I’m actually 27, so this post is probably 2 years over due. Or we can assume that since for the first 2 years of my life, all I did was eat, sleep, and shit (my mom says that’s pretty much all I still do), that I’ve “lived” for just about 25 years. A year ago I was hanging out with one of our Krossover managers and he was definitely a couple (read: several) drinks down when he said, “you ever think about how cool it is that you’ve gotten to do all these amazing things at such a young age?”

I admitted that I hadn’t really thought about it, after all, where is the time for reflecting when you’re the CEO of a startup going a hundred miles an hour? It would be nice to stop and smell the roses, but then I’d end up having to be a gardner. But every now and then, when I’m standing under a hot shower with not a care in the world, I’ll catch myself smiling at the thought of all the incredulous things that have happened to me in a such a short period of time.

Growing up, I always complained that I had the most boring life in the world. I actually think I even said this out loud a couple of times to some friends, annoyed that everyone else seemed to have some excitement or the other going on, while I just had a normal boring family. Well as they say, be careful what you wish for, because that shit changed in a heart beat.

I was born in Los Angeles, CA in 1986. By all accounts, I was the best goddamn baby in the world. I slept 18 hours a day, didn’t cry, and always had a smile on my face.

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Eat your heart out, ladies

 

My dad was a software engineer and my mom was working towards becoming a pharmacist, which meant that an old man in our apartment complex named Carl Wellman took care of me. Carl was a war veteran who loved sports, and since the TV was never on in our house, it is suspected that Carl is the reason I became such an obsessive basketball fan.

Carl Wellman and me

Carl Wellman and me

When I was about 4 years old, we moved from the dinky apartment complex in Burbank, CA to a house in the suburbs of Northridge, CA. It was in this backyard that I finally convinced my dad to erect a basketball hoop, which we did with the help of our neighbor. We dug a hole, filled it with cement, stuck the pole in, and even left my hand impressions there forever.

I'd love to go back and shoot hoops on this court some day

I’d love to go back and shoot hoops on this court some day

The first organized sports that I played however, was soccer. As a 7 year old, I received the Golden Goal award for the best goal of the season. My team won only one game all season, and that one game, the score was 1-0, and the goal was scored by none other than our hero.

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In 1994, the massive Northridge earthquake struck, and our house was  somewhat destroyed.

Had we been home, there's no guarantee I'd be alive today

Had we been home, there’s no guarantee I’d be alive today

In 1995 my parents had had enough and decided to move the family back to Bangalore, India for good. It was the worst time of my life, and I still remember bawling my eyes out on the final drive to LAX. But the goal was for my sister and I to learn our culture and meet our family.

My sister was like a porcelain doll

My sister was like a porcelain doll

I spent my time in India bouncing around different schools but making a ton of friends. Basketball came easily to me in a country of short non-athletic people, and between that and my parents always being on my ass to study, I was a model kid.

Last day of 10th grade

Last day of 10th grade

I was shipped off to boarding school where I found myself in girl trouble. It’s funny – my entire teenage life, my mother’s sole purpose seemed to be to keep all girls away from me. Now a days she is trying everything possible to send them my way so I’ll get married. Sheesh!

I wish I was that skinny again

I wish I was that skinny again

So this is where things start to get interesting. After having been a model student and a shining beacon of hope my entire life, just like that I was expelled from the most fucked up school on earth. Nobody cared since it was already senior year and college admissions were done. So I went on an extended vacation, and landed up at Penn – where lots more girl trouble awaited. But the most defining moment of my college career came when I was given a chance to walk on and play for the JV Basketball Team at Penn.

Penn JV 1-19-08334

That’s me, driving in for a layup at the Palestra in official D1 basketball gear!

More girl trouble later (see how this is a recurring theme with me?), I found myself in NYC, wanting to start my own company since none of the companies I wanted to work for would hire me. I would be lying if I said those weren’t trying times. I lost relationships and friends because of how dedicated I was, trying to make something out of nothing. I would travel every weekend to coaching clinics, break down games myself, and do customer support after hours when most of our customers were back on their computers trying to use our system.

One of fifty plus weekends spent on the road

One of fifty plus weekends spent on the road

But it was also in NYC that I met Coco, and he would make me fall in love again…. with puppies.

Are you kidding me? Look at that face!

Are you kidding me? Look at that face!

It took three years of grinding it out, but slowly the company started to take shape. The press started to roll in and people started to take notice of what we were trying to accomplish. This is where in a matter of 2 years, things just go from cool, to beyond my wildest dreams.

big-8

America’s Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25

I met John Calipari and became close friends with the Kentucky Basketball Program

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My entire life growing up, all I wanted to do was actually watch an NBA game live. When I lived in LA, the old Forum was in a not so great part of town and my dad was too scared to drive through there, so we never went to a Laker game. I used to wake up at 5am in India to watch 2 games a week. I remember looking at the people who sat courtside at games and wondering who they were, and what I would need to do in life to get there.

I made it, mom

I made it, mom

I’m not a big rap fan, but apparently this guy is a big deal.

HOVA

Getting to meet HOVA

I got to shoot around on the actual court where Hoosiers was filmed in Indiana

Go Hickory!

Go Hickory!

I got to go to the greatest sporting event in the world – the Olympics.

2nd row seats to the Gold medal game. Even World Wide Wes was a row behind us!

2nd row seats to the Gold medal game. Even World Wide Wes was a row behind us!

People have flown me places, private.

Never fly private if you can't actually afford to make it a habit

Never fly private if you can’t actually afford to make it a habit

Shit, I even made it to Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday party

He needs a stylist

He needs a stylist

And of course, the granddaddy of them all – A trip to the playboy mansion

Hello Ladies.

Hello Ladies.

As I sit here writing this post (just having returned from shooting a basketball around with Kentucky Superfan, Ashley Judd), I know everyone who reads it (all 7 people according to my google analytics dashboard) are going to first be jealous, and the think that I’m a douche. And while that might be true, the reason for this post as you might recall about 700 rows up, was that I was asked the question “you ever think about how cool it is that you’ve gotten to do all these amazing things at such a young age?” And to that I answer – no, not really. Only because I don’t want to start to think I’ve actually accomplished anything, because none of these things mean much in the grand scheme of things.

That said, whenever I do have a moment to reflect (like during the writing of this post), trust me when I say that none of it is lost on me. I get how lucky I am to have been given the opportunity to do some of these things. Looking through these pictures has brought back incredible memories of times long passed, and while I don’t just toss around “Thank You God”‘s like the pro athletes do, I’ll definitely say there’s something else going on here for me to have gotten this lucky.

All these experiences have been unbelievable, and if I were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, I can say without any regrets that I have lived a full life. A life with extreme joy and worldly experiences. I’ve loved and I’ve lost, and I’ve loved again. I’ve met the most incredible people and gotten to do some of the most incredible things. I’ve been given the opportunity to live out my passion and my dream, every single day. All of these awesome things are only fleeting though. In that moment when I see the white light coming towards me, I doubt I’m going to think about that piece of ass at the playboy mansion, or of how I stole Chris Paul’s vanilla cake at Michael’s party. I’m going to think about the real stuff that we accomplished at Krossover – changing lives and the way people do things. Courtside seats could never compete with the indelible images of a life lived building something that matters.

All these accomplishments wouldn't have been possible without my team of passionate rock stars

All these experiences wouldn’t have been possible without my team of passionate rock stars

 

It’s 2:30am on a Sunday night and I can’t sleep. I tossed and turned for 3 hours and finally got out of bed because I was tired of staring at the ceiling. It’s a good thing I don’t have to be up early tomorrow, thank god for startup life. I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, and I’m not exactly sure why.

Maybe it’s because I injured my knee and I haven’t been able to work out for a week now – between the worry of it being something serious and just the lack of exhaustion that my body is used to, maybe that’s what’s keeping me up.

Or maybe it’s the startup grind – it’s been 4 years of work and we’re heading in the right direction, but as a founder, there’s constant paranoia. What do we do if we run out of cash? What if our competitor is planning to copy our business model? What if we don’t hit this year’s sales goals? It’s easy to not care when it’s 3 guys in an apartment writing code. It’s a little harder when you’ve taken $15M worth of investor money and you have expectations to deliver on.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m addicted to my iPhone and find myself reaching over the side of my bed every 10 minutes to see what’s trending on twitter or if someone’s emailed me.

