Adam Coomes leaves Zaarly, says he’s ‘ready to rock it solo for once’
Adam Coomes, center, pitches an idea at last weekend's Startup Weekend Tampa. Photo courtesy of Adam Coomes.
In following the regional tech scene over the past few years, one individual that's stood out as a community leader and dedicated entrepreneur has been Adam Coomes. In 2006, Coomes co-founded what has become one of Kansas City's most well-known startups, Infegy. In 2010, he and his business partner Justin Graves were named two of Business Week's "Best Young Entrepreneurs." And earlier this year, he created the Startup KC Facebook group to connect local tech entrepreneurs.
This past March, we saw Coomes change startup gears. In what appeared to be an in-the-moment decision – fresh off the heels of a South by Southwest Interactive trip to help with a Zaarly soft launch – he left Infegy and joined Zaarly full-time. "It was certainly unexpected," Coomes said in an interview earlier this week.
While joining Zaarly was unexpected, Coomes said that the decision to leave Infegy was immenient. "At the time, I was phasing out my role in Infegy." And then in February came that fateful trip to Startup Weekend Los Angeles, where he joined up with the team of fellow Kansas Citian Bo Fishback to work on Fishback's idea of creating a proximity-based, real-time, buyer-powered market.
"I've respected the heck out of Bo for years," Coomes said of Fishback, whom he had come on as an advisor while at Infegy. "If he ever did his own startup, I wanted to be a part of it."
In mid-June, however, Coomes decided Fishback's startup was no longer a fit for him. "I had to be honest with the guys," Coomes said. He met with the co-founders and told them that it just wasn't right for him at that time. "They were super respectful about it and very supportive … happy to see that I was self-aware," Coomes said. "In my heart, I knew this just wasn't where I was supposed to be. It was time for me to be my own entrepreneur again."
In a phone interview yesterday, Fishback echoed Coomes. "Turns out that companies that are growing fast, and changing as fast as Zaarly are not a great fit for everybody," Fishback said. "Coomes realized this, and I wish him the absolute best."
At the time he left, Coomes was Zaarly's social media director. He joined the startup March 18 as one of their first four hires, and while he was not able to discuss details around his employement, Coomes did say he's "leaving equity on the table by making this decision."
"Rock it solo"
His first idea? Something he said he thought up in high school: Caption Show. Modernizing the idea, he's turned it into a Facebook game – basically, you challenge your friends to come up with the wittest caption. (Left, leaked screenshot from instagr.am)
Alluding to the genesis of Caption Show, Coomes said: "l kind of want go back to my roots, back to high school, my early days, when I was a coder …the decisions I made when I was young had nothing to do with money."
Reflecting on his endeavors since high school, he said that they prepared him for this moment, and now he said he has the confidence to set out on his own. "I'm kind of ready to rock it solo for once," Coomes said, "I've never really had my own thing."
In addition to Caption Show, his other most recent project, the iPhone game Hazard, falls under an entity he calls Keymash. For development, he said he contracts with teams of "rockstar developers" in Brazil and India, but his intention is to eventually hire a small team of developers and designers, similar to Milk.
Another passion of Coomes, as it has been for the past few years but ironically Zaarly didn't leave him any time for it, is Startup Weekend. Last weekend, in fact, he traveled to Florida to facilitate and participate in Startup Weekend Tampa and ended up forming a team around his idea called Driip.
After explaining the idea – a peer-to-peer chat API that can be built into other applications with the goal of having all your chat conversations in one stream (think: the Disqus of chat) – he said it has a "massive amount of potential."
Is Coomes in the earliest stages of another Startup Weekend success story? Time will tell, of course, but we'll be tuned in to follow this next chapter of his enterpreneurial journey.