A few months ago I posted about how I went down to Boulder, Colorado to attend open source discussion forum software for a Day. Mark O’Sullivan online is a mentorship-driven seed-stage investment fund. In human terms, it means that they invest a small amount of money in your business and provide mentorship to help you get off the ground in exchange for a small stake in the company.
I stumbled upon TechStars when I decided that it was time to take Vanilla to the next level. Garden and Vanilla 2 were nearing completion, and I realized that without some kind of small investment, I was going to fall back into the pattern of trying to support my open-source efforts by doing side-projects. And inevitably those side-projects become my main project, and Vanilla becomes the side-project in turn. I started emailing and calling everyone I knew asking if they had any ideas for how I might make a real business out of Vanilla. One of my good friends referred me to Jeffrey Kalmikoff at Threadless, and Jeffrey referred me to David Cohen from TechStars.
I honestly didn’t think TechStars was a viable option for me. In my mind I just needed some money so I could continue to develop and pay my monthly bills. Furthermore, I didn’t think that I’d get in if I did apply. After speaking with David, I realized that the money wasn’t the important piece at all – the mentorship was. I decided to attend TechStars for a Day so I could get a better glimpse of what it might be like. Eventually I understood it to be an instant network of people who are all interested in helping me succeed. Living remotely in Saskatchewan, I had nothing of the sort. I could have moved to Toronto or Vancouver and attempted to build a network like this on my own, but getting access to the types of people that TechStars boasted would have taken years.
The most important thing for me was to have the ability to work at Vanilla full-time. I realize that there are so many things about it that could be so much better, and those things would be better if I could just devote 100% of my “office hours” to the job. So, I applied. A few weeks later I discovered that I had been accepted. At that point I scrambled to get as many contract-work hours as I could, scrounged every penny I could, and development on Vanilla ground to a halt.
I’ve been in Boulder now for just over a month, and I still haven’t really had any time to do any development on Garden & Vanilla. The first month was totally devoted to meeting this network of people. I’ve met people from Mozilla, Facebook, Digg, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, AOL, and many many more. All of them have been excited about Vanilla and very supportive of my efforts. They’ve shared advice, support, contacts, and so much more than I really could have imagined.
So, why am I telling you this now?
There are over 300,000 installations of Vanilla out there that I know about. Over 1,000 plugins are downloaded from our addons site every day. Vanilla has been adopted by Mozilla, O’Reilly Media, and many other companies. There are over 10,000 members in the Lussumo Community. I’ve left my wife and family behind in Canada to spend the summer down in Boulder living on beans.
I wanted everyone who uses Vanilla to understand just how committed I am to making Vanilla better.