Utah Business

Going "all in" is a risk he's willing to take.

In this edition of the Founder Series, Brandon Rodman shares how he founded Weave, and Previ and proved that sometimes you have to fail to succeed.

How Brandon Rodman founded Weave and Previ

In this edition of the Founder Series, Brandon Rodman shares how he founded Weave, and Previ and proved that sometimes you have to fail to succeed.

The Founder Series is a column by and about Utah founders and how they got to where they are today. Click here to read past articles in the series.

I grew up in Eugene, Oregon. My dad always ran his own company. He was a general contractor, and my mom worked in the deli of a grocery store until I was in middle school, when she decided to go back to school and get her dental hygiene license. Something I learned there was you’re never too old to take a step back, slow down a little, then spring forward. 

At baseball tryouts, I was that annoying player who thought they were much better than they were. As a sophomore, I wanted to make the varsity team. I tried so hard during tryouts, but the coach told me, “I know you really want this, but the guy ahead of you will be playing every single game. You’ll never get playing time. He’s probably going to get drafted. We’re not going to put you on this team so you can actually get some playing time.” That was devastating.

I think baseball is the perfect sport for entrepreneurship. It’s a sport of failure. If you look at the pros, the hall of fame players still fail seven out of 10 times—that’s what a .300 batting average means—but you keep going. I played baseball all through elementary, middle, and high school. Failing just meant I was one step closer to finding success. I think that got ingrained in me over the years.

In 1999, I came to Utah to attend BYU, went home over the summer, worked two jobs to save up for my mission, then left in October 2000 for my mission in Romania. I came back to BYU in January 2003, and four months later, summer sales started. In the summer of 2003, I started my six-year journey into door-to-door sales—another job related to failure. Most doors are going to be a “no,” and you just keep knocking to get that one “yes.” 

There are a lot of similarities between door-to-door sales and serving a mission. The hardest thing in the world to sell is religion, and to sell it in a foreign language. To every day get rejected—that’s an underlying theme in my career pursuits. Things are hard, and if it’s not hard, and if there’s not a lot of failure associated with it, then I guess I’m not interested.

In 2008, I was given an option by the company I was working for to take a significant pay cut to stay, or I could leave. I thought, “Do I want to get a job after six years of door-to-door sales?” I was on 100 percent commission; even though I wasn’t going to make $1 million a year, the potential was there. I always liked having unlimited income potential. A flat salary, no commission, no upside at about half of what I had been making before—I mean, that’s what they were offering—I just didn’t like that kind of cap structure.

Starting Recall Solutions

I had no idea how to start a company, and I considered getting a job somewhere else, but the idea of a flat salary without unlimited upside wasn’t intriguing. I talked to my wife, and in September 2008, we agreed to take $5,000 and put it toward a startup. If by the end of that $5,000, I wasn’t making money, I would get a job. 

"I had no idea how to start a company, and I considered getting a job somewhere else, but the idea of a flat salary without unlimited upside wasn't intriguing."

Before I got into sales, I wanted to be a dentist. I had roommates who were dentists, friends whose parents were dentists, and a mom who was a dental hygienist, and so the dental industry intrigued me. As I kept thinking of business ideas, I heard of a woman who was an office manager in a dental office, and while she was on maternity leave, she was making calls to schedule appointments. I recalled how the summer sales company I worked for had a call center.  

I knew of advancements, like creating a call center through a website, uploading an Excel spreadsheet list of names and phone numbers, and getting speed dialing capabilities. Because I knew about that, and I heard about scheduling appointments from home, I thought, “We can do that. I’ll get lists of patients from the dentists that I know that need appointments, and we’ll call them and schedule them for the dental office.”

Dental offices have tons of patients they can’t get a hold of because they call in the middle of the day while people are at work. It would be better if the dental office called at night, but dentists don’t want to do that because they don’t want to work in the evening. That’s the gap we filled. Give us a list of your overdue patients, and we’ll call them in the evenings for you, we’ll schedule them, and you’ll have those patients back—that was Recall Solutions. 

