Entrepreneur, Founder: Hot Potato
Saadiq Rodgers-King cofounded Hot Potato in the summer of 2009 in a garage in Brooklyn.
One year later the company, an activity-based social network service, sold to Facebook for a reported $10 million.
Close friends and former colleagues were the first hires (Rodgers-King had previously worked at MLB.com) and by November 2009 Hot Potato had a staff of five backed by $1.4 million in venture capital.
Unlike Foursquare and other location-based check-in services, Hot Potato focused on what users were doing rather than just where they were physically located; reading a particular book, for example, or watching a baseball game.
(This short video explains the service).
The company drew attention.
“We were lucky enough to get a significant amount of press,” Rodgers-King said. “We had wonderful investors, we had an incredible team, and we happened to launch in a space that was getting a lot of attention.”
Hot Potato’s ability to build a strong team in a hot space quickly brought the offer from Facebook, which shuttered the site within a month of the purchase.
“Selling so early wasn’t something we had considered,” Rodgers-King said. “I always joked that we would be either wildly successful or panhandling in short order.” Still, he said, “It’s exciting to have someone sort of say ‘Wow, you guys are doing something interesting,’ that sort of validation. It’s also sort of tough to consider ‘I’m going to give this up and work on something else.’”
The sale capped a journey that started at MIT Sloan, where Rodgers-King was a member of the first MBA Entrepreneurship and Innovation (E&I) Track class. He credits the program with giving him the nerve to cast his fortunes as a startup founder.
“It was very helpful relative to normalizing the risk,” Rodgers-King said. “While everyone else was filling out cover letters, it was ‘You are not making the biggest mistake of your life ignoring these companies.’”
Colleagues from MIT Sloan also proved to be great to bounce ideas off and the legal education needed to run a startup was provided in E&I track classes.
“It wasn’t completely Greek to me,” Rodgers-King said. “Which was a wonderful experience.”
Today Rodgers-King still lives in Brooklyn and is playing with new ideas for his next project.