After 10 Years, I’ve Stepped Down as CEO of Submittable

11/10/2020

OK, that was amazing.

Since starting, Submittable has partnered with over 11,000 organizations to promote calls, accept, review and take action on over 50 million submissions and applications from over 4.5 million users. And over 100 pretty wonderful people have joined the company since Bruce Tribbensee and John Brownell and I started working on Submittable in my basement during the last recession.

Helping build this company has been one of the most rewarding, educational, and engaging undertakings of my life.  We didn’t know what we were doing. Other than Bruce, we had zero experience starting companies. We sometimes joked that I became CEO because I was the worst developer among the three of us.

Helping build this company has been one of the most rewarding, educational, and engaging undertakings of my life.

So I’m thrilled to announce that we will have new leadership for this next phase of Submittable: Thor Culverhouse has taken over the role as CEO.

Thor has been the CEO of four different companies over the last 20 years. He has a deep technical and business background. Also, having grown up in Eastern Washington, he has ties to Montana, where we are headquartered.

I’m confident that he’ll be wildly successful in moving the company to the exciting next phase.

What is this phase? 

As the platform has become more robust and feature-rich, we’ve dramatically expanded from our literary roots into other areas, industries, and use cases, including the grants world, academia, auditioning, corporate giving management, contests and awards, events management, and lots more.

What we’ll be working toward is a submission and application management platform that is simply known as the best way to manage document collection, review, and selection—as well as a wonderful place to be employed and have a career in Missoula, Montana. 

And now some real talk about colorectal cancer

I want to talk about one more thing before I wrap up.

Although I’m stepping down mostly because I’m not the best person for the job, a smaller part of this decision is that, for the past three years, I’ve been struggling with Stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. Our staff and board have supported me in a million ways, but my health and treatment have become a bottleneck for the company.

Colorectal cancer recently claimed the actor Chadwick Boseman. There is no wrong or right way to navigate a cancer diagnosis. We do the best we can in our different circumstances. Boseman chose to keep his diagnosis private. In the entertainment business, where an actor or actress—Farrah Fawcett died in 2009 from this same disease and also chose to keep it private—could be passed over based on the perceptions of their availability or physical appearance, it makes good sense. 

Most Stage 4 patients are on a ‘chemo for life’ regimen that has us slurping down an infusion of poison every other week. These toxic treatments, while prolonging life, affect our physical and even mental health as well as our appearance. Hair, weight loss, recurring rashes, neuropathy, inexplicable bruising, and, my favorite, nail loss as they become more and more brittle. 

It probably makes a bit of sense for a CEO to keep this information private as well. But I’ve decided early on to be open about my diagnosis. My feeling is that even the tiniest effort, such as mentioning it here, might spark people to get colonoscopies.

I’m hopeful that if you’re reading this and have any symptoms such as weight loss, bloody stools, fatigue or bloating, you’ll get a colonoscopy ASAP.

While colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer, cancers such as breast or lung received almost 400 percent more research funding and donations. It seems to me that there is a stigma attached to colorectal cancer because it involves unsexy body parts like our colon or rectum, plus lots of talk around stools.

But being shy about it, has, in my opinion, gotten a lot of people unnecessarily killed.

If the disease is discovered during Stage 1, there’s a 90 percent cure rate. If discovered after it has metastasized, the cure rate falls below 10 percent. I’m hopeful that if you’re reading this and have any symptoms such as weight loss, bloody stools, fatigue or bloating, you’ll get a colonoscopy ASAP. 

Finally: thank you to everyone who helped Submittable grow in the last decade—this is a company whose success is built on the ideas and efforts of a lot of thoughtful and hardworking people. And thank you to everyone who has helped me personally as well. There are a lot of you.

Sincerely,

Michael

Michael FitzGerald
Michael FitzGerald

Michael lives in Missoula, Montana, with his wife and two sons. He’s the former CEO and one of the founders of Submittable as well as the author of the novel Radiant Days.