"I would never use your product."
Those were the words I heard in my first conversation with a Capital Factory mentor.
My cofounder and I moved to Austin from California just one day prior to this. I'd never even been to Texas, and was as excited as I was terrified. I spent hours wondering what people would think about our company, how the mentors were going to help us, if those people would be wearing cowboy hats, and so on.
Our first Capital Factory event was a dinner with all the mentors and new companies. I'd already built up in my head that these people were geniuses, so it was intimidating enough to approach and introduce myself to someone there. When I did - only to hear we sucked and they’d never use our service - it was probably the most demoralizing experience I've ever had. I didn't know how to respond, and I remember wanting to get the hell out of there.
But my moment that felt like eternity was immediately followed by a slap on the back, a gregarious laugh, and an offer to try a sip of his fru-fru cocktail because if I liked it, he’d order me the same. The man was Mikey Trafton. The drink was probably garnished with a mini-umbrella.
I still can't get over how fast I went from feeling horrifically uncomfortable to feeling like I could talk to this guy about anything. For the next two years, we subleased office space from Mikey. I saw him practically every day. He taught us how to sell, supported us through complicated people issues, and set the example for how to approach culture. He continued telling me our product sucked (which he was right), but then he taught us how to fix it. He did all this while still running his own company.
Mikey’s profound and positive impact on our lives was one of many amazing surprises we’ve received out of moving to Austin and being part of Capital Factory.
Recently, we invited Mikey to our all-hands meeting to present on a topic of his choosing. We imagined it would give everyone at SpareFoot the chance to experience Mikey’s inspiring insight and wisdom firsthand. He chose to school our company on the history of champagne, and how to pop open a bottle with a saber. Mikey provided and used an actual saber in the demonstration. No pride was harmed.