When Mike Fuller's career and life derailed, he realized the worst had happened. That's when he let go of fear and got to work building his Newton, Massachusetts-based company.
In 2000, I founded Wandrian, a Web-based rail pass and ticketing system that powered Eurail for several years. In 2005, I accepted a round of venture funding and stepped down as CEO to focus on biz dev. In 2008, the market crashed, and I was fired.
I negotiated a significant severance package, but three months later, they stopped paying it. No more severance. Then, my wife left me. It's not easy to be an entrepreneur, and it's not easy to be married to an entrepreneur. For a long time, I had carried fear about losing the company--and losing the marriage. When both things actually happened, and I saw that I was still around, I felt relieved, in a strange way. I didn't have to carry that fear anymore. And I went into survival mode.
I took some of my savings and bought a high-end hot dog cart. A lot of people who lost their jobs that year started mobile food businesses to make ends meet. I think the Great Recession drove that renaissance.
About a year later, I was offered the opportunity to buy back some of the assets of Wandrian. Trenitalia, the Italian national train operator, agreed to give me a contract to get back into the rail business--if I could come up with the funds to buy the domain ItaliaRail.com. Determined, I applied for loans at 10 big banks, and they all turned me down. Then a community bank opened up around the corner from my house. I think it's pretty cool that their very first SBA loan funded a company that made the Inc. 500. Looking back, I think what got me through the toughest time was remembering that as long as I was healthy, I knew I'd figure out a way to keep going.
As told to Inc. contributing writer Carmen Nobel.