Metafy CEO Josh Fabian takes the founder’s road less traveled – Crunchbase News


Editor’s Note: This profile is part of Something Ventured, an ongoing Crunchbase News series examining the diversity and access to capital in the ecosystem of venture-backed startups. As part of this project, we will follow seven start-up entrepreneurs for several months as they build their businesses. Access the full project here.

The life of startups and venture capitalists is a far cry from where Josh Fabian was just a decade ago – riding the ‘L’ in Chicago looking for work as a high school dropout, collecting food stamps and stealing diapers and formula.

“It was the lowest point,” said Fabian, the 31-year-old founder of Pittsburgh-based Metafy. “Stealing diapers and formula. I was so embarrassed. I was embarrassed just because I was in this situation.

As true entrepreneurs take various avenues to found their businesses, Fabian has gone completely outside the box to get to where he started Metafy, a platform that allows online gamers to monetize their talent through coaching and individual lessons.

The startup just closed a $ 5.5 million startup expansion led by Forerunner Ventures, with participation from Seven Seven Six and DCM Ventures, and has now raised a total of $ 8.65 million.

It is far from stealing to get by.

Fabian is brutally honest about his past and admits that many of his problems were inflicted on him. But it’s also a study of perseverance – removing many of the obstacles he put himself in front of him until he eventually learns to stop and follow his passion for design, creation. of a community and the game.

Derry, Pennsylvania

Fabian was born just south of Pittsburgh in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. But he didn’t stay there long.

Born addicted to methamphetamine and adopted as a baby, his adoptive parents moved an hour east of the city to Derry, Pa., A farming town of about 2,500 people.

“I just stood out there,” said Fabian, who is black. “There were like two other people of color there in whatever capacity. I just didn’t fit in.

A self-proclaimed “jerk”, Fabian turned to anime and video games, preferring Sony’s Playstation and Nintendo’s Gameboy. When he became a teenager he developed a love for the more underground aspects of technology, reading 2600 magazine and even creating proxies on school computers so students could go anywhere. on the Internet.

“I was getting popular because I could do it,” Fabian said with a laugh.

It also led Fabian to create his first online community, which he named – admittedly wrongly – Very Angry Toad. The group was dedicated to all things outside of the normally accepted activities, like hacking, graffiti art, and people doing something slightly illegal.

The group has grown to over 100,000 users and has gone viral in France. As he ultimately shut down the group, Fabian finally felt out of place. He enjoyed the sense of accomplishment he got in building a community.

“I loved it,” he says. “I still love the jailbreak community.”

To relocate

Although he gained a sense of belonging online, Fabian felt less at home. Tensions escalated and fighting – especially with her father – became common.

Personal relationships and Fabian’s newfound love for graffiti – learned during his Very Angry Toad days – only increased that friction. Fabian said he also likes to turn any disagreement into a fight.

“It was just kind of a jerk,” he recalls. “Now, as a parent, I understand. I fully understand how frustrating this can be.

A fight when he was 16 left his mother completely exhausted.

“She said she hated me,” he said. “I remember that, and deep down I felt like everyone hated me.”

The fight sparked emotions that Fabian had felt since learning he had been adopted – feelings of being unwanted and rejected.

That was it.

Fabian emancipates himself from his parents the same year and leaves the house. He also left school for the most part, attending only occasionally and leaving whenever the mood struck him.

While his friends were graduating, Fabian was working in a Radio Shack. At a graduation party, he reconnected with an old high school acquaintance – Ashley, and a year later she was pregnant with their first son.

Fabian had ambitions to move to California, but since he was going to be a father, “That dream of moving was gone,” he said.

Growing family and despair

The couple had a second son. Fabian was on food stamps and eventually stole to get by. But this low point also served as a catalyst to launch him into a period of motivation.

He briefly got a job at a web design agency, but quit soon after. However, a realization began to germinate in his mind that he could build his own ideas if he could just become a better developer.

Fabian found a three-month coding bootcamp – one of the first of its kind – in Chicago. He and Ashley sold everything and borrowed money from his father, but still couldn’t afford the camp.

He did go to Chicago anyway and rode the “L” for a weekend, using his web design ability to make money. A payday loan company accepted him and he earned enough to attend the bootcamp.

“It opened my eyes,” he said of the camp.

While the camp offered Fabian a gateway to a new world of startups and innovation, he didn’t finish because he got a job with fashion blog startup oBaz.

“The company had raised $ 1 million, and I was like, ‘Holy shit! A million dollars, ”Fabian remembers, laughing.

Bluffing your way

Fabian didn’t just get a job, he got equity in the business, and Ashley and the boys moved to Chicago. Despite the massive life change, Fabian couldn’t shake off his insecurities.

“I felt like such a fraud,” he recalls. “Everyone was so smart and I was there. I had a crime for graffiti. I kept thinking, ‘Do they know I dropped out of high school?’ “

But he persevered despite his doubts and worked all day and studied all night at home to become a better designer and developer.

“I was growing up so fast,” Fabian remembers. “After two years, I didn’t feel like an impostor anymore.”

Groupon finally bought oBaz in 2014 and accelerated Fabian’s acquisition period so that he could leave in 2016.

With more than enough money in the bank – a first – Fabian finally had some freedom.

“I could kind of do whatever I wanted to do,” he said.

Metafy emerges

This freedom meant spending a little more time with one of his first loves: video games. He fell into Supercell’s Clash Royale and started playing competitively. He kept many notes to improve his strategy and eventually made his way into the top 20 in the world.

Fabian got so good that others contacted him to train them in the game, and the seeds of Metafy were planted.

Although he was somewhat interested in the idea of ​​coaching, it turned out to be a problem with too many pain points and the money, while good, was not what he was making in technology.

Fabian returned to the startup world professionally, but the game remained in the picture. It wasn’t his own love of the game, but rather that of his sons that held the switch on. They wanted to be coached by the players they were watching.

“I reached out to one of their favorite players to help them out and he told me he could do it for $ 20 an hour,” said Fabian. “I was so amazed, I was like” $ 20? Truly? That’s all?’”

This particular player – while he was one of the best Pokémon players in the world – also worked in a warehouse making $ 30,000 a year.

Fabian had his “ah-ha” moment attending tournaments with his kids where he saw players hand out business cards trying to spark interest in their training.

“I realized there has to be a better way,” he said. “And I realized I could solve it.”

Eight months ago, Fabian founded Metafy – out of love for the game, building community and solving problems – which now has more than 400 coaches and 3,500 paying student players. Some coaches can make up to $ 100,000 on the platform, and the 18-person company expects to hit $ 1 million in ARR over the next two months.

All of this was accomplished with Fabian blazing his own trail on the path to entrepreneurship.

“I can’t believe what we have done in eight months,” he said. “It’s crazy. This is all crazy.

Read Part 2: A New Kind of Tipping Point, Hiring and Slowing Down

Photographic illustration by Dom Guzman

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