I would be remiss if I didn’t make note of last week’s announcement that Sallie Mae is acquiring Upromise, a great outcome for the company I was privileged to co-found alongside Michael Bronner 6.5 years ago and serve as president and COO. One of my early investors called me and pointed out that for a height-of-the-bubble-era investment (we closed a $34 million series A in March 2000 with a very lofty pre-money valuation, despite being a handful of folks and some fancy Power Point slides), it is miraculous that he was able to make some money on the transaction.
I learned many lessons during my three years there and even beyond as I stayed close to the company’s evolution after I left to join IDG Ventures. One important lesson is that no one person "makes" a company – it takes a village. My high school football coach had a favorite line: "Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan". Similarly in any successful entrepreneurial venture, there are a thousand people that "make" the company, and I got to see this in spades at Upromise.
Another important lesson is that every entrepreneurial venture is a winding journey with many ups and downs and many phases of life. There were times when we thought Upromise was going to be a world-changing company and there were times when we thought we would need to shut out the lights after burning through a hundred million dollars. In the end, the passion of the employees, partners and customers and the perserverance of the investors saw it through to a happy outcome for all. Congratulations to everyone involved.