We started in the attic above our garage. It was a finished attic, so it wasn’t bad, but it got hot in there. We had a couple employees who would show up every day and come in the front door, say “Hi” to my daughter and my wife, and go upstairs and work. 

Early on, we were signing up enough new dental practices that we thought it was going to be a really big business. But by the beginning of the month, we’d have to generate new call lists, and that would take us a couple of days. We were only at 50 dental practices, but what if we had 500? We asked ourselves, “How can we automate this?” 

We only reached a small percentage of people that we tried to schedule, and we thought, “Maybe if we send a text message, we can get a hold of more people.” As it turned out, most consumers would rather text than call. They’d prefer to schedule through text and do everything that way. Send me what you need me to do, and I’ll do it when I have time—that kind of asynchronous communication is really nice for consumers.

We kept thinking of ways to make Recall Solutions better. Eventually, we thought, “All of these things we assumed would be really good for our scheduling service might be better as a software package that we sell to dental offices—a phone service with text messaging capabilities that integrates with all their patient data.” So, in 2011, we started building it.

Rebranding to Weave

When dental offices call an overdue patient for a six-month cleaning, they call that “recall.” Recall Solutions was a name that pigeonholed us. In 2010, we changed our name to Weave. The idea behind the name change was that we were weaving everything together—the dental office’s phone service with text messaging and all their patient data. Besides, “Weave” was better for branding purposes. 

Weave started as my idea, but a couple months later, I recruited my brother, Jared, though he didn’t join as a co-founder at that time. It wasn’t until Weave was in the software business that I realized this was going to be much bigger than a call center, and Jared became a co-founder. A little later, Clint Berry came on board as another co-founder. 

Today, Weave works with all types of small businesses, and it’s now a publicly traded company. But in 2013, Weave was just about out of money. I was trying to raise funding and met with all the different angel investors and venture capital firms in Utah, but everybody said no. As a last-ditch effort, we applied to Y Combinator in the Bay Area. We couldn’t raise money from anybody in Utah, but we got accepted to Y Combinator. Within a month of being accepted, we raised a million dollars in funding. 

Everybody wanted to put money in. It was the weirdest thing in the world. Nothing had changed about the business, but what changed was who thought the business could be big. Because Y Combinator thought Weave could be big, others said, “Hmm, I wonder what Y Combinator sees here.” Within two months, we went from questioning, “Should we shut the company down?” to “We don’t need more money.”

I remember the day Y Combinator said “Yes.” It was a phone call. The process involved filling out an application and submitting a one-minute video where you introduce yourselves and the problem you’re working on. If they like your application, they invite you to come out for an in-person interview. In-person interviews are 10 minutes long, and it’s usually a group of Y Combinator partners. I think we had four or five partners in there, and for 10 minutes, they fired questions at us. Based on that 10 minutes, they either send you a rejection email later that evening or they’ll call you.

We knew this was our last chance. If we didn’t get the money, nobody else was going to fund us. We flew out to Mountain View and had our interview at 11 a.m. Driving to the Oakland Airport to fly back home that evening, we got the call. We were like, “Holy cow. We just got accepted to Y Combinator!” No Utah company had ever been accepted, and Y Combinator had funded companies like Stripe, Airbnb, and Dropbox—it felt like the best news in the world.

Leaving Weave

 Weave was an amazing journey. We spent 2014 to 2020 raising venture capital funding, scaling, growing quickly, and going through the ups and downs of scaling, then 2020 hit. We had just raised our Series D round at a $970-million valuation—almost $1 billion. Within a couple of months of raising that round, some of our board members invited me in and said, “We think it’s time to bring in a new CEO.” I was just like, “Really? What are we doing here, guys?”

