Last night was a special evening for me. The calendar finally cooperated and allowed me to have a long overdue celebration dinner with Nate Abbott and Natty Zola, two of my favorite entrepreneurs I’ve ever had the pleasure to know and work with. They’re amazing people and I feel lucky to count them as close friends.
Back in 2009, we invested in a TechStars company called Everlater, founded by Nate and Natty. They had developed an innovative online travel journal that gave users a simple to use, rich media platform for capturing and sharing their travel experiences using text, maps, photos and video with easy sharing across social sites. The only thing stereotypical about Nate and Natty is that like most entrepreneurs, they’re very smart and incredibly passionate about what they work on and they’re relentless in the pursuit of realizing their dream. The rest, well – not so much.
Let me explain. In 2007 Nate and Natty had lucrative finance jobs in New York City. They both loved and excelled in finance but felt there was more to life than corporate finance so they hatched an evil plan. Nate set off to bike across Europe, spent time in Morocco and then went to India for four months to train future Indian investment bankers. Natty worked an additional six months before meeting Nate in Argentina. They then spent six months traveling from the Southern tip of Chile to Mexico. It was their reward for working hundred hour weeks for so long.
During their adventure, they did amazing things. They climbed 21,000 foot mountains, surfed remote beaches, explored exotic cities and immersed themselves in new cultures. They wanted to share their stories, photos and experiences with their friends and family but struggled to find an online tool which easily and effectively captured what they were doing. On a sailboat between Colombia and Panama, they decided to scratch their own itch and began formulating their vision for a new travel journaling business. Two months later, they moved to Boulder to pursue and build their dream full time.
Since they were both born and raised in Boulder (and best friends since kindergarten), they decided it would be easiest and cheapest to get their idea off the ground if they moved back home with their parents. Their families were extremely supportive and welcomed them back home to help get Everlater off the ground.
Having been away, they didn’t know much about the amazing entrepreneurial ecosystem that had flourished in Boulder. Immediately they had access to incredible mentors in the form of venture capitalists, fellow entrepreneurs, and a very close developer community which they tapped in to to learn how to code themselves. That’s right; they learned how to code and built Everlater themselves. They applied and were accepted into TechStars and that’s where I met them. Truth was, I was so impressed by their chutzpah and Joie de vivre, I knew we were going to invest in their company at the very first meeting.
We were the only institutional investor in Everlater and the board comprised of Nate, Natty and myself. Our board meetings were always improptu (“Hey guys, I’m going to be in Boulder next week, how about a board meeting?”) and super casual. In fact, most of them revolved around fun meals or long bike rides.
This past November, it was announced that AOL/MapQuest had acquired Everlater. It was a terrific outcome for everyone involved. I am so incredibly happy for Nate and Natty. They’ve already been promoted at AOL and are spearheading a significant and important new initiative for them. I’m a big believer in karma. These two guys paid their dues in building Everlater and it’s tremendously gratifying for me to see them reap the rewards.
It meant so much to me to spend the evening with them (along with Jenna and Pam) last night and celebrate all they’ve accomplished. It was also the first time I’ve seen Natty and Pam since they were married in February! I am so proud of you guys. Your ever-present optimism and outlook on life inspires everyone around you. I especially admire the child-like wonder about this world you’ve both been able to take with you into adulthood. Thank you for letting me be part of your journey and I’m looking forward to what I know will be very special and lifelong friendships with both of you.