San Francisco Business Times
What it does: Consumer debt resolution services.
HQ: San Mateo.
2006 revenue: $17 million.
Number of employees: 240.
Year founded: 2002.
Source of startup capital: Personal funds, angel investors.
Background: Graduated from Stanford Business School with co-CEO Brad Stroh in 2002. Previously worked in investment banking and private equity.
Web site: freedomfinancialnetwork.com
Reason for starting business: We got the bug of wanting to be on the entrepreneurial side of the table rather than investment side. One thing that was clear was that consumer debt was a problem, and had been for decades. We looked long and hard at the collection industry ... you have the biggest companies in the world -- banks, collectors, law firms -- all ganging up on the consumer, who has no advocate. We saw an opportunity.
Most difficult part of decision: In 2002, shortly after the dot-com bubble burst, it was difficult to get people to open their wallets. Through our network we were able to scare together funding.
Biggest plus of ownership: It's not always easy and it's not always fun, but I never have that feeling of not being happy about coming into work in the morning.
Biggest drawback: It's a lot of work.
Biggest misconception: How much value the idea was worth, versus the execution.
Biggest business strength: I've never been above doing anything that needed to get done.
Biggest business weakness: It's been a struggle for me to learn as a manager that sometimes logic and reality don't matter when you are dealing with employees -- perception is what matters. If employees perceive something to be unjust, even if it's not, logic and reason won't help you.
Biggest risk: Buying Bills.com was a big risk. At the time, two years ago, it was a million-dollar purchase for us. It was a lot of capital; a large percentage of the cash we had on hand. It needed to be successful in order to justify that purchase price. It has.
Biggest mistake: In our early days we kept at least one or two people on for longer than we should have.
Smartest move: Investing in great managers.