Featured on Apr 13, 2011
"Eat well and prosper."
I'm an entrepreneur, attorney and technologist. About a year ago I taught myself to code in Ruby on Rails and started building things. I was a year into working on my first startup when I decided to take more control over the early stage development process. I locked myself in my office for six weeks and built WhatIsFresh.com. Shortly after launching, The New York Times called WhatIsFresh the "best guide to what's available at which Greenmarkets." So I thought, "hm, I guess I can do this." Then I raised some money and built CraftCoffee.com. We recently relaunched CraftCoffee as a subscription service for artisan coffee tasting boxes delivered to your door monthly, and the response has been amazing. Now we're gearing up to take things to the next level!
- Title: Founder of CraftCoffee.com and WhatIsFresh.com
- Age: 31
- Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
- Contact: @themikehorn, mikehorn.us
Were you an organic foodie before you created WhatIsFresh.com?
I've always been drawn to artisans and craftspeople because I love that they focus their whole lives on doing one particular thing really well. I see small family farmers as fitting into that mold. That's what WhatIsFresh is about for me. I think it's amazing that in the middle of New York City you can buy farm products from the people who grew them and literally picked them that morning.
What type of coffee do you drink? Any recommendations from CraftCoffee?
The coffee scene in New York right now is a little bit like the startup scene. There's energy, community and new roasters and cafes are popping up every day. So it's a fun time to be in both coffee and startups. CraftCoffee is all about creating amazing coffee experiences. We do that by tasting lots of the best coffees and creating curated tasting boxes for our subscribers. So I'm lucky to drink a lot of really excellent coffee. If you're looking for my absolute favorite recommendations each month, just sign up for our tasting box at CraftCoffee.com.
You’ve recently circled back to law, with a position at Buhler, Duggal & Henry LLP. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I started my career practicing corporate finance law on Wall Street, but always had that hunger to start companies. One day the conditions felt right and I decided to quit my legal job and go for it. Three years later, I found myself in a unique position as an experienced corporate lawyer who also truly understands the perspective of startup founders. So when a good friend from law school started a boutique law firm with a strong focus on emerging companies, it felt like the right time to start using my skills to help the kinds of companies that me and my friends are working hard to build.
The counseling side of my practice, in particular, has been incredibly rewarding. I always tell founders that in the earliest stages of your company, it's not the legal documents where lawyers add value, it's the counseling and guidance. My hope is that as I continue to learn and evolve as a founder, my clients benefit from that experience and knowledge.
First cracking open that coding manual can be daunting for some people. Any advice for other folks just starting to learn how to program?
It's exciting to see more and more people dive into coding. For me, it was important to remember that I wasn't looking for a technical job doing the heavy lifting at Google or Facebook. I just wanted to build things, and it was fine if my code wasn't perfect.
People say that coding today is easy, but that's only kind of true. What they really mean is that it's easy compared to how much harder it used to be. Getting started can still be a little rough and you do need to work hard to get over the learning curve. When I taught myself to code by building WhatIsFresh, I locked myself in a room for six weeks and just pushed through. So prepare yourself for a short-term intensive commitment. Once you get over the curve, you'll feel how powerful it is for an entrepreneur to have these skills. The payoff is totally worth a few weeks of hard work.
Can you give us any hints on where CraftCoffee will develop next?
We're very excited about the positive response to what we're doing. We have one goal: to bring our customers amazing coffee experiences delivered to their door every month. Everything you see us doing in the future will be about improving those experiences.