Silicon Prairie News

Misc 0

Jeff Morris: ‘I’d pay Zaarly to hire me for a two-month contract’

April 12, 2011 by

Editor’s Note: Since its inception, Zaarly has hardly slowed down. From the concept itself – a proximity-based, real-time, buyer-powered market – to the team Zaarly has assembled, the startup is moving fast. But when we heard about one of Zaarly’s hires “moving fast” – packing up and relocating overnight – to join the team, we wanted to learn more.

The following is a guest post by Jeff Morris recounting his move from San Francisco to Kansas City to join Zaarly’s team as a marketing strategist. He was one of the first 10 team members of Zaarly, which now has eight full-time and eight part-time employees.

Previously, Jeff was a consultant at FTI Global Consulting in its Media and Technology division in Silicon Valley. You can reach Jeff by email,, or find him on Twitter, @jeffmorrisjr.

- Danny Schreiber

A collage of photos from Morris’ first few weeks at Zaarly. From top left to bottom right: departing California; first night out with the Zaarly team; Morris in the Zaarly office; first all-nighter at Zaarly; another late night; and a night out with Josh Coleman and Sara Davidson.

“If my pay-to-be-hired contract seems like a bargain, that is fine with me. I am a single 26-year-old male, I live a very lean lifestyle, and I can afford to place a bet on the most intriguing startup concept I have ever heard.”

– Opening paragraph of my cover letter to Zaarly

I had offered two months rent in my San Francisco studio apartment – a bet on my short-term performance and Zaarly’s long-term potential. If I earned full-time employment, I would earn that money back within a few months and I would be joining one of the most promising startups in the world.

I submitted my “pay-for-employment” offer at 1:30 a.m. on March 21, and when I woke up, I had an interview offer in my inbox. I accepted a position on the Zaarly marketing team at 3:45 p.m. that same day, under the condition that I move from San Francisco to Kansas City, Mo. within 12 hours. I have never lived outside California or visited Kansas City, but I took the job. And Zaarly didn’t even accept my money –– they offered to pay me instead!

By the time I returned home, it was already 11:00 p.m. I reserved a taxi for 3:45 a.m. and packed my entire life into a 27-inch suitcase in just thirty minutes. My older brother, Matt, drank a beer with me and watched me throw clothes into a suitcase. I remember Matt asking why I needed to leave San Francisco for this startup. San Francisco literally has thousands of startups.

Zaarly was different from every other startup in the world, I explained. We would advance human behavior and create new communities based upon a simple question, “What would you pay for right now?” We would build an entirely new economy for services and goods.

I have been obsessed with peer-to-peer, collaborative consumption my entire life, so this was an easy pitch. I am one of eight children, and growing up we always negotiated for something inside my house. But I could tell Matt wasn’t entirely convinced.

I played Zaarly’s Startup Weekend LA pitch on YouTube, the most irreverent and inspiring startup moment that I have ever seen. Bo Fishback (CEO), Erik Koester (COO), and Ian Hunter (CTO) shared their vision for a new buyer-powered marketplace, and it felt more like a Judd Apatow movie than a sales pitch.

As the pitch ended, I smiled at Matt. He was sold.

I landed in Kansas City the next morning without a car or a hotel. I took a cab straight to Zaarly HQ, arriving with my suitcase and a computer. The only person at the office was Adam Coomes, who I had spoken to during my interview.

When I asked where I should put my suitcase, I knew Adam thought I was a little crazy, but that’s why I landed the job. I left my suitcase in the front lobby and pulled out my laptop, ready to work.

In our first meeting, my co-workers and I spoke about our career paths and our reasons for joining Zaarly. I realized that my “sacrifice” to be here was not that special. Sure, I abandoned my Mission District apartment in 12 hours for a city I have never visited. But unlike many of my co-workers, I do not have a wife to love, a mortgage to pay or a dog to walk. Besides my supportive family, I have no physical attachments to any location – so this journey was easy to make.

I finally realized I was actually in Kansas City the morning after I moved into an apartment with Sara Davidson, who quit her PR career at Bailey Lauerman to join Zaarly. During our first morning at the apartment, I was shaving my beard before work.

Sara walked into the bathroom, paid no attention to me, and just started brushing her teeth. I stared at her in our bathroom mirror with half a beard on my face. I kept staring as she brushed her teeth and rinsed out her mouth.

“I didn’t know we would be sharing the bathroom mirror every morning,” I said with a smile.

“We are family now. Get over it,” Sara said.

That’s when I realized  Zaarly really will change human behavior –– it has already changed mine. I now share a bathroom mirror with a female co-worker before work.

I have a new family in a city full of strangers. I’d pay for that.

Subscribe to SPN

Silicon Prairie News interviews the region's leading entrepreneurs and creatives, reports on startups and established companies and announces events.

Submit a story

Have a story tip or startup we should know about? Send it our way:

From the Archives