The start-up I joined out of college was co-founded by Jon Kraft, nicknamed Beef, whose neck was so big and his arms so short that he had to walk around with his sleeves rolled up. He managed to convey to us lesser mortals a sense of both derision and kindness, for which we were always grateful.
The first question Jon ever asked me changed my life. Sticking his head over my cube wall as if he’d just made a happy but probably useless discovery he said, “Hey Kelman… do you RALLY?”
We spent the rest of the night stapling brochures. And even though I’ve always been more a lollygagger, I began to think of myself as a rallyer. Jon has gone on to make a massive multi-player pornographic game, the amazing Pandora, Mozart-chiming stuffed animals, and now a technology that will allow you to insert your own face into Grand Theft Auto.
Jon is the reason I found myself on Thursday night at a Redmond Azteca as a gigantic windstorm shut down the city. We originally scheduled a meet-up there to talk to customers, partners and job-seekers. Then John Cook saw our blog announcement and sent the memo to Nerd-Land that there was a Seahawks game that night. Then the storm hit.
Matt Goyer, the product manager leading the charge, was unphased. “Maybe we should leave fifteen minutes early,” he said. “Maybe we should wimp out,” I said. He assumed I wasn’t serious. But the truth is, if I could have stayed home and still thought of myself as someone who rallied, I would have.
From our Pioneer Square office, we waded through hordes of Seahawks fans in blue firemen’s helmets and garbage bags, who seemed even happier because of the rain. It felt like one of those zoos where you walk among the animals.
Matt’s beat-up Neon from Winnipeg began burning oil after fifteen minutes on the road. We saw a waterfall pouring over the freeway wall from Capitol Hill. The lights of the city looked so beautiful in the storm that it suddenly seemed like we were seeing them through tears. Matt took advantage of the time to tell me all the ways Redfin has to be better.
When we got to the Azteca, our CTO (Michael Young) had already ordered a half-dozen beers with little lime wedges and some rancid mexi-meat, in anticipation of the crowds to come. Sitting calmly in front of a little Redfin placard he had made himself, he looked as if he had never experienced a moment of self-doubt in his life. I wondered if I could drink all six beers myself.
But we discovered that the kind of people who use Redfin to buck the real estate industry are OK bucking some bad weather too. There was JD, the big guy who used Redfin to find a place in Kirkland when he moved here from Vallejo. The two entrepreneurs who started a hosted service for printing Christmas cards. The customer who just closed on a condo through Redfin and came to tell us we had to add home-owners’ fees to the site (check back in a month). The guys from Level 3 who came by to say our site was too slow.
Even though it was half the reason we were there, I didn’t get the guts to ask anybody if he wanted a job. When we got back to the Neon and tallied up what we got out of the night, the one thing that didn’t add up but meant the whole world was this realization about Redfin’s customers: you guys, rally too. Thanks for coming out. Jon Kraft would have been proud.