Garage Tales: 23rd & Capp (S1 EP3)

Mustafa Shaikh
5 min read

Alright, all one of the 63 people that read last week's episode let me know that they have found the writing for Garage Tales to be more boring.

If you're feeling that, bare with me for a bit longer.

Once I properly set the stage for Boombotix, we'll get into some more of the fun things that went down. Almost there.

If you missed last week's episode, catch it here.

Without further ado ...

My first view of Boombotix’s office wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. Cmac had mentioned multiple times that he worked in a garage in the Mission District, but didn’t go much further than that.

I had envisioned a dimly lit single-car garage. There'd be a few people huddled around desks, tinkering with speakers.

When I pulled up to the office, I saw that it was indeed a garage, but slightly more lux than what I had pictured. It was located on the corner of 23rd and Capp, which was in a sunny part of the city. (San Francisco and its micro-climates. Sort of have to live there to fully appreciate the madness.)

You could enter the garage through two doors: the standard option on the left, or a giant roll-up door. That first day I was there, the roll-up door was wide open making the interior of the garage feel a tad more open and spacious.

Inside was a group of desks in the middle of the garage. The perimeter was stacked with boxes that were filled with portable speakers. Some of them were new in the box, while others had their guts splayed out.

I sized up the space. If you cleared everything out and knocked out the spiral staircase, you could probably squeeze two cars in here.

There were four employees—Edgar, Fred, Sara, Ben—milling about downstairs. Everyone there was in their early to mid-20s. Ben and Edgar seemed somewhat reserved while Fred and Sara seemed to have pretty big personalities.

There was also an upper level to the garage. Not only did this serve as the office for Boombotix’s founder, Lief, but it was also his bedroom. The dude had a mattress on the floor and his desk right beside it.

And if you peeked through the oddly-placed window in Lief's room, then you’d see Cmac’s bedroom. To be honest, it was more like a nook than a bedroom. The space couldn't have been more than 50 square feet. (If you want to get a better picture of the garage, Cmac was able to locate a video put together by the hyper-local outlet, Mission Mission. Cmac admitted that watching the video now made him cringe a little.)

I had heard about garage startups in San Francisco, but this whole setup took it to another level. These guys were really about that life. This was a flop house mixed with a bootstrapped startup office.

After I met everyone and took a grand tour of the office (which, as you can imagine didn't take all that long), I locked in with Lief and Cmac.

The “interview” with them was a fairly casual conversation. We headed up to the rooftop of the building where the garage was located in.

I shared a little bit with Lief about the type of work I was doing at Eat My Words. Hard to get a read on him, but he seemed intrigued.

He then dived into what they were looking to do in college bookstores. They needed someone to cold call buyers at these stores, get samples into their hands, and then convince them to write orders.

If I was interested they could start me out as a consultant. I’d be making a fairly minimal salary, but my sales commission would give me upside.

Before I left the garage Cmac set me up with a Boombotix speaker. The current model was this odd alien-looking thing. I didn’t really understand why this was shaped like it was, but oh well don't mind the free speaker. This was back in 2012. The idea of portable speakers was still fairly new. These were the days before you'd get some cheap branded speaker at a tech conference.

I left the meeting feeling pretty excited about Boombotix. While I didn't particularly care for the product, or understand the consumer electronics market and Boombotix's potential (or lack of potential), the company checked several boxes for me.

The work I was doing at Eat My Words, while interesting, left me wanting more. We had all these exciting companies and products coming through the doors. We popped in and helped them with their name. Once they got what they needed, those companies kept the train moving.

After about six months at Eat My Words, I started getting the itch to hop aboard an early-stage company and be part of the whole journey. I wanted to work with a team to take a nascent product and bring it to market. With Boombotix, I saw that opportunity there.

Then there was also the workplace culture. At Eat My Words I had to show up more or less at 9, and stay around until 5. We worked out of a polished co-working spot in Embarcadero Four that was filled with lawyers, tech recruiters, and accountants.

With my role at Boombotix, it was more of a, “get into the office when it feels right for you” vibe. And whenever you do show up, feel free to wear whatever you want. Well not whatever. You'll be laughed out if you're rocking a buttoned-up shirt tucked into khakis. I mean you had Fred wearing Dickies shorts, which I hadn't seen worn by someone since middle school.

The most important factor, however, that attracted me to Boombotix beyond being able to wear '90s basketball jerseys to the office was the team aspect. A week after the initial meeting with the Boombotix team, Cmac had invited me to hang out with the core team; he, Lief, Ben, and I headed out to Dr. Teeth for 25 cent wings and PBRs. (With inflation, does anyone know what those wings are currently going for?)

This was the vibe I was looking for. Coming from a fraternity in college, I was drawn to the idea of having a group of colleagues that I could both work with and throw a few beers back with.

The only thing left was to get an offer. After a few more days I finally received an email from Lief. I opened the PDF excited to see what they'd be paying me.

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