Seven years ago today I remember leaving the house for the first time to go to work full time for Far Reach. We had no office, as our future home in the UNI incubator was not yet finished. Instead I spent the first couple of weeks working at the coffee shop, the library, or at Kate’s kitchen table. We had a business plan, which we had created over the previous 10+ months, but I really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.
This Far Reach thing all started in early 2006 when Jason decided he was ready to start his own company. I clearly remember the morning that Jason approached my cubicle, looked at me, and asked, “Are you in?” I knew exactly what he was talking about—we had had many discussions over lunch at Taco John’s about starting our own company. I replied, “Yes, but let me make sure my wife is on board.” That night I talked to my wife about it and she asked, “Who is involved in this besides you and Jason?” I listed the names of the other guilty parties, and she gave me the green light. She knew we had the right people on the Far Reach bus, even if the gas tank on the bus was pointed at empty.
Fast forward to Friday, April 13, 2007. That Friday the 13th was my last day at my corporate gig that paid well and had great benefits. My wife and I have three kids, including our (at that time) 5-year-old twins who both have autism. My wife had been a stay-at-home mom the previous 5 years so she could provide the care our kids required. Maybe we didn’t know better, but neither of us was too worried about jumping in to start Far Reach. What’s the worst thing that could happen, right?
A month into our journey at Far Reach, we found ourselves throwing away our finely crafted business plan as it became clear that pursing K-12 educational software would have been most likely a complete failure. It was a bit late to turn back, so we learned quickly about “pivoting.” We decided to focus on doing some website projects and consulting work that we had just started, which was the beginning of Far Reach as it exists today.
Not everyone thought that starting our own company was a good idea. Why give up the corporate job with a steady paycheck for something that is completely unknown? It is true that none of the 5 founding partners had any experience running a company, none of us had an MBA, and to top it all off we were all developers. What did we know about starting a company? We all had families to support. How would this all work? Were we crazy?
I guess we were/are a bit crazy, but we had a solid foundation of five partners who wanted to do something that made a difference. It would have been easy to stay at our corporate jobs and remain a cog in the system—filling out forms, writing code, and earning that steady paycheck. Instead we had a vision: to create a great place to work and build great software.
What if Jason had not decided to stop by my cubicle? What if I had said “no”? What if Far Reach never existed? Whoa, deep questions. For me, the past seven years have been a journey filled with great experiences, relationships, and learning.
Had we never started Far Reach, I would have never met our great advisors and mentors, including people like Mike Colwell and Maureen Collins-Williams. I would have never met people in the Iowa startup community, including people like Christian Renaud, Geoff Wood, and Ben Milne. I would have missed out on great events like Big Omaha and EntreFest. I would have missed the opportunity to work with our awesome employees. I would have missed the opportunity to meet and work with our great clients. I would have missed out on projects that give back to our community, such as Sturgis Falls Celebration and Operation MAD. I would have never had the chance to help build three other companies:
I would have missed out on a lot.
Traditionally the number seven is considered a lucky number. Today, on our 7th anniversary, I feel very lucky to be part of Far Reach. I’m proud of the team we have built and what we have accomplished in the past 7 years. Jason and I still occasionally have lunch at Taco John’s, but now we don’t talk about, “What if we started a company,” but rather, “How do we make Far Reach even better?” The Taco Bravos are still made the same way, but they seem to taste better now.