By Adam Sandel
Originally published on Advocate.com February 15 2014 8:00 AM ET
Nick Hodulik has had two happy marriages.
His husband of five years, Jonathan Taylor (“JT”), joined him as vice president and then COO of the web and mobile applications company that he founded in 2004 called General Things.
In October of 2013, Hodulik’s company was acquired by its biggest client GoPro – www.gopro.com – makers of digital cameras, equipment and applications. Now on personal and professional levels, Hodulik is enjoying what appear to be matches made in heaven.
His technical and entrepreneurial skills go back to his high school days in Toledo, Ohio, when he founded Freshwater Inc., a web-consulting firm for small clients. After attending Fordham University, he worked as director of technology for Razorfish Subnetwork in New York, then opened a “technology bar” in New York’s East Village, where guests could drink and interact through “cocktail consoles” complete with monitors and keyboards.
“It was scheduled to open five days after 9/11,” he says, “which took its toll on business, and on New York itself.” A flip of the coin brought Hodulik to San Francisco in 2002, where he got his real estate license, then opened the software design and consulting firm Low Fat Technology with his then-partner Kevin Morgan.
He founded General Things in 2004, building, designing and managing web and mobile applications, and interactive kiosks, for clients including Nike, Showtime, and the LGBT networking site dot429.com, of which he remains CTO.
In 2007, Hodulik met Taylor, who’d spent years as a product and project manager for companies including Dell. They married the following year and Taylor soon came on board as vice president of General Things. It was the second time that Hodulik had combined his personal and professional partnerships.
“I had initial trepidation about us working together, but the same ease and confidence that I had in our relationship made it clear to me that we could work together. We’re both very logical and common-sense oriented,” he says. “We back each other up, and we almost always come to the same conclusions.”
That same ease and confidence made the eventual union of General Things and GoPro a no-brainer. “They were one of our biggest clients, and we grew up together. We had about five employees when they had about 25. It soon became clear that we would be better able to achieve our shared vision together, than as separate companies. Our cultures are so similar that it felt like more of a marriage than an acquisition.”
Despite the ideal match between the two companies, Hodulik gained a lot of insight and has plenty of advice for small companies that may be entering the acquisition process. “Keep everything as secret as possible,” he says. “A deal is not a deal until everything is signed and the money is in the bank, and in the meantime you need to keep building value in your business in case it doesn’t come together.”
“Get a good lawyer who you have a good relationship with, and who you trust, because you’ll be spending a lot of time with them. Listen to the lawyer’s advice, especially when emotions come into play.”
From his real estate background, he learned that buying a house is one of the biggest transitions that people go through in life – and that only involves two parties. “With the sale of a company, the stakes are much higher because of the number of people involved.”
Although being openly gay has never been a liability for Hodulik in his career, the experience of keeping things confidential while going through the acquisition process made him feel as though he was in the closet.
“Carrying on the daily work as if nothing else is going on, signing new clients while knowing this big change is coming, and dealing with the team I trust, who trusts me, without letting anyone know about it felt like a real double life, even though it’s a necessary evil,” he says. “The hours I put into the acquisition work was like a second full-time job.”
Serendipitously, the day the deal closed was the day of General Things’ annual fall party, so Hodulik was able to announce it to 300 of his co-workers and friends that night. “The level of mental energy released after all that time was incredible,” he says.
Hodulik is now VP of Platform, and Taylor is Senior Director of Platform, at GoPro in the recently doubled space that occupies an entire floor of their San Francisco office. GoPro is continuing to grow; current openings at the GoPro San Mateo headquarters, San Francisco office, and other locations worldwide are posted at gopro.com/careers.
As a StartOut member for the past few years, Hodulik sees a lot of value in being part of the organization. “It’s a great source of networking and mentorship for LGBT folks, on how to start, fund, run – and sell – a business.”
VentureOut is a monthly column profiling LGBT entrepreneurs. This series is a program of StartOut, the first national network of LGBT entrepreneurs here to help you accelerate your ideas. StartOut is a national nonprofit with a network 8,000 strong — and growing. Connect with your community and experience events in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Austin. Visit StartOut and sign up for the events newsletter, and discover how to accelerate your entrepreneurial goals. Learn more about how to join the LGBT startup network at StartOut.org.