A Serendipitous Journey

Craig Vodnik
4 min readApr 19, 2021


The popular philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” A more succinct description of the last sixteen years at cleverbridge, I could not imagine.

Today is a destination, not the destination

The Journey Ahead

cleverbridge, founded by a team of e-commerce geeks who love solving global business challenges, has reached a significant milestone: the founders have sold 65% of the company to an entrepreneur friendly financial partner.

Subscribing to our ambition, strategic direction and leadership team, EMH Partners, advisors to German based private equity funds, is ready to walk along side us as we scale new heights together. We are honored to have EMH validate the results that so many have contributed to since a spark started a small fire in 2004.

We are convinced that the journey ahead with EMH will be successful. Why?

  1. Validation — We’ve been on this journey alongside our clients but on our own for four square years. EMH validated that our compass points True North, affirming we are on the right path.
  2. Performance — While our early years were run like a family, we’ve evolved to operate like a team. To perform at our best, as our professional nutritional coach, EMH will guide our performance through best practices.
  3. Preparation — We are eager for the next stage of far steeper and more difficult terrain than the path thus far traveled. But to traverse the peaks and valleys ahead will be easier to traverse with experienced guides familiar with the area by our side. EMH augments our team to collaborate on overcoming these challenges.

When opportunity met action

Karneval 2007

cleverbridge began in 2004 as an idea to deliver the best customer experience for anyone buying online. We specialized in software because customers demanded local immediacy and pricing transparency that became possible with broadband internet. The spark flashed when element 5, the company where we founders all met, was acquired.

With innovative ideas, trusted contacts, willful capital and blissful ignorance, we began the cleverbridge journey without the destination in mind, but a conscious clarity about the direction of travel.

One of our earliest days, well before our first client, our founding team gathered in Germany for dinner. During the dinner conversation, I was asked why I, the only non-German, was so calm going into business with a gaggle of Germans, especially given that there was no contract yet in place. Wasn’t this a giant risk to take?

I remember thinking for a moment as the question hung in the air. After reflecting for a moment, I explained my mentality of a gambler, was willing to lose it all and knew that I could always land on my feet if this journey ended at the wrong destination. But one thing that I did know is that this was a group of people that I trusted had the right intentions and wanted to go on the same journey that I did.

What’s next?

Chicago Datacenter 2005 — Location Redacted

We are taking a few days to celebrate this accomplishment after such a long journey. There are too many people to thank for their contributions over the years, but know that we are forever grateful that you have participated in this journey, no matter how briefly, to create this experience called cleverbridge.

On a related personal level, I had the means to invest in myself via cleverbridge because many years before the spark, some unknown angel made a donation to the future. In 1997, the hospital where my mother passed had a financial assistance fund to cover medical costs when insurance didn’t. I remember staring at the medical bills, not knowing if the house where I learned her lessons would be confiscated to cover her final weeks. Due to the action of at least one caring, philanthropic person, my mother was able to bequeath one last gift to me. Eventually, that gift turned into my cleverbridge investment.

As we take a moment to catch our breath, I know that the journey continues and I can’t wait to see how high we climb the next few years. Before starting out for the next plateau, I plan to pay it forward by donating $250,000 to Alexian Brothers Medical Center. Perhaps someone else, without knowing my name, will experience a similar serendipitous journey.

Cologne Cathedral at Sunrise



Craig Vodnik

Recovering entrepreneur passionate about leadership, music and photography.