Late last year we invested in a start-up called Everlater, which is located in Boulder, Colorado. Everlater has developed an innovative online travel journal that gives users a simple to use, rich media platform for capturing and sharing their travel experiences using text, maps, photos and video with easy sharing across social networking sites. Nate Abbott and Natty Zola, two first time entrepreneurs, are the founders. They had an idea, left the comfort of their corporate jobs to pursue it, and were fortunate (and deserving) to be selected as one of a handful of companies to participate in the 2009 TechStars program. The only thing stereotypical about Nate and Natty is that, like most entrepreneurs, they are very smart, very passionate about what they are doing and relentless in the pursuit of realizing their dream. We thought some of our entrepreneur friends, and some of the folks that are contemplating starting their own business, would be interested in how Nate and Natty got started on their journey, and some of the things they have learned along the way.
Where did the idea for Everlater come from? And what prompted you to leave the corporate world and start the company?
In 2007, as we were both wrapping up finance jobs in New York. We felt the call of our early 20s to escape the cubicle and see the world. We both loved and excelled in finance but felt it was time for a change.
Nate set off to bike across Europe, spent time in Morocco and then went to India for four months to train future Indian investment bankers. Natty worked an additional six months before meeting Nate in Argentina. We then spent six months traveling from the Southern tip of Chile to Mexico. It was our reward for working 100 hours a week.
While traveling we did amazing things. We climbed 21,000 foot mountains, surfed remote beaches, explored exotic cities and immersed ourselves in new cultures. We wanted to share our stories, photos and experiences with our friends and family but struggled to find an online tool which easily and effectively captured what we were doing. On a sailboat between Colombia and Panama, we decided to scratch our own itch and began formulating our vision for a new travel journaling application. Two months later, we moved to Boulder, Colorado to pursue and build our dream full time.
You could have started Everlater anywhere, why Boulder, CO?
We were both born and raised in Boulder and decided it would be easiest and cheapest to get our idea off the ground if we moved home with our parents. Our families are extremely supportive and opened their doors to help us get off the ground.
We didn’t know anything about the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem that thrives in Boulder. As it turned out, Boulder is filled with great resources to start a tech business. Immediately we had access to incredible mentors in the form of venture capitalists, the CU law school, fellow entrepreneurs, TechStars and a very close developer community. We are very happy in Boulder and highly recommend it as a place to start a company.
It is early, but what has been the most gratifying part of starting Everlater?
We love the opportunity to be both creative and think strategically about business. Everlater has been an accelerator in both areas. We’ve become much stronger business thinkers and have been able to really tap into our creative sides.
We also have met exceptional people. The friends, mentors and connections we’ve made starting Everlater are some of the most inspiring people we’ve ever met. We are lucky to surround ourselves with such amazing people. Becoming part of the Boulder and broader entrepreneur ecosystem has been a great learning experience and a ton of fun.
Lastly, even though it is early for us, we’ve already had the opportunity to mentor companies younger than we are. It is great to be able to share our experiences and help as they mature.
What has turned out to be much more challenging than you originally thought?
The key challenge for any small company is allocation of time or money. Luckily we have a lot of opportunities around us right now, however allocating the finite resources we have is very challenging with all the things we want to accomplish. Prioritizing focus areas is a continuous challenge when we want to get it all done.
Secondly, building a company takes much longer than we originally thought. We had a slower start than other tech companies in that we decided to teach ourselves how to program in the beginning, however, building a business is a long process with many more steps along the road than we expected. Even though the road is long, we are enjoying every step in the journey.
What are the three most important things that you need to do to make Everlater successful?
1) Set ambitious goals and continually make sure that we are staying focused to achieve those goals
2) Take whatever we’re working on, be it a feature, a partnership, financial modeling, etc. and make sure that we are trying to do it better than anyone else in the world, regardless of our experience or knowledge in that field.
3) Make sure that everyone in the company is having an awesome time and building products they love!
What advice do you have for others, who are feeling trapped in their cubicles and dreaming of starting their own business?
The single hardest step is deciding to go for it. Once you make that decision, it becomes much easier. However, the decision should not be taken lightly. You should plan to be an entrepreneur for a long time as success takes time. One of our mentors, the author Jim Collins, once told us, ‘if you commit to being a life long entrepreneur your chances of success can reach 50%, if you give one idea a go, your changes are below 2%’. We like the odds much more given the full commitment.
A second piece of advice is to take a moment to review whats important to you. If stability and consistency are important pieces of your life, doing a start-up might not fit your personality. Entrepreneurs are not greater risk takers, just more comfortable living with the unknown. The thrills are the highest, and the lows the lowest but you make your own destiny which is an exhilarating way to live.
Many thanks to Nate and Natty for taking the time to share this. I am sure we will be hearing lots more about them and Everlater in the future!