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August 18th, 2008

The day I quit my job.

“Hi Ed, I’ve decided to work on my company full time and won’t be starting in NYC on my scheduled start date next month.”

“Sorry to hear that, Alex, we wish you the best of luck on your new music venture. Robyn will send over paperwork and we’ll need you to return the signing bonus.”

Ed was the Chief People Officer of the management consulting firm I was scheduled to join in NYC in September of 2008. I had signed my offer letter in January of 2008, winter of my senior year. I had my NYC roommate figured out, opened a NY bank account, and was so excited to move to New York City, but that was 8.5 months earlier. That was before I’d taken Troy Henikoff’s entrepreneurship class and started working with David Hoffman and Samir Rayani. Before we’d launched nextbigsound.com, before we’d raised $25K, and before I realized that instead of consulting, business school, more consulting and then starting NBS, we had already started it!

I quit my job, mailed back the $10K signing bonus, and told my friends I wouldn’t be joining them on a summer trip around the world or moving to NYC. David and Samir were starting their senior year at Northwestern. I moved into David’s spare bedroom for a month or two and then downtown with three friends who had just moved in with one another. At this point my task was simple: to raise $150k seed round for a streaming music site as a 22-year-old recent graduate and first time entrepreneur.

Anyone alive during the Fall of 2008 knows what happened next. The economic apocalypse hit — sending the economy into the worst dip since the Great Depression.

The timing of this recession, right as I was entering the workforce and starting Next Big Sound, has made a deep and lasting impression on me. Like a plant in the desert that adapts to survive on very little water, we started our business with a very specific set of environmental conditions and thought it might always be that way. Given my starting reference point, the monster seed rounds of 2010-2015, the seed and A prime-prime-primes, the proliferation of angels, and the accelerator explosion have all been pretty mind-blowing to watch.

As if a rainforest has bloomed in the desert. I love what the last 5-6 years have done for entrepreneurship, technology’s impact on the world, and the proliferation of strong startup communities — but I’m curious if 2016 will be the year where I’ll get to see what a sustainable temperate climate looks like, in between the desert where we started and the rainforest that roared to life.

Alex White Alex White
Head of Next Big Sound @ Pandora (NYSE: $P). Board member @littlekidsrock. Soccer player and Maker’s Mark Ambassador. Alex graduated from Northwestern University with a Bachelors of Science in Learning and Organizational Change. @mralexwhite