3 Steps to be Gloriously Successful – How to lose $30 Million and then Make $300 Million in 30 Months

Here’s the story of Viddy, the fastest growing iPhone & Facebook App today – What would you do if the company you sweated over for 6 years and sold for $30 million gets closed down by the buyer less than 3 years later? Start a new business, with the aim to grow to 30x the size at 30x the speed, of course…

Brett O’Brien is a marketer at heart. He set up his PR company, Murphy O’Brien in 1989, working with traditional companies like hotels, property companies and restaurants. As the Internet took off in the 1990s, Brett got a nagging feeling he was missing out on a big wave. With no tech experience, he dived in and in 1999 started his first tech company.


Brett connected with David Bohnett in 1999, after David sold his company, GeoCities (remember that?) to Yahoo for $300 million. He saw the coming need for people to store data online – and started xDrive as a ‘virtual harddrive in 1999 (These were in the days before anyone was talking about a ‘cloud’). In 2000, the Internet bubble popped and Brett panicked. He recalls “I was scared. All of a sudden people weren’t that enthusiastic about Internet stocks,” I called David and said, ‘What’s going on here?’ He said, ‘Don’t worry.”

Brett kept focused at building xDrive, and six years later, in 2005, AOL bought xDrive for $30 million. Then the likes of and dropbox came along and AOL closed xDrive just 3 short years later, in 2008.


Sore with the way AOL mishandled xDrive. Brett turned to JJ Aguhob (in the photo), the technical brains who had been Chief Product Officer at xDrive and worked as Product Manager with AOL until xDrive closed down. JJ also co-founded PluggedIn with Brett, a site reviewing movies and videos. and after xDrive closed had taken on a job at Live Nation Entertainment. With xDrive gone, what new tech business could they start that would use JJ’s passion for video and Brett’s desire to start the next big thing?

JJ came up with the idea of Viddy – the Instagram of Video, with users shooting, editing and uploading 15 second video clips via their iPhones. The two launched Viddy at the very same time that Cisco shut down the Flip Camera, in April 2011, just one year ago.


This is where Brett’s marketing expertise came in. Seeing how Twitter grew based on nowing that Viddy would be successful based on who used it. As Brett said this week “We have a big vision, big ambitions. And to accomplish… those things more quickly, and manage growth, it made sense to take on additional partners.”

Biz Stone, Shakira, Will Smith and Jay-Z are now all investors. Rihanna, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber and now Mark Zuckerberg (who joined this week) are all users. In April, users have been growing by about 500,000 new users every day, which means this week Viddy will hit 30 million users. Today, Viddy is the fastest growing app on both the Apple store and Facebook – all of this within one year of launch.

This week, Brett has also just closed a $30 million financing round, with a group of VCs joining the celebrity backers. This puts the valuation of the one year start-up at over $300 million.


We’ve all heard the quote “All good things come in 3’s”. This is a story about all good things coming in 30’s. All entrepreneurs who achieve hyper-growth understand the power of zero – When you add a zero to your question, and ask ‘How can I achieve this at 30x the speed” instead of 3x the speed, or 30x the size, 30x the quality, 30x the impact, you force yourself (and your team) to transform the level of your question – and the resulting level of your answer.

Brett added a zero to xDrive to achieve $30 million. He’s added another zero to Viddy to achieve $300 million. All the entrepreneurs success stories I have been writing about recently, like Brett, feature the power of zero.

Zero is the most powerful thing when added to a question. It’s nothing, and everything. What happens when you add a zero to your question?

And the next time you hear a successful leader say about their success “It’s nothing, really”, there may be something in that…


This post was originally written in Roger’s Facebook page