Featured on Aug 25, 2011
"If you love anything you have the capacity to love everything."
College drop out, hedge fund CTO at 20, founded DesignerPages.com at 24, and run NYC on Rails Meetup.
- Title: Co-Founder, Designer Pages
- Age: 28
- Location: Flatiron District
- Contact: @aviflombaum
How did you and the DesignerPages team come to recognize the architecture and design industry’s need for an information and search platform? Do you still have the original “crude napkin sketch” from 2007?
During my sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin, I was recruited by a hedge fund to build their investment management system. After four years there, I became really interested in how people work. Whether lawyers or bankers or call-center agents, people's workflows fascinated me. Jake (jacobslevin.com), a friend of mine from high school, was an architect and I asked him what he actually does; how he spends his time in the office. He told me that he spends the majority of his time in a 6,000 row excel spreadsheet of manufacturers and checking that the firm library had an up-to-date catalog of each manufacturer's products. That sounded like something the internet could solve.
After five years, I couldn't find the napkin sketch, but I was able to load a screenshot of our very first homepage when we launched the site in "private alpha" (I'm a little embarrassed to have ever used such a phrase).
When did you decide to start running the NYC on Rails Meetup? What is your favorite part about talking to new people at the Meetup?
I joined the group in September 2006, a few months after it was formed. Rails was so young then and the group was really about learning this new framework. Coming from C# and a .Net development environment, the NYC on Rails Meetup Group really helped me get oriented with Ruby (and switching from PC to Mac). As I advanced, I started attending the NYC.rb meetup, which is geared more to seasoned developers. In July 2009, the organizer of the NYC on Rails Meetup stepped down and I stepped up to create a group that would really focus on peer-mentorship and providing a casual and friendly environment for beginners. Over the last 2 years, the group has grown by 300% and it's now one of the largest Rails groups in the world.
My favorite part of talking and teaching people at the meetup is seeing the moment when they overcome the hurdle that's been holding their code back. It is so frustrating to spend hours trying to figure something out or debug a problem. But then it is just as cathartic learning how to fix that issue in seconds from an experienced developer.
Your personal collection on DesignerPages includes some pretty uniquely designed product designs. If you could purchase whatever you wanted, what would be your dream piece of home furnishing?
Coming from a writing and programming background, sometimes it's hard for me to 'eat my own dog food' with Designer Pages. But I think it's super important for developers/product people to use, love, and be passionate by the software they build. Every day I try to find the love in architecture and design everyday. Doing so helps keep me inspired. The Battlestar Galactica inspired 'Fracking Furniture' collection was an attempt at that I guess. But besides that - I think I actually own my dream piece of furniture. It isn't the most expensive piece in the world, but the Emeco 111 Navy Chair made of recycled coca-cola bottles in Pantone Red is one of my favorite pieces. Just a few reasons I love it.
- It was commissioned by the US Navy in 1940 for use in World War 2 Warships. Because of this, it can withstand a torpedo blast to the side of a destroyer. I love things that are the product of war efforts, not sure why.
- It is a classic american design and is the basis of thousands of knock-offs and copy-cats. Everyone has seen this chair.
- It is made out of Coca-cola bottles, another American classic. I guess I love America. And classics. And it's sustainable and recycled.
If you had to go back to college, would you continue your degree in Creative Writing or would you study something else?
For sure continue my degree in creative writing. I think written communication is the most important skill. The written word permeates to almost every aspect of business. And story telling, creative writing, is crucial to startups, from pitching investors to marketing strategies, and even product development. Often I think of products as narratives. The story starts at the problem you are solving and is told through the experience of using the product.