I am a software engineer, entrepreneur and angel investor. I have co-founded three startups and invested in over a dozen others. In a previous life I was a researcher specializing in robotics and AI. In 2000 I went to work at Google where I was the lead engineer on the first release of AdWords. I also wrote the Google translation console, one of the first crowdsourcing applications on the web. I have sent code into outer space, made a feature-length documentary film, and started working on a book about programming in Common Lisp for real-world applications. My public github repo is here, though it contains only a tiny fraction of the code I've written.
Spark Innovations originally made an enterprise tool called CarbonData which extracted data from excel spreadsheets, put it in a database, and allowed users to construct dataflow queries using an intuitive graphical interface. Unfortunately, the product was not a commercial success, so we pivoted to building auditable secure communications tools. We are currently developing a small, inexpensive HSM (Hardware Secure Module) for secure key generation and storage.
XGYC is a small investment fund whose members are mainly ex-Googlers and whose investments are mainly in Y-Combinator companies (hence the name). The fund was started in 2008, and to date we have had two exits for a total return of 380% and a compounded annual IRR in excess of 60%.
I originally proposed the idea of creating an electronic marketplace for charter jets not as a way of making money directly, but as a means of aggregating demand data so that an automated scheduling system could be used to reduce the number of empty legs and hence create actual value. The idea was compelling enough to convince Richard Branson to invest $20M. Unfortunately, in the excitement surrounding the transition to a Virgin Company, the original business model got lost in the shuffle. I resigned as CTO shortly after the Virgin acquisition, though I remained on as a technical advisor at the request of the CEO until the company ceased operation in November 2009.
I was brought in, on a short-term contract, by the CEO to replace the original founding CTO. There were serious problems with the software, which was complex code for an image recognition system for mobile phones. In 6 months, we put the development schedule back on track, while maintaining a production site with essentially no down time. I also hired and trained a permanent replacement CTO.
IndieBuyer was an on-line marketplace for independent films. The idea was to try to take advantage of what we anticipated would be a flood of inexpensive content resulting from the availability of cheap high-resolution video cameras and digital editing software. We had grand plans for intelligent recommendation software similar to that now used by Netflix. But we seriously underestimated the amount of capital we would need to achieve critical mass.
In a previous life I was a researcher specializing in autonomous mobile robots. I helped to pioneer what is today the de-facto standard autonomous mobile robot control architecture. For a while I was the most referenced Computer Science researcher at all of NASA according to the citeseer citation tracking engine, a title I held for several years after I stopped publishing. I eventually rose to the rank of Principal at JPL, the highest rung on the technical career ladder there.
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