RoomBounce – A Failed Startup

Shortly after dropping out of college in 2011, I started working on a company called RoomBounce.

At this point in time I didn’t have the design or development skills to fully execute a project on my own, so I took to the internet to find a technical co-founder who could help bring the vision to life.

The basic proposition was that I would handle product, design, marketing & fundraising, and my partner to-be would handle development.

While in the chat for mashups I became friends with a reputable member who happened to be a programmer. We built a relationship and eventually I pitched him the idea for RoomBounce. He was interested so we decided to meetup in Indiana to sign contracts and make something happen.

I put up $19,000 of my personal savings (from past businesses) to fund the initial product development and hire a freelance designer to build the wireframes in photoshop.

Development was underway and the programmer actually ended up moving out to LA so we metup a few times (first at his hotel, then later at his apartment in venice).

As we closed in on a version 1 demo, I saw a contest on twitter for a free month of office space @ I/O ventures in San Francisco. I tweeted Paul Bragiel (having talked to him before for the i/o venture incubator) and he ended up offering me a free desk for 4 weeks.

I booked a hotel and took the next flight out to SF – my developer partner would stay in LA to continue finishing the prototype

While in SF I contacted some people I knew to see if anyone would be interested in setting up a VC meeting. Our main goal at the time was to raise money – we needed to hire more developers to bring this idea to life.

By the 2nd day in San Francisco we had a working demo that included all the basic functionality. We could stream video on multiple cameras, and had a live chat system that worked across the entire platform.

One of my internet buddies worked at Crosslink Capital as an associate. I pitched him RoomBounce, sent the deck and all the relevant fundraising info, and he was interested in setting up a meeting with one of the partners to see if there was a fit.

The day of the meeting I took the BART up to the Embarcadero – which is basically downtown SF. Tons of skyscrapers and massive buildings.

Crosslink was in a huge building in the middle of the embarcadero. I went into the building, talked to the security for a bit, and then they sent me up to the proper floor.

When the elevator doors opened, there was a huge sign for Crosslink Capital, and a bubbly receptionist asking if I was Julian (nice touch).

The entire floor was Crosslinks – it had the most insane view of San Francisco from the windows. You could see everything.

The receptionist took me back to the conference room which had about 30 chairs, ready for war. That’s the moment my inner voice questioned what I had gotten myself into. For a second I considered just scrapping the whole thing and leaving – I’d never see any of them again anyway.

The receptionist asked me if I wanted a coffee, tea or water, and if I needed any plugs to setup the presentation on the projector.

My macbook ended up not liking the choices of plugs they had to offer, so we had to scratch the projector idea entirely.

My buddy, the associate, who I was meeting in person for the first time, came into the room. We got to know each other for a few minutes, and then the main partner came in.

He said had only a few minutes because he had to go to the dentists office, but we ended up talking for 45 minutes so it must not have been important.

We all sat around my computer as I opened up the deck.

I talked them through the basic idea, the value proposition, competitors, and then did a quick demo of the product using a camera I had setup at home.

Both the partner and the associate asked a bunch of good questions to get a feel of the idea and the space we were going after.

We talked about how everything was designed as experiment and a lot of my answers to their questions ended up being  “we’ll see – we have to look at the data and see if X is _____, if so, we’ll do _____, if not, we’ll do _______”. They seemed to like this line of thinking a lot.

The next day I got an email saying that they wanted to setup a second meeting in a few weeks with another partner to further evaluate the idea and investment opportunity.

Feeling like I acomplished what I had set out to do in San Francisco, I decided to go back home and put the finishing touches on the product before the next meeting.

Back home, we continued working, but progress was slower than I would have liked.

A huge problem was that we already our design fully coded, but in building out the actual codebase, we slightly revised how things would work. These changes ended up needing to be re-designed, which meant we had to go hire another freelance designer and front-end developer.

The night before the big meeting with the VC I got an email saying that there was a scheduling conflict and we’d have to reschedule to the following week.

A small annoyance, but it was fine. I canceled the ticket and rescheduled one for the next week.

This gave us another week to work on the product, which seemed like a blessing in disguise.

The following week rolls by and again, the day before the meeting, they sent an email saying that the partner I was scheduled to meet with had a board meeting and would need to re-schedule. Totally understandable as they are busy guys, and at time time I was very low on the totem pole.

This did, however, indicate to me their level of interest in closing an investment – there was very little.

The second time I went back to SF, I learned that I wouldn’t be meeting with a partner because of another scheduling conflict, but instead one of their VP’s was available to take the meeting.

That was fine with me, but meeting with someone who doesn’t know what you’re doing is an uphill battle. In my opinon you should only take a meeting with someone if they already know a little bit about you & what you’re doing. Cold pitches are really hard to pull off.

The meeting went great, and I ended up becoming semi-friendly with the VC who took that second meeting. We ended up getting dinner a few weeks later with a couple of other founders when he was in LA which was cool.

As for RoomBounces’ fate – it didn’t have a catastrophic blowup or anything of the sort. Both the programmer and I ended up slowly having more important things to do than RoomBounce. Our incentives became unaligned.

At the same I was raising money for RoomBounce I started pitching a company called SellSimple, which ended up raising money much quicker than RoomBounce. Survival of the fittest.

RIP RoomBounce.

– J