Diary Of A Startup

1month to launch I spend an hour on the phone from Sydney speaking with Justin Barocas about signing on. Though he’s intent on leaving his current job at Wieden + Kennedy, some very smart guys in London are also wooing him with plans for a Manhattan startup. Fortunately, Anomaly’s launch momentum wins the day. Given the dramatic changes in the industry, I’m extremely grateful, as I cannot conceive of not having a media strategy partner in the team, and Justin is easily the best I’ve ever met.

3 weeks and counting

Although we have no clients and no outside funding (we’re determined to have 100 percent ownership), we do have a different business model, a talented team and a strong belief in what we’re out to accomplish. I’ve been here before with a previous startup in London; still, the thought of launching without a client sends a shiver down my spine. But we collectively shrug it off and embrace the notion that fortune favors the brave.

2 weeks and counting

Justin resigns from Wieden. The agency is disappointed, but they react with class. This contrasts dramatically with the behavior at G2 when Andrew Kibble tenders his resignation. Tearing apart someone’s hard drive in pursuit of a conspiracy may be legal, but it ignores the man’s professional and personal decency. Jason DeLand’s resignation doesn’t go down too well either, and he is thrown out of G2’s offices. He works in new business, though, so arguably it’s fair enough. All in all, a messy, emotional and distracting day.

1 week and counting

I receive one of Ernest Lupinacci’s hallmark 4:30 a.m. e-mails. It is his daily horoscope, and it reads: “The scenario plays out to the best of your expectations. The stars are shining brightly on your business acumen this week. All indicators are good.” I guess we can launch.

4 days and counting

We get the news of Ted Sann’s unexpected departure from BBDO. It plays out in the trades as a seemingly unfortunate symbol of BBDO’s drastic need to respond to overwhelming changes in the marketplace. I can’t help but think that the Super Bowl-centric über-agency’s reorganization and the looming launch of our little company represent two completely different approaches to addressing the same problem. Ironically, their task may well be harder than ours.

2 days and counting

James Bareham, a friend of Andrew’s and a top photographer, not content with shooting David Beckham and the Duchess of York, arrives to photograph us for our Web site. The site has been put together in a week thanks to a horde of favors being called in.

1 day and counting

I spend the better part of the day on the roof at Soho House, writing up Anomaly’s credentials in between chats with industry mates like Dave Droga. The day ends with a new-business presentation and a top-up for what’s left of my Australian tan. Surreal.

Launch day

It’s official. We get good wishes from people all across the industry, and I’m reminded once again of why I enjoy this business. Tom Carroll at Chiat encourages us to “go big.” Brett Gosper from McCann offers to pass on clients that aren’t quite right for them. Chris Mendola of 180 sends a list of insights he gleaned from starting his own shop. By a beautiful irony, I am due to have lunch with my ex-boss, TBWA Worldwide CEO Jean-Marie Dru. In another classic English-French exchange, our reunion is extremely pleasant, but there’s a much more interesting story taking place in the subtitles. At 6:08 p.m. we get our first buyout offer from the worldwide CEO of a major network. He’s joking, but it still helps to make our first partners’ dinner high-spirited.

3 days in

I’m talking to headhunter Sally Jones about talent when she smiles, winks and says: “I know you’ve got clients, and you’re just not saying for some reason.” I try to explain that starting with a client is actually a short-term financial tactic, not a long-term business strategy. And while it certainly should be a consideration in how you launch, it shouldn’t be the thing that determines whether you launch. What determines that is whether you believe or you don’t.