"Within a couple of months of raising that round, some of our board members invited me in and said, “We think it's time to bring in a new CEO.” I was just like, “Really? What are we doing here, guys?”

From their standpoint, we had a company worth $1 billion. Maybe it was time to bring in a CEO who could take it to the next stage—to $2 billion, $5 billion, $10 billion, and take it public. It wasn’t the decision I would have made, but it was their decision to make, and I think they’re doing the best they possibly can. The company went public, which is awesome. 

But it put me in a hard position. I had put 100 percent of my soul, energy, heart, mind, and everything into this one business. My kids were part of that business. My wife was part of that business. Our friends and family were part of that business, so it was emotional. It was part of my identity, whether I wanted it to be or not, and I think that’s the only way to do it. To take something from nothing and build it into something really big and meaningful, you’ve got to go all in. That’s a risk people have to take, and to have that taken away was really hard. 

It made me question: “Who am I? What am I going to do?” I just knew I wasn’t done. I felt like I was just starting to figure things out. As I look back on it, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had, for the company we built, and for the struggles we went through. I’m so grateful for our investors, the board members, and everybody who believed in us and helped us build the vision of Weave. It turned into something amazing.

Starting Previ

I’m so grateful for everything and that I now have a chance to do it again. It took me about 18 months of actively poking at different business ideas questioning, “Is this the right one for me? Could this be something big? Could it be meaningful? Would this be a fun company to build?” That brought me to Previ, which launched in January 2022. 

(Fun fact: I met my Previ co-founder, Gabe Gunderson, in 2010 when he was doing some work in the office next door to Recall Solutions. There was a gas leak in the building, and everybody had to stand out in the parking lot. I met Gabe and his brother, Jordan, and I was like, “Hey, you guys are engineers. Do you know anybody who knows how to build a phone system?” And they were like, “Funny you ask. We know how to do that.” They ended up building the very first version of Weave for us. At the time, they had an outsourced development firm called Izeni, so we hired them, and they helped us build Weave.) 

At Previ, we’re doing business differently. You work hard for your money, and we want to make that money stretch further. We go to different brands and service providers and try to figure out how we can offer their products and services to our members, like a membership special, in the form of better pricing, better service, and cash back on their payments. 

Weave, for me, was this phase of figuring things out, almost like graduate school. I thought I was working, but I really wasn’t. I was learning, and I graduated with honors. Weave turned out to be a huge success, but Previ is really time for me to go to work. This is going to be my life’s work, at least from a business standpoint.

That’s one thing I came to terms with during my reconciliation process. I was so grateful for all the people who believed in Weave, the early employees who joined the company that was nothing, that was struggling to raise funding and deliver a product. These people bought into the vision and the co-founding team. They put their blood, sweat, and tears into it and helped us build something amazing.

One of the underlying ideas of Previ was, “How can I build something that can give back to not just the people who helped us build Weave but the people who are helping build other companies as well? Most people work hard to build others’ companies. Can we build something that can give back to all of them?”

Previ is not a charity. Don’t get me wrong, we want to make money and build a big, profitable company, but if we can do that while putting money back into people’s pockets, that’s pretty amazing. It’s the best of both worlds.

In this edition of the Founder Series, Brandon Rodman shares how he founded Weave, and Previ and proved that sometimes you have to fail to succeed.

A Eugene, Oregon native, Brandon Rodman graduated from Brigham Young University in 2010. After working in sales until 2008, he pivoted his career entirely, founding the company that would eventually become Weave from the attic above his garage. In 2014, Weave became the first Utah-based company to be accepted into Y Combinator. Brandon raised more than $300M in primary and secondary funding for Weave, was ranked by Glassdoor as the #4 CEO in America in 2019, and grew Weave to nearly $100 million in annual recurring revenue before stepping down as CEO in 2020. Weave went public on the NYSE in 2021. Brandon recently announced his new startup, Previ, and is excited to be back building products that people love.