Looking for a partner is different than looking for just a developer, and it's a difference that was particularly important to me. To build Path 101, I could have just scraped some angel money together, done some consulting, and pulled a spec out of my own personal echo chamber and put something out there. But, that wouldn't have been as good as something that was vetted by someone who had a stake in the outcome--whose interest and ownership in the project inspired a true sounding board, real feedback, and new ideas.
But where to find someone in this market? On one hand, it felt like everyone who had the technical capability to be out there building something was doing just that--and working on really interesting things. On the other hand, this new wave of innovation had been going on long enough that there were probably a few early projects that were impressive but just didn't seem to make it to the next level. I figured there had to be a few talented folks who may be ready for their second Web 2.0 tour of duty.
When I was at Union Square Ventures, we looked at ATTAP, the builders of Riffs, PersonalDNA and Life I/O. I used to joke and call it the "techie commune". It was a bunch of really impressive, cutting edge tech folks working on some very ambitious personal information management and recommendation products--all located in half of WebCal founder Bruce Spector's apartment. The first time I met Alex Lines, he was a lead developer there and he showed us how he had hacked together a mobile geolocation system based on cellphone tower data. It enabled a cellphone to know where it was in the city long before phones had GPS built into them. He had hacked an exposed mobile API and did some tower wardriving throughout the city.
ATTAP alumni was one of the first groups I went looking for to find potential
partners. Even though the company might not have reached the success they were looking for, I was always impressed by the
people they had and their ability to flat out build really elegant
I met him again earlier this summer at a nextNY event--after he had left ATTAP and I was anticipating leaving Oddcast. I didn't know I would be working on Path 101, so our ships passed a second time in the night. But, after scoping out some team pages, asking around, and cross referencing a nextNY softball RSVP by "a. lines", I zeroed on on Alex, who, as it turned out, had already read the original Path 101 post on my blog with some interest.
So we met up and realized that we saw eye to eye on the project from the start. What was important to me was that we had the same approach to partnership--mutual respect for experience and each other's opinions, open communication, and a goal-oriented approach. This was not a guy I was going to get bogged down in personal issues with, nor someone who thought he knew everything or thought I did either. I also liked his approach to technology--focusing on functionality and relevance to the user--above loyalty to "web 2.0 trends". Alex met with a former colleague of mine and the feedback really summed it up nicely:
"...he is a technologist, and not predisposed to any programming language or framework. Find the best technology to solve the problem. Big plus. "
He's also a bit of a Renaissance Man. At Vanderbilt, he was a Physics and English double major.
Plus, he's also a Brooklynite (Park Slope), so how could I go wrong?
I'm excited to be working with Alex and we're currently busy laying out our vision of Path 101, meeting with potential angels, and other stakeholders like career offices and professional societies.
We're also looking for a great front-end designer/developer to join our team, so if you know anyone, please do send them our way. This train is leaving the station!