Or maybe it’s the fact that I spent the day on an emotional roller coaster because of the day’s sporting affairs.

I woke up this morning, full of hope – put on my Team USA jersey at 8am and sat in front of my TV, ready to cheer on the Red White and Blue some 10 hours later. By noon I had watched Isaiah Austin’s interview on ESPN, telling the world that he had Marfan’s syndrome, and that just 4 days away from being drafted into the NBA, he would no longer be able to play competitive basketball for the rest of his life.  I know some of the Baylor staff, and Isaiah seemed like he had so much potential as an NBA player. Now, it was all gone.

I cried for him, and maybe a little bit for myself – flexing my knee reminded me that everyday I’m able to go out and shoot hoops was not to be taken for granted, as there’s no telling what tomorrow brings. Nothing is promised in this world, and Isaiah reminded me that pro athletes are also human, living life by the same odds as the rest of us. This kid worked his ass off for 20 years, and he was 4 days away from the biggest day of his life. And here we were, being told that his heart could explode if he played too hard. What. The Fuck. How do you go from that high of dreaming about your name being called, to not being able to play ever again, all in an instant?

5:30pm came around and I joined 10 friends at a bar to watch USA take on Portugal in the World Cup. For the time being at least, Isaiah wasn’t on my mind – I was excited at the thought of possibly tying Portugal 0-0 and getting one more coveted point. Five minutes in and we’re down 0-1. This could not possibly have started any worse, but somehow the Americans are playing phenomenal football, and are aggressively pursuing the equalizing goal. Many missed chances go by, but we’re all positive heading into halftime. The USA comes out strong, and not 15 minutes later we’ve scored! 1-1! It’s pandemonium! Let the game end now and the entire bar will be doing shots!

Alas, Clint Dempsey had to screw with us, and 10 minutes later, we score again. The USA is up 2-1 now, a most unlikely scenario has unfolded before our very eyes. The crown is incredulous. And drunk. Chants of USA! ring loud. Expectations are high – we are going to punch our ticket to the round of 16 tonight! I’m giving high fives to people I don’t even know. We’ve gone from wanting a tie, to being depressed that we’re going to lose, to wanting the game to end at 1-1, to now expecting a victory. What a fickle bunch of fucks we are.

Of course, you all know how this ends. With 5 minutes of stoppage time added on, Christiano Ronaldo waits until the clock shows 94:36 to make his move and rip our hearts out. The game ends 2-2, and there is stunned silence. I’m sitting in a bar with my hand over my mouth, unable to speak or blink or move. Just stunned. How could this happen? We needed to play out 20 more seconds of football and the game would be over. Two minutes prior, I had been telling someone at my table that I was thinking of canceling my plane tickets to India next week, and instead heading to Brazil to watch our second round match. Now everything was up in the air. (No pun intended)

Sports – the great equalizer. Reminding us constantly that one minute you are king of the hill, and the next, well, nobody will remember you. What’s fascinating is that everything in life is about expectations – if the US had never gone up, we would have considered a draw to be an incredibly favorable outcome. But Dempsey took that away from us, and here we were, going home depressed. No shots for anyone.

What’s amazing is that those of us who are into sports – I mean really into sports. Those of us who live and breathe it. Those of us who cry tears of both joy and sorrow. Those of us who really believe that it’s not just a game – sports actually prepares us for the trials and tribulations of real life. It simulates the ups and downs that we are actually going to have to deal with, when shit gets real. Sports are the great equalizer.

Sometimes I guess it’s good to remember that sports really is just a game – practice, if you will, for the real game of life.

Nine years ago, as a freshman in college, I found out about Michael Jordan’s Flight School, a summer youth basketball camp that took place at UC Santa Barbara, hosted by none other than God himself. Despite being over-age (18 or high school senior), I managed to finagle my way into the camp. My roommate was none other than the hilariously ridiculous Javale McGee. Yeah, he was a riot even back then as a 17 year old kid. I of course rolled my ankle on the first day of camp, and ended up with Michael Jordan giving me a hug and chatting about my pitiable state on crutches. It was the greatest moment of my life. It was while researching this camp though, that I found out about the Michael Jordan Senior Flight School – a fantasy camp that took place in Vegas each year for rich dudes who were 35 and older. You basically spend 4 days at the MGM Grand in Vegas, drinking with Jordan, playing golf, and of course hoopin. The price tag? A cool $15K. At 18, I could never fathom the idea of spending that kind of scratch on 4 days of playing basketball.

If I can get MJ to do his Fantasy Camp 1 more time, I can be the only person to do both the Junior and Senior Flight Schools. Come on MJ!

If I can get MJ to do his Fantasy Camp 1 more time, I can be the only person to do both the Junior and Senior Flight Schools. Come on MJ!

Fast forward to 2012 and I’m invited to John Calipari’s Fantasy Camp to help film and break down the videos of the games for the campers. I can’t participate of course since I’m 10 years too young, but I get to do all the non-basketball activities, and I am in love. I immediately start bugging the organizers to let me play and of course I get shot down. They don’t want some young kid coming in and running the court they say.

After 2 years of lobbying, the organizers finally hold a vote and a month ago, they agree to let me in to one camp this year to see how it goes. That camp is the Bill Self Fantasy Camp held in Lawrence, KS. I am ecstatic, and immediately call a bunch of my friends to see who else wants to come with me. I manage to get one man interested, but of course his wife needs to approve he says. I assume there’s no way this is happening.

His first attempt is to use reverse psychology. He assumes that by saying he doesn’t want to go, she’s going to feel bad and tell him to go. The conversation goes something like this:

“Babe, I thought about it and fuck it, I’m not gonna even think about going to this fantasy camp dream of mine. We’re thinking about kids and stuff, I just can’t feel good about spending $5K on a basketball camp”.

Wait for it…hoping she comes back with a “really? You should do it, you only get to live once” kind of comment.

She just says “really? I thought you were totally gonna try to go, but okay.”

Damn it.

Attempt number 2 is more complex. This requires an entire presentation followed by a Q&A session. A lot of preparation goes into this. Here is my buddy’s thought process:

  • In order for me to go, there are 2 things I need to clear here:
    1. How I can make this make sense financially
    2. How I can reason to make sense of spending that much on a basketball camp for myself nonetheless
  • #1 is easy – make a deal with the devil essentially
    • being the main breadwinner of the household, whilst we split all income evenly, any performance bonuses that we don’t count on I get 20% of straight cash.  The 80% goes split back into whatever ventures we have going on together.  I have offered to forego this 20% for life, meaning odds are, we pay for the $2500 I am requesting from our joint funds to be donated to me for the camp back within the next bonus.
    • The remaining $2500 I decide I will loan from joint funds and pay us back within 12 months.  In fact, to show how serious I am, even go to the direct deposit page of my company and add a fourth direct deposit (there are currently 3 – allowance for me, allowance for her, and remaining to go into joint).  This fourth direct deposit is taken from my allowance in the amount of $2500 divided by 26 paychecks.  Done.  By the way, her allowance is more than mine because women cost more and have more hygiene requirements…allegedly.
  • #2 is trickier – convince her that it is worth making this deal at all because of the value it will carry.
    • not easy to do for someone who doesn’t give a shit about sports.
    • not easy to do when you consider what $5K gets you as a couple:
      • a trip to Paris we were planning on but had to cancel, yikes.
      • a trip to Italy we were planning on but had to push back, ouch.
      • furniture: still need a new couch, a new bed, a lot of pictures and frames.
      • college: it’s a decent start for a college 529 plan or something for our future kid.
      • 2 1/2 months of child chare in the books for when we have a kid
    • so I go with the bucket list approach that every guy should pull out in their darkest hour…if your woman loves you, this should work no doubt.  Here’s how it works.
      • you have to show a literal, actual, physical bucket list
      • it has to be handwritten on a notes page so it seems nostalgic, the older and more folded up the better
      • if you actually have some things crossed off, it is more convincing because she can see you’re making progress and support you
      • let her know this list was created when you were b/w ages 14-20
      • reference a couple stories where young people have died or are really sick or something (sorry)
      • encourage her to have her own bucket list
      • it’s even better if she was there for a couple of those bucket list items
      • the list should be well thought out, feasible, and not too long. The more authentic, the more convincing it will be.
    • My Bucket list
      • Denver Broncos Home AFC Championship Game (complete)
      • Camping in Yosemite with a Hot Girl (complete, with her! double bonus)
      • Basketball Fantasy Camp
      • Coach High School Basketball
      • Golf at Pebble Beach
      • Chicago Bulls Finals Home Game
      • Trip to Pyramids of Egypt
      • Salmon Fishing in Alaska
      • Eat Black Bean Sauce Noodles in Korea
      • Watch Rachmaninov Concerto No. 3 Live
      • Watch Carmina Buran Live (complete, with her! double bonus)

2 weeks before camp he calls me and says he is in.

