Where do we even start.
Back in January 2015 the Spoon University HQ team was 4 whole people working out of Sarah and Mackenzie’s apartment in NYC. A few family members and close friends invested a little money in the company to help us stay afloat. There were chapters on 40 campuses, and many more lined up to launch over the first months of 2015, so we had to turn our campus activity into a real company that could help all of these new members do more than they imagined.
In February, we started Techstars, a 12-week startup accelerator program in NYC. Three more people joined the team and we focused on our key metric: the number of people that Spoon University reaches. We launched dozens of new chapters, helped writers create compelling stories and ended up growing the Spoon audience by 10x in those few months.
And during those months of ridiculous hours, we tried to maintain some semblance of a healthy lifestyle by hitting up SoulCycle. Reed (far left) kicked all our asses because he hits up SoulCycle more than a hedge fund wife.
April 17 marked the end of Techstars, when Mackenzie barely survived giving a Demo Day pitch in front of a few hundred investors, a couple of whom believed what she said. We ended up raising a $2 million seed round from extremely supportive people, including SoftTech VC, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, BoxGroup, VaynerRSE, BBG Ventures and a couple others.
With a bit of cash in the bank (and plenty of warnings that $2 million is really not a lot of cash at all) we began the hunt for a new office in NYC. #SpoonTip: Never try to deal with corporate real estate in NYC.
Eventually we landed on an open space on 36th St. that we could sit in, film in, meet in, and cook in (kind of). But you get what you pay for. The view across the street is a parking garage, but if you crane your head upside down near the floor you can see the Empire State Building. And the elevator fits two people and scares all visitors.
We paid a contractor in cash to build conference rooms for us, found a Persian rug at an estate sale, and moved our apartment couch into the office. Then drove a U-Haul to IKEA and built all the office furniture by hand.
In the midst of getting settled into the new office, we hosted our second annual Brainfood conference in a sweaty warehouse in Brooklyn with a few hundred people. It was sweaty because there was no A/C, and apparently fans were insufficient to take on the summer heat. One speaker said it made the event feel more “rugged and authentic” and we said, “Yea, that’s exactly what we were going for.”
The day after that, a few dozen Spoon contributors came to the office for our first ever Spoon Member Summit. It was a full day of bonding, workshops, cool speakers, and (obviously) food.
We said goodbye to our amazing army of summer interns and kicked off a new school year with some of these rockstars:
We launched our video contributor program, and got a spot in Times Square to feature some of our videographers’ work on the big screen.
We shot a few things in the office,
mixed way too many drinks,
welcomed a little monster named Milo into the family,
then another lil’ guy named Kodi,
and before we knew it the SpoonHQ team was 11 people and two animals deep.
We took a company retreat to South Carolina to get away from the madness of NYC and do some deep thinking on where we were headed. As a team, we established company values, talked through policies and work-life balance, and set our strategies for the next 12 months.
We were ranked as one of the hottest female-founded startups in 2015 by Business Insider.
Between the sleepless work nights, we also hosted our first beer pong tournament,
and invited friends to the office for an ugly sweater holiday party.
Across the chapters, University of Wisconsin-Madison made these shoes,
Johnson and Wales ordered these costumes from Amazon,
and Berkeley gave out Spoon superlatives.
The HQ team is now 15 strong, we have over 100 chapters (including two in Scotland, one in India and a handful in Canada). In 2015 alone, we’ve had 5,576 articles published by 1,581 writers, and 200 videos produced.
We’ve held seven chapter meetups in Boston, DC, Baltimore, Charlottesville, South Florida, NYC and LA with 150 members, and are about to launch 70 new chapters before the school year ends.
As 2015 comes to a close, we want to thank everyone who helped make Spoon what is it today — from the friends and family who believed in us in the beginning, to the mentors who helped us become a real(er) company — from the 100 students who were on the first chapter at Northwestern with us, to the more than 4,100 students who have written articles, taken photos, made videos, and planned events for their Spoon chapters around the world.
Excited to see what 2016 will bring.