It’s hard to think of my own history without thinking about my friend Dan Leibu.
We met through a want-ad, in an actual newspaper. Dan applied for a job with our fledgling company and after spending an hour on the phone with him, I thought – ‘there’s no way we’re bringing that guy on board’.
He started the week after….and he has had a profound impact on my life ever since. Like Daft Punk’s duo of music-nerdery, we have developed a partnership over a decade long with our own form of nerdery….the kind that dreams big, and turns those dreams into reality. Daft Punk’s 2001 hit “Harder Better Faster Stronger” is how I think of Dan and I. Together, we are Stronger.
Our partnership began at the founding of docSpace, a little cloud storage company we built and sold in 2000 for >$500 million, seven days before the bubble burst. Our first year together was spent remotely with Dan in Vancouver, me in Toronto / San Francisco. I mostly knew Dan by the sound “Oh-Oh” – the cute-turned-annoying alert of ICQ that was my signal that Dan was there, alive and cranking. We chatted constantly, and he built the entire platform. One Friday I returned from a competitors’, sent Dan my notes with a “we have to do this….” and then he re-wrote the entire system over the weekend. Amazing.
Post docSpace, Dan took on a team of hundreds and ran the hosted service at Critical Path – the company that ran about one-third of the world’s email through it’s service and telco partnerships. In the meantime, I was trying to ensure the company didn’t fall apart through a massive restructuring, fundraising, and marketing effort. Dan ran the operation, with tens of millions of customers worldwide, and the biggest telcos, governments and enterprises as our partners. Through this time, he lived in New York, San Francisco, Singapore. The man was on a mission.
Together, we next took on the world of books, initially at Indigo where we developed a new strategy process, a community platform, and most importantly, where we conceived of a ‘myspace for books’….that would become Kobo. I remember our first CES, where we witnessed a sea of ebook players, which Dan correctly predicted would soon die. I remember Dan negotiating with Random House – our first publisher deal – talking about building a global, scalable platforms capable of supporting billions of transactions. They thought we were nerds that didn’t understand publishing (partially correct). To Dan, these guys had no idea what they were in for, and in the future would be obsolete. I remember staring down Sony’s President who suggested that we drop what we were doing and join their leading ebook division. We walked out of that meeting, and Dan looked over to me and said “we are going to crush those guys.” In fact, we did. Kobo now serves over 20 million readers in 190 countries worldwide.
Dan knows code, and I’ve seen him build a platform in a weekend.
Dan knows the boardroom, and I’ve seen him turn a room full of suits inside out.
Dan knows strategy, and you don’t want to be on the other side of the table from him.
Dan knows the hard things about doing hard things. He is a lethal weapon.
Anyone that has worked with Dan would attest to all of this and more. When his team was asked what Dan should do next in his career, they suggested the following: Magician, Jedi Master, FBI Interrogator, Hawaii Tour Guide, Professional Dungeon Master, or lead singer in a Matthew Good Cover Band. He could do all this and more 🙂
He is the one that shared this line from Inception with me, and it has stuck –
‘there are those that live in a dream world, and those that are stuck in reality,…, and then there are those that can turn one into another’
There’s no one I know that embodies that statement more. Together, we are going to turn our next dream into reality.
Welcome to The Everlong Project my friend.