Holy shit, I can’t believe his shit worked. This is going to be EPIC!

It’s the night before camp and I cannot sleep. I am so excited. The last time I was this excited and couldn’t sleep, this happened. I finally fall asleep around 4am, only to wake up at 5:15 to get ready for my flight from LGA to MCI. My longtime friend and fellow fantasy camper, Garry Munson is on the same flight, and we both get upgraded to first class, and of course we are sitting next to each other. Garry is 70 years old and has about 50 years worth of incredible basketball stories from his lifetime. As a result, instead of sleeping, I end up listening to Garry ramble on about how his Cornell team beat Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange sometime around the Second World War.

We land in Kansas City, and I head to a local restaurant to meet up with a fellow entrepreneur who has developed a virtual reality training platform for football players. It’s my first time wearing an Oculus Rift, and I never in a million years would have imagined it would be in Kansas! Turns out the entrepreneur used to be a student manager for Bill Self at Kansas, and we laugh at what a small world it is.

Lunch goes on for much too long and I have to rush to Lawrence for the start of the camp. I get to the hotel with an hour and a half to spare before check in at Allen Fieldhouse, and so I catch a quick 45 minute nap. I wake up feeling like crap but there’s no time to complain, it’s time to play basketball.

Welcome basket at the hotel. I'm gonna need that gatorade for sure.

Welcome basket at the hotel. I’m gonna need that gatorade for sure.

Allen Fieldhouse is absolutely magnificent. One of the most beautiful gyms in the country – I can only imagine what it’s like when it’s a packed house for a Big 12 game. I am led to the locker room where I have Tarik Black’s locker for the next couple of days. My jersey is hanging in the locker, along with a bag filled with Kansas gear. Apparently I didn’t need to pack the giant suitcase that I brought with me.

I could get used to this

I could get used to this

Camp officially starts tomorrow, but today is a special event for the people who came in via the Captain’s Club package. We are playing a little 3 on 3 tournament with some of the coaching staff, and then going to a private dinner with Coach Self at a restaurant called the Yacht Club. Coach Self comes out and introduces himself to the group. He’s clearly been prepped because he knows my name. You hear Self talk for 2 minutes and you instantly love the guy. I had never met him before, and his personality on TV came across as not very likable to me. 5 minutes into camp I find myself rooting for the guy and screaming “ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK”.

Can't even imagine how amazing this place is when it's packed with screaming fans

Can’t even imagine how amazing this place is when it’s packed with screaming fans

My team is pretty awful – we have a 76 year old man named “Sweet” Lou who, God bless his soul, really shouldn’t still be playing in a 3 on 3 tournament. But he’s a talker, and I enjoy hearing some of his stories. Not so much his three point shots off one leg that don’t go anywhere near the rim. We lose all 3 of our games and we are eliminated early. Usually I’d be mad, but hey, this is a fantasy camp and it’s just a stupid 3 on 3 contest, so I let it go. Also, I am in awe of Sweet Lou – there’s no way I’m going to be half the player he is when I am 76. Heck I’d be lucky to even make it to 76. I head back to the locker room and drop my gear off – the managers are going to do our laundry for tomorrow. Man, this is the life.

Off we go to the Yacht Club where the entire restaurant has been booked out for us. The waitresses are smoking hot, and the entire Kansas staff is there, along with some guests and the Captains Club campers. Great food, great company, and Coach Self is just a phenomenal guy to be at a bar with. The shots keep coming, the girls are talkative, and I’m having the time of my life. The drink of the night is a “wet pussy”. At about 1:30am, Coach Self is heading back home and he sees me walking towards my car. He goes, “Are you sure you’re okay to drive? I saw you have a couple of wet pussies tonight.” My life is now complete, and I can die in peace.

Never thought I'd say this, but wet pussies are disgusting

Never thought I’d say this, but wet pussies are disgusting

The next morning we have an early wake up call as the Captain’s Club challenge is set to begin at 10am. I warm up for an hour, and it turns out the challenge is a speed free throw shooting contest against all the campers, the staff, and Coach Self himself. In my first round, I finished with 22 shots in 60 seconds. I was in first place going into the finals – Coach Self had 18. Dan Feldstein, a long time fantasy camper had 20.

We go to the final round, and Feldstein and I both tie for 20. Now we have to go to a 30 second tie breaker, and I am on fire. I finish with 16 in 30 seconds and win the Captain’s Club Challenge – Coach Self gives me props and then I receive an actual piece of the Naismith Floor. Unreal. The real camp hasn’t even started yet, and I’m already holding a piece of history in my hands.

A piece of a very history floor

A piece of a very historic floor

The rest of the campers arrive that afternoon and the first event of the actual camp is the evaluation game for all freshmen. Unfortunately, I qualify for this game since I’ve never been to a fantasy camp before and nobody knows what to expect. I do my job as a point guard – I push the ball, don’t turn it over, make the right passes, and put in a few points where necessary. It’s also great to get some extra run time on the Naismith Court since I haven’t really played on a regulation sized court in years. All the coaches are watching the evaluation game and making notes, because right after they game is the draft.

While the coaches are in the draft room, we are at the 3 point and dunk contest. Everyone takes part in the 3 point contest and despite high expectations for me given that I won the shooting contest earlier, it turns out that 3 point shooting is about quality, not quantity – unlike my strategy for the free throw contest. I suck and am eliminated immediately. I think about entering the dunk contest since the rim has been lowered to 9 feet, but I see a guy roll his ankle trying a warm up dunk and think better of it. Two of the guys in the dunk contest are actually pretty damn impressive and what I thought would end up being a layup line, actually turns into a fun time.

How cool is it that there's media that writes up stories?

How cool is it that there’s media that writes up stories?

The draft picks are in, and we head to the auditorium to have Coach Self introduce the teams. It turns out I am a first round pick for Team Piece, coached by Dino Gaudio, the former Wake Forest Head Coach, who took Wake to a #1 ranking at some point in his career. I am stoked – I know Coach Gaudio takes fantasy camp really seriously from watching him at Kentucky camp.

First round pick baby!

First round pick baby!

Each of the teams gets a couple of current Kansas players as team managers. We have Wayne Selden and Conner Frankamp. Selden is pretty much guaranteed to be a lottery pick next year, and here he is, about to fetch my towels and gatorade in between games. Self gives us a little pep talk about treating our managers like crap so that they understand how badly they treat their managers. I’m looking forward to this more and more.

3 out of the 4 teams are really good. One of them is god awful, and I feel pretty bad for them – they are unlikely to win a single game all weekend after paying a shit load of money. But let’s see how things shake out.

We head to the practice courts to work on some half court sets and out of bounds plays with our team. I’m fairly certain nobody on my team is going to be able to run a single play (myself included). We struggle through practice, but everyone feels good going into the first game. We are up against Ric Elias (a fantasy camp lifer) and Pete Carr (arguably the best guard in the camp). Team Pierce vs Team Chamberlain. They are being coached by the great Jerry Wainwright.

The teams are fairly evenly matched and I am doing a good job holding Pete Carr scoreless, but I’m missing pretty much every shot I take on the offensive end. Still, it’s a good back and forth game, until the second half when they go on a big run and are up 11 with just a few minutes to go. We fight back and hit a big 3 to tie the game with under a minute to go. The game goes to OT, and I finally start playing my style of basketball. I finish with 7 points all in OT, and we pull off a 1 point win. We’re off to a killer start.

