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Featured on Jan 24, 2011

Mike LaValle

"If it makes me a little bit nervous, I'm probably game."


I grew up in New York City and went to Regis High School. I then attended West Point and studied Literature and Philosophy. After West Point, I joined the Infantry, graduated from the the U.S. Army's Airborne, Air Assault, and Ranger Schools and spent a year in Afghanistan. Following the Army, I was a tech investment banker at Morgan Stanley and then co-founded I blog at

  • Title: CEO, Gojee
  • Age: 30
  • Location: SoHo
  • Contact: @MPLaValle

You’ve said in the past that you need to “do everything in your power to make sure that your team is playing to win.” What types of things do you do to make sure that is happening?

Well, I do yell a lot.  But an old russian friend once told me, you have to "use the whip and the cookie".  So after I yell at them, I usually tell them they did a good job coding that day or that the design is making great progress.   Or I ask them about their feelings later to make sure they know I care about them.

You went to an all guy's high school, fenced at an all-guys gym, were in the boy scouts, an all guys organization, went to west point, and joined the infantry, an all guys part of the army.  Are you sure you can handle the three women on your team?

No.  I could lead a bunch of men into the fiery pits of hell simply by rushing in first.  Women would just watch me go, comment about how dumb that was, and then go have brunch.  So yeah, this is quite a different dynamic.  Each day I come in that they come in too is a victory. Perhaps Im setting the bar low there.

The Gojee team has been expanding over the past couple of months. What are the qualities that you look for in potential hires that make you think that they’d be a good fit for the company culture you’re trying to create?

This may sound crazy, but when someone meets the team, and they're like "I really have no idea what you guys are doing, but I'm in", there's a good chance they're a fit.  

Also, someone threw out an f-bomb in an interview. We knew she'd be a good fit (don't try that at home, kids).

And great rails developers usually end up being a good fit.

You took friends and family money in your first round, how do you feel about that debate (take vs. not take)?

You should take the money.  Fear is a great motivator.  If I don't pull this off, I am going to owe my brother Dave beers for about 50 years, and I will NOT let that happen. Now granted, don't take Grandma Pete's milk money, but in general, if the people who know you best don't trust you, I question if you should trust yourself.

Last question. What is the coolest or most interesting thing that you have run into recently here in New York?

In broad daylight I once saw a bunch of high school kids skinny-dipping in the fountains outside the Met.  There was a lot of honking. That's why I live in New York. I mean, not for the naked high school kids, but more for the spontaneity part of it.