awhile ago i learned LinkedIn is a tool for people who want jobs. i don’t want a job, so i cancelled LinkedIn.
there are jobs before The Job, of course, called interviews. interviews are auditions to not be famous, and i don’t want to audition for anything, anymore, either.
but alas, i’m a public creature. more than zero strangers email me. so here is Ryan Kulp’s résumé for future tribe members.
as a kid i earned allowance for vacuuming, dusting, and scrubbing the bathroom.
- K-5th grade – $0.75 /week
- 6-8th grade – $3 /week
- 9-12th* grade – $5 /week
*forwent ~$45 in 2nd semester earnings after running away on my 18th birthday
needless to say, if i wanted Panda Express at the food court i had to find more work. by 7th grade my first serious venture was born.
here is a screenshot of my accounting ledger from 2002, detailing candy canes i sold out of my JanSport backpack.
(just kidding, my mom refused to buy me a JanSport)
lazy by nature, my ambition to
make spend money overpowered my work ethic. it took years before i believed in the value of hard work for hard work’s sake.
between high school and college i had 17 jobs:
- dishwasher, Fini’s Pizza
- cashier, Chick-Fil-A
- lawn mower, self-employed
- Christmas tree removal, self-employed
- life-guard, AMS Pools
- waiter, Steak & Shake
- guitar teacher, self-employed
- apprentice, gold teeth manufacturer
- cashier, Lowe’s
- assistant, college information desk
- student brand manager, Red Bull
- campus rep, Microsoft
- college recruiter, Teach for America
- intern, Campus Movie Fest
- executive director, student programs
- co-founder, Partipig (hookah catering)
- co-founder, Mylar Designs (pin-back button manufacturer)
employed roles paid $5.25 – $18 /hour, self-employed $0 – $100 /hour pending how fast and loose you are with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles.
overall i was a working man but took a few risks to satisfy curiosities.
after college graduation i drank a lot with neighbors and wondered what to do next. i had a MacBook, ambition, this blog (est. Dec 2012), and an Amazon wishlist, but no hard skills.
within a couple months i wrote a book and moved from Atlanta to New York City.
company: ShuttleCloud. title: Marketing Coordinator.
i knew little about marketing so i bought and read Dharmesh Shah’s Inbound on the flight north.
throughout 2013 i learned how to use tools like Mailchimp, Google Apps, and the NYC Subway. around summer i already wanted to quit, but had lunch with a friend who convinced me to stick with it another 6 months.
on exactly Day 365, i quit.
my 0.005% (1/2 point) stock options valuation was cut by 75% because i only lasted 1/4 years of my vesting period, so i bought 0.00125% equity ownership at a strike price of 11 cents per share.
i’m proud the company is still alive and kicking, albeit not from my contributions, and i remain friends with the founders.
in fact, each time i’ve gone to Spain was for one the founders’ weddings… first, 5 years ago, then, 3 months ago.
now that you understand the sentimental value of 5,411 shares in an illiquid tech company, if you wish to purchase them at 12 or more cents each do let me know.
and psst, i met one of my current team members (Job #55) in a co-working space we shared more than 5 years ago while i worked at Job #18. always make small talk with people waiting for the shared microwave.
the basic process:
- promise a client you can do X
- learn to do X
- do X
i also founded my first startup, which i continued hacking on unsuccessfully for ~1.5 years before shutting it down. brief post-mortem here, but in sum i lost everyone’s money then paid them back plus interest.
it’s difficult to pinpoint life’s most critical season as it happens, but this freelancing stint was probably it.
in a nutshell i observed friends who were significantly dumber than me making 2x+ more money than me. a fire lit in my belly and i dedicated myself to proving i was capable of more.
if curious about the freelance lifestyle: never have i felt so alive as when the roof over my head depended on learning new skills daily and letting 5+ companies simultaneously think they were my only client. spoiler alert: every successful freelancer operates this way.
my first trip to San Francisco was in November 2013 for the Growth Hacker’s Conference at the Computer History museum. my boss said if i found a cheap flight he’d send me, so i crashed on a friend’s couch in SoMa.
the moment i sat in my FlightCar (#RIP) rental sedan for the drive down the peninsula, i knew The Valley was where i needed to be.
growing tired of freelancing, i soon scored my first full-time gig in San Francisco working for the same friend whose couch i crashed on previously.
instead of moving i went bicoastal, traveling to California every 10-15 days for 5 days, and occasionally staying through the weekend to drink $1 mimosas at a drug rehab-staffed diner overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
at this job i cut my teeth on mobile growth (app downloads), SEO, and working directly with developers.
having learned not to burn bridges from Job #18, i similarly remain friends with many people from this team.
my only positive memories of San Francisco are lunches together at Primo Patio Cafe (#RIP), free Tootsie Pops at the front counter, then hours of Destiny’s Child blaring through wireless Sonos speakers back at the office.
yet despite all the gushy, 8 months later i quit my first Valley startup job and returned to freelancing in New York City.
the 2nd time around as a solo practitioner was less stressful but i wanted to go “bigger,” so i co-founded Sprinkle LLC with a marketer and developer and packaged larger services for more cash.
instead of “i’ll do SEO for you” it was “we’ll build an app, analyze your data, perform UX teardowns, and spin up a cold email campaign.” the primary skill i developed from this experience was sales, and it was not uncommon to have 20+ appointments per week with potential clients all over Manhattan.
i recall once having 7 back to back meetings at Think Coffee in Union Square. by 10:30a i was sipping a draught Narragansett while my counter-part stared in confusion. what i cannot recall is whether the prospect became a customer; alcohol tends to discourage memory.
