Every startup has a catalyzing event or moment that led to its founder or group of founders to say, “alright, let’s do this.” Starting anything is incredibly difficult, but starting a company is one of the hardest things you can do. So, ultimately, that catalyzing moment has to be powerful enough to sustain you through the ups and downs of the startup journey. It has to fuel you when you have delays in getting your product to market. It has to sustain and drive you when you launch that product to market and finding customers is hard or expensive or both. It has to support you and drive you when a competitor comes in and flat out copies all of the hard work you have put into your company and they have one key advantage — a pile of money. It has to drive you to wake up when things just aren’t clicking and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Every company goes through that journey and so a company needs a strong reason for being to fight through that and succeed.

This catalyzing event and then the events that unfold after that to lead to the creation of a company is often called an “Origin Story” in startup circles. It’s one of the key things that we always try to understand from the founders whose companies we consider acquiring. When we hear weak Origin Stories, we know that those founders or companies are going to find it hard to sustain the energy necessary to break through the challenges. But, when we hear stories that create passion within the founders and that passion has proven to inspire the teams that they have built around them, we know that those companies have a better chance of success.

So, what’s our Origin Story here at Legion and why does it fuel us? Well…let’s jump into that. For many years, I have been leading or building companies and so have my co-founders at Legion. A couple of years ago, I was searching for what I wanted to do next. Two of my co-founders at Legion (Grant and Keiran) and I had sold a company, we were tired and we needed some time to think about what we wanted to do next. Grant wanted to start something new, Keiran had been lured by a friend to head to GoDaddy to help build tech at a newly created division within the company and I had been recruited to help a well-established company launch a new venture within their company. It all seemed like a good way for each of us to recoup a bit while asking our own “what’s next”. Much like in any relationship, if each doing something on our own led back to each other then it was meant to be. The three of us talked regularly about ideas and what we should do. We each quickly became busy but we kept talking about ideas and tinkering with different things that we could do.

While I worked at creating a new venture within the company that recruited me to join them, I kept talking to my network. I talked to venture investors and considered joining their firms. I talked to startups that needed my expertise but none seemed to be driven by anything compelling enough. I was offered the opportunity to move to Europe to run a large unit for two companies that were in the process of merging. As I was considering that opportunity, I met Mike.

The minute I sat down with Mike, I knew that he had a unique set of talents and experiences and that his ambition matched my own. He was driven but in an incredibly focused way. He was very self aware in that he knew what he was brilliant at and knew where he was weak and so focused his days on working in his brilliant areas while finding people to surround him that could fill in his gaps. That was two years ago…almost exactly to this day.

When I first sat down with Mike it was for a very specific reason. He was partnered with a well known internet entrepreneur named Neil Patel. They had a series of businesses together and Mike had taken over one of those businesses (in ownership and leadership) called Hello Bar. They needed a CEO and couldn’t find one that they believed could put the company on the right path. It was a unique company because it had a great brand name in the market and had a good customer base but was needing to grow more and struggled to reach strong profits. It had all of the pieces but those pieces just needed to be aligned.

As Mike and I continued to chat, we knew we had to work together but we needed a starting point. That starting point was Hello Bar. We agreed that I would become CEO and we would explore what else we could do together over time. So, I jumped in as CEO but did so in a very focused way. Each step I took was out of a playbook that I had been putting together from many years of growing companies. And, while I was doing that, Mike was busy implementing pieces of his own playbook at an agency he had co-founded that was growing faster than nearly any company in the country. Mike and I spent late afternoons talking about each of our playbooks and Grant, Keiran and I continued doing the same as well. Mike’s agency grew like a rocketship, Hello Bar’s revenues multiplied and the company started being very profitable.

One day Mike and I went to lunch and he asked me a simple question, “could we combine our playbooks and apply that playbook to many different companies”. We spent a few hours talking through it and we started to get excited about doing so. After that lunch we kept talking about it but we were busy with growing companies. We knew there was something there but we were still trying to figure out how all the pieces came together.

It was then that I started talking to Grant and Keiran. We have so many shared experiences in running companies together and independently. It was during those conversations and further conversations with Mike that we started to realize that we were trying to solve for the “what” of what we could do together instead of the “why”. And, once we shifted to the “why” we should do something..that’s when Legion came together and when we got the fuel to say “we have to do this”. So, why did this happen? Well, because when we started asking why we should build a new company together we realized:

That we have a unique set of skills and experiences that have allowed us to create a playbook that we believe in for scaling companies

That applying that playbook to one single business won’t actually fuel us enough because at this point we want to have a bigger impact across multiple companies

That there exists a hole in the market where great entrepreneurs have built incredible businesses but lack the knowledge and ability to scale those

That the standard way for those companies to try to scale is to raise a bunch of capital to hire people to help them figure out how to scale, but that by raising all of that capital they also create new challenges and trappings

That we had learned from starting a venture studio that sometimes the best thing to do is to start a venture from scratch and sometimes the best thing to do is to acquire an existing venture that needs help scaling

And, here’s the punchline….

That by helping multiple ventures flourish, we could have a greater impact on the lives of the entrepreneurs, employees and customers of those businesses and create greater value

And, that by enabling a broader set of investors to be able to invest in those ventures, we could potentially create greater wealth for more people without having to tap venture capital

Once we arrived at this why, the rest of the pieces came together quickly and we created the “How” and the “What” (taking a page from Simon Sinek):

Why: We can have greater positive impact across the lives of companies, their teams and potential investors if we can use a new model to create multiple successful internet ventures

How: We can do that because we can use a playbook driven by our expertise and experiences to help multiple companies grow and give more people the opportunity to invest in those companies

What: A company that builds and buys multiple ventures and then adds our playbook to scale them. The company should be available to investors, both accredited and non-accredited.

Within a couple of weeks, we pulled together our four person co-founding team, came up with a name and brand, learned as much as we could about Regulation A+ and got to work.

Ultimately, for us, focusing on the why of Legion became central to our own Origin Story and will be the fuel that will drive us through all of the ups and downs that are ahead. We’re just getting started and we can’t wait to see where this journey leads.

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