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Feb 9, 2021

Where the Story Begins

Moviegoers tend to love great origin stories. We want to know how beloved or hated characters became the hero or villain. We want details and stories to help us make sense of their decisions and motivations. Some great movies telling origin stories include Batman Begins, Guardians of the Galaxy, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Iron Man, Monsters University, and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

My much less exciting origin story begins as an entrepreneurship student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I was 18 years old, a freshman in college, and I knew nothing about the internet. 

Mission in Brazil

After my first year in college, I left to go on a 2-year mission to Brazil where I helped people transform their lives and families by coming to Jesus Christ. While I was in Brazil I fell in love with the children on the streets in the northern part of Brazil where I served. These children were very poor. As these children approached me and asked for money, I would give them change from my pocket, but because I was a volunteer missionary, and did not receive any salary, that money quickly ran out. I vowed to do something to make a lasting difference for these children when I returned to the United States. 

The Internet was the Wild West

Before I left for Brazil, I had not even heard of the internet. While I was in Brazil the internet took off. When I returned home, the internet felt like the days of the Wild West, where you could stake your claim on a piece of land, and if you worked the land for a period of time, the people became the owners of that homestead. It was a new frontier where people could pick which area they wanted, and if they worked it well, become the "owner” or category king of that niche.

Brazilian Adoption Program and the Pivot

During my sophomore year in college, I tried to start a Brazilian adoption program with my father, who was an adoption attorney. However, thanks to some very strict and ridiculous Brazilian adoption laws that are not in the best interest of children (I’m very passionate about this topic if you can’t tell…) we were not able to make it work. Some entrepreneurs would look at that as a failure, but I don’t see it that way. It was a necessary stepping stone or pivot to discover the business model. 

I have learned that essentially every successful entrepreneur has had to learn what didn’t work and then pivot to a business model that was much more successful. Pivoting is almost a rite of passage of successful entrepreneurs. Consider as an example Instagram, which began as a location-based check-in service, and then turned into the social media giant it is today thanks to a great pivot. 

The Fateful Phone Call

During the first week of school my junior year, I answered a call from someone who wanted to speak with one of my roommates. The caller left a message about a new HTML class for creating internet sites. The caller wanted my roommate to take the class with him. Neither the caller nor my roommate ended up taking the class, but I did. Before I even signed up for the second class, I was hooked on the idea of creating internet businesses.

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