My Startup Story #4: Defining Roles and Becoming Official

Spring (2018) had arrived in Missoula, Montana. Perfect timing — nature was blooming at the same time we felt the “new Mammalz” was beginning to blossom. At this point, Rob and I had been formally working together for about 8 months. We were equally contributing to this full-time ideation stage of Mammalz, melding our ideas and refining them on note pads. When your only responsibilities are to continue brainstorming and crafting high-level business models, how do you then define who does what when it all starts to feel… real?

Springtime in Missoula with Babik.

Rob brought me on as a co-founder for one main reason: I had the operational skills to turn his ideas into reality. Easy! He will be CEO and I’ll be COO. Sounds cool, doesn’t it? Chief Operating Officer. So when it comes time to incorporate Mammalz, that task goes to…

It’s carved in wood — it’s official.

At first, I really didn’t know when it was my job to step forward and take on tasks. Rob had run several successful production companies in the past, so he had far more business development knowledge than I. For a while, I stressed about task allocation and worried I wasn’t doing enough for the company. I didn’t have the expertise I thought I needed to, say, write the business plan, create financial projections, or know that incorporating in Delaware was the obvious way to go. They didn’t teach me that in film school nor in my biology degree.

About a month later, while I was in the middle of creating graphics for our first pitch deck, I realized something critical. I may not have known everything I needed to know to start a tech company, but I did know what I didn’t know, and I was really good at finding the resources and people who had the answers we needed. Once I viewed my role through this new perspective, everything clicked. My role, my value to the company, was to know how we would get past every challenge that was thrown at us, but I didn’t have to know how to do it myself.

By summer, Mammalz was officially incorporated in the State of Delaware as a Public Benefit Corporation, we had a beautifully terrible first rendition of our pitch deck, we crafted a 20-something page business model, and we had projected what the next 3–5 years of the company’s growth would look like. All we had to do was find a team that could build a complex cross-platform content streaming application and a couple of wealthy people to give us a quarter of a million dollars. Shouldn’t be too hard, right?

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Alexander Finden

Co-founder of Mammalz, underwater cinematographer and Divemaster