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Featured on Apr 01, 2011

Nik Bonaddio

"Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts."


I've led a charmed life. My complete inability to ever keep still as a kid led me to an athletic scholarship at Carnegie Mellon, where I was both a mild-mannered Computer Science nerd and an All-American sprinter. I graduated and then went out to Silicon Valley, starting at Yahoo! before landing at a series of startups, each more profitable than the last. I had the great fortune of appearing on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" in 2009, where I won enough money to finally launch my own project and execute some of the ideas I've had rattling around in my brain for years. Those ideas turned into numberFire, a sports analytics framework that launched in 2010. Since launch, we've been fortunate enough to get a lot of really nice press coverage from TechCrunch and elsewhere, a corps of evangelistic users, and some wonderfully brilliant advisors.

What do you get asked about most often about your appearance on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  Did you do anything specific to prepare for the big day?

Most people ask me if Regis is the same person when the cameras stop rolling or if his whole personality is an act. He was very quiet and studious when we weren't taping. He was also very encouraging when he did talk though; I remember that a few times he told me I was doing a great job both answering the questions and being engaging for TV. I didn't do much to prepare other than play the iPhone game a bunch of times so I'd get a feel for the types of questions that they were going to ask. Other than that I just tried (and failed) to get a solid night's sleep. I had told myself that if I won a significant amount of money that I'd quit my job and launch a company; amazingly, that's exactly what happened.

numberFire is a combination of two of your passions, technology and sports, have you thought about its implications/application in the sports gambling world?

We definitely have, and in fact that was the #1 piece of feedback that we received from users over the course of the season. We ended up doing a quick little feature where we tried to outpredict Vegas in the playoffs, and we ended up going 9-2 against the spread. With that said, the algorithm felt very strongly that the Packers were going to win the Super Bowl, which was very hard to publish considering I'm a huge Steelers fan. I'm not a huge gambler, but there's definitely a market there and we plan on attacking it pretty hard.

Where can you get the best chicken wing in NY?

This is going to sound like a bit of a copout, but my girlfriend makes the best wings. She double fries them Korean-style, and she has this homemade sauce made from Sriracha which is just spectacular. She made them for my birthday (even though I was at work until 10:00pm) and after that, no wings can compare. Beyond that, Reservoir near Union Square has some good ones, as does Irish Rogue in Hell's Kitchen and Dinosaur in Harlem. Remember kids, there's no such thing as a boneless buffalo wing - that's a chicken nugget, and if you eat them, you can't be my friend.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned from your time working at Yahoo! or the startups that’s really helped you with getting numberFire off the ground?

They're almost like a running joke in the tech world, but I loved my time at Yahoo! and I'll always have a soft spot for them. They were my first real job out of school and taught me so much, introduced me to so many great people. The two biggest things I learned there was how to design things for scale (few sites have traffic like them) and the danger of indecision - they moved so slowly on projects that had the potential to be very innovative, and it pretty much killed them. The other startups I was involved with really helped me understand - and I know this is going to sound bad - that there really is nothing like working for yourself and making your own way. There will be so many times in your life to be employee #10 or #1000 somewhere, so you absolutely have to take your shot at being employee #1 when you have the chance.

Technical Lead, CEO