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Emmanuel Bamfo: Home-sharing by the hour
Emmanuel Bamfo is the CEO and Co-founder of Globe Inc, a Y Combinator-backed startup that enables property owners to rent out their spaces by the hour.
About This Episode:
Manny chats about his entrepreneurial journey, including working for Linkedin, going through the acquisition process with Hitch, and founding his own startup Recharge, which provided hotel room rental by the hour. Due to problems with the supply side of business, Manny had to close down Recharge, despite having a dedicated customer base, and millions in funding and revenue. Manny eventually decided to iterate on his original idea for Recharge and founded Globe, a startup offering home rental by the hour.
Manny addresses the city of San Francisco threatening to shut down Globe and his mindset while building a home-sharing startup during a pandemic, having to go through many pivots and adversities.
He also discusses the co-founder matching, hurdles of terminating a company, and shares an exciting vision for what is next for Globe. Manny’s advice for first time founders? Relax...
Greg Miaskiewicz: So what was your first foray to startups? What was the first startup you worked for?
Emmanuel Bamfo: The first startup I worked for was my own in college. I started a company in college with the founders of currently Blavity. Also, with support from somebody I went YC with, by the name of Eric Zu, who ran AI at Reddit. And this concept, what we had, it was called Quad Connect. We would just get all the free food events on campus. We would crawl the events on Facebook, crawl all of the events from all the different school calendars and put them on a map. So you as a college student could go and find like where all the drinking events, where are all the free food events? And that made us pretty popular and it was a lot of fun.
And I remember reaching out to Joe Lonsdale about this idea and just reaching out to different people in the valley. I was probably 18, 19 years old and that was kind of my first foray into start ups. I ended up not immediately going and running my own company. I went to work at LinkedIn for a little bit. And that built a really strong relationship with Mike Gamson there, who was an exec and actually recently invested in our company. He was a huge mentor of mine. And I learned a lot from Mike. I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Wiener, the CEO of LinkedIn at that time. At some point I left LinkedIn and I went to Mixpanel and I worked for Suhail the CEO there. Startup was a pretty, maybe 50 folks when I joined Mixpanel. This is a 2014. And I left Mixpanel and I joined a very small startup called Hitch.
So I was running growth there. And before there was Lyft Line and UberPool, there was this very small company called Hitch. And what we did was we did shared rides. So our slogan was super shuttle, me to Brex. You have one person that wants to go from point a to point B. Maybe they pay $17 for an Uber ride or a Hitch ride. And it was a very simplistic concept instead of having somebody pay $17 and the driver maybe get $15 after our cut let's have that customer maybe spend five extra minutes in the car they pay $12, two passengers pay $12. And then the driver, instead of getting paid 15 out of $17, they get paid 21 out of $24 for only maybe three or four minutes of extra time. Right?
And so this was the initial matching that we were doing. And because it was neat, man. It was one of the most interesting things I've ever done in my life. It was cool. I remember when Uber rolled out with UberPool and we were hunkered down in the office, it's just the four of us. And there was this sense of panic, like fuck this billion dollar company just indirectly pivoted into what we're working on. There was a lot of debate about what to do and I wasn't CEO of the company. I was on the founding team, but I wasn't CEO and we ended up getting acquired.
So we sat with Lyft, we sat with Postmates, we sat with Metromile, we sat with Uber and ultimately Lyft bought the company. And so I had a decision to make in terms of going forward with Lyft being kind of like a Lyft launcher of sorts or going off on my own. And I just decided to go off my own. And so I talked to Cyan Banister, and I said, look, Cyan, I want to do something different. And at the time I was just getting a break locations for drivers and Cyan would come and we'd hang out. I have incredible respect for her. And she was a great friend and mentor to me very early on in the journey. And there were my first check as I kind of forward into this space of alternative space. Yeah, that's a little bit about how I got started.
Manny Bamfo: Good question. It was an acqui-hire. And my core takeaway is that if you can get an acqui-hire, it can actually be quite positive because as an early entrepreneur, you can get some liquidity and you can get on the map in terms of an exit and propel your career. I also think that it's one of those things where you have to have founder, there are these got to be a founder match. I know people that have gone through that acquisition process and have ended up being very happy. And I know other people that have gone through the process and been very miserable.
