The Adventure Continues in San Francisco

June 15, 2012 · Print This Article

I’m drinking an Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout at my house in San Francisco. Our Chief of Staff candidate is for some reason awesomely dancing in the kitchen behind me. I’m looking out the window at a view of the Castro, Mission, Potrero Hill, SOMA, Russian Hill, Corona Heights, and Buena Vista.

So here’s the story…

On April 14th I was in Mountain View, CA during a lecture on neuroscience at the Singularity University Executive Education program. A eureka moment had just occurred during a rather intense theta wave. The vision for what I just had to create came into my head. The same focused intensity that overtook me in the Summer of 2003 while building out iContact with Aaron had returned.

The next few days I was in whiteboard sketch-up mode in pure John Nash style. I was also on the lookout for a co-founder and knew I would need to start building out a great technical team.

Meeting My Co-Founder

A week later, Anima Sarah LaVoy (whose first name means “soul”) and I met here in San Francisco through our mutual friend Bear and her boyfriend Daniel, an engineer at Google. She was a brilliant and ebullient 31 year-old with an Oxford MBA, a decade of experience building complex political organizations, and a deep understanding of psychology and the human operating system. Turns out, she had the same problem I had: “How to intelligently scale our ability to organize and visualize our human relationships.” We decided to work on solving this problem together.

The Summer of 2012 in SF

By May 4th, I had decided to move to San Francisco for (at least) the summer and start a new company to bring this vision to market. I wrote my friend Burcu in an email:

“The intelligence and ambition and care and values of the people here is unmatched anywhere in the world. My best friends from so many different walks of life all happen to be living within a 6 block radius of a park called Dolores Park between the neighborhoods of the Castro and the Mission. I have found a great home to rent for the summer right here in the middle of it all, on a nice hill with a great view of the city. The values driven innovative culture here is palpable and this area of the world is truly the vanguard of our culture. It’s sort of like 1968 with iPhones. Imagine if the social justice passion of the 60s were combined with the connection and communication technology of 2012. Imagine how you could change the world in that environment. And then you wake up with a smile and realize that’s what’s actually happening. I’m like a little kid in a candy store here.

I’m consistently amazed that it feels like the future here. People are commonly talking about genomics, self-driving cars, 3d printing, the application of smart phone diagnostics to global public health in remote villages, artificial intelligence, robotics, and solving humanity’s greatest challenges. I may have found my tribe. Oh, and they dance and dress up in banana costumes! There is an amazing casual run called Bay to Breakers coming up on May 20th when everyone dresses up and jogs across the city as groups of penguins or bears or salmon or bananas. You must join my group of penguins.”

I think those two paragraphs pretty much summed up my thoughts on San Francisco as the Summer of 2012 begins.

Life, Death, Renewal & Innovation

On May 6 I left for my HBS interview in Boston and then Kenya for a week for a trip with the UN Foundation to Nairobi and the Kakuma Refugee Camp near the South Sudan border. After coming upon two Somali refugee teenagers who had Android smart phones in the remotest part of Kenya– I was hit by quite an obvious yet significant realization–smart mobile touch devices will be nearly ubiquitous globally within three years.

Kakuma Refugee Camp near the Kenya/South Sudan border

When I returned from Kenya to the States, I went to Florida as my mom was ill. While I was there, she ended up passing away from brain cancer on May 25th six months after being diagnosed. She was a social worker from Yorkshire, England who primarily worked with mentally handicapped individuals during her professional career. She taught me to be confident, think big, travel widely, and read often. She taught me to follow my bliss and to live fully everyday. I gained so much inspiration and purpose from her. I am now on a super-clear life mission.

When I came back to California on June 1st, I was focused. I would build this new company in my mother’s name. And at it’s core purpose would be a social mission to make it much easier for human beings to connect with each other globally on mobile touch devices. It would be a B Corp from the start.

