Its been more than a few weeks since I’ve written anything categorized as startup so I guess its time for one of these. In the Spring of 2003, I was happily running Feedster. We were maybe a few months old – and I saw we but it was really just me – and an email showed up over the transom that read something like this: “I found your contact info thru a DNS lookup. My name is Francois Schiettecatte and I have a small search engine called rss-search and I’m just 15 miles from you, perhaps we should have lunch”. At lunch our personalities basically clicked and and a few weeks later, Francois and I were partners. We felt:

  • that we were stronger together than we were apart
  • Feedster was a substantially stronger brand than rss-search
  • our technological strengths complemented each other; Francois was strong on the core search engine and I had a better approach towards data management and structuring of everything
  • it feel too serendipitous – two people of entirely different backgrounds ending up 15 miles from each other doing the exact same thing at the exact same time. Talk about signals from the universe…

Anyway Francois and I then built Feedster together from that point forward. I became the external face of the company while he focused on the search engine core that he had brought to the table. We hired Scott Rafer together. And while it was, at times fractious, that’s normal for startup life. He was a strong technical co-founder and I never regretted it.

When I first met Francois at his condo in Salem, Mass, I saw his workspace and it was glorious – dual samsung flat screen monitors, a long workspace and an Aeron chair. At that time I was still using the Nth in a long succession of crappy Stables / Office Max chairs. I had big chairs, small steno chairs, chairs with arms and chairs without. Each one always cost around $100 and they all, universally sucked.

That day Francois taught me a valuable lesson: It is ok to spend money on yourself; even on something as simple as a chair. When you think about it, my job could easily be described as I sit professionally, 7 days a week. I spend more time in an office chair than I do with my kids, my wife or any other place in my house. Yes that includes sleep – I average maybe 6 hours per night so that’s 42 hours per week – but I work an easy 70 plus hours per week.

It would be years later before I got an Aeron chair of my very own. My wife, bless her heart, took me to Carmel Indiana for a Father’s Day surprise and lo and behold she had arranged for me to get an Aeron chair. I’ve now been sitting in that same chair going on a decade now and it is still fantastic.

Francois was brilliant at figuring out what to spend money on and doing it well. I’d like to think that I picked up at least some of that from him.