My mom showed me my first lines of Basic when I was 5 years old and I have been fascinated with software ever since. I started writing my own code when I turned 11 by putting together simple HTML pages to showcase my favorite cartoons and video games. Soon after learning HTML I picked up Perl to make my websites dynamic, and then Python after that, using both to build websites with CGI scripts.
At 14 my mom was able to get me a job in data entry for the Survey Research Institute at Cornell. I automated the collection of addresses and phone numbers using Python scripts to scrape whitepages.com. This got me a job working with the web development team for the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where I was able to branch out into learning ColdFusion and “dynamic HTML” with YUI and CSS.
My first entrepreneurial venture was to write the website for a local theatre company with my friend Kevin Cheng. We put together a decent website and got paid $300 to do it. It was great fun.
In college, I studied biology with the intent to go into medecine. After 3 years I learned I probably did not actually want to become a doctor, so I took several CS classes in addition to the biology classes. After I graduated college, I was able to live abroad in Qatar. In Qatar I was a teaching assistant for organic chemistry and biochemistry at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar.
After Blazing Cloud, I worked at Linden Lab in the new products division. I was able to work on Versu, which was a virtual storytelling game where the goal was to interact with other characters powered by AI. I was also able to work on Blocksworld, which was a building game where you could create and program almost anything you could think of.
After Linden Lab I went back to TrueCar, this time as a full-time employee. Again I found myself working on building pricing models with Mikhail. We go the idea to build MLeap after deciding it was too difficult a process developing ML models then bringing them to production as API services to power products.
After 2 years at TrueCar, I left to start Combust.ML, which was a company built around the commercialization of MLeap. I co-founded Combust with Mikhail. Combust was able to pay the bills for a while, but it became apparent pretty quickly it would not be a wild success. So, Mikhail and I co-founded another company, Propel AI, along with Tom Taira and Bernie Brenner.
We spent 1 and 1/2 years building a conversational AI at Propel to sell to dealerships. After that time, we sold Propel AI to Carvana to integrate with their systems. When we went to Carvana, there were 4 of us. When I left Carvana, we had grown the team to over 30 people including software engineers, product managers, data scientists, and data labelers. Propel AI software was (and is still) powering 10s of thousands of conversations a day, connecting Carvana customers to the AI we built and the customer advocates when the AI isn’t enough. After 3 and 1/2 years at Carvana, I decided to take some time off to explore opportunities outside of the automotive industry and hone my skills by writing open-source software and technical articles.
Now we are here.