Samuel Ian Rosen

Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Life Update: Two of the most important Issues for the next decade of my life

Dear Friends, Family, and Colleagues, 

Since my last note in February, I hope you have been well and able to live your life to the fullest of your expectations. It’s been a year of personal and professional growth for me, and I wanted to check in with you.

I am dedicating my life to making a difference in the lives of others. More than that, by writing to you, I’m holding myself accountable.  I’ve put a lot of my energy into the letter below which should take about 10 minutes to read. It’d mean a lot to me if you completed it.

But if you only have thirty seconds and are on the run, the too long, didn’t read version is:

  • On October 23rd, I’m launching a new company and inviting the world to #DrinkDifferent in order to eliminate pollution from single use plastic water bottles. Follow along at www.findtap.com or @findtap on Instagram.

  • I’m fundraising for Gift of Life’s annual campaign and it would mean the world to me to have your support. Gift of Life saves lives by connecting people suffering from blood cancers with their life saving stem cell donor:


Click here to learn more and make a financial contribution today that helps save lives

My First Mission - Clean Water for All

I grew up on a lake in northern New Jersey, where I learned to swim, fish, and play ice hockey. True story — my dad had to persuade my mom to move into our childhood home over her fears that her kids were going to drown in the lake.  

Instead of sinking, we all became great swimmers, like our Dad and unlike mom (who technically didn’t meet the requirements to graduate high school because her friend Sally coaxed her into skipping out on the required swimming class). I fell in love with the outdoors because it was right at my doorstep. Nature gave me the freedom to be creative, independent, the peace and quiet to think, learn, and explore on my own. Catching frogs, skipping stones, ice skating— these were some of my favorite things as a child. We would wade into the lake, play by its edges, or wait each winter for the local Homeowners Association to raise a flag that the lake ice was thick enough to skate. 

One day, that all changed. The lake—man made around the turn of the century—was part of a larger watershed system that was looked at increasingly for more industrial uses in the 1980s and early 1990s.  What started as the occasional green film on the edges of the lake suddenly developed into full blown algae blooms.  Standing on our dock, you could see a green field.

Between the runoff of lawn fertilizer, the occasional leeching of septic systems, and activities in the larger ecosystem including use by a local rock quarry and even attempts at utilizing old mine shafts to generate hydroelectric power, the lake that had been consistent for the better part of a century changed almost overnight.  For several seasons it was just a dead body of water – no fish, no swimming. My dad wouldn’t let us go anywhere near it, let alone swim in it. There were some reactionary attempts to make things better – a full dredging, injection of alum — but the way we use water and treat the environment had changed drastically since the late 1800s/early 1900s when the lake was originally formed. We took the lake for granted. 

Although I moved away, I heard word from friends still there that the lake didn’t freeze over as often as it used to — and for anyone who has ever skated on an open pond or lake, there’s nothing like it. 

I remembered the occasional winter from my childhood where they didn’t raise the flag, or only had a limited “safe skating” area by the shallowest part of the lake.  I witnessed climate change unfold in front of my eyes as a kid and a teenager — I just didn’t have the right vocabulary yet. But now that everyone knows the words, there is no excuse. 

I’ve been on a spiritual path and want to be open with you about my feelings — I have two little nephews and I’m scared of the world they may grow up to see. The statistics are alarming: current models say runaway climate change is as little as 2 years away — disturbingly in synch with a 1970s era MIT computer model predicting the collapse of most civilizations by 2040 as a result of critical changes in 2020.

Our overuse of plastic is part of the problem.  With current plastic usage rates there will be as much plastic in the ocean by weight as fish by 2050… While plastics have great uses, they gained ubiquity when the fossil fuels they are made from seemed limitless, and before we knew the full drawbacks of overusing them.  We are addicted to wasting plastic, and we need to stop.

The ominous foreboding is real.  Unless we choose to do something different…

The Time is Now
 


Gandhi said, “The change we wish to see in this world will only come if we choose to take the first step.” Michael Jackson sang, “If you wanna make the world a better place take a look at yourself and then make a CHANGE” (with a few emphatic “woos!”). 

So if you’ve looked in the mirror and want to help make the change, I have some good news.  The war against plastic has begun. We’re enlisting an army, and it’s easy to join us — all you have to do is carry your own drinkware and download our software (see what I did there).

Together we can change the course of mankind if we choose to believe in something bigger than ourselves.

Tune in to @findtap on Instagram on October 23rd to learn more.  Here’s a hint — It’s as simple as carrying a cup and your smartphone.  There’s finally an app for thirst, and for the first time in human history, we’re going to show the world how to #DrinkDifferent. 

My Second Mission — Help Us Get Everyone Cured.

 

Since I was in college, I’ve been involved with Gift of Life. (If you’re interested in my personal journey, you can read it here.

