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Featured on Mar 31, 2011

Walter Chen

"I believe in a thing called love / Just listen to the rhythm of my heart."


I'm the co-creator of iDoneThis, which is an email-based on productivity log. Other projects include Leasely (apartment rental applications online), (Yelp for humans), (basically the same thing as but with lighthearted copy), and a food site that's in the works. Before that, I was a lawyer at Jenner & Block here in NYC where I worked on the Lehman Report. And I also served as a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Detroit, Michigan. I studied law at Michigan and computer science and mathematics at Cornell. My hometown is College Station, Texas, home of the Fightin' Texas Aggies.

  • Title: Co-Creator of iDoneThis
  • Age: 27
  • Location: SoHo, Greenwich Village
  • Contact: @smalter,

You’ll be joining WeWork Labs starting April 1.  What do you hope to get out of being in the space?

I'm mostly hoping for free donuts and to stomp startup dweebs at video games.  Otherwise, I'm looking forward to meeting people who are excited and working on cool stuff, and maybe getting together to make stuff happen.  I'm a guy that appreciates outsider art and I really admire the dude who sits alone in his room and makes crazy things, but it seems that, say, the mantra, "build something people want," as a way to be successful with consumer apps on the web, really requires you to kick your idea to lots of people and see what they think.  It's a bit strange because, growing up, computer nerds were a bunch of weirdos who sat alone in their rooms.  Now, being a computer nerd requires a high degree of social interaction and all the guys you read about and you follow on twitter have super cool haircuts.  Showing up to work everyday at WeWork Labs will probably force me to put on pants.

We asked the previous lawyer turned startup programmer, Mike Oliver, a couple questions that we’re curious if your reasoning was any different. How did you decide that now was the right time to make the switch? Also, were your parents upset?

My parents told me to reconsider every time I mentioned it to them.  But when I finally told them my mind was set, they got behind me 100% and now they're making suggestions all the time and it's really annoying.  As immigrants, my parents don't want to see me throw away everything they've provided for me, but on the other hand, they share in the entrepreneurial spirit and sense of adventure that brings a bunch of them to the States.  My dad wants me to get rich, but he always reminds me not to let my bar license lapse.

It's hard even in retrospect to know whether I made the switch at the right time because it was somewhat impulsive.  I think that ideally, you get traction and ramen profitability on a side project before you make the switch, and Leasely, which I jumped ship to work on, had none of that.  But it was no fun reading Hacker News at work and fantasizing about some other magical life.  In terms of that longing, my timing was pretty good, and now all I do is wallow in reality.

What are the top 3 sites you HAVE to visit each day?

Hacker News, Workflowy, and Starcraft on Reddit.  I don't read Hacker News that much anymore because it makes me a little depressed. I was skeptical of Workflowy at first, but it really is neat.  As for the Starcraft subreddit -- I try not to play that much Starcraft anymore, but now I've taken up spectating professional Starcraft, which is oddly compelling.

Ruby Developer, JavaScript Developer, Technical Lead, Lawyer