Hey mom! I got my picture in the paper!

Hey mom! I got my picture in the paper!

That night we head to Bill Self’s house (which is freaking enormous) for dinner, drinks, and an all-round good time. Coach Self is the ultimate host – he’s absolutely awesome. Really makes you feel welcome in his house, and on his team. I have a fantastic time watching the NBA Playoffs in his pool house. I’m not gonna lie – I took a dump in Bill Self’s bathroom. That’s a story for the grandkids.

Thanks for the $1000 discount, Citicards!

Thanks for the $1000 discount, Citicards!

We have an early start on Saturday morning with a game against Team Manning, led my 2 more fantasy camp lifers, Dan Feldstein and Michael Hawk. Once again, I don’t have a great game, and we end up losing by 2 points. We are disappointed but we feel like we could have won this game easily, if not for a bunch of missed layups and turnovers.

Hey ma! I'm in the paper again!

Hey ma! I’m in the paper again!

After lunch we head to film session where Coach Self first walks us through stuff they do at Kansas, and then we break into our own teams to review film from our first couple of games. Coach harps on the fact that I like to stand at the three point line and ball watch instead of getting in the paint and trying to grab a board. I was always taught as a guard to stand back in case the other team decides to get out on a fast break, but I see what he’s saying. I also decide I don’t have the energy to go after every board, which is why I enjoy the view from beyond the arc. We add a couple of new plays to our repertoire and then head to Allen Fieldhouse for our second game of the day, against the winless Team Chalmers.

What the fuck are you guys doing out there?! #FilmSession

What the fuck are you guys doing out there?! #FilmSession

I don’t know what evaluation game the coaches were watching, but they really got screwed in the draft. The team is pretty undermanned and the 10 point loss looks much better for them than it really is. We control the game from the tip and Coach Self comes up to me after to say he was watching and I was on a roll. I tell him I’ve still got 3 years of eligibility left incase he has any scholarships he wants to give out. The best part of winning a game at camp is that you get to do a press conference, where I had some choice words for the refs.

I said even Joey Crawford did a better job in the post season than these refs

I said even Joey Crawford did a better job in the post season than these refs

Unfortunately, even with our win, we are now in a 3 way tie for first place in the playoffs, and by virtue of the total point tie-breaker rule, we end up with the 2nd seed, while Team Chamberlain who we beat by 1 in OT, has the first seed. They have the option of choosing the early game on Sunday morning or the late game, which means they would be playing back to back if they win for the championship. They pick the latter, which means we have an 8:45am tip the next morning. Goddamn it.

That night, we all head to the salty iguana, a surprisingly good Mexican restaurant, where we have booked out a large section for our group. Coach Self hosts an award ceremony and an auction, where they end up raising about $100K by selling things like courtside seats to an OKC game with Coach Self sitting with you. My friend Garry Munson is honored with a lifetime achievement award – this is his 40th fantasy camp. Must be nice to have a quarter mill to spend on basketball. I get it though – if I make it as big as Garry, this is definitely what I will be spending my money on. Coach Wainwright is chosen to speak on behalf of the coaches and this dude is a straight up comedian. Nobody can stop laughing through his entire speech. I call it an early night since we are playing in the early game and I plan to be up by 6:30 to let me body wake up.

The semi final game at Allen Fieldhouse is nothing like our first game against Team Manning. We take control right from the start, and for the first time all camp, I am assertive on offense. We go up by 15 at one point, and we are feeling pretty good about ourselves. With 2 minutes to go in the game, we are up by 11, and we are starting to take it a little easy. Of course, you can guess what happened next. Slowly they start chipping away at the lead, and we start throwing the ball away. With 4 seconds left, they have the ball under our basket and are down 3. Somehow Andy Orton gets a clean look from about 40 feet out, and of course the minute the ball left his hands, I knew it was going in. It had to go in. 10 seconds later, Andy is running around Allen Fieldhouse with his shirt off, while we are back in the huddle, stunned. Our mood is positive though, and we get back on the court for overtime, resolved to put these showboaters in their place. We come out strong and manage to win the game by 4. I have my best game of the camp, finishing with 16 points, 10 – 10 from the free throw line.

We now have an hour and a half to wait for Team Chamberlain to finish their semi-final game, and meet us for the finals. The bad news is that I rolled my ankle really badly in the first quarter of the semi-finals but kept playing. At this point I am struggling to walk. I head to the training room and get wrapped up so tight, I feel like I have a cast on. By the time the championship game starts, my right leg is hurting like hell, but I tell myself it’ll all be over in 32 minutes.

God bless the training staff. And ice packs. And Motrin.

God bless the training staff. And ice packs. And Motrin.

Clearly both teams are suffering from fatigue and the game starts off slow and sloppy. And it stays that way. I literally cannot get anything to fall – easy shots in the paint that I can make in my sleep are all hitting the inside edge of the rim. One of my free throws actually hits the top of the backboard and goes in. That’s when you know you’re not feeling it. We go down big and fight back, but unlike the first game, we’re unable to put it away. When the final buzzer sounds, we are down 3. Dejected, we head back to the bench, while Team Chamberlain dances around in a circle. One shining moment plays on the loud speaker, and I watch the other team cut down the nets at Allen Fieldhouse.

I’m disappointed, but also excited as it dawns on me that I’ve officially caught the fantasy camp bug – I was apprehensive about whether this camp was going to be fun, and whether the competition was actually going to be good enough, but I was exhausted and exhilarated by the end of it. I realized that if not for the 2 ibuprofens every 4 hours, I probably wouldn’t have even made it this far. This was some pretty good basketball and a weekend that I would remember for the rest of my life.

Next year, I'll be up on that ladder. Not 1, not 2, not 3 .... well, maybe if I win the lottery.

Next year, I’ll be up on that ladder. Not 1, not 2, not 3 …. well, maybe if I win the lottery.

I’m putting all you fantasy campers on notice – I will be back for a championship. I will cut down nets with one shining moment playing if it’s the last thing I ever do!

Oh, and of course we had all the games broken down on Krossover. Here’s my highlight reel from the weekend: http://www.krossover.com/intelligence/shared/536f9086d2844

 

I’ve been giving a lot of talks lately (in fact someone offered me money to be a keynote speaker a few weeks ago – they must be crazy, I know), and one of the topics that I always make a point to touch on, is passion. I know too many people that just don’t have a passion for anything. Their daily emotion graph looks like Michael Jackson’s ECG after the overdose. Too soon?

Me? My friends give me shit for being crazy all the time. One of my best friends says that he no longer trusts any of my restaurant recommendations because I have too many “best pizzas in the world” at this point. My girlfriend says I’m absolutely insane to spend the amount of time and money that I do, following basketball games. My ECG on a daily basis probably looks like someone on coke (side note: a guy commented on one of my YouTube videos saying that that I look like Fred Armisen on a cocaine binge). I get really excited about a couple of things, and if I’m not excited, then I’m still pretty much just in a perpetual state of happy.

It amazes me when I think of the number of people I know that just go through life, never having even one thing that makes them incredibly happy. Maybe I’m the anomaly, but having that one thing, that one place, that one whatever, that you can always go back to and count on to take you to a special place where nothing matters, is what has kept me sane for the past two decades. Without basketball, I’d more or less be dead inside (and maybe even on the outside).

Obviously I got lucky – sports are easy to be passionate about. But if not sports, how about music, or art, a girl, or maybe even food? Be passionate about something, and feel free to express it. Maybe people I know are secretly passionate about something, but don’t want to let the world in on it. I say, wear your passion proudly on your sleeve for everyone to see.