Gift of Life Started over 25 years ago when Jay Feinberg was diagnosed with leukemia and needed a bone marrow transplant. Miraculously, on the very last drive, the very last donor was Jay’s match. 

At the time, due to his Ashkenazi heritage, Jay’s chances for finding a match were less than 5%. Due to the mission based work of one organization — Gift of Life — the chances today for a person of Jewish descent finding a match is over 75% 

But Jay didn’t stop there.  Knowing that other minority communities would face the same issues due to their own genetic profiles, he and his team started out reach to other minority communities, like the Latinx American community, and created divisions within Gift of Life to help those communities, called Regalo de Vida.

The future of our fight against cancer isn’t with toxic chemicals and poisons but with technology and new forms of immunotherapy. Gift of Life is leading the field in technological breakthroughs for stem cell matching —which accounts for over 80% of our donor / patient matches and is a surgery free process for donors.  The days of scary tales of bone marrow transplants are numbered. 

As more people find out about Gift of Life and share our message, the more lives we are saving.

Cancer affects all of us and one of those people was Kim Kardashian West. One of Kim’s children was in the class of Adam Krief, may his memory serve as a blessing, who was a very active young man in the Los Angeles community with a wife and four beautiful children. Kim shared Adam’s story on twitter, that then got picked up by news organizations, and that one tweet about Gift of Life and the search for Adam’s donor led to the largest recruiting drive in our history, leading to 8,500 donor registrations and 2 life-saving transplants. With one tweet, Kim saved lives. 

I was deeply honored almost 2 years ago when I was asked to join the board of directors of Gift of Life. I believe it was my calling to help share Gift of Life’s message and also garner financial support to help continue their life saving work. 

 

Gift of Life has a H.U.G.E. mission: Help Us Get Everyone Registered and Cured. Joining the Gift of Life registry (and globally via World Marrow Donor Association) is easy and can be done with a quick swab of the cheek. Over 80% of transplants are done with a painless stem cell donation which looks and feels painless like donating blood. Please watch this 5 minute video to learn more -- I promise you'll be inspired. 

This is the only charity for whom I have personally solicited donations for the past ~10 years years — I'm deeply connected to this mission. Last year, I was humbled by your support of me with over $16,000 in donations, beating by more-than-half my goal of $10,000. A few outliers aside, the average donation amount was around $120.  That amount sponsors two swab kits, putting another two donors on the rolls of the registry that saves lives. 

I’d like to ask your help again this year in donating for the cause.  Each $60 of your donation processes one cheek swab and places another name on the registry that is a last hope for so many.  And you get some transparency back into why that hope is justified -- you'll be able to track the results of our work via a Donor Circle that sends you updates when matches are made from the kits that we sponsored.  

Your 100% tax deductible financial contribution would mean the world to me and can be made here: https://www.giftoflife.org/cn/SIRGOL2018 

Thank you for reading and I’m excited to share again on October 23, 2018.

SIR

Life Update: I’m starting my second company.

Our mission: Eliminate the single serve plastic water bottle by using technology and media to create a movement that changes consumer behavior. 

I thought you were CEO at MakeSpace? 

Some of you may not have even realized I’ve left MakeSpace since I’ve been pretty quiet about it and have been off the radar for the past 3-4 months. 

Building MakeSpace was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. In just 5 years, we created the leading storage brand in the category, grew the company to tens of millions annualized run rate, almost 300 employees, opened 4 markets, launched a consumer app that feels like dropbox and self-storage had a baby with complete photo inventory of items, and have helped tens of thousands of customers through normally very stressful periods in their life.  Most importantly, we grew a family. The MakeSpace mafia are the best people I’ve ever worked with and that talent has now started to spread out into other organizations. I couldn’t be more grateful to anyone who spent even a day working for our company. 

So why then would you leave? 

I always knew MakeSpace was not the end for me. As a kid who grew up in NJ, I once took an elementary school class field trip to Thomas Edison’s laboratory. Since then, I always knew I would want to create more than one invention. I worked through a transition with the MakeSpace board of directors that ensured the company I founded would be in great hands. I’m grateful to my partner, Rahul Gandhi, who was employee #2 and a co-founder, who has stepped up and taken the wheel as CEO. Rahul is a tireless fighter and has the fire in his belly to take MakeSpace to another level. 

I’m thankful to all of our major investors — 8VC, Harmony, Primary, Summit Action, Lowercase, Collaborative Fund, OATV —  and a host of other funds angels that are frankly too many to list. I feel obliged to specifically thank the entire team at Upfront Ventures, from partners to admins, who made me an EIR when I had no more than an idea on a napkin and the name “MakeSpace,” but more importantly who welcomed me in as family when I moved to Los Angeles.  

So what’s next? 

I’m starting my next company in Los Angeles in the health and wellness space. 

