Featured on Feb 23, 2012
"A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others."
In December of 2010, I dropped out of college in Raleigh, North Carolina and moved to New York. I knew no one, and had no idea what I was getting myself into- I had never even visited the city before. What brought me to New York was the opportunity to work for David Tisch and David Cohen during Techstars NY's inaugural class. The three months I spent working with eleven early stage startups was truly a life changing experience. I worked in a variety of different roles for the companies, and also built great relationships with many of the founders and mentors in the program.
As Techstars ended I transitioned into a full time job as employee number two at Onswipe. I started out on business development, driving launch partnerships with major publishers and advertisers. I then shifted to a more operations and product focused role, working to scale our tech team and manage product development.
In November of 2011 I left Onswipe and joined Taykey, a trends buying platform that helps Fortune 500 advertisers be more agile in their media spend. Taykey raised an $11 Million Series B a few months before I joined, and as a 35 person company the challenges are very different than those of a seed stage startup. My role is to work closely with our executive team on challenges like hiring, operational processes, and business development. Essentially, I get to take on any challenge inherent in growing a company from startup to profitable business.
As someone who has experienced the welcoming and open nature of the New York startup world firsthand, I cannot emphasize enough how grateful I am to all the amazing people in this community. I always love spending time with people in the industry, whether they are mentors, peers, or newcomers breaking in for the first time. If we haven't met already, get in touch!
- Title: Operations, Taykey
- Age: 21
- Location: Greenwich Village
- Contact: @quintendf
You mention that you dropped out of college and moved to New York to work at Techstars. Can you give a little background on how you got involved with Techstars and landed that opportunity? Any desire to go back to school to finish your degree?
I met the Techstars founders David Cohen and Brad Feld at a startup event while I was still a student. I was that guy who waited around the auditorium until no one else was left and I got the chance to talk with David and Brad. I loved the philosophy of mentorship and community behind Techstars, and I knew I wanted to get involved.
After several months of following up with David and Brad, they connected me with David Tisch here in NY.
Tisch was very hesitant to let me leave college to work for Techstars NY. He sees a lot of value in college education and didn’t want to encourage me to drop out. In true Tisch fashion I think he may have called me “F***** crazy” a few times, but in the end he relented and let me join the program. Tisch ended up being a truly incredible mentor, and being a part of the Techstars team during their first class in NYC was a life changing experience. I can’t speak highly enough of the group of founders and mentors that have had such a hugely positive impact on my life.
As far as going back to school in the future- I’m certainly open to the possibility. I was raised with a pretty unique perspective on education: My father essentially dropped out of high school at one point, but ended up with a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering. I was taught from a young age that education doesn’t have to follow the traditional, linear path.
For me, dropping out of college was a specific step designed to seek out opportunity while I could afford to be highly risk tolerant. While I do have some sympathy for the Peter Thiel perspective that we are in a college “bubble”, I still see personal value in a traditional engineering or liberal arts education. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in 20 years I am teaching philosophy in a small college town and raising a family.
What’s on your personal music playlist?
Recently I’ve had the Gary Clark Jr. EP “Bright Lights” on repeat. As a Seattle native, I’m also a huge fan of Macklemore. Other than that, music discovery for me usually consists of checking out what Mark Bao and Erin Tao are listening to. Those two are pretty much my personal Pandora.
What have you found to be the biggest difference between working at an early stage startup such as Onswipe and a later stage one like Taykey?
At an early stage startup like Onswipe, much of your time is spent answering the most basic questions surrounding your business. Whether you want to call it “product-market fit” or whatever term is popular right now, the challenge of identifying, debating, and solving big problems can be really exciting. I started working with Onswipe right after they raised their seed round, and I was with the company through product launch and raising a Series A. Alongside the founding team I got to work on problems that were all over the map, from “what is our go-to-market strategy” to “how do we provide our employees with health insurance”.
At Taykey, the challenges are centered around scaling and maturing the organization. We have an incredibly talented research and development team in Israel that has been building the core technology behind our product for nearly three years. In New York, we are more focused on turning this technology into a scalable business.
In other words, there’s a huge difference between building a company and scaling an organization. At Onswipe, we were building an entire foundation for the first time. At Taykey, we are making sure that foundation is scalable and repeatable. The two processes are very different, but both are interesting and challenging in their own right.