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How do you tell your investors you have cancer? - Michael FitzGerald, CEO of Submittable

How do you tell your investors you've got a terminal cancer the day after you closed a Series A, and more importantly, how do you continue to run your life and your company forward, despite the odds. Submittable CEO Michael FitzGerald was faced with this choice, this is his story.

Updated on October 11
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Key Smash Notes In This Episode

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Submittable started around 2009 and for two years, before getting into Y Combinator, most of the founders had kept their day jobs while working on Submittable nights and weekend. Even though they already had customers and revenue, it was not yet enough to pay for the team.

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Y Combinator boosted Submittable's ambitious to be bold and to grow big. Michael and team were in their early 40s, and a YC they saw a lot of younger founders, hungry to win. They saw what they were really up against, something that was not obvious back in Missoula.

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Early on, hiring was definitely not effortless and it took a particular kind of person to live in Missoula, MT. Ten, nevermind thirty years ago, it was a big commitment. Nowadays, it's gotten a lot easier.

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At first, Submittable was struggling to get talent to work in Missoula. They would find a lot of senior people who loved Montana and wanted the jobs, but would eventually be unable to take on them because of family commitments. It is, after all, hard to move your kids out of school, or find a matching job for your spouse.

Once Michael realized they needed to shift focus to people who already had a history in Montana and wanted to move back, hiring became easy.

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Montana is an outdoorsy state. You can surf and fly-fish in the middle of downtown Missoula, and you can go skiing just a short 15-mile drive away. A national forest is just 3 miles away from the @Submittable office. Elk graze around the neighborhood.

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Michael and his business partners wanted to build Submittable as a kind of company they would want to work for, in Montana. Their goal was to create jobs for them and their kids, a company that would allow a career trajectory for people to stay and work from Montana, instead of going out of state. It has been that way since.

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People are very sick.

As a society we let people with chronic disease go broke. Medication is crazy-expensive. Most of the money goes to administration.

People can't work because they are sick. They lose their jobs and can't work. They lose their health insurance.

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Michael FitzGerald started a project HaiPump.com which helps cancer patients to find all the hospitals which offer Hai Pump surgery.

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If we could all collectively upload and analyze our genetic data, we'd find the solution to our health problems much faster than we would otherwise, so why don't we? We don't share health data because the insurance companies would use it against us.

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