I'm trying to make the internet more discoverable & readable so that people can be better informed. Better informed people will make better decisions for themselves.
I believe this what it means to give people Command.
I had a tough breakup in middle school that caused me to search for validation outside myself. This manifested in building startups.
I sold my first startup in high school - it was called iSchoolerz
. It was simple & I had domain expertise. I built apps that brought together the resources that mattered to high schoolers - things like bell schedules, announcements, homework portals. I sold it to the principals of schools and it got adopted by the students. iSchoolerz sold to 1StudentBody
, where I came in as an honorary cofounder and was lucky to be mentored by 3 repeat entrepreneurs.
During high school, I attended a lot of hackathons. This is where I learned that big companies are run by folks not much different than us. I started out being a canonical hacker - reverse engineering apps like Robinhood
. In one case I got to speak to a stern Evan of Snap
for sending snaps to all the users of Snapchat.
As I matured, I began to work on generative hacks - ones where I was creating new products. One of these hacks, called Tetherball, was conceived at LAHacks 2014 where the WiFi was terrible. Mo
+ I decided to build a networking layer
to let people monetize by sharing the hotspots on their phones.
This hack seemed to have a life of its own. It was approached by Private Internet Access during the Hackathon and then later was acquired by Springboard Capital for $4.5M
For me, coming to college became an opportunity to reconnect with folks my age. I had an incredible time in Berkeley. I dated some amazing people, made some life long friends, and am proud of the memories I made there. I also engaged in mission driven hacks.
My sophomore year, I became more politically aware when I built Presidential Actions
. This iPhone app sent me (and the 10,000 or so that used it) a notification every time Trump signed an executive order or made a Presidential Action. It gave me a better sense of the power & limits of the executive branch.
All the while, I watched a trend of society moving more and more of civic life online. I'd watch first hand as protests in Berkeley got distorted online. More of us were engaging digitally than physically and arguing narratives that didn't represent what was actually going on.
This created an interest in Fake News. The downstream affects of falling for misinformation can cause people to act against their interests.
My junior year, my best friend and I launched a service called Botcheck
. We built a simple browser extension that told folks whether they were talking to a Bot or not. There was credible evidence that there were foreign influence campaigns taking place on social media. Building something for it was just the obvious thing to do.
It definitely struck a chord with America. We were covered by almost all major domestic networks, got prominent screen time on national news
, and then were promoted by the Voice of America
abroad. To me - this was the moment that I made it. I'd been a vessel for something greater than myself & I'd inked myself into history.
By the end of elections, we'd met with Twitter & Jack had started taking the problem of Bots far more seriously. By then we'd worked with the DNC
, advised politicians
on responding to bot attacks, and volunteered numerous hours helping journalists and media organizations
make sense of misinformation. Having been celebrated for our work & accomplishing what we'd set out to do, we retired Botcheck and decided to look for something new.