(the opening scene of Mr Robot’s pilot episode is actually filmed at this Think Coffee location, rebranded “Ron’s” in the show because it’s where Elliot catches a pedophile and that kind of press is bad for bidness.)
Sprinkle did marketing and product work for ~20 companies that year. first from an apartment every Wednesday, then from a loft in SoHo, and finally the 19th floor of WeWork by the Brooklyn Bridge.
(if you haven’t heard of WeWork they are New York’s real estate mafia. all technology companies are required to pay a portion of funding and profits to WeWork “management” lest be excommunicated from VC office hours, La Colombe coffee and ping pong.)
the circus began to slip when a few longer term clients quit, shorter term clients didn’t pay invoices, and my developer co-founder stopped writing code.
the single most important ingredient to my luck has been mindset, but the 2nd most important was learning to build software with my bare hands. and really, just learning to use my bare hands.
i listed my New York apartment on Airbnb for $200 /night and when i got home i had more money than when i left.
the studio was simple but i like to think Europeans who Honeymooned there enjoyed the American flag i painted, ensuring their nocturnal expressions of freedom.
while working from C.A.M.P. in Asia i received a job “offer i couldn’t refuse” from a venture capital fund in San Francisco. i accepted, packed some v-necks in New York, and moved back west full-time for Job #53.
i remain a collaborator to the venture fund today, as lead instructor for a customer acquisition course i designed in 2017.
my goal with the academy is to train the next wave of honest marketers who will bring forth the GoogAppleBookZon’s of tomorrow.
i separately pray these marketers will respect free speech and not ban conservatives from social media just because they disagree about how many genders there are.
(according to Milo there are 3: male, female, and retarded.)
i can only speculate why i took another job after quitting the venture fund in Spring 2016.
Fomo was growing, then at $26,964 /month revenue, but also profit-less.
every dollar we generated went back into the product, and i opened a 0% interest business credit card at Chase to create financial leverage without selling equity in the company.
having just visited Vegas for a conference alongside one of our portfolio companies, it felt right to join them full-time and work with the great Kumar.
the founder, my new boss, gave his blessing that i could continue hacking on Fomo. it was the best of both worlds: stable income from a real job, high risk-tolerance affordability for a side project.
by this point i had been learning to code for 7 months, and after reading an ebook about HTTP i was ready to build API integrations needed for the sales team to scale lead generation.
at Job #54 i mostly built internal admin tools and refined my ability to collaborate with designers. that said, i made one of them cry on multiple occasions (not work-related, she’s just super liberal).
this experience was the beginning of my transformation from “marketer” to “technical marketer.” now 26 years old, my career path inverted itself:
exactly 363 days after moving to San Francisco, i moved back to New York City and continued working full-time at Job #54. San Francisco is the shittiest city i’ve ever been to, and i’ve been to London.
for most of my stint in California i retained my NY apartment via Airbnb.
i managed tenants by proxy (thanks Paul!) but it got infested by rats or something so we killed the rats and lease. Steph and Paul put my stuff in boxes, i moved to another apartment a block away, and that is where i sit now, authoring this post.
a couple months into the Winter of 2017, tensions were growing at my day job.
i believe in joint contribution and without a doubt i was at fault for distracting myself with Fomo. on the other hand, my boss got accused of investor fraud and tax evasion.
this leadership style has a knack for breaking payroll so in April 2017 Fomo officially became my full-time gig. soon after i decided it is “my life’s most important work.”
Fomo.com is my 55th job, my 4th company, and my 1st win.
[update – in May 2022 we sold Fomo, which changed my life. i am forever grateful to our partners.]
next time you call someone “lucky,” read their CV.
some people make great employees and others are unemployable. parsing the latter group for entrepreneurs vs idiots is difficult and probably why we have so many Forbes X under Y lists.
founding a bootstrapped company is not “easy” in the sense you work hard and often, and humans are maybe not meant to work at all. but it’s also not easy to prioritize someone else’s vision over your own, so i wrote mine and have been chasing it for 2.5 years.
owning a company is synonymous with owning your destiny. a corporation is just a PDF in a government file cabinet, but the consequence of only eating what you kill is real indeed.
entrepreneurship is a paradigm of high-highs, low-lows, and if you’re lucky, creating jobs for people who quit and build a better company. i won’t wax further poetic about being a founder but i tweeted some thoughts and would appreciate if you convert it to a graphic t-shirt.
it is this sentiment, owning your destiny, which led me to realize “jobs” are things we do to avoid homelessness. yet i will never be homeless because too many people love me. so i unofficially retired when Job #54 ended and am only 37 years away from earning my Senior Discount.
because retirement is a state of mind and not a mode of being, all of my work is now optional behavior and i can stop doing it any time. (i may not eat, to be clear, but i can stop.)
life after LinkedIn
like Doctors without Borders, you too can have a career without LinkedIn. start your own project or partner with someone else on theirs. i’ve tried both paths dozens of times.
for those pursuing the former, my advice before you quit your job is that to stop playing the game, you must first play the game really well.
A-List actors who never audition typically got there as F-List actors auditioning for many roles. skipping D-C-B is possible with a great network, but not everyone wants that. i don’t.
for 10 months i’ve been exploring whether or not i believe in ghosts.
this endeavor consists of watching documentaries, asking friends if they’ve had paranormal experiences, and reading books about hauntings and parapsychology.
hopefully this hobby precludes me from ever being hired again.
to be continued…