Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Why Curagami Exists
Life was stressful. I was a Director of Ecommerce (2003 – 2010). Felt like the weight of the world was on our shoulders. I managed a team of three, but the entire company of more than 20 people were relying on us. The web, something created as an afterthought when I joined the company in 2003, was paying the light bill and almost everyone’s salaries now.
We built online sales from less than a million a year to over six. The pressure to drive the car (our website) faster increased daily. FASTER and more where the commands. Stress because we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We had IDEAS about why our customers loved us and what we were doing RIGHT vs. WRONG, but as pressure to make MORE and FASTER increased the lack of tools was apparent and scary (not something I EVER shared with the C level in our company btw).
Then I heard “cancer” and my name in the same sentence.
A new pressure arrived. I found great doctors at UNC Lineberger Cancer Center and the Duke Cancer Institute. I grew to trust my team. Stress and pressure eased. I was sick, I have Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), but we created a plan, developed ways to communicate (trying to get docs to slow down and use human language must be what is like to talk to me about SEO I remember thinking) and I got better.
After feeling batter I compared my work STRESS with the pressure from hearing the C word. Work stress was worse. Work stress was worse because we didn’t have the tools needed to drive a car (our website) as fast as we had to drive. We needed tools that spoke to why customers loved us. We needed tools that produced actionable metrics we could use to increase the love, loyalty and connection with our tribe (our customers). We needed the community such tools would create too (in fact the community we would come to learn is more important than tools).
Wish I could tell you the light bulb went off, a magic wand was raised and my life aligned with Curagami’s core realization – the need for new, better tools and the supportive community such tools inevitably create. If only life were so linear (lol). I did quit my job as a Director of Ecommerce to ride a bicycle across America and raise cancer research funds (almost $30,000 for our 3,300 mile trip).
I created Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer to realize a lifelong BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), to learn how much reserve was in my tank and to figure out how I was supposed to live the rest of my life. I expected a lightening bolt or burning bush to speak to me. “Martin,” the burning bush would say,” you should do THIS”.
Turns out riding a bicycle 3,300 miles is HARD and hard work. Returning home sick and broke I had to have the SERIOUS chemo we’d put off so I could go on Martin’s Ride. Chemo makes you SICK, and there were several months when I wasn’t sure I would ever work again. Then I got better.
Broke but better I was coaxed into meeting with Atlantic BT by my friend John Kean (John can coax me into just about anything). Meeting Jon and Mark at ABT I mentioned if they knew of anyone looking for marketing / ecommerce experience to give me a call. “Actually,” Mark Foulkrod then COO of ABT, “we are looking for a Marketing Director”.
Two years as Atlantic BT’s Marketing Director convinced me of two things:
- The STRESS I felt as an Ecommerce Director was a universal condition.
- There was about to be a new ecommerce that married content and commerce in cool new ways.
Wish I could tell you that light bulb went off and I say the lightening bolt and the burning bush talked to me, but once again that wasn’t what happened. I returned from Martin’s Ride To Cure Cancer with a deep need to give back to people who work so hard to save our lives. I convinced Jon and Mark to lower my salary and use the offset to fund Cure Cancer Starter, one of the first crowdfunding sites for cancer research.
But there was a problem.
Spending my salary and 401k had limits, but the biggest impediment was cancer centers weren’t ready. Cancer Centers are regional businesses (and make no mistake they are a business). Regional businesses can be “rolled up” online as Zillow and Realtor.com are currently “rolling up” local real estate listings. I sensed the same opportunity for cancer research, but cancer centers didn’t see it.
“Why would I ever send traffic to YOUR site,” a web manager from one of the centers we worked with said at our weekly meeting. Important to understand Cure Cancer Starter was FREE to cancer centers and I was paying all the development costs. This meant there was no “your site” at least not to me.
Yes, I agreed, there was a small risk donors to this regional cancer center may donate to one of the other centers, but the flip side was greater – that supporters would discover new ideas and research they wanted to support. The rising tide Cure Cancer Starter’s commons would create would lift all boats.
Didn’t make that sale and it was crushing.
Friends Dave Neal and Chris Heivly run a startup incubator in downtown durham at the American Underground near where I live. After it was clear Cure Cancer Starter was a nonstarter I left Atlantic BT to look for the burning bush again. Remembering the stress of driving a car (our website) faster than we thought it could or should go without instruments I pitched Chris and Dave on developing a new kind of web marketing company – one dedicated to helping online merchants tap the wisdom of crowds needed to survive and thrive online. A company dedicated to reducing online merchant stress and increasing fun, joy and profits.
But I don’t want to slip into the HOW and WHAT Curagami does yet. The core of why Chris and Dave funded our company was because they could saw it too. They saw the STRESS of driving faster without great feedback loops. They saw the stress of not knowing, not trusting (feedback systems) and the “gambling” feeling accompaning such a life.
Chris and Dave knew our WHAT and HOW would change (and it has), so they invest in WHY. Curagmai’s WHY is simple – we help online merchants know, trust and learn how to make the next million dollars and our tools and the community they create reduces stress such a statement implies.
What will be he tools Curagami creates to lower stress, increase community and tap wisdom of crowds? We are working on three ideas:
- Unboxing App
- Crowdfunding App
- Affiliate Marketing App
If you know something ELSE we should be working on email Martin(at)Curagami.com. If you would like to be part of our community use the form at the bottom of this page to join us. Together we create a new ecommerce!
Wondering if I ever arrived on the other coast powered mostly by pedals?
Brian Russo (on the right) and me in Santa Monica photo taken by Jeremy Sadler third member of Martin’s Ride to Cure Cancer. I have NEVER been so glad to see the pacific ocean :). Marty
Photo credit: We modified a great doodle from VisualVeeder to create our Start with Why graphic.