**Editor’s Note: This is part of a series spotlighting our Channel Partners/Channel Futures Channel Influencers of the Year, selected by our editorial team for innovation in the “new channel.” (Read our profiles of Comcast Business’ Craig Schlagbaum, Forrester’s Jay McBain, TPx’s Hilary Gadda, 8×8’s John DeLozier and Office Depot’s Janet Schijns, as well as our Influencer of the Year, Microsoft’s Gavriella Schuster.**
Ten years ago, Geeman Yip sat in his basement with his two dogs waiting for the world to end. That’s what it felt like, anyway.
Facing bankruptcy, a market that didn’t believe in his vision and a crisis of confidence unparalleled in his experience, Yip felt like he was standing completely alone on a ledge screaming into a void. It would have been easier to jump, to fold his nascent startup and head back to his cushy job at Microsoft. It was tempting. But Yip somehow dug deep and found the grit he needed to pull himself and his company, BitTitan, back from the ledge for one final effort.
Looking back on those early days brings literal tears to Yip’s eyes. He had no board members, investors or employees to talk to. He’d bootstrapped BitTitan himself just months before the housing bubble burst and was hemorrhaging money. Bankruptcy was a breath away, and Yip didn’t have anyone to talk to about it.
“It’s like knowing the end of the world is coming and you can’t tell anyone,” Yip says. “I can’t even sugarcoat how emotionally hard it was.”
It’s situations like this that build great business leaders such as Yip, one of nine executives Channel Partners and Channel Futures honored this year as Channel Influencers. There’s no secret hack to help a startup founder get through that black moment when everything seems to be lost. You just have to set your jaw and forge ahead. But that’s how leaders learn to see opportunity in crisis, so that instead of folding under extreme pressure, they can look back to a harder time, a moment of darker despair, and know that if they survived that, they can get through anything.
Entrepreneurs have to find that grit and stamina to tackle the big problems, Yip says, because overcoming obstacles is what they do.
When Yip graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in computer science and came on board at Microsoft, the ubiquitous software provider had around 15,000 employees. During his eight-and-a-half-year tenure, Microsoft grew to more than 100,000 employees. The energetic, agile, innovative company Yip joined right out of college had turned corporate. Where had all the fun gone?
Yip missed the camaraderie, the passion and the high fives that come with one team celebrating wins and learning from losses together.
“When I think about fun … it reminds me of the dot-com days where we used to play Foosball late at night, order dinner in and work until 2 in the morning as a team, not individually. That was the premise of starting BitTitan: to create that feeling again.”
Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Yip left Microsoft in the spring of 2007 and dove into the world of startups. He had no real idea of the company he wanted to build or even the product he wanted to work on, but whatever it was, he wanted to do it with passion. He wanted to get the fun back.
Yip wanted to address a challenge that was becoming pervasive in the late aughts. People had begun to digitize their lives, from photos to movies to music, to the point where everyday people had accumulated gigabytes of data that was constantly threatened by the specter of …