There’s a difference between being a sports fan and being passionate. Half the people down here at the Final Four are fans. Their parents went to Kentucky and so they claim to “bleed blue”. They don’t really care what happens. Sure they cheer and boo, but at the end of the night, I doubt very many of them are actually affected by what happens in a basketball game. Me? I’ll be honest – I didn’t even know what college basketball was until 2004 when I arrived at Penn from India. My first experience was a court storming at the Palestra when we came from behind to beat Princeton. What a way for the madness to begin. I didn’t even realize that Kentucky was a storied team until Calipari took over and they made a run in 2011. But then I met Cal in 2012, and became close to the team. Over the course of the last 2 years, I’ve spent weeks with the team down in Lexington, and gone to countless games. The fact that they were our first D1 customer at Krossover is irrelevant. I quickly fell in love with the program, their style of play, and their swagger. So it’s no surprise that someone filmed me during the Final Four game against Wisconsin with 20 seconds left. Here are the videos. WARNING: The audio is very loud and very NSFW. I know I swear a lot. I’m working on it (not really, who gives a fuck if I drop a few F Bombs?)


Yeah, I know, plenty of people will say I look like a drunk frat boy douchebag. That’s me, 100% sober, 100% genuinely excited to have witnessed one of the greatest basketball games, and post season runs, in the history of college basketball. Cal and Kentucky are doing something incredible here, and I’m just so happy to be alive to witness it. You can’t see it in the video, but after Aaron hit that shot and I sat down, I had a tear in my eye. Not because I care that much about Kentucky winning (life will go on the next day no matter what), but because of what I had just witnessed from a great young man. I can’t even imagine what he was feeling, but I know I’d give anything to be a part of something magical like that.

Which is why for the past 6 months, I have been telling people who ask me what my goal in life is, that I plan to be a coach. I’d like to do well enough with the business in the next 5 – 7 years, that I don’t have to worry about money, and I can do the only thing that I am more passionate about than Krossover – be part of a basketball team again. Obviously I’d love for it to be a high major D1 program, but maybe it just ends up being a high school team. Only time will tell. But what I do know, is that I was never good enough or lucky enough as a player to cut down a net, and so if coaching is the only way that’s going to happen, then sign me up.

Tomorrow night, if you are watching the National Championship Game on TV, look closely at the first couple of rows from the court, and you’ll see me in a suit, singing one shining moment with tears in my eyes, regardless of who wins. My hope is that someday I’ll have a chance to be on the actual hardwood as a member of a team that holds up the trophy.

My passion in life is the dream of cutting down a net while One Shining Moment plays. What’s yours? Surely it’s more sane than mine.

5 years ago, I was a JV kid in a dorm room at Penn, coming up with the idea for a business that would marry my two passions – sports and technology. Never in a million years could I have imaged the journey that I would take from then, till now. And it’s not because I’ve made buckets of money (we’re still working on that dream) – it’s because of the incredible people that I have met along the way. From my unbelievably talented teammates at Krossover, to the coaches who sacrifice everything for their players, I’m humbled to say that I have the best job in the world.

5 years ago, I was an unemployed senior in college, who had spent his 4 year Ivy League education taking protein shakes so he would get big enough to get a walk on spot on the basketball team. Today, I stood in a room full of high school coaches at a restaurant in Dallas at the Final Four, being thanked for how many lives we have changed through our product.

From day 1, we made a promise – we would use technology to level the playing field, not just to let the rich get richer. We made a promise to high school coaches, that we would do everything possible to build a product that was affordable and revolutionary, even on their shoe string budget. Along the way we had to change our prices a couple of times, but as I told a table of coaches today – we didn’t do that to better our bottom line, we did it so we could actually have a bottom line.

5 years ago, I started this company with about $20,000 in student loan debt to my name. I had to hire anyone I could find who was willing to work for ramen noodles. We all did the best we could. Yes, our system was shaky at best, but it was still better than the competition. And we’ve been surviving on a system that just about does it’s job for the past 4 years, because the alternatives are even worse.

But that’s not good enough for our customers, and it sure as hell isn’t good enough for us. Which is why for the past 6 months, my team has been working around the clock to re-write the entire application from scratch. Yes, you read that right. We threw out every single line of code that we had written over the past 4 years, and we re-built the system from ground zero. This summer, every single person on the Krossover team will wear their label of “Krew”, with a little more pride, and our 4 year returning customers are going to wonder how they survived this long. Thanks for waiting, Coach.

5 years ago, my original idea for Krossover was to build a tablet like device that would be given to coaches to access their information on the sidelines. Thank god I wasn’t smart enough to build such a device, because Mr. Steve Jobs would have put us out of business overnight. Once again, we’ve been surviving on a responsive web app that just about works on an iPad browser. But that’s not good enough for our customers, and it sure as hell isn’t good enough for us. Which is why we hired a team of 5 mobile developers this past winter, to build us the slickest mobile app ever designed. This summer, watching game film will never be the same again on your iPhone and iPad.

5 years ago, during my time on the Penn Basketball team, I learned that coaches exchange film. At the time, they were FedEx’ing DVDs to one-another, or driving half way to meet at a diner and swap packages. Then I found out that they could pay for online film exchange solutions that allow you to upload your film and swap it. It seems like a massive waste of money for any sports team, whether it be college or high school, to be paying for something as simple as exchanging video files. Which is why this spring, Krossover is announcing the first ever, 100% free film exchange for all teams. Stop spending money on things that shouldn’t cost anything.

5 years ago, I had no chance of getting recruited because coming from India, nobody would have ever noticed a 5’9 135 pound kid, despite the fact that I could shoot lights out from just about anywhere on the court. Today, we want to make sure every kid in the would has a chance to play at the next level, and that college coaches that can’t afford to fly out to see a particular athlete, can somehow give him or her a shot. Which is why it was my pleasure to announce to the world at the Final Four this weekend, that Krossover is launching the most incredible recruiting tool ever created. Any college coach in the country can pop in the name of any high school basketball player, and throughout the course of the year, get every piece of film on that athlete, completely broken down, along with advanced analytics. This gives the programs that don’t have a private jet, the ability to see a player far more than their recruiting budget will allow for.

5 years from now, amateur athletics will be changed forever through the power of Krossover’s technology. Every high school team in the country will have the same tools that NBA teams have. Every college coach in the country will be able to see the same players, the same number of times, despite having a fraction of the budget of the big boys. And most importantly, every athlete in the country will have a chance to not only play at the next level, but to share the memories of the best games of their lives, with their kids.

5 years ago, I was the biggest basketball fan in the world. Today, I’m the luckiest basketball fan in the world. I get to change the rules.

The first 2 years of running Krossover, we didn’t have an office. We were bootstrapping at first, and then we raised just a few hundred thousand Dollars in angel funding, which in a city like NYC does not go very far. The money had to go towards paying as many developers as possible, and so an office was seen as a completely unnecessary luxury. Besides, an office for 3-4 people is arguably not just a waste of money, but commuting time as well. So we all agreed to work from home until we really felt the need to get a space.

That time finally came in late 2011 when we were up to about 8 people and had people starting to work out of coffee shops. We decided that the tech team, more than anyone else, needed to be in close quarters to get shit done. Of course we were operating on a shoe-string budget, and couldn’t afford a security deposit plus furniture and utilities. We checked out all the co-working spaces in Manhattan, but we hated them, and they were overpriced. The nice spots were way out of our price range. Finally, we found a company that had taken on too much space, and was looking to sublet about 1000 sqft of furnished office space in a Class A building on Club House Row (44th street). The rent was about $5K a month for a conference room, 2 small offices, a kitchen, and a little entry foyer. Internet and electricity were included. I signed up on the spot and we moved in on Jan 2nd 2012.

The conference room that barely fit 5 people

The conference room that barely fit 5 people

The office was cramped and dull, with low ceilings and barely any windows. We gave the developers the “premium” seats and the rest of us sat wherever possible. By the time we had finally decided to leave the office, I was sitting out in the entry foyer. Still, we tried our best to make the cozy little office, home.

The margarita machine was the central focus of our office

The margarita machine was the central focus of our office

By the third quarter of 2012 however, we had grown to about 12 people, and the office was so cramped that our ability to actually get work done was severely hampered. It was clear that we not only needed to move to a larger space, but to a place that people would be excited to work in. After much searching, we finally found the office of our dreams – a 5000 sqft loft in Chelsea with high ceilings and tons of natural light.

Who wouldn't want to work here?

Who wouldn’t want to work here?

We had so much space to go around that I got the literal and proverbial corner office all to myself.

