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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, jeffm@zaarly.com, 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.

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