Leap and the Net Will Appear – Lessons I’ve learned from Desiree Vargas-Wrigley

Last night my co-founder, Desiree Vargas-Wrigley, won the Tech Woman of the Year Award at Builtin Chicago’s Moxie Awards.  I couldn’t be more proud of her and how far she has come.

On the other side of the country,  I was speaking to a group of  professionals at the Startup Leadership Program in Silicon Valley who were considering leaving the corporate world and starting their own companies.  One of the questions I was asked during the Q and A session was, ‘what is the hardest part about running a startup?’

Upon getting this question, I immediately thought of Desiree and the magnet that she keeps on her fridge that says:

Leap and the net will appear.

For Desiree, this maxim couldn’t be more true.  In late 2007, a little voice went off in Desiree’s head that said ‘YOU NEED TO START GIVEFORWARD’.  And so unlike the rest of us who typically sit on our ideas without doing anything, she decided to act.   Without an ounce of prior business experience, she wrote a business plan, which she used to secure a $10,000 crowdfunded loan from Prosper.com and another $5000 from her grandpa. She then contracted with a web development shop to begin building the first version of GiveForward.  She did all this without having a co-founder, a real attorney, or even enough funding secured to pay for the entire website (the total cost for the website was around $25,000 paid in three installments over 4 months).  She just figured as crazy as the idea seemed to others, she had to get started THAT DAY and the rest would fall into place.

As fate would have it, things have certainly fallen into place. A little less than four years after launching GiveForward, we won the award for best consumer startup in Chicago last night, and we’ve now helped people raise over $16 million for things like cancer treatments and organ transplants.  Certainly we’ve put in hard work and caught a lot of lucky breaks along the way, but none of  this would have happened if Desiree hadn’t had the courage to take the leap.

Flash back to the professionals in Silicon Valley, who asked ‘what’s the hardest part of running a startup?’   Well, my  response to this question was easy:  

The hardest part about running a startup, isn’t running the startup.  It’s having the courage to take the leap in the first place.

Big hugs to my partner Desiree for taking the leap four years ago, and a special shout out to my friend Mary-Ashby Brown from law school who just took the leap and officially launched her wonderful business Salve Sister today!

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9 thoughts on “Leap and the Net Will Appear – Lessons I’ve learned from Desiree Vargas-Wrigley

  1. Another great post Ethan! And a BIG congratulations to you, Desiree, and the rest of the GiveForward for the big wins last night!!!

  2. ethanaustin1 says:

    Congrats to you too. I think Code Academy took home more awards than just about anyone in Chicago. Mazel Mazel!

  3. I love that saying and couldn’t agree with you more. Congrats to you and GiveForward!

  4. mary ashby says:

    Wow, thanks Ethan!! :) Big congratulations to Desiree and Give Forward!! You guys are amazing!!!

  5. Congrats Ethan. You guys are killing it. Btw, I hunted down some fair trade chocolate last night for the first time. I never understood before you posted about it. Know better, do better.

    • ethanaustin1 says:

      Awesome. I’m actually eating some right now called Westcoaster. It’s pretty good!

      • Katerina says:

         ( 2011.01.4 13:21 ) : Great share, I just given this onto a student who was doing a llttie analysis on this. And he in fact purchased me dinner because I discovered it for him. .. So let me rephrase that: Thankx for the treat! But yeah Thanks for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love learning more on this topic. If possible, as you gain expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is very helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blogpost! Roofing Philadelphia

  6. Congratulations and well deserved to Desiree and the GiveForward team!! We are lucky to be amongst a community that believe…. “Leap and the net will appear.”

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