250 sqft dream office

250 sqft dream office

I heard some grumblings about parking my ass in the biggest office, but I didn’t think that anybody really cared. However, I was holed up on one end of the floor, and definitely found myself interacting less with the rest of the team, than if I had been out in the open. Still, I felt I needed the privacy for many of the phone calls that I needed to make, and to have the ability to hold internal and external meetings in private. By the middle of 2013 however, it was clear that I was occupying too much space, and I gave my office up to 4 engineers (now 7), and moved into a smaller office.

Talk about a downgrade - the new office

Talk about a downgrade – the new office

I lasted till about 2 weeks ago in this smaller office, at which point our CTO drew up a new floor plan which didn’t include me. So one day while I was at home, they packed all my shit up into a box, and put 3 engineers into my former office. I was officially homeless. I had been harping to my entire team for the past couple of months that we were growing very quickly, and change was coming, so we needed to stay flexible. It was obvious therefore, that I was to not complain about not having an office, and make the best of the situation. I told my assistant to set up a new schedule for me.

Since it’s hard for me to get a lot of focussed work done at the office now without a desk, I stay at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays to have several hours of quiet time where I can get intensive work done, along with phone calls. It also gives me the opportunity to go to the gym across the street during lunch and get some basketball time in. All of my in-person meetings are scheduled for Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the office. I basically park myself in the conference room the entire day. If another group within the company is meeting, no problem – I now get to attend that meeting without having to barge in and act like I’m snooping on them. I’m already in the room and I just ask them to ignore me. I’m getting to listen to and take part in discussions that I would otherwise have probably skipped out on. Anything I don’t get done in the office these three days, well I still have about 6 hours after I get home from 7pm to 1am to finish up.

In a way, growing so fast that I don’t have an office any more has really changed the way I work, and the amount that I now interact with everyone on the team. It’s easy to sit in an office and never come out – even with an open door policy, people don’t really use it nearly enough, especially the guy sitting inside the room. With no office and my seat being in a communal area, I’ve suddenly become a lot more accessible and involved in things that I would otherwise pass on. While I do end up having to finish work late at night because of certain extra, sometimes unnecessary meetings during the day, I’ve found that being a Conference Room CEO is one of the easiest ways to get more involved without being a pest. In fact, I’m of the opinion that even if we ever do move to a larger space where I have my own office, I will continue to do the conference room gig.

If I ever get kicked out of the conference room, this will be my new spot. Not too bad - a bar and a 70" TV

If I ever get kicked out of the conference room, this will be my new spot. Not too bad – a bar and a 70″ TV

 

I was late to the twitter party. Facebook? I was probably one of the first 25,000 people with an account, but I didn’t jump on the twitter bandwagon until it was filled with tons of bots and trolls. I didn’t get it, and didn’t see why it was useful. Lately though, I’m starting to see myself spend far more time on twitter, than on Facebook. In fact, I’m legitimately worried that I’m addicted to twitter and might need to go through a rehab period where I cut myself off for a while.

The more people on twitter, the harder it is to really get through the clutter and make a name for yourself = more followers. I’ve probably been actively tweeting for 2 years now, with an account for probably 4 years. I didn’t really care at first, but given the wild success we have had with the Krossover Twitter Account – we’ve literally done six figures worth of revenue directly from twitter – it seemed worthwhile to start to be active on twitter and try to get some Klout, if nothing else.

As of last week, I had scraped together about 840 followers over 4 years – a lot of people that know me, some entrepreneurs, some sports fans, and probably a bunch of people following me for business reasons. I also imagine a bunch of our Krossover customers were also following me. All in all, compared with the median number of followers that people on Twitter have (somewhere around 120 if memory serves correctly), I was doing okay, but I wasn’t really killing it on engagement. Most tweets probably averaged like 1-2 retweets/ favorites.

Last Tuesday, an ex of mine found a draft of a letter on her computer that I had written to David Stern (the commissioner of the NBA) 5 years ago when I had first graduated from college. It was just a draft, hadn’t really been proofread or formatted correctly (something everyone who knows me knows that I am OCD about), but never the less, it was probably pretty close to what I ended up sending him, sans some polish. I didn’t even remember having written this letter, so it caught me by surprise, and given my recent twitter addiction, my first reaction was to screenshot the letter as a picture, and tweet it. Here’s the tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.48.32 PM

 

And here’s the image of the letter that I linked to:

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It was an innocent enough tweet, and given that barely 10% of my followers even see my tweets on their timeline, I figured it would get a little engagement, and that would be the end of that. I came back to my computer a few minutes later and saw that my tweet was getting an insane amount of engagement (relative to most of my tweets). In fact, the engagement was so good, I figured I would run a little experiment and promote my account using Twitter’s new promoted accounts option where you can actually have a follow button show up alongside your tweet on someone’s timeline. Basically, it would look something like this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.52.02 PM

Given that @krossovr was also mentioned in the tweet and it was giving the company a ton of eyeballs as well, it seemed like a no brainer. Within minutes things went absolutely NUTS. My engagement feed started to look like this, and there was no stopping it:

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.54.56 PM

Literally every minute my feed would refresh, and there was either a new follow, a retweet or a favorite. The interesting thing of course, and the reason I decided to experiment with this stuff was that I knew that promoted tweets don’t really work if the content isn’t actually good. We use them extensively with Krossover, and a lot of the A/B testing that we do weeds out the content that isn’t resonating, and we stick with the stuff that people are reacting to. Given that I only had 800 followers, my hope was to see if this truly was good content that I had posted, by paying twitter a little bit of money to make the tweet appear on more timelines. At the time of writing this post, this is what the engagement numbers look like on this one single post:

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 10.57.01 PM

For an account with less than 1000 followers, I’d say that’s the equivalent of a post kind of going viral. Guys like Bill Simmons with 2M followers see that sort of engagement on pretty much every one of their tweets. They could tweet “Zzzzzzzz” and will get more engagement than any of my tweets, but I was pretty stoked with these numbers. Of course, that many retweets resulted in a boat load of new followers, so essentially in exactly 7 days since I put this tweet out, I’m now at over 2600 followers, and that’s after about 1000 people actually started following me but then thought better of it sometime later and un-followed me. Pretty crazy numbers for a 1 week period. Plus there’s a ton of new followers that our Krossover twitter handle got as well, directly as a result of this tweet.

Of course a tweet being retweeted like this and getting over 2M impressions means that all sorts of people have seen it on their time line. Nice people, nasty people, complete dickheads, etc. A whole spectrum of people on twitter have come across my tweet, and let me tell you, you need some thick skin to take all the trolling that comes with something like this. As one of my friends said when he saw this, “This is why I don’t tweet. This one asshole’s comment will ruin all the rest of the good stuff for me.” This is the sort of stuff I was dealing with:

Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 11.28.14 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 11.26.40 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 11.26.30 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 11.27.16 PM Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 11.30.13 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-14 at 11.27.54 PMScreen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.35.00 AM

And there were tons of others with more choice words for me and Krossover, which I’ve left off. Compared to the kind of stuff guys like Dan Gilbert see on their twitter feed, this is chicken shit.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 1.09.28 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 1.09.56 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 1.09.23 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 1.09.14 AM

But for the first time in my life, I was getting trolled by a bunch of degenerates whose mommies didn’t hug them as kids and tell them that if you don’t have anything nice to say, you should shut your fucking mouth. I was kind of enjoying it, but also kind of startled that a bunch of people that didn’t know me would feel it necessary to bash me for no particular reason in public. Amazing that the assholes don’t realize how small the world is, and that it’s entirely possible that I come across some of these people in real life and recognize them. That would be pretty awkward.

But I also got a bunch of responses like these.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.32.08 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.32.40 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.33.19 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.33.09 AM

And several responses from people that have started conversations with me that might go nowhere, but hopefully I’ll be able to help several of these guys out with a job or an internship or maybe just a connection at some point.

