Tech startups go through many transformations in their run as businesses. Many trial and error moments. They morph from focus to focus, product to product, service to service. At the head of these changes attempting to keep the ship on the true course is the CEO. In this case, Ryan Faust is Merge’s captain and one of the three navigators. I sat down with Ryan at his eclectic home office filled with photography equipment and retro sci-fi collectables to see how Merge is moving in its most recent transition with more cash in the coffers than ever before and an impending pre-sale.
Jack: Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your day to chat, Ryan. Was today a typical day for you at Merge?
Ryan: No problem. And, I haven’t experienced a “typical” day at Merge since our second round of venture capital closed. It’s been a lot of hand holding the new product managers, handling HR fuck ups like payroll, working with our parts vendors around the world, and trying to resist the urge to work from home.
J: Why is working from home bad?
R: I’m the CEO. I have to be here. I have to lead. I can’t show any distraction from our mission.
It’s one thing if I’m on a business trip or if I’m out of the office at a meeting somewhere. It’s something completely different if I’m not choosing to work from home or remotely instead of being in the office. Jasper, for example, works from from home two days a week to spend time with his daughter. He has a great reason to work from home.
J: But he’s a co-founder and department head, isn’t his presence just as important?
R: His role is just as important, but his ability to be physically present in the office isn’t. Remote working is transforming the tech startup culture, but a leader still needs to be present. Jasper is a leader here. He’s also a leader in his home. I’m not a father, but I get that. Merge is my baby and people know that. I have to be here to guide it through our constant transitions and milestones.
J: Speaking of milestones, how is the progress of the Merge pre-sale going?
R: It’s been productive. We’re seeing a lot of action now that we have devices for the entire staff to use, test, and show off. Our time in China was productive enough to feel we made a strong choice in manufacturers to produce our phones and wireless monitor adapters. Our e-commerce side of our website is being filled out with marketing materials, videos, and ramping up our social media campaigns.
Now we just need to launch the damn thing.
J: Why are you choosing to do a pre-sale on your site instead of a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo?
I won’t knock Kickstarter or Indiegogo, they do great things for countless businesses, charities, and artists, but we are dealing with a product that we are carefully launching through good old word of mouth, PR, and social media. We will control everything, especially all the funds paid for the devices will stay in Merge. We can’t afford not be profitable at this stage. We need balance to create scalability for long term growth. Not flash in the plan growth that leads to an exit.
J: So an early exit or buy-out is off the table?
R: I’m pretty sure Alison would murder me in my sleep if we sold.
R: I’m not kidding, Jack. She would kick in my door and strangle me with one of my camera straps.
We’re in this for the long haul. No question. Jasper, Alison, me, the whole crew. We’re taking this pre-sale and hitting the world hard so they remember us forever.
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