Sign up to stay connected and get the latest on local events and news.

News & Stories

New Kid on the Block Has Old Pasadena Roots

By Michael Ugino — July 6, 2016

When we informed our team that the move was official, I honestly couldn’t determine if the prevailing sentiment was of excitement... or relief. Sellbrite was getting its own office, finally, after talks of a move had occurred for over a year.

Things didn’t always look promising. In the preceding 12+ months, we attempted to fundraise with only limited success, struck out on a large BD deal, said goodbye to a key employee, and saw competitors fortify themselves with significant amounts of capital, among other road bumps. Yet, in a testament to our team, we still hit our growth goals. In fact, we even hit our “with funding” goals, without funding. In that year, we continued to wow customers, earn rave reviews, and ship great software. And at the end of the year, after looking at dozens of spaces, having to pass on most due to budget, we found our future home. The Sellbrite team was finally on the move. If you knew us, you would know that none of this was a surprise. Nothing has ever been easy for us at Sellbrite, but we persevere. My partner, Brian Nolan, and I met in Pasadena in 2008 at the retail startup CPO Commerce. It was there that we experienced firsthand the problem that would inspire us to build Sellbrite. By 2011, we would perform our day jobs, then meet in Brian’s dining room from 7-11 p.m. to work on Sellbrite. To build our MVP, I literally cashed out my IRA, and since my IRA had so little cash to begin with, we convinced friends and family to help us. The MVP launched in early 2012, and for the next 13 months we kept grinding away from the dining room office, trying to raise funds so we could go full-time on Sellbrite. During that time, I was diagnosed with a rare tumor that threatened my vocal chords, requiring some extensive treatment. It was a sucker punch, but we rolled with it and stayed focused. Brian did most of the talking with investors while I recovered. Yet after all that time and many, many meetings, despite good initial traction, a rapidly growing market, and unique domain expertise between us, we were striking out. It wasn’t until 2013, after meeting Tom McGovern at a Cooley Summer Social, that we turned down the path we’re on now. Even now, in 2016, we’ve never raised a significant amount of money in a single round. By the way, if you’re trying hard to raise money, and all you’ve gotten is “No” everywhere you turn, don’t give up. Send me a note: The Sellbrite team was never uncomfortable in our previous home: the ever-supportive, enduring icon of Pasadena tech - Idealab. It’s an incredible place. When we first moved into the Lab, back in 2013, it was just Brian and I, occupying 2 desks in a busy bullpen on the West end. As we grew, we commandeered a pod built for (maybe) 6 desks. Rather quickly, it turned into the office equivalent of a clown car.
By the time we reached 13 people, we weren’t the largest company in the building, but certainly the most… spirited. Our sound machine was the bane of other companies. I’m fairly certain the airhorn-under-your-chair prank still wakes up Steven Walker in his sleep. Our St. Patty’s Day Pickleback Party might have put an upside down smile on the face of Marcia Goodstein (and all of Idealab HR). At Idealab, we were incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by decades of experience, loads of talent, and immeasurable ambition. But the time finally came for us to branch out and cement the foundation of our own company culture. Tucked away behind a small purple door on bustling West Green street, this new office may technically be the first for Sellbrite, but we’ve actually been here all along: learning, planning, and hustling, since 2008. Pasadena is our home.
Sellbrite HQ sits at 44 W. Green St, between a fleet of now-ubiquitous URB-E scooters to its West, SupplyFrame to its South, and a bar to its East. Please stop by and say hello (on your way to Rocco’s for happy hour.)
Michael Ugino is the co-founder of Sellbrite, where he helps retailers thrive in the fast-paced world of ecommerce. A former IR 300 merchant, Michael hails from South Carolina but now lives in Downtown Los Angeles.
Get local innovation & event news straight to your inbox.