To my parents
From Minneapolis to Las Vegas.
Ten years ago, I told you it wouldn’t cost me anything.
We were sitting outside a bar in Minneapolis, and I was thinking about leaving Yammer to start Mode. Though I had no business founding a company—I was 26 and had been working in tech for less than two years—a few lucky breaks had turned what should’ve been a bad idea into a plausible one. Two of my most talented coworkers, both of whom knew their way around Silicon Valley, were open to letting me ride on their entrepreneurial coattails. Venture capitalists were eager to back the next big enterprise SaaS startup. Yammer’s acquisition made us credible, and made our friends rich. We were confident we could quit our jobs, raise a healthy angel round in our first week, and pay ourselves a reasonable salary by the second. Though the odds were against us starting a successful company, we could gamble with house money.
So I said it wouldn’t cost me anything. But I didn't say what it would cost you.
Over the next ten years, I let my work turn me bitter and distant. I called once every few days; then once a week; then once every two weeks; then only to call you back. I didn’t go with you when everyone was back in Minneapolis; I skipped that big family trip to the beach in Texas. I went home less and less; I always said I’d come back for a while in the summer, and never did. I showed up for Christmas with no presents. I never showed up for Mother’s Day.
Soon, I said, it’ll get better. I lived my life one fiscal quarter at a time, convinced that things would calm down in three months. After this week, I can finally call and talk for a while. After this project, I can finally spend that week at home. You’d like to see me, if you don’t mind; I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time.
I never did. Just last week, I asked you to come to Omaha and barely showed up myself. I skipped dinner, and missed two innings of one of the best games we’ll ever see to take a phone call. I was—as I’ve become, to you, now—distracted; preoccupied; grumpy; rude; selfish; mean.
We sold Mode this week. There will be time to talk about that later, once the deal is officially done. There will be time to have fights about how Mode succeeds or how something else fails. There will be new fires to discuss. There will be future posts to write about what happened at the two summits, and about how Snowflake is no longer an iPhone or a microwave, but a search engine.
After this week, this blog will continue, in its usual surly form, on its usual silly subjects. And Mode will continue—as a product for the people who bought it, as a business with ambitions that are only two percent done, and as the place where I work. We have so much still to do.
But for this week, I don’t want to fight anyone. I want to say thank you, to you. There are thousands of people who helped Mode get this far; who helped me this far. There are hundreds who made sacrifices for me; there are dozens who silently advocated and fought for me. And there are a handful who’ve continually put themselves second so that I could come in first. But there are only two of you.
There are only two people who always called, even when I didn’t answer. Who welcomed me home with open arms, even when I came so rarely. Who brought me a sandwich and sliced apples in the middle of my meetings, even when I said I wasn’t hungry. Who kept asking questions, even when I refused to give answers. Who taught me to throw, even when there were planes to catch and bills to pay. Who were always there, and always gave me everything, even when all I gave to them was the quiet cruelty of a concerned text left on read. And who I’m certain will say, despite all of that, that it was worth it, if in the end it made me happy.
It will. Two hundred million dollars is not, here in Silicon Valley, all that much money; we obsess over billions here, not millions. But Mode has made a real difference in this world. Even if it went no further—though it will, much further, I’m sure of that—it would’ve still made a lasting impact, on those who bought it, on those who worked for it, and on those who were inspired by it.
And it has made a very lasting impact on me. Because of what you gave me—because of what you let me take, for ten years—I have a lifetime to be grateful for it. I have people who support me, and will take care of me, including hundreds of kind new coworkers. When we announced the acquisition this week, at a big conference in Las Vegas, many people said congratulations. They said they were proud of me, and that all of us should be proud of Mode. It made me happy to hear, and I think it would’ve made you happy, too.
I love you both, more than space.