Over ten years ago, at our wedding, the idea of starting a company based on work that I and a friend did in graduate school turned from a fanciful idea into a potential, viable business. Two months after getting married, I quit my entirely safe and secure job at a telecom billing software vendor and devoted myself to founding this company. In addition to the two of us, we were joined by my brother (Uncle Marcus) and a friend from high school. (The record should note that I was the only one unemployed; I did some free-lance work, including some work Marcus kindly provided for me. Eventually Marcus sold his prior company.)
We competed in the MIT $50K business plan competition (it’s up to $100K now) and emerged a semi-finalist with some visibility in the venture capital community. We secured an initial round of financing, and in 2000 we incorporated our company on the date of Mama’s and my first anniversary. (This makes it easy for me to remember either our anniversary date or the date the company officially started, but not both at the same time.)
Almost ten years and many employees, customers, partners, friends, and stories later, Optiant today was acquired by Logility, Inc., a leading supplier of collaborative solutions to optimize the supply chain. The press release is available here.
Siena rarely asks me how my day was or what I do, and only today I informed her that I work at a computer all day after she quoted a Sesame Street video about fathers where one of them works at a computer. But last Friday when we were closing the deal, she did ask me at dinner, “What did you do today, daddy?” And I said, “Well, Siena, I sold my company.”
She, of course at her age, has no inkling of what that means. It will be a decade before she understands what being an entrepreneur is. She’ll internalize the concepts of risk, reward, and their trade-off years before she can communicate coherently about them.
Looking back, I never took the time to write about Mama’s graduation from vet school, though I mentioned it here. Mama made a similar calculation of risk and reward back in 2001, deciding to quit her own secure (and often relaxed) employment at Wellesley to go back to school, taking night classes to catch up on math and science undergrad courses and then going to Tufts University vet school (one of the most difficult programs to get into, by the way–go Mama!). And then we decided to start a family while she was in her third year there. Talk about risk!
And while it’s not clear if we’ll have the risk tolerance any time soon again to start something by diving into the deep end like that again, perhaps someday Siena and Thalia will understand, and if we are lucky learn something, from the crazy things their parents did before they were born. (Well, they aren’t really that crazy in the grand scheme of things.)
Most of the Optiant employees, including myself, are continuing on at Logility. For now, it will be business as usual for us as we figure out the best way to merge the great things we built into the great solutions they have. After that, who knows?