From the moment he stepped on UPenn’s campus as a freshman, Dan Shipper knew that he wanted to learn how to build a real software business. Fast forward four short years. Today, he’s announcing the sale of his first company, Firefly, to Pegaystems.
Firefly was founded two years ago to enable “co-browsing,” allowing people to share and see only what is on someone else’s browser, not their entire screen. It’s become an indispensable collaboration tool for small businesses and large enterprises alike.
We couldn’t be more proud to work with Dan and his team. Both he and the company have played a meaningful role in our community from the start. In 2012, Firefly was the very first investment of our Dorm Room Fund, kicking off a program that has since expanded to four cities and funded dozens of other entrepreneurial students. And they are now the Dorm Room Fund's first exit. Personally, I've enjoyed the time I’ve gotten to spend with Dan as a thought partner, mentor and friend. With today’s news, I’m sure he’ll be in high demand as a mentor himself — he’s already a terrific example for students who want to shape technology and the world.
When I say this, I’m not just talking about Dan’s professional success. He’s a role model in many other ways. Even when he had his pick of job opportunities as early as his sophomore year, he committed to staying in school, and didn’t give up on the idea of building something as a student. As a former student entrepreneur myself, I know how challenging this decision can be, and what it’s like to choose the hard road.
Dan is one of those people who isn’t remotely interested in the easy road. He’d rather be learning — both by reading as much as he can, and soliciting input from everyone around him. When we’d meet up, he’d come prepared with a long list of topics and questions to discuss. He wasn’t just concerned with present needs and problems — he was already thinking several moves ahead. Actively seeking feedback is one of the most valuable qualities founders can have, especially young entrepreneurs who have yet to weather their own successes and failures. Dan never balked at declaring himself a beginner, and it became one of his strengths.
Whenever he did learn something new or discovered something that worked, Dan would share it with others. He started his blog in 2011 to chronicle his journey, and today it is filled with lessons, observations, experiments and findings that others can apply to build companies of their own. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re an entrepreneur at any age. You’ll find something helpful there.
With Firefly, it was great to see Dan surround himself with equally dedicated, growth-oriented people. His co-founder Justin Meltzer was literally always in the First Round Philadelphia office. Seriously. For a while, I thought he slept here. Together, they’ve made a formidable team, constantly improving the product and better serving their customers. (And occasionally setting off our office alarm at 2 in the morning).
It’s always nice to see good things happen to good people.
While Dan and Justin both recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, the education that they’ve gotten building Firefly and navigating the M&A process with Pegasystems is truly enviable. In the past two years, they developed expertise in product development, marketing, sales, hiring, and fundraising that’s comparable to what most people learn over the course of a career.
Of course we’ll miss them around our Philly office — but we can’t wait for them to start their next company so we can work with them again.