Three Friends Gambled Their Way to $7.2 Million in Funds

How David Daneshgar and his friends kick-started off their startup, BloomNation

Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

Gregg: “David, there’s a tournament going on at Commerce Casino in downtown LA, you should go.”

David shoots for it. Gregg and Farbod come along with him.

While David is betting and raising on one poker table, Gregg and Farbod are designing and wireframing their site on the side table.

They have got no fundings now.

It’s 15 hours and 100 participants now reduced to two.

David is still there. It’s a heads-up, one-on-one with another opponent.

It’s 24 hours in. On their last call, they go all-in and show their card and David’s opponent starts celebrating by raising and moving his sweaty arms (that show how nervous he was.) David’s friends feel rejected.

They are almost going to punch David hard on his face.

Gregg asks out: “Hey, what happened? We need this money. What happened?”

David walks up to Gregg with a frown face: “It’s flower time.”

They had just won $30,000.

What’s surprising, $30,000 is all they needed to get started at that time. They got this opportunity right before the day they needed the money.

Nature is truly generous. After all, their business is about flowers.

It Always Starts With a Problem

Farbod’s aunt is a local florist.

She doesn’t care about what flower her customer gets. Not because she is a bad florist, but because the brokers and middleman who connects her with customers are worse. He takes 50% of the money and even after that his aunt has to do all the labour, get the flowers and deliver it. It just wasn’t effective, especially for the florists.

Farbod realized that this floral marketplace needs a change.

He, had no balance on his phone, recharged it hurry with excitement and calls David: “Hey, I have an amazing idea about innovation in the floral marketplace — to create a site where florists can showcase their arts and flowers and consumers get an easy way to get it.”

David was in his University at that time. It was the University of Chicago, one of the best business school in the country.

He got there because of poker.

How He Got Started With Poker?

His fascination for poker grew in Westlake Village, California where he had nothing much to do so he played poker with his friends to pass the time after his school.

In 1999, he graduated and got accepted into UC Berkeley, which is considered a very liberal school.

UC Berkeley allows students to teach a class if it’s passed by the academia.

Excited, the first thing David thought was he will teach poker.

It didn’t get passed.

With one semester left, finally, David applied his gambling skills — he bribed his Maths professor with a big bag of bagels and cream cheese and convinced him by calling the class The Statistics And Probability Of Gaming and it passed.

He was in a new challenge now. To teach some of the smartest people in the country, he had to seem credible. YouTube uncle wasn’t available at the time. He scoured through every DVD and VHS and learned everything about poker to an advanced level.

One Kind of Support Is All It Takes

The only six months he worked for someone else in his life was for one of his friend, who was his boss too.

David goes to her and asks whether he can go play the tournament tonight.

She agrees.

David goes there and wins his first-ever poker tournament, making $20,000.

Thrilled, he puts the money in his pocket and thinks nobody will know, comes back to his home, secretly.

His mother is sitting here, waiting for him.

She calls out: “David June, what’s in your pocket?” (June is used in Persian to hint “I see you’re in trouble.”)

David shows the money with horror.

His mom goes: “do you think you can do that again?”

His mother has always being a risk-taker. That gave him the courage and he started continuing to play poker.

Poker Afforded Him Cool Networks

There was an immediate success when he started his professional poker career in 2006.

He had won five tournaments in three different continents and made over a million dollars by the end of 2006.

But he wanted to achieve big: his eye was on the World Series of Poker bracelet.

It is 4th July 2008, David is sitting on his final table for the World series. His family is here. The first prize is $750,000.

He is nervous because he hit a nightmare: he went all-in with two kings while his opponent has two aces. The only thing that is fortunate for him is he has more chips.

Finally, David fell his opponent into a trap and won.

Poker allowed him to network with cool people like business owners, athletes, investors.

He made good friends with people like Jerry Buss, the owner of LA Lakers, a professional basketball team in the National Basketball Association.

David is dumb enough to call Jerry: “Do you mind if I come over to your house and have lunch and ask you a few questions and get some advice?”

Jerry agrees.

Jerry: “What’s up, David? What’s going on?”

David is at the top of the clouds because of poker: “Dr. Buss, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time but I want to become the general manager of LA Lakers.”

Jerry rejects him, generously: “David, you should go to business school, I’ll write your letter of recommendation.”

David got into one of the best business schools in the country, the University of Chicago because of that.

This university is at the top for entrepreneurs. Successful startup companies like Grubhub and Braintree started here.

Being a student of the University of Chicago, he had access to New Ventures Challenge, a start-up competition organized by the university.

They entered the competition with Farbod’s idea.

Out of 100 other business ideas, their idea was considered the winner.

They didn’t only win, they got their initial investors from that and also got their proof of concept.

When David graduated and moved back to Los Angeles, they needed investment to continue their startup again. Poker made them $30,000 and that was all they needed to kick-start their startup and get funded, to now over $7.2 million.

David and his friends/partners | Farbod Shoraka (left), Gregg Weisstein (middle), David Daneshgar (right) | Image from TechCrunch

One Crucial Lesson I Learned From This for Business & Life

Bet high and all-in. You’ll probably win. Sit idle and worry, everything will be blurry. Just try the crazy.

My story might not matter but it'll gently touch your interior and remind you how smarter you are. Google forced to include numbers:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store