Porn, Bomb Threats and Startups

May 24th, 2013 started off like any other day. I got up, walked Milah, hit the gym, said goodbye to Sarah and drove to work. The afternoon rolled around and someone called in a bomb threat at Manwin. My programmers and I had just pushed a new feature that would impact a lot of people, and it needed live testing. I was totally stressed out and waiting in the parking lot for 45 minutes to be let back in the office. I don’t think they ever figured out who called in the bomb threat, but it was probably just some dude who really didn’t like the porn industry…go figure. What’s important here is the text message I got from my buddy Julien Smith during the event.

Julien and I met through a mutual friend, Greg Isenberg, a few years back. Julien was really interested in my adult-industry background, and the large volume of users I dealt with on a daily basis. Now, during this parking lot episode, in usual Julien fashion, the text I got was vague: “I wanna ask you something” or “ I wanna know if what you can do for Manwin, you can do for me?” Little did I know that this text message changed the course of my career and how I envisioned success.

breather text

I was 28 with an awesome job. I traveled the world, made great money, had over 40 people working for me and impacted the lives of 20 million people a day running Pornhub and Youporn mobile. I accomplished more before 30 than many people get to do in their entire career. Did I really need more? The answer was “hell yes,” but not for the reasons you might think. Working at one of the largest adult companies in the world had its drawbacks. It was one of the most treacherous political landscapes I had ever seen. I was tired of arguing and spending most of my day fighting battles. I truly enjoyed my team and the challenge but the fun was no longer there.

I did what I had to do. I helped build a department from nothing and execute a strategy that made Manwin millions of dollars per month.

When Julien told me about the idea for Breather I remember saying to him “this is crazy, it’s either going to work really well or implode, there won’t be a middle ground here.” I had been working with big brands like the NFL, NHL and Family Guy before I worked at Manwin; and at Manwin I was selling sex. These were somewhat established companies with some infrastructure. I had never built anything from scratch before, and considered myself a risk-averse person, a little too nervous to start my own company.

Breather was a crazy idea with some funding and a website. This was my way to prove to myself that I could help build something from the idea phase and shed my risk-averse nature.

Fortunately my instincts about taking the gig were right. The past year has been pure insanity. In under 9 months we’ve built a full iOS and Android/web booking interface, we have over 15 locations in 2 countries, 3 cities and more than 10 employees.

The bottom line is if you like routine, job security, a 9-5 schedule and an expense account, a startup isn’t for you and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re comfortable with a 24 hour neurotic feeling of not knowing where you’ll be in 3-6 months from now, and a schedule where you’re always on…then jump in head first. That may sound genuinely terrible, and it can be, unless the idea works. The feeling of building something from the ground up and having people tell you how your product “helps them” and how they “love it” is one of the most rewarding feelings I have ever felt.

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