2008, in Qik‘s old office in Foster City:
2011, in Qik’s soon-to-be-old office in Redwood City:
Being back in the Bay Area this week has been nothing less than a total head trip – in the very best way.
I landed on Wednesday night and went directly to my old office at Qik. Since the company was acquired by Skype in January, they’ll be vacating that office any day now and relocating to Skype HQ. So we had a farewell party to bid adieu to the place where we spent thousands of hours together, building a great product and truly having the time of our lives.
During the economic downturn, we experienced some dark days as a team – darker than I can share here, and probably darker than even I was aware of. (Like good parents, our co-founders were great at making sure we never knew so much that we panicked.) But no day was so dark that we ever turned on each other. In my experience, this is rare. Startups can forge strong bonds and even stronger personal agendas, but – to a (wo)man – we always stayed focused on delivering the utmost value to users. We did whatever we could to help them kick ass. It was all that mattered (apart from making payroll, which we always did, sometimes against formidable odds).
A corporation is a legal fiction, but a team can become a family. For me, that’s what Qik was and always will be. It was a pure joy to celebrate the validation of our work by Skype’s acquisition, and to re-live the good old days. The insults flowed like the mighty Mississippi, as did the tequila (the official beverage of Qik, Inc.). Qik’s bosses refused to hire anyone they wouldn’t want to be stuck with in an airport for 12 hours – and not for no reason did we all end up having so much fun together, then and now.
It was also humbling to note the state of the union, as it were, and how things have changed. As I said to the team:
TechCrunch is AOL, Qik is soon to be Microsoft, the Flip cam is dead, and Bob’s Courthouse* is now a Japanese restaurant. I wash my hands of making predictions about anything in Silicon Valley anymore.
The only thing I know for sure is that I had the time of my life with Qik. It was the best of what a startup experience can be, even before the acquisition. I always tell people who are interested in startups that the money isn’t motivation enough, because you’re going to be pulling all-nighters, subsisting on trail mix and Red Bull, living on airplanes, and taking conference calls in time zones you didn’t know existed. Your life outside work ceases to exist, and you can barely rouse the will to cover off basic life administrivia like grocery shopping, laundry, and personal relationships with the people you love most in the world. If you’re going to make those sacrifices, you’d better make sure you believe in the product and the team behind it.
Bottom line: I feel so lucky that I fell in with this crowd, and that I got to experience startup life in Silicon Valley during one of its most interesting, pivotal moments. But I’m truly blessed to have done it with such a fine group of people I would spend 12 hours in a airport with any day. (Glad I don’t have to anymore, though.)
*Bob’s Courthouse was my favorite place to eat lunch near the Qik office. It was a diner that had been open for 60 years, and most of the patrons were married with kids when the place first opened its doors. I was always the youngest person in there by at least three decades, and I was almost always there by myself, as everyone else in the office hated it, though they did indulge me on my birthday.