Silicon Prairie News

Jeff Morris: ‘I’d pay Zaarly to hire me for a two-month contract’

Kansas City April 12, 2011 by Guest Contributor

Editor's Note: Since its inception, Zaarly has hardly slowed down. From the concept itself – a proximity-based, real-time, buyer-powered market – to the team Zaarly has assembled, the startup is moving fast. But when we heard about one of Zaarly's hires "moving fast" – packing up and relocating overnight – to join the team, we wanted to learn more.

The following is a guest post by Jeff Morris recounting his move from San Francisco to Kansas City to join Zaarly's team as a marketing strategist. He was one of the first 10 team members of Zaarly, which now has eight full-time and eight part-time employees.

Previously, Jeff was a consultant at FTI Global Consulting in its Media and Technology division in Silicon Valley. You can reach Jeff by email,, or find him on Twitter, @jeffmorrisjr.

- Danny Schreiber

A collage of photos from Morris' first few weeks at Zaarly. From top left to bottom right: departing California; first night out with the Zaarly team; Morris in the Zaarly office; first all-nighter at Zaarly; another late night; and a night out with Josh Coleman and Sara Davidson.

"If my pay-to-be-hired contract seems like a bargain, that is fine with me. I am a single 26-year-old male, I live a very lean lifestyle, and I can afford to place a bet on the most intriguing startup concept I have ever heard."

- Opening paragraph of my cover letter to Zaarly

I had offered two months rent in my San Francisco studio apartment – a bet on my short-term performance and Zaarly’s long-term potential. If I earned full-time employment, I would earn that money back within a few months and I would be joining one of the most promising startups in the world.

I submitted my "pay-for-employment" offer at 1:30 a.m. on March 21, and when I woke up, I had an interview offer in my inbox. I accepted a position on the Zaarly marketing team at 3:45 p.m. that same day, under the condition that I move from San Francisco to Kansas City, Mo. within 12 hours. I have never lived outside California or visited Kansas City, but I took the job. And Zaarly didn’t even accept my money –– they offered to pay me instead!

By the time I returned home, it was already 11:00 p.m. I reserved a taxi for 3:45 a.m. and packed my entire life into a 27-inch suitcase in just thirty minutes. My older brother, Matt, drank a beer with me and watched me throw clothes into a suitcase. I remember Matt asking why I needed to leave San Francisco for this startup. San Francisco literally has thousands of startups.

Zaarly was different from every other startup in the world, I explained. We would advance human behavior and create new communities based upon a simple question, "What would you pay for right now?" We would build an entirely new economy for services and goods.

I have been obsessed with peer-to-peer, collaborative consumption my entire life, so this was an easy pitch. I am one of eight children, and growing up we always negotiated for something inside my house. But I could tell Matt wasn’t entirely convinced.

I played Zaarly’s Startup Weekend LA pitch on YouTube, the most irreverent and inspiring startup moment that I have ever seen. Bo Fishback (CEO), Erik Koester (COO), and Ian Hunter (CTO) shared their vision for a new buyer-powered marketplace, and it felt more like a Judd Apatow movie than a sales pitch.

As the pitch ended, I smiled at Matt. He was sold.

I landed in Kansas City the next morning without a car or a hotel. I took a cab straight to Zaarly HQ, arriving with my suitcase and a computer. The only person at the office was Adam Coomes, who I had spoken to during my interview.

When I asked where I should put my suitcase, I knew Adam thought I was a little crazy, but that’s why I landed the job. I left my suitcase in the front lobby and pulled out my laptop, ready to work.

In our first meeting, my co-workers and I spoke about our career paths and our reasons for joining Zaarly. I realized that my "sacrifice" to be here was not that special. Sure, I abandoned my Mission District apartment in 12 hours for a city I have never visited. But unlike many of my co-workers, I do not have a wife to love, a mortgage to pay or a dog to walk. Besides my supportive family, I have no physical attachments to any location – so this journey was easy to make.

I finally realized I was actually in Kansas City the morning after I moved into an apartment with Sara Davidson, who quit her PR career at Bailey Lauerman to join Zaarly. During our first morning at the apartment, I was shaving my beard before work.

Sara walked into the bathroom, paid no attention to me, and just started brushing her teeth. I stared at her in our bathroom mirror with half a beard on my face. I kept staring as she brushed her teeth and rinsed out her mouth.

"I didn’t know we would be sharing the bathroom mirror every morning," I said with a smile.

"We are family now. Get over it," Sara said.

That’s when I realized  Zaarly really will change human behavior –– it has already changed mine. I now share a bathroom mirror with a female co-worker before work.

I have a new family in a city full of strangers. I’d pay for that.

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Jeff is the man and easily my favorite hipster. Stoked to have him on board with us. Would love hear if anyone else has a similar, or *gasp* more unbelievable story.

Apr 12, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Can you teach me how to grow a beard?

Apr 12, 2011 at 10:24 AM

Jeff is one of best guys I know. So stoke to get to work along side of him everyday. Plus ladies he looking for a date to his sister's wedding.

Apr 12, 2011 at 11:19 AM

awesome story :) and zaarly sounds awesome too

Apr 12, 2011 at 11:23 AM

So.. moved in with a female co-worker eh? Sounds like a whole package deal.

Apr 12, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Sounds like the most annoying startup ever. I don't want spam.

Apr 12, 2011 at 11:54 AM

Completely agree with the previous comment. Most annoying startup ever.

Apr 12, 2011 at 12:36 PM

I'd work for free if I got Sara as a roommate... :)

Apr 12, 2011 at 02:00 PM
Jeff Morris

Joe -- haha I'll teach you how to grow a beard! The process involves self-discovery and zero sleep i.e. join a startup!! :)

Apr 12, 2011 at 04:13 PM

Great post. Best of luck changing the entire course of human history ;)

Apr 12, 2011 at 04:35 PM

i'll pay $1,000,000 to have a startup (not just hype) in ninety days.

in a way, zaarly takes the ubiquitous power and global nature of the internet, and kills it by localizing it to people who a) have smart phones b) want to do odd jobs for $20 and c) happen to be looking at their smart phones.


Apr 12, 2011 at 05:33 PM

jim, but think about it, inside the next decade,

1) everybody's going to be "happen[ing] to be looking at their smart phones" and
2) either WANTS or HAS something that's hard to get through conventional channels.

Best-case scenario: Zaarly becomes the real-time eBay. I'm sure the founders would be happy with that, and so would their users. If a community of professional Zaarly-sellers springs up, as has happened with eBay, all the better.

Worst-case scenario, nobody uses it. Second to worst case, Zaarly's sellers are arrested en masse in sting operations by the Arizona DA cracking down on "illegals" and the company gets sued out of existence.

Apr 13, 2011 at 12:41 AM

@Ryan - PROVE IT! Haha

Apr 13, 2011 at 01:48 AM

thanks pash,

smart phones have a future, but zaarly is a classic case of mbas and lawyers putting the cart before the horse and believing/tweeting their own hype. a couple tweets does not a startup make.

did michael dell or mark zuckerberg raise millions before they figured out a viable business or growth model?


the zaarly hype is right at the cusp of backfiring as they still have no product. without a product they will soon be stuck in the trough of disillusionment.

Apr 13, 2011 at 10:08 AM

To those individuals who disapproved of what they could become and what they are becoming, I hope my post awakens you to how foolish you sound now. ~Congrats Guys. I look forward to being a power user and promoting it in my region (Miami) as much as possible.

Jun 15, 2011 at 01:46 AM

Hell of a of luck to you and I hope you're enjoying KC!

Jun 26, 2011 at 11:26 PM


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