My Startup Story #6: A Change of Scenery

One last drive through the National Bison Range in Montana was a wonderful way to say, “Goodbye, for now” to the wildlife of the Northern Rockies. It was time for Rob and me to pack up what we could carry and drop everything else for the new hope that existed in California. Montana may have been the birthplace of our startup Mammalz, but the technology and investment demands of a company this ambitious needed new, fruitful territory.

A bison crossing the river at the National Bison Range. Photo credit: Alexander Finden

Prior to renting the moving trucks, we decided to hop in the car and drive the 20 hours down to San Diego, CA for San Diego Startup Week. We had been strongly considering San Diego as a long-term location for Mammalz due to its ecological diversity, the outdoor lifestyle, and the existing science and tech ecosystems. At this convention, we truly realized how much we still needed to learn about starting a company, but our passion for Mammalz was infectious. Responding to “What do you do?” with “We’re wildlife filmmakers from Montana” threw everyone off in a very positive way. Everyone was excited to help us in any way they could.

Rob and I attending our first San Diego Startup Week in 2018.

Startup Week gave us all of the reassurance we needed to feel confident in our move to San Diego, so a few months later, we slowly transitioned from the mountains to the coast.

A change of scenery did us wonders. Taking calls from the beach was a luxurious new activity. Nature-conscious San Diegans redefined how connected a community could be with both the natural world and modern technologies. Not hearing people recite their phone numbers in 7-digits or ask, “What’s Uber?” was a refreshing change from Montana. Rob cut his hair! Oh, and the Mexican food…

Rob showing off his new haircut while we chat with potential investors in the sand of Ocean Beach.

Our motivation to polish the Mammalz MVP, find a development team, and secure our first investments was higher than it had ever been before. San Diego felt like the true home for Mammalz. So, to start finding the right team members, we took full-time jobs networking at startup socials and investor events. For a solid few months, we jumped on every opportunity to grab a coffee or a beer (what we do best) with dozens of other entrepreneurs like ourselves. Each week, we learned more about what to do and what not to do — or at least we thought.

Here’s a bit of wisdom from future Alex: don’t act on everything anyone tells you to do, regardless of their experience or successes. There are countless entrepreneurs in the startup space who have tried and failed dozens of times. Yes, everyone learns lessons through failure, but every company is unique and most people still have no clue what they’re doing, especially the ones who haven’t failed enough. If they think they’ve found a “formula” that works, run, fast.

Rob and his wife, Pam, packed up and ready to say goodbye to Missoula, Montana.

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Alexander Finden

Co-founder of Mammalz, underwater cinematographer and Divemaster