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.52.17 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.51.47 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.45.01 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.52.01 AM Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 12.45.29 AM

Literally thousands of people either retweeted or favorited the tweet and / or started following me as a result of this post. The positive responses clearly outweighed the assholes that had nothing better to do than to pick on someone over a medium where they can neither look me in the eye, or get punched in the face. Still, the trolling all over twitter and via comments at the bottom of pretty much every page on the internet is discouraging. Millions of people wasting their time being a dick for absolutely no reason. I don’t understand what they get out of it other than some fleeting moment of an ego boost in which they can forget about their own miserable existence? The things these people could accomplish if they instead put that time to better use. Sigh.

The good news though is that looking at the outpouring of support I got from complete strangers over the internet, my general faith in humanity has been restored. The bad apples are few and real nasty, but the majority of them are pretty darn sweet.

Entrepreneurs and technologists like to build products. Everyone wants to be in a product oriented company. Even the best developers who start out in a services shop, all end up jumping ship to go work on some fancy product somewhere. It makes sense – a product can scale, most services can’t. A product brings great recognition and can potentially change the world. Very few service businesses achieve that level of fame.

Most people at Krossover are building products, but at the end of the day, we are a company that provides a service that is just as, if not more important than the product itself. In fact, our product is “free”, it’s our service that costs money. But regardless of whether you are building a product or servicing a customer, most startups and most companies screw up from time to time. As a founder, these are trying situations, and often you think that it’s game over. But the interesting thing is, regardless of how scared shitless you are, and what the media says (in the event that you are a high profile startup), fucking up is a great excuse to show your true colors and potentially emerge not only unscathed, but stronger than ever. I can’t think of a single startup that truly failed because of an actual screw up / scandal / PR nightmare. If they failed, it was because they were doomed anyways.

Krossover is an incredibly tough business. We sell our service to a very price sensitive market, and as a result, we have to deal in volume. We’re not trying to service 30 NBA teams for $100K a pop. We service thousands of high school, collegiate, and professional teams for $1K a pop (sometimes even less than that). To top it off, we’re not just a web product that is self service – we actually have to manage a network of thousands of sports analysts who do the work of breaking these games down for us. Like I said, its an incredibly tough business – we’re basically a marketplace, and as the middleman / technology, we get our cut. On an average day during the basketball season, we receive about 400 games that we have to break down within roughly 24 hours. We’re dealing with massive video files of between 2GB and 20GB that are being uploaded, processed, assigned to a sports analyst, broken down, QA’d, and then returned to the coach. It’s not for the faint of heart.

The first year that we were in business with 50 teams during the 2010-2011 basketball season, we were a super lean startup and couldn’t really afford to build too much of the technology ourselves – so we were using bits and pieces of open source / paid products to hack together a working system. To deal with our video needs, we decided to use a platform called Kaltura that was able to give us a flash based uploader, transcoding servers, and a video delivery mechanism. They were a fairly new company and their product was a far cry from being ready to handle even basic video clips, let alone the insane amount of stuff we needed. I vividly remember night after night of issues, some of which required me to be sitting in a hotel lobby with fast internet, downloading videos, manually converting them on my laptop to .MP4 files, and then re-uploading them into the video management console to be streamed. It was an absolute disaster, and we were constantly delayed with our turn around time because of these issues. Somehow we survived, and because I was personally available day and night to answer any and all technical support issues, a good percentage of those customers are still with us today.

The following year, we grew to some 350 odd customers, and we were scared out of our minds. Our technology had gotten significantly better because we had moved off of Kaltura and built our own video CMS, but this was the first time we would be dealing with actual volume where a problem couldn’t be fixed manually on a local system. Well, as you can guess, about a week before Christmas in 2011, our infrastructure provider, Rackspace, made some serious mistakes with the way they were handling our servers, and for a period of about 10 days, basically none of the uploads from these 350 coaches were hitting our system. Once the problem had been identified and fixed, suddenly the faucet opened and 2 weeks worth of backlogged games poured into our system. We hadn’t planned for a situation like this, and it was impossible to recover from it because we had just enough sports analysts to meet daily demand – not a 2 week backlog. For weeks we paid people overtime, begged them to come in on weekends and any other time they could. Some of us broke down games ourselves, and QA’d them. It was the worst month of my life, and I was certain that none of our customers were ever going to come back. Finally, I wrote this email to all our customers:

I probably cried while typing this entire thing

I probably cried while typing this entire thing

 

The first couple of responses were mildly supportive, though the frustration was evident. A handful of teams, especially the college teams, asked for their money back saying that not having the service working for a couple of weeks wasn’t going to cut it for them since they needed to find an alternative. We are a mission critical tool for teams – its not like when Snapchat goes down for 2 days and you have to use email to send someone a dick pic. If Krossover isn’t working, you can’t prepare for your next game. So needless to say, I was anticipating that we were going to go bankrupt returning everyone’s money, and the damage done to our brand reputation would destroy us for the next season anyways. But then something amazing happened. I started to get messages like this:

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 1.02.05 AM

 

and

Screen Shot 2014-01-09 at 1.02.39 AM

 

What’s hilarious is that the “Michael” he references in that email is actually me. In order to seem like a bigger company, I used an alias when I was doing support, and called myself Michael. I also didn’t want customers thinking they were talking to someone in India with a name like “Vasu”. The things we do as founders….

Long story short, we somehow survived, and even though some irrevocable damage had been done in the eyes of a handful of customers, the vast majority of them felt that even through all the screw ups, we had been upfront, honest, addressed the problem, promised a solution, and delivered. Very much the way my friends at Rap Genius handled their falling out with Google over the past month. They took responsibility, called themselves idiots, and fixed the problem. In fact the Rap Genius guys are notorious for coming out on top even when the press crucifies them (albeit, they are mostly to blame for their shenanigans). The old saying of “all press is good press”? These guys are the epitome of it.

Anyways, the following year we solved more technical problems, and our product had gotten a little more robust. We had grown to some 750 teams and we were excited about basketball season. At this point we had tens of thousands of games stored on our servers, and we were adding hundreds per day. One morning I got a call from our CTO and immediately by the sound of his voice (or possibly even the words coming out of his mouth), I knew something was wrong. “Fuck fuck fuck, dude”, he said. “I just deleted all our videos.”

“How is that even possible?” I asked.

“I was multi tasking and talking on the phone while doing some work and I accidentally ran the wrong command, and it wiped out our entire video drive.”

You wanna talk about “Holy Shit!” moments in startup history? Here’s the mother of them all. A video company just deleted all its customers’ videos. How ya like them apples?

Without going into much detail, we managed to recover some data, but a lot of it was gone forever. We had to contact these customers and tell them what happened. And guess what? Most of them said not to even worry about it. They said many of their games were old, and from a season ago, and even though they would have liked to have them, it wasn’t really going to affect their preparation for this season. The first thing we did after that was build redundancy into our system so that we could never accidentally delete anything forever, ever again.

3 years in business, 3 serious fuck ups. And right now, our company, our brand, our revenue, and our product/ service are stronger than ever before. The only reason I believe we are where we are today, is because we took each of these opportunities to engage and come clean with our customers. We told them we screwed up, and we said we would fix it. We offered them a no questions asked refund if they wanted it. We then made sure to build checks into our product and our service so that we would never mess up the same way twice.

There are innumerable examples of companies that have handled screw ups poorly. The most famous one of course is the way Air BnB reacted to the first vandalism incident. They learned their lesson quickly, and changed their tune. Uber has been in hot soup multiple times as well. This past Christmas’ Rap Genius fiasco was probably the best covered scandal in startup history.

It all boils down to one thing – every startup is going to have an epic fuck up (or 3 if you are us). It’s okay. It won’t kill you. It’s not the end of your brand…. As long as you handle it the right way. And no matter what the situation, the one and only way to handle it correctly, is to come clean, apologize, vow to fix it, and back it up with swift action. As I’ve said one too many times, a company is simply a collection of people. People aren’t perfect, and so neither are companies. But people apologize and ask for forgiveness, so it’s only reasonable to expect the same of a group.

Given the nature of our work at Krossover (sports) we have a ton of inbound interest on a daily basis from a lot of people wanting to come “follow their passion to their dream job”. I also get a get a lot of requests for “career advice”, which generally tend to be guys looking for a job but wanting to be subtle about it. As the old investor saying goes – ask for money, and you’ll get advice; ask for advice, and you might get money. I try my best to answer every single one of these emails, possibly out of selfishness – every person out there has to know a high school or college coach somewhere that hopefully will result in a sale. But I also do it because its the right thing to do – if someone has taken the time to write in to me, I feel a responsibility to write back, or at least pass it on to someone inside the company who is better suited to have the conversation.

