fiFounders Institute / Leaves.com
Seattle, Washington and Tampa, Florida
2011-2013

After more than 10 years at the helm of iCopyright, I was getting burned out and the digital content marketplace was undergoing dramatic changes. The board did not want to sell or pivot the business, so I stepped aside as CEO and turned the day-to-day operations over to the company’s second in command. I remain on the board to this day. To occupy my time I applied and was accepted into the Founder Institute in Seattle. I had an idea for a better way for people to share life stories and preserve their photo albums and family videos. FI was a great way to develop and test the concept. I survived the 16-week course and even managed to graduate first in my class.

leaves.com

Leaves.com

After completing the Founder Institute course in Seattle I decided to move to Florida. My mother was terminally ill and I wanted to spend her final days with her. I also knew my dad would need some help after my mom passed. Florida would also be a great venue to launch Leaves.com, so I thought. I invested more than $100,000 to develop the MVP (minimum viable product) and subsequently the full product. I launched it and toured the country, demonstrating it to baby boomers living in active retirement communities. Right around that time Facebook launched “Timeline” and stole all my thunder. While not directly competitive to Leaves.com, the new features in Facebook were “good enough” for most people.

FI Tampa Grads

Three of the Unfounder graduates: John Montelione, Jeremy Froehner and Derek Tupper

To hedge my bet, I started the Founder Institute chapter in Tampa, to assist other startups and build equity in multiple ventures. The local ecosystem was still nascent and not enough founders qualified to form an official chapter. FI CEO Adeo Ressi even visited Tampa to meet with local entrepreneurs and the media, trying to surface enough qualified startups, but to no avail. I still managed to facilitate an abbreviated course for the 18 founders that did qualify. They called themselves the “Unfounders.” Several new companies were launched as a result, including what is now SHOWoff.com.