{Downtime} - How I Got Rejected by a Startup Billionaire

When I was living in San Francisco, I interviewed at StumbleUpon - a browser that allows you to bounce around the web instead of search

It's powered by user recommendations across hundreds of categories

I didn't like it much, "It's a novelty," I remember thinking

Two of the guys were wearing beanies and mountain gear - they'd just moved from Calgary to San Francisco and had a small office off Market Street

The third - "The PR Guy"- was pacing around in a suit with a bluetooth headset surgically attached to his ear

He didn't bother to shake hands or sit down

I assumed he was busy getting PR coverage, kind of rude, but no biggie

They told me their plan to sell ads in between "Stumbles" for 5c a pop to advertisers like Coca Cola or McDonalds

Did I think I could do that for them?

"Sure, why not?" 

Although I thought, "Who's going to pay for that?"

Then I tried to be too smart and gave feedback on the homepage

"The tag cloud looks kinda messy..."

"Oh we know, we're going to change the whole site" 

Out of nowhere - the PR guy - who I didn't even think was listening chimed in and asked:

"What would YOU do to improve it?"

I hadn't prepared suggestions

Now I was the one stumbling

Less than a minute later I was on my feet and waved out of the room by him

"Goodbye!" was all he said

I didn't sweat it and found another job

That was 2006

A year later the company sold to ebay for $75M

Garrett Camp, the baby-faced "PR guy" who is six months younger than me became the CEO and co-founded a small company called Uber with Travis Kalanick

Garrett's net worth is now over $5 bn

And I'm writing this post on a gloomy Sunday

Lessons learned

#1. Don't poo-poo an idea simply because you don't like it - millions around the world use StumbleUpon and they have a very loyal and devoted following

#2. Don't give a critique or negative comment unless you can provide a better suggestion

#3. Don't go to interviews unprepared!

#4. While it would be nice for all leaders to have great manners - the fact is, some of the best just do not - they're thinking on another plain at a million miles per second. They don't always have time for manners, it's usually not personal

#5. It is possible to become a millionaire still by joining the right company - I would have been employee number 4 (at least I assume they weren't hiring other people remotely, which they may well have been)

There are so many new companies forming every day - statistically speaking, one or two will turn into billion dollar corporations one day

Maybe that company will be yours - I hope so

Have a great Sunday,