Looking back, I’ve had many excellent opportunities and many people to thank for all that I have been able to do. My story is a serendipitous confluence of two critical influences through my formative years.
Early in life, I watched my father leave a stable job and start his own business. I lived through the struggles and watched all of the hard decisions and wins of a small business. Though only now am I starting to really understand it all.
The other thread in my life was my interest in computers. (Again, a gift I have to thank my dad for… Mom, if you’re reading, I have many more things to thank you for as well, like knowing that you will read this the day it’s published!) His background in electronics led him to get a family computer early in my life, and that led to my intense drive to play “Treasure Mountain.” I quickly learned my way around a shell.
I’m forever grateful to all of the many people that helped shape my path, and these are just some of the stories that helped me get to where I am today.
An apprentice plumber learns the ropes of business
Growing up, I worked in my dad's plumbing and electrical business (or at least I pretended to.) I developed a love for building things and a healthy understanding of the stresses of running a company, including the feast or famine cycles of small businesses. I remember driving to one job with my dad as he explained how he found a niche setting up mobile and modular homes in a really efficient way. He was able to capture a lot of the business in the area and provide better rates too!
There were many other periods of stress and struggle that I watched my parents manage. Those times prepared me for the tumultuous time getting Allstacks off the ground; however, one of the key lessons I took away is that having a partner like Hersh to go through this with is invaluable far beyond his skills as a leader.
A non-traditional path
During these early years, the seeds were planted, leading me to the NC State Entrepreneurship Program. Most of the career prep was targeted towards getting that first job, and while I knew I still had a lot to learn, the idea of being confined to a box that I had no control over was not interesting. Thankfully a professor joined an engineering class and told us about a different program and a different way to impact what we were learning in our engineering curriculum. Given my exposure early in life, I was immediately convinced.
In that program, I met many amazing, like-minded people. I also met the next person who would profoundly impact my life: my current partner in crime and Allstacks co-founder, Hersh Tapadia.
Chasing problems, building products, testing fit
After college, I ended up getting a “real” job. While the people were terrific, there was something critical missing. I was at a crossroads and wondering what I should do next when I ran into an old friend again outside of a startup event. Hersh pointed at me from where he was having dinner on a patio and said that he needed me to join a company, and so began the professional partnership that would inspire Allstacks.
During this period, I got lots of practice in reducing high science ideas to practical applications. Working with Hersh and the other folks at CertiRx, I was able to move quickly, build products, MVPs, get them in the hands of customers, and iterate. I was also exposed to the realities of running a business, ranging from patent prosecution to funding. It was a wonderful time, and I learned a lot quickly.
Doing product research by getting real close to the problem
While many of our ideas and products were solid, we struggled to find a magical product-market fit. So, while Hersh and I knew we worked well together, we knew it was time to move on. In a way, I started to grow antsy again. We had spent a lot of time building products, and I was searching for what to build next. The answer was obvious: I needed to build my own company.
After much soul searching, Hersh and I hatched a plan. We knew we wanted to build a product, so we started a consulting business for research purposes. We took the experience we had gained building products and got up close to the problems engineering leaders were experiencing every day to see if there was something we could solve for them.
The next most interesting thing for me to build was a company.
After interviewing and collaborating with dozens of heads of engineering, CTOs, and even non-technical business leaders, we found an idea that had legs - Allstacks. We started convincing a few people to take a chance on us through some late nights, iterations, and lots of customer interviews. Not only did we find great early customers, but we also found a few great early investors.
The early grind was tough, but one of the pivotal moments was our acceptance into TechStars. Not only was this an incredible validation of what we had built so far, but it also represented funding at a key milestone in our journey. I had actually started looking for real jobs again. We got our acceptance call mere hours before I had a job interview. It’s still the strangest interview of my life, but a story for another day.
There were many more amazing folks along the way, and we’re still meeting and finding wonderful people willing to help us with the journey. To everyone who’s helped along the way, I say thank you, and I couldn’t have made it here without y’all!