Anima would become our Co-Founder and Chief Connector/Chief Alchemist. I would be the co-founder and Chief Energy Officer (chief “executive” officer sounds so boringly corporate). We would all work our butts off for the summer and get an alpha to market by mid-August.

And so, after May 22nd a new mobile technology company was born with the help of my good friends at DLA Piper and the lovely Delaware Secretary of State. For the next few weeks, we’ve decided to keep the official company name a bit stealthy until we lock up our domain assets. Our temp domain is :-) . Yep, we’re that nerdy.

And Then There Were Five

The last week has been just amazing. I had a chance to meet President Obama on Wednesday during a roundtable in San Francisco with Marc Benioff and was excited to join on as a National Co-Chair of Technology for Obama (T4O) for the remainder of the campaign season.

Our team also grew from 2 to 5 members last week. Addison Hardy the preternaturally brilliant PHP/Python engineer arrived from North Carolina, Sara Luchian the Chief of Staff candidate joined us from Philadelphia after completing her Wharton MBA, and Marwan Roushdy the CSS Guru/Front End Designer flew in from Egypt.

What we’re building is rather technologically complex and requires an integration of left brain big data analytics with right brain creative aesthetics and so we really have no idea if we’ll succeed or not, but we’re going to have a damn good time trying. We’re not afraid to fail, as to us, the only way to fail is living out of integrity. We’re super focused and we’re putting it all on the line.

The team is living/working in a house in Noe Valley/Eureka Heights, SF in a house that I now own, by way of Googler Max Ventilla, and having lots of fun while taking the time to bring together great advisors for wonderful dinners and think deeply about the problem we’ve set out to solve. I’m learning how to make super healthy smoothies on our Vitamix 5200. And we’re watching Star Wars movies at night in The Temple (which is complete with a gong, multicolor LED lights, and sayings from the Dalai Lama).

Here are the house rules we’ve posted on the front door and a white board…

Above our whiteboard is the quote, “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself. Everything else is hackable.” Above the fishtank is “A revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having.”

You can check out my Tumblr for more recent team photos.

We’re Hiring! Come Join Us!!

Now, we’re now looking for team members 6 through 8 to join over the next 2-4 weeks to join us on this crazy adventure with an ambitious, caring, competent, and semi-well capitalized crew.

We’re now accepting applications over the next 5 days for a senior PHP/Python engineer, a Data Scientist, an API Engineer, and CTO/Technical Co-Founder. We’re primarily looking for people from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Twitter, and Salesforce with significant experience with scalability, but are open to applicants from anywhere. We’re also only looking for compassionate, caring, and highly competent people who want to make a difference in the world.

We’re centrally located in SF, paying above market salaries, offering early equity positions and the opportunity to work with the best technology, and promise an amazingly fun and meaningful summer. Come join us!

> Here’s some additional info on the technical job openings.

If you’d like to apply please send your CV to me at If you know someone who may wish to apply, I very much welcome introductions at that email address.

With so much love,


2 Responses to “The Adventure Continues in San Francisco”

  1. Joshua on June 15th, 2012 9:38 pm

    I honestly think (if I am beginning to picture this vision properly) that this has the ability to end up socially connecting and revolutionizing a struggling jobs market in a way I have not seen approached before. I maybe wrong, but I think I am beginning to see its potential.

  2. Lyston Peebles on June 16th, 2012 12:01 am

    Ryan, be as blunt as my request..could I come to hang out for 2-3 days. I feel that watching young entrepreneurs of your calibre would do me good. I would not ask questions ( too dumb), would sleep in a hotel or on your floor in a sleeping bag would not expect to be entertained but simply observe. I want to stay young and work another 30 years ( I am 65). It goes without saying, I would NEVER reveal what you are doing,only come be a learner of your generation…by listening. I would NOT understand any of the technical jagon, but will run get coffee, water what ever would be useful. thoughts

    I love reading your commentary

Got something to say?