Our COO hit a Maserati in the Facebook HQ Parking Lot: Why it’s okay to f*ck up as a young professional
In a world with eyes on you 24/7, doing something extraordinary comes with innumerable expectations… and distractions.
A couple months ago, the Kolu team journeyed out to Los Angeles to meet with various mentors and investors, as well as attend TechWeek and Innovate LA events in the area. When we arrived in LA on Saturday afternoon, we started to make plans for the down time we’d have exploring the city — we are a travel startup, after all.
If you’ve ever been to LA, you know just how expensive it can be to get around. As our COO Marin Meiners says, “They charge you for just about everything.” And so, the four of us on the trip decided that we would split the cost of a car rental for the five days that we would be there. In fact, our CEO Alex discovered a really cool sharing economy app called Turo that allows car owners to rent out their cars to travelers like us. So naturally, we booked a red 2014 Mustang convertible.
As we were planning our itinerary, we decided that it would be worth our time to drive out to Silicon Valley and San Francisco to visit the Apple campus in Cupertino, and Facebook headquarters, among other popular tech giants that call the area home. When Tuesday rolled around we decided to make the trip, waking up at 4:30 a.m. to drive five hours out there and get a little taste of the hype we hoped to build around our company in New York someday.
When we got to San Jose and pulled up to 1 Hacker Way, home to Facebook, we quickly learned that parking at the famous HQ is a logistical nightmare. Marin, our COO, was driving the car at the time, circling the many campus buildings in an attempt to find a visitor parking spot. Just how cramped was the lot? Facebook, in all its prestige, has a valet company that actually parks cars for many of its employees, which made sense given all the cars that we saw parked immediately behind others, blocking them into regular spaces.
And so, after circling this parking lot for close to 30 minutes, we had almost given up until we found a small spot in the curve of a circle drive that would require Marin to parallel park between two cars near the back of the lot. Marin pulled around in our red Mustang, and as she was attempting to parallel park, she brushed the front bumper of our rental up against a car in front of us that was valet parked in a standard space. Of course, the vehicle was white.
After getting out to assess the damage, we were quick to learn that the car Marin scraped was a Maserati. It was a very high stress situation, and the security cameras in the lot were actually met with drones that came out flying overhead to monitor the situation… that didn’t help soothe any anxiety on our part, and especially not on Marin’s.
The next day was spent filing all kinds of claims with insurance companies and working through the details that any minor accident such as this one would involve. Ultimately, Marin was able to get the situation resolved, and as a team, we’re moving forward with whatever repercussions might ensue.
The following night when we went out for drinks, we were explaining the highly uncommon situation to a mentor of ours, and it was in that moment after the worst of the situation was behind us that we realized what had actually happened…
The nature of working to build a startup from nothing is incredibly high stress, low reward (at first... and for awhile). Over the past several months, the progress we’ve made toward getting to market and launching the company as a corporation in New York has been met with many long hours together, countless challenges met with countless disappointments, but also, moments of relief and pride when we get something right and take a step forward.
There’s no blueprint for building something like Kolu, or any startup for that matter… it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. Stressful situations will occur in both the life of the startup and the individual lives of the team members who contribute to that startup. That’s precisely why we’re placing such a value on our company culture in ways that a lot of other companies today simply don’t.
In this situation, as has been the case in several prior, our team was ready to take care of the setback and absorb as much of Marin’s overwhelming stress in the situation, as best we could. And not because “we’re a family” as so many companies are trained to say nowadays, but because we know that, in any moment, we’re only as strong as our weakest link — and it’s okay to be weak. If there’s anything we’ve individually and collectively learned over the past two years, it’s that moments of weakness teach us the most about ourselves and how we push forward having learned from the experience to create a better product, or a better company, or a better team.
Trying to build something from nothing in a society that tells you to go to school and leverage that education for a nine-to-five paycheck, is hard… and it’s incredibly stressful when money isn’t flowing in one way and out the other. We get distracted thinking about everything we need to get right, or conversations that we should be having, or opportunities that we should be taking advantage of. But there are too many other people in the world without those distracting thoughts, and so, it’s okay to f*ck up. If you’re bold and daring enough to build something from nothing in this world, you’re going to hit eight Maserati’s before you own one yourself someday. And when it was all said and done, we’re just fortunate that nobody was hurt… it could have been a lot worse.
In the startup world, it’s all about the “chase your dream”’s and the “life’s too short”’s, and while that’s true, it’s also about allowing yourself to make mistakes no matter how big, small, or ridiculous they may be. It’s about the “hey, remember that time”’s, too.
And by the way… it was a 2017 Maserati.
Written by Riley de Leon
Riley currently studies Strategic Communications and Entrepreneurship at the University of Missouri, with plans to graduate in May 2018. He has published two books and speaks professionally on challenges faced by the millennial generation, and with that knowledge, leads marketing and growth for Kolu. Riley is originally from Springfield, Missouri. His love for travel was sparked a little over two years ago when he had the opportunity to backpack through New Zealand with several friends.
Riley's travel interests include food and dining, music and entertainment, and sight seeing.