Mark is the founder and CEO of Vanilla, which makes forum software that is used to power discussions on more than 300,000 sites across the Web. Vanilla raised $500,000 after completing TechStars in 2009.
Before TechStars, all of the work I did on Vanilla was done alone. While I had the members of the Vanilla community helping me with features and bugs, all new initiatives were mine and all final decisions were made by me. If I decided not to do anything, nothing got done. When I first spoke with David Cohen, he immediately stressed the importance of having at least one co-founder. Having been working alone for so long, I really didn't understand why he felt it was so important. I was absolutely positive that I'd be fine on my own, and in retrospect, I couldn't have been more wrong.
When I set out to find a co-founder, my list of candidates was very short. I needed someone whom I could trust implicitly, had the skills and dedication to do the work, and who I would work well with. These requirements brought the list down to two people. One person was working at Microsoft in Seattle and had just bought a house. He simply couldn't afford to quit working and try to start up a new company. The other person was single, had money saved in the bank, and was coming to the end of a consulting contract. All I needed to do was convince him.
I met Todd ...