Featured on Dec 02, 2010
"One idea at a time. Preferably one you love."
Spencer Fry is the co-founder and CEO of Carbonmade, handling day-to-day operations, accounting, legal matters, customer service, marketing, advertising, and "everything else" that’s not design or code. Carbonmade is the easiest way to display and manage your portfolio online, with over 250,000 members.
- Title: Co-Founder & CEO, Carbonmade
- Age: 26
- Location: East Village
- Contact: spencerfry.com
In what ways have you been able to use your degree in Social Psychology from Yale at Carbonmade?
I actually began college as a Computer Science major, not a Social Psychology major. I'm the business side of Carbonmade, but few people know that I took all the core CS classes (with one ambitious graduate level data mining class) and was quite the ambitious young programmer!
However, midway through my Sophomore year (2002), I co-founded (later sold in 2007) the company TypeFrag with David Grampa (I sold it in 2007, and it's alive and kicking today with 25 employees). The responsibilities of starting my own company cut into my school work. TypeFrag was an overnight success, and, when I look back, probably by that summer I should have taken an indefinite leave of absence from school. I decided instead to finish off my education and ended up going a significantly easier route with a Social Psychology degree.
Even though getting a degree in Social Psychology was far less demanding, I do think the reading, discussion and papers helped make me the leader and operations guy I am today. A large part of Social Psychology is the study of people, organizations, and society. It's certainly helped me run Carbonmade. I'm a constant positive energy source even when product delays creep in and production slows--although three new hires in the past six months have put an end to that! At the end of the day, I'm thankful for my education at Yale, which enhanced my understanding of people and my ability to work with them.
In your opinion, what is one thing that the NYC startup scene is lacking in or missing?
I first moved to New York in November, 2006 – about six months after graduating from college. I immediately immersed myself in the New York startup scene, attending the New York Tech Meetup and every other event I could make time for. The startup scene back then was a lot more intimate – the NYTM was about 50-75 people – and I miss those days.
As valuable as social networking has been to help us keep in touch with our friends and colleagues, it has brought in a new wave of folks to these events who are looking more for fame (often measured in numbers of Twitter followers) than for help building a product. It wasn't like that four years ago – the community was filled with entrepreneurs, hackers, product people, and designers.
Somewhat regretfully, I think this can be attributed to the NYC startup scene having grown too quickly. A lot of people like me, and many of my friends out there, now avoid the large meetups. We stick to small groups where we can actually discuss and share ideas on day-to-day issues rather than the "best social media strategy" of the month. It's a shame, but I think NYC's recent startup successes have led to a shift in culture. We've lost the number one thing New York's startup scene had going for it: humility and a can-do attitude.
When you get into the office in the morning, what are the first three things you typically do?
My work in the morning begins at home, before I get to the office. I start by booting up my trusty three year old MacBook (busted battery and all) to check in on email. We hired a full-time customer service guy in July (Mike Minnick), so I'm no longer spending more than a small fraction of my time on support emails -- I use to do them first thing in the morning. Now I mainly glance over the emails that came through while we were all sleeping and see if anything is urgent.
If nothing is urgent, I'll head to the office. When I get there, it'll be a toss-up whether Michael Sigler beats me there by a few minutes or I beat him. The first one in will make a pot of tea in our fancy new Breville tea maker. We'll catch up on things and then I'll open TeuxDeux to see what's on my list of unfinished work and iCal to see if I have any meetings that day – I average at least a meeting a day.
I'll note if anything needs immediate attention. If not, I'll open up MailPlane and begin on a slew of emails. A few hours later it'll be lunchtime – Dave and Jason will be in the office by now – and we'll all grab lunch. After lunch, it'll be anything from interviewing new job applicants, working in Excel, meetings, product discussion, marketing, giving feedback and dozens of other jobs. I wrote a popular article called What's a Non-Programmer To Do? and I've got a follow up coming sometime in December.
DJing is one of your passions. What's your DJ name, and what's the largest venue where you've worked as a DJ?
My DJ name is, fittingly, Suspence. I've DJed at The Jane Hotel, Le Poisson Rouge, Bowery Ballroom, Gallery Bar, Antik, Heather's and a handful of others. Sadly, I haven't had as much time to DJ in 2010 as I did in 2009-- although to the chagrin of my neighbors, I play for my friends in my apartment. DJing any evening of the week means that you're going as late as 4:00 AM and then another hour or more to get packed up and in bed (sometimes as late as 6:00 AM). It's really exhausting and screws up your sleep and schedule for the next few days.
That said, it's my second favorite outlet (the first is playing squash). Having up to two hundred people dancing and waving their arms to the music you're mixing is a rush that cannot be described in words. I've got a gig for late December that I'm looking forward to. I will post it on my Twitter when I have more information.