And so it just kind of depends. I think that my general advice when exploring this is like, do what's best for the shareholders. Do what's best in terms of what will maximize return and do what's best in terms of showing yourself self love. And as a founder, you oftentimes know in your heart, whether it's best to continue or to pause and just stay true to that voice inside. That would be my overall take on that. What about you, you Greg. What's your take on this?
Greg: I went through an acqui-hire and it was rather painful in the sense that everything I was told would happen after the acquisition was mostly false. The funniest thing was the advisor who had introed us to a few of the companies who made offers to buy my previous company. It was Swarm. It was a security startup and we did YC. So that company, that advisor, he done told me maybe six months after the acquisition, when he asked me how it was going, I met him for a coffee or something. And he told me then that selling your company is like bringing a child into a relationship except your significant other can fire you and keep your baby. So it comes with risks, what to put it bluntly.
Manny: It does come. Yeah, I agree. I agree.
Greg: In the end, yes, it did propel my career forward. It gave me some liquidity and I probably wouldn't be where I am today if I didn't have that exit. But you're always as a founder, when you take an early exit, you're always thinking about what could have been had things been different in terms of financial outcome or market outcome especially if things go sour post acquisition.
Manny: Yeah. I agree with everything you said. It's a journey. Right? And you have to be kind to yourself throughout the process and some of us will get everything right at the first crack. And even if you do get everything right at the first crack as you begin to scale, you may encounter challenges, but ultimately it's a learning process. Right? So if you're in a situation where you're served into acqui-hire card and you feel like you can learn and grow from it and you don't see another option, that could be one.
I think for me personally, as an entrepreneur now, I don't think that an early exit for where I am right now. I mean, who knows the future? Who knows the future? You never know. I don't think I would do it given what I know now. I think that if I were in a situation like that, it would suggest that I was not in the right founder market fit or had not actually gone through and achieve product market fit with the customer set. And ultimately, as a founder, if you have picked a market that you can swim in and you feel great being in, and you've been maniacal, we focused on your customer, then having the confidence to believe that you can win and take it to the end is ultimately, I think we're the most learning and fun is in the ecosystem of entrepreneurship. That's just my personal take on it.
Manny: Relax, relax. Just relax. Just take a deep breath. Relax. Believe in yourself and make a commitment. I really do think that asking yourself if it took me 20 years of my life to build a company that matched my potential, my talents, and brought something positive to the world, would I do it? Why did I give 20 years of my life? Just focused on that? And I think at least me personally, the answer is yes, actually, no question. I fucking love this everyday 20 years, I got it. Then you're in a great position. It's an absolutely great competitive advantage. And you're in a great position to absorb and just sit with the process of figuring it out.
If the answer is no, then I oftentimes would advise a first time founder, not necessarily to not do it, but to reflect on that. To really reflect on how can you get it to a yes, because it's a process and whether your company is successful at first crack or the second crack or the third crack or whatever, you end up working on these things for 10 to 20 years. Right? If it's successful, you're going to do it for 10, 20 years. If it's not new and successful it's going to take you 10 to 20 years to figure it out. So whatever it is, it's a big chunk of your life.
And once you've made that threshold, that this is your identity and it's you, relax. Got a lot of time. Definitely by all means, move fast in how you serve your customers, how you improve yourself, but recognize that it's a lifelong process of learning and evolution and just be at peace with that as you move forward. And that will, in my view, reduce your anxiety and stress because it's one hell of a journey and remaining calm and cogent throughout it is incredibly important.
Greg: Yeah, it's a marathon not a sprint. What do you say to someone who finds an idea that they would devote five years of their life to work on, but not 20?
Manny: I would just ask them why five. That would be my question. But if you look at it and you say five, I guess the question I would ask them is, do you have an idea that you would give 10 too because it's possible that that limitation is a draw. It's a luck of the draw. You can get lucky and have outsized returns in five years. But it might take you eight years to get outsize returns or 10 years. Right? Even in companies like Airbnb and such it took two to three years to really get that type of hockey stick growth. And so these things, they take time and then ultimately you can find a market that makes it better.
I think the other thing that I would say is that when you have a team that you can play iterative games with, it's a lot easier because if you have a founding team or a set of founders that you really love and you guys always just agree, whatever the fuck comes up. We're going to run these iterative games and we're going to work together. That makes a huge difference in terms of longevity, because you always know that you have people backing you that want to go in that direction.
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