When big companies hire, its for very different reasons than when startups are searching for talent. A big company often has to build in several layers of redundancy for a given position. They need to spend $X of budget that’s been allocated. They might just need bodies that can bill more hours to their clients. At a startup, each person is brought on to do a very very specific set of tasks, and there is zero redundancy built in. If someone were to get hit by a bus tomorrow, we’d be fucked. Yes, that’s not a good way to run things, but when you are a lean startup, that’s exactly how things work. What this means is that each hire is incredible important, and the success of the company rests on each of these hires’ shoulders. The best way to get hired at Krossover over the past 4 years is to have worked with us in some capacity, or had a relationship with us outside of Krossover, while continuing to impress us with whatever you are doing.

Over 2 years ago, a recruiter brought us a business development guy who was working at another company. I really hit it off with the guy, and after several meetings, I decided I really wanted him to join Krossover. We were a 7 or 8 person company at the time with minimal funding, but everyone liked him. I made him an offer – an actual written offer. About 24 hours later, I wrote back to him like an absolute moron and told him that I had moved too quickly, and that we were setting him up to fail. The position he was going to come in for required him to have certain marketing, design, and technical resources to back him up so that whatever deals he made, could actually come to fruition. I had jumped the gun because I liked him so much, and forgotten to look at the micro level. He could have really given me an earful about me being a complete immature CEO at 24, but he took it in stride and we parted ways.

2 years later, we both happened to be sitting court side at the new Barclays Center watching a Nets game, and recognized each other just as the final buzzer sounded. We agreed to get together, and about a month later, he joined us as our VP of Corporate Development. This time around, he has a few more resources at his disposal, and the fit is much better.

On the flip side, a candidate we were supposed to interview just a few days ago, somehow got our old address (possibly the fault of a recruiter) and so he showed up at the wrong spot. He called us and just sounded incredibly disgruntled. Apparently he also cursed out the recruiter and was just nasty about the whole situation. We immediately cancelled the interview process with him and figured that if this is how he acts in a seemingly minor situation, there’s no way I’d want to be in a room with this person when a server goes down and shit hits the fan.

A year ago, we started using an outsourced sales team out of San Francisco to sell our product. The relationship with that company only lasted a few months. Several things went well, but several things went really poorly. So I was shocked when a few months after we terminated our contract with them, the guys who had been working on our account, approached us separately to run our sales team. After much apprehension, we figured a known devil is better than an unknown angel, and we agreed to a short contract. They did such a great job, that 3 months later we asked them to relocate from SF to NYC full time, and they built our sales team up internally from 2 people to over 13 now.

4 years ago, I had a crazy idea to build a sports analytics company, but I didn’t know the first thing about actually designing and building a SaaS product. I was attending as many meetups as I could after work, and happened to be at a panel discussion on the important of UI / UX in product design. After the discussion, I went up to all the panelists and got their contact info. I reached out to all of them and got a positive response from two. One of them needed to get paid in money. The other was willing to work for stock because he had a high paying job and loved sports. The choice was easy.

So this guy started doing wireframes for us for about 4-5 months and then managed a contracted designer for a few weeks to helps us get the screens for version 1 up. After that he decided he needed to focus on his job, and he ended his contract with us amicably. About 6 months later, we were about to raise money from a VC – we had gone through months of due diligence and wining and dining, and they had all but promised a deal. In anticipation, I went back to this UI/UX guy and told him we wanted him to start full time with us. He agreed. And then the VCs got cold feet. For about 6 months after that, we were running on absolute fumes. Sometimes we had money to pay people, other times we offered to pay people in stock. But through it all, even when he had to get a side gig, he stayed on and continued to lead our product. Today he’s our VP of Product and is in charge of what is in my opinion, one of the most complex products ever built by a startup.

We manage over 2000 freelance sports analysts around the world right now. About 3/4ths of these guys are here in the US, with the rest spread out in different countries. These are the guys that actually break down our video footage. As our operations teams has started to grow over the past year, every single person who has been hired to manage, train, or do anything else within the company, has come from this group of 2000 people that are already passionate about what we do, and have proven to be trustworthy with their job. The guys that do the most work and are always available on call, are the guys that seem like the best candidates to move up and join us full time.

I’ve gotten to know the founders at Rap Genius, another NYC startup (well, Brooklyn). They do the same thing – they look at their community of tens of thousands of people that are actively annotating text on their site, strike up conversations, build relationships, and then eventually bring the right people in house as full time employees.

The moral of the story? If you want to work at a startup, prove that you are indispensable. If you got hit by a bus, the founders should be freaking out and running around trying to figure out how they are going to get by without you. Don’t be a dick and burn bridges – you never know when that startup is going to be funded and off to the races. Most importantly, show that you have a real passion for what we do. There’s a guy that has wanted to work for us for a while now who probably knows more about our company than most of our employees. He’s gone to our competitor’s meetups, just to gain more intel. The last time we spoke, I didn’t really have a role for him, but his passion is infectious, and I’m hoping that at some point in 2014, I’m going to carve out a spot that fits his skill set. That’s the kind of guy I want to go to war with.

 

A couple of weeks ago I came across a techcrunch article talking about a company that was trying to disrupt the (physical) storage space, and I immediately thought it was genius. Turned out I knew one of the founders, and the VCs who funded them, so it was a no brainer for me to try it out.

Makespace is essentially Uber / Dropbox for physical storage. They send you a bunch of bins. You pack up your shit. They pick it up and store it for a pretty reasonable monthly fee. When you need your shit back, you ask for a specific bin, and then they drop it off at your house for approximately what it would cost you to take a cab to your current storage location and back. Makes complete sense.

In my last apartment building, I used to rent a storage unit in the basement for $100 a month from another owner in the building. Granted it was about 5′x5′x10′ = ~250 cubic feet of space, but I ended up just filling it with more crap that I would have otherwise thrown out, just because the space existed, and I was paying for it. I ended up keeping old computer boxes, suitcases, a dining table, and tons of other trash that should have been thrown out ages ago. When I moved to my new apartment a few months ago, given the price of the apartment, a storage unit was no longer an option (and I couldn’t find one anyways). So needless to say, the minute I found out about Makespace, I went ahead and signed up.

A day later, my bins were delivered.

Great looking plastic boxes that should be able to handle any potential water damage to the building

Great looking plastic boxes that should be able to handle any potential water damage to the building

I love that they include a sharpie to label your boxes. A very nice touch!

I love that they include a sharpie to label your boxes. A very nice touch!

I love that the founders are hustling like crazy right now – dropping off and picking up bins themselves in a van that will soon be branded.

It didn’t take my long to pack all the extra crap I had lying around including some basketballs, tons of books, trading cards, etc. Basically about 3 giant boxes worth of stuff that I had left inside cardboard boxes in my living room, was now put into green boxes and ready to be taken away for the lowly price of $25/ month.

Before

Before

 

After

After

Once I was done packing, I went online and scheduled a pickup. Adam (the CTO) arrived right on time and hauled away my bins to their storage location in Jersey City. We had a great chat about where the business is going and I’m considering investing in their seed round.

Obviously in a city like New York, Makespace is a no-brainer. We barely have enough space for our furniture, let alone all the other crap we inevitably hoard. Adam tells me even in the middle of America with plenty and more space, storage is still a problem and that people have things they want to put away. I joked to Adam that they were in a strange business where they probably never want to hear from me again so that they can keep charging me $25 a month and I never remember that I have things in storage. On the flip side, there are lots of people that put things into storage on a seasonal basis, and so Adam reminded me that they do want people to keep putting more things in while also taking (fewer) things out.

All in all, I’m super excited about Makespace – I think these guys have a chance to really disrupt a super boring industry. As a thank you, they are letting me offer $25 off to the seven odd people who read my blog. Sign up with promo code VASUK and you’ll essentially get your first month free assuming you are storing 4 bins or less.