This month marks the six-year anniversary of when two friends (Niall Brown, Mike Mannion) and I started a company called Empire Avenue. In those days we had multiple names for the code base, Project Venice being the most used due to the Merchant of Venice. Very quickly our small threesome filled out with many more wonderful people in no particular order: Craig Miller, Aaron White, Mike Grills, Ric Williams, Brad Grier, Robert Kallir, Niketh Pareek, Todd Derechey, Brent Knowles, Narsimham Chelluri, Dmitri Didorenko, Nour Kawa, Nithum Thain, Ray Lambe, Nicholas Hovencamp and Tom Ohle. We were supported by a whole cast of wonderful investors, a great Board of Directors, our friends and family and of course last, and certainly not least: the community and customers that we built from people around the world.
It’s not exactly been private news, but I wanted to wait on the the visible changes that I knew were coming: On the sixth anniversary of our forming the company that brought forth Empire Avenue, you might note that as of this past week, EmpireAvenue.com now transfers to Empire.Kred. In May of this year EmpireAvenue.com was acquired by PeopleBrowsr, headed by CEO Jodee Rich, to become a part of the dotKred stable of products. And that means you will see more of the product that we created in more places and doing more for more people.
As one of the founders of Empire Avenue, it’s a bitter/sweet moment. On the one hand, this is no longer our product, and our dream is now in the hands of someone else. On the other hand, I couldn’t be happier for Empire to be in the hands of a company that is putting actions to words and taking the best parts of Empire into the future. Even more satisfying is seeing the response Kred and PeopleBrowsr have taken to the incredible and supportive community. They’ve hired Lynn O’Connell straight from the community to be the community champion and that speaks volumes to me about their commitment to Empire.Kred and social communities around Kred.
So before I continue, a toast to Jodee and the fine people of PeopleBrowsr for having acquired a great and expansive community and my sincere wish for Empire.Kred to grow into a gigantic success. As a disclaimer, I and other members of the former Empire Avenue team will continue to consult for Empire.Kred as needed and I am very impressed with the direction that Jodee and his team are taking.
Now, I get to reminisce about the former “Empire Avenue Inc.” So ten things that you may not have known or ten things that continue to make me smile.
- “Empire Avenue” was named after a street in our home of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The original name for Project Venice was Bond Street which was taken as a trademark and web address. Laid up in Ecuador with a hurt leg, I pored over street maps of St. John’s to find that one street name that would work to replace Wall Street, “Empire Avenue” fit the bill and @empireave was born. To be fair we had serious doubts about the brand of Empire Avenue for a long time, but try as we might, we never came up with a replacement.
- “Demon Core” is the internal platform we built at Empire to run Empire Avenue. The name came from “Dups, Mike and Niall” or DMN, ie. DeMoN. The first corporate entity to hold the rights to the idea and original code of Empire Avenue was DMN Holdings Inc.
- “Street Corner antics” During our original launch in 2010, we asked the community to come up with a set of self-advertisement, influencer tweets that the community voted on for the next step…. I was to dress in boxers with a billboard and a yell them out on the streets of Montreal, in a “online meets offline” moment. Somewhere there are videos. What most don’t know is, I phoned the city that morning to ask if this was ok, they promptly informed me that should they catch me, they would fine on the spot. From that point it was a game to evade the by-law officers by Mike, Nithum and I near McGill University 🙂
- “We’re on a boat”: Aaron White who joined as our designer very early on in March/April 2010 was a big fan of SNL and “We’re on a boat”. One day we needed a page to replace the site when it was taken down. Aaron put together our “Oops” page which became a tongue in cheek as to why “We’re on a boat”. You can still see it at oops.empire.kred and will like change in the near future.
- “The drive to San Clemente, CA” In 2011 when the site was hitting its stride I was invited to come down to visit a group of community members in San Clemente, CA. I remember this mad drive from San Francisco where I was staying to San Clemente in a rented Ford. I experienced complete road shut downs and worse pulling off every few hours to help the team scale the site or just ask how everything was going. My goal was to get to San Clemente and still have a working site 🙂 Thank you to Darin McClure for putting me up and continuing to be an excellent supporter over the years.
- “Monumentally bad things to say to a border officer” Crossing the border at Edmonton, AB to go to San Francisco for an investor meeting, the border officer asked “So what does Empire Avenue do anyway” and I responded flippantly at 6am, “Oh we buy and sell people”. Let’s just say I was scrambling to get to the plane after that.
- “SXSW2012” On my way to meet a big time investor I get stopped on the street by two people because I’m wearing an Empire Avenue shirt and they say, “hey cool, the influencers on Empire Avenue helped us launch our startup”!
- 10 people, 10 countries : The moment I thought maybe Empire Avenue was less of a hobby and maybe something we wanted to explore when I saw signups from 10 different countries in succession. A very cool moment indeed.
- Machiavelli’s Montreal, 2011 – We celebrated our raising our seed $1.2 Million round with investors from Canada and the USA at the Machiavelli’s Restaurant in Point St. Charles, Montreal. I remember calling my mum and dad and I remember a girl driving all the way down to join us for that celebration. Hint, she deigned to marry me a few years later.
- Eaves. The original name for the currency to be used on Empire Avenue was Ducats after the Merchant of Venice. The code still says “Credits” and it was Tom Ohle who shrugged and said one morning, pretty much the week before our launch, “Oh heck, call it Eaves”… We can change it later we said… well, later…
- Finally, Our Secret Achievements. We created a bunch of secret achievements named after ourselves. My gift to the Empire.Kred community a select few revealed…
- The Dups : “Terror that flaps in the night”
- The Niall : “No money, no stimutacs”
- The Mike : “organic chemist”
- The Aaron : “That’s no moon… it’s a space station”
- The Brad : “Nuke it from orbit”
- The Ric : “I don’t like cricket”
- The Ray : “There is no spoon”
- The Tom : “braaains”
- The Todd : “cooking the books”
- The Marduk : nope… that one will remain a secret 😉 … hint, “Marduk”. Google it.
We had some great times at Empire Avenue. We all learned incredible lessons and I’m happy to put those lessons to work in my new ventures. To the Empire Community, a sincere thanks, we had our moments, good and bad, but know that we have worked tirelessly to make sure that you were part of a lasting project. Onwards and ever upwards!