Goodbye, friend and co-founder

Most of the world that Ezra Zygmuntowicz touched, knows that he passed away several days go. He helped many, many people in a number of computer programming / open-source / maker / glass-blowing / (and other) communities.

I knew him because he joined a company that a friend and I started in 2006, called Engine Yard. There were 4 of us in the very early days: Ezra, Tom Mornini, Jayson Vantuyl, and me. I don’t remember the details any longer, but I recall that Ezra joined our team shortly after Tom reached out to him. That was classic Ezra: He thought we were on to something great and he joined up to help build it! We were still very small and very bootstrapped in 2006, occasionally working on servers and code in my house in Rocklin, CA.

Ezra brought much-needed Ruby & Rails deployment expertise, plus just good ‘ol willingness to get in there and roll up his sleaves to help us figure out our place in the world. It was truly the Wild West of everything we were doing: server virtualization, Ruby on Rails, and many layers that I don’t comprehend.

The very beginning of building a company is challenging and perhaps scary, but also fun. Ezra alluded to this exact stage on his Twitter account last week, regarding his latest venture, Stuffstr.

Without Ezra, Engine Yard would not have reached the position it did, and many lives would have been less good for it. He cared about our service, our customers, and of course the open-source communities upon which we depended for so many things.

***

Ezra’s brother, Eli, commented in the Hacker News thread about Ezra’s passing, and he gave his email address for those who want to attend Ezra’s memorial service in Portland, Oregon, on Dec 3, 2014, or who’d like to contribute to a trust fund for Ezra’s young son, Ryland. Eli’s email address is eliziggy@hotmail.com

***

Here are 13 pics from 2006 to 2011. In looking at them, it refreshes my memory of who Ezra was: he was very giving, very smart, and very fun.

We really did lose someone special a few days ago.

ezra_2006_rocklin_ca_house_1

ezra_2006_rocklin_ca_house_1

ezra_2006_rocklin_ca_house_2

ezra_2006_rocklin_ca_house_2

ezra_2007_portland_dinner

ezra_2007_portland_dinner

ezra_2007_portland_railsconf

ezra_2007_portland_railsconf

ezra_2007_railsconf_firstv2cluster

ezra_2007_railsconf_firstv2cluster

ezra_2007_sanfran_coffeeinthemission

ezra_2007_sanfran_coffeeinthemission

ezra_2007_sanfran_engineyard_coding

ezra_2007_sanfran_engineyard_coding

ezra_2008_austin_streets

ezra_2008_austin_streets

ezra_2008_dell_with_michael_dell

ezra_2008_dell_with_michael_dell

ezra_2008_sanfran_dinneratstepsofrome

ezra_2008_sanfran_dinneratstepsofrome

ezra_2009_sanfran_engineyard_coding

ezra_2009_sanfran_engineyard_coding

ezra_2009_vegas_railsconf_streets

ezra_2009_vegas_railsconf_streets

ezra_2011_portland_making

ezra_2011_portland_making

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Fun Stuff & Business History


@lancewalley
lwalley@chargify.com

Motorcycles
Birds
Espresso

I co-founded Parallax in 1987 with my best friend. We were both fresh out of high school. We grew from a bedroom operation to a $3M/yr business.

I learned a TON at Parallax! We strugged for several years to find a market we fit, but once we did, were were able to "pivot" (today's term!) into that market and then execute on manufacturing, marketing, and distribution. We didn't even know the term "VC", so we *had* to make money! We took $20K from friends & family and had day jobs to bootstrap those early years.

As I left Parallax in Winter 1996, Radio Shack started carrying our BASIC Stamp computer.

I spent a few years trying to make money in the mobile-messaging space. Unfortunately, I learned lessons about how to spend all of my cash chasing a market that simply was not yet developed enough. I wish I had known about VC :-)! I closed up shop and put up a notice saying "goodbye" to my customers.

Which led to a San Francisco VC-funded startup in 1998. They were in the mobile-messaging space and were on the normal VC route as everyone else back then. Unfortunately, it didn't end pretty, but my friends and I learned a lot through the CEO, who was nice enough to tell us how things worked with his Board, the investors, etc.

I got laid off along with most other tech folks in SF in 2000. What does one do at a time like that? Start Quality Humans, Inc. as a way to offer my programming services to clients. QHI grew to employ 8 guys working around the USA.

My friend and QHI consultant, Tom Mornini, saw Ruby on Rails coming over the horizon, so we started offering Rails consulting. Within a few months, Tom noticed that Rails clients didn't want to worry about details; they just wanted to deploy their apps.

That led me to co-found Engine Yard in 2006 with Tom, Ezra Zygmuntowicz, and Jayson Vantuyl. We built a great business and then took VC after a year from Amazon, Benchmark, New Enterprise Associates, and others. I served as CEO until Jan, 2009, when we started building an executive team who can take EY up a few more notches.

I reflected on major pain points we experienced at EY, and recurring billing was one of them. That led me to Chargify.

In Chargify, I joined great folks from Grasshopper. It's been very cool working with the team as we grow Chargify in 2011.

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