I’ve always cared about my personal health and wellness. It’s what I live every day because we only get one body. Over the past several months, I’ve been thinking hard about how I merge what I love: technology, the environment, sustainability, wellness, and making people’s lives better. I’ve fallen in love with a major problem that I aim to fix. 

I like solving big problems - the self-storage business was $34bn in the United States. But Americans spend $100bn on single serve plastic bottles. By 2020, the market will be $280bn globally. That’s so much waste going into our oceans and landfills. We’re going to stop that together by creating a movement. 

Our mission: Eliminate the single serve plastic water bottle by using technology and media to create a movement that changes consumer behavior. 

If this problem resonates with you or you want to be involved please let me know how you can help. 

Watch this if you’d like to learn more about the story of bottled water.

To keep updated on our progress, please follow my instagram @samuelianrosen, where I’ll be announcing the name of the company, early team members, and behind the scenes look at building a movement from the ground up and behind the scenes looks at our technology. And why Instagram? Well, what Twitter did for Charity Water is what Instagram will do for [redacted 💧]. 

Be well. 

SIR 

Building Something Bigger Than You — And Letting It Grow

When I left my first job on Wall Street to move into the startup world, I knew very little. A lot of my time was spent in conversations with others, trying to learn. I got noticed for hustle, but picked up some great advice along the way. The most prescient advice was that a good manager’s job is to bring on better people, and get out of their way. I remember reading a story about Michael Bloomberg when he spoke to managers inside his organization. He always asked, “Who is your replacement.” In the world of building something bigger than you, these types of things come up often. During a fundraise, we had to schedule flights to the west coast for MakeSpace’s leadership, and we had to put company executives on separate flights…because hey, ya never know. With that much responsibility, we had to think bigger than ourselves.

MakeSpace has grown tremendously since it was a eureka moment born of post-Sandy storage navigation. We created the category and very few people initially believed in us — somewhat ironic since so many venture dollars have now poured into the space. Mark Suster and Upfront provided a jumping off point that led to building something great. Very early in the process, I identified an amazing co-founder and my eventual replacement — Rahul Gandhi. He also became and still is one of my best friends. Rahul was the third person to hear the idea behind my then girlfriend and Mark. He left the relative comfort of his VC job to face the challenges of running a lean startup while being a father to two young children. Rahul’s kids were born extremely premature, and they got their tenacity from their dad.

I’ll never forget when we leased our first MakeSpace vehicle. We sat in the parking lot of the dealership, having just signed personal guarantees for about $40,000 in car payments. I kind of had this “Oh sh*t just got real” moment, looked at Rahul, and said “Now what do we do if this doesn’t work?” Rahul said, “We have no choice but to make this work. I won’t let this fail.” I knew he was right and we drove off the lot. For 9 months, Rahul would drive the van himself and did about 200 of the first pickups. I’ll always be grateful to him for his strength and ability to pick me up when I was down and vice versa.

Since its early days (in unbranded green Uniqlo shirts, when we took cabs to do our first pickup because we couldn’t even hail Uber at the time), MakeSpace has grown. It has many people interested in seeing it succeed: tens of thousands of customers, incredibly supportive investors, and hundreds of employees. MakeSpace is bigger than me, and it’s time for me to step aside to let it get bigger. It still has some risks to take and important chapters ahead, and Rahul is the best person to help guide those decisions. I’ve worked closely with Rahul and the board to layout my vision for the future of our product, and the MakeSpace brand is by far and away the most recognizable in our category and it will remain that way for decades to come.

I’m very proud of the past 5 years as MakeSpace’s founder and CEO. I’ve learned a ton, mostly about people. Startups are families. My proudest moments, similar to a parent, were watching our employees grow. There are many stories, but some of the highlights include: employees that met at MakeSpace and remain couples today; a team member who started in the warehouse, decided to go back to school and now is on our finance team in HQ; and one of our leaders who not only helped craft important parental leave policies that are better than every startup at our stage, but is also expecting the birth of her child any day now! There were challenges too — just like families – unexpected events can really hurt. We lost one of our colleagues and it depressed morale more than you can imagine. It’s never something you can plan for, and it takes a lot to get through. Ladidi Garba will always have a special place in my heart.

While I am no longer going to be involved with the day-to-day at MakeSpace, I remain heavily invested in seeing the company succeed. My brother remains an advisor and part-time legal counsel, and I continue to be one of the largest shareholders in MakeSpace. I’ll do whatever I can to help. For now, I’m going to take a much overdue breather. I’ll spend some time traveling, focus on more of my angel investing and scout work, and look forward to networking with people who were in the same place I was nearly a decade ago.

I’m grateful to the tens of thousands of customers, hundreds of current and past employees, and dozens of family and friends that have believed in my vision.

MakeSpace was born out of a literal (non-figurative) disaster. As life unfolds, I never really know where the twists and turns take me.

The best thing to do is wait and see.

SIR