’re studying Computer Science, there’s such a crazy fad around technology and there’s so much excitement around it. The world wasn’t as distributed as it is now. You really had to be in the heart of, or near, Silicon Valley. People told you, “If you wanted to make any money in technology, that’s where you had to be.”
Sramana Mitra: Did you come to work for a large company?
Patrick Sullivan: I’m a late bloomer. Early on, I had no aspirations to start anything. My goal was to get some experience and really try to understand the landscape of technology. I knew very little about business. The funny thing is, in school they teach you theoretical computer science, but they don’t teach you things that really help you out on a day-to-day basis. My goal was to join a company and learn.
My passion was towards the business side. Just being somewhat talkative and creative, the business side came naturally to me. I took a job at a small company that did IT consulting. It was pretty brutal. I made about $22,000 a year at my first job. That’s just because there were literally zero jobs in San Francisco in 2001.
Sramana Mitra: That’s amazing given what’s going on now. I know what you’re talking about – the timeframe.
Patrick Sullivan: It was almost like a ghost town. If you’re in accounting or other departments, people are okay talking to you. If you’re in technology, they almost look at you as the bad guy. I try to explain to people I was in Tahoe during this. They didn’t listen.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do next?
Patrick Sullivan: I worked at a video game company. I was there for a while not making much money because the tech industry was still pretty flat. Then, randomly, a friend of mine suggested that I look into working at Xerox. I was open to new ideas but you had this ceiling where you can’t stay at the same company for too long. If you get more of a breadth of knowledge from different industries, you learn a lot of different things.