Beijing mongoDB conference: I’ll be showing a shiny new Alive.cn

mongoDB

mongoDB is one of the hot new NoSQL databases that have recently come out and is the database platform for new Alive.cn, the new multilingual entertainment database that I’ve been constructing. I’ve been a MySQL user ever since we started Rotten Tomatoes over ten years ago, so I’m still relatively new to mongoDB, but I really like the philosophy of simplicity and flexibility for things like dynamic and lazy schemas, auto-sharding, on-the-fly indexes, etc. I’m dealing with a wide variety of complex data schemas across very large datasets in this new project so it’s nice to be able to waste time having to stuff everything into a “one-size fits all” design.

In any case, the nice folks at 10gen, the company that develops mongoDB, will be conducting a free developers conference in Beijing on Thursday, March 3 and I will be delivering one of the presentations. I hope to prepare something that shows the power of flexibility of using mongoDB with various linked open data sources (or combining this data with social media data sources like Facebook, Twitter, and Sina Weibo) or something along those lines. I’ll deliver my talk in English, but hope to have Chinese slides as well and, of course, you can come up and chat with me in Chinese.

mongoDB is increasingly being used by many notable social companies overseas like foursquare, Disqus (which I use on my own site), and Eventbrite. If you’re interested in learning about this alternative to MySQL, check out more details.

Stephen’s mini-autobiography

Stephen Wang

I was born in the United States in Toledo, Ohio to Taiwanese parents, but eventually landed in Columbia, Maryland where I grew up. As a child, I would spend summer in Alhambra, California (near Los Angeles) where the primarily Chinese-American community stood in stark contrast to the mostly white Columbia. I developed an early interest in programming primarily from my Commodore 64 where I initially began writing computer games in BASIC.

As a young, nerdy teenager I was able to hide my social ineptitude by transforming into a punk rock, liberal flag-waving youth. Some of my more memorable achievements as a teenager include helping to organize one of the first public performances by punk rock gods Fugazi during freshman year of high school, spending multiple nights protesting the first Iraq War in front of the White House, and directing multiple high school plays as part of being a theater geek. I was addicted to the music of the Violent Femmes, Smashing Pumpkins, and The Smiths.

As a consequence, it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that my next step was to go to the University of California, Berkeley, once the home to liberalism and protest. However, upon entering Berkeley, I actually became much more moderate and my passions shifted away to more pragmatic goals. I entered Cal in 1993 initially with a double major of Computer Science and Political Science, still split between whether wanting to be a computer engineer or a lawyer like my oldest brother. I really enjoyed my political science classes more than my computer science classes, but became hooked on the World Wide Web after seeing someone using the early NCSA Mosaic browser for the first time in 1994. I immediately began devouring materials on HTML and CGI programming and became a resident expert about the Web amongst my friends (who, at the time, were mostly interested in playing Doom). Luckily, this personal passion became a part of my professional life.

Furthermore, my other primary passion was movies which I had watched endlessly and can debate like any proper film geek. My middle brother has a similar passion which has resulted in him pursuing his passion as film producer, while I have applied my interest in work like Rotten Tomatoes and Alive Not Dead.

After college, I remained in the San Francisco Bay Area until 2005 and took part in the Internet boom by co-founding companies Rotten Tomatoes and Design Reactor.

I eventually decided to move out to China at the end of 2005 because I wanted to improve my Mandarin Chinese and to take part in the huge change and opportunities. I stayed about a year in Xiamen, Fujian which is a beautiful coastal town across from Taiwan and still my favorite city in China. In late 2006, I moved to Hong Kong to start my current venture, Alive Not Dead, and stayed for about three years. I then moved to Beijing in October 2009 and lived there for three years before returning to Hong Kong in August 2012. I’m currently living in Guangzhou.

To read more about my professional life and other autobiographical tales, be sure to check out my About Me page.

Alive Not Dead (2007-2013)

Alive Not DeadNote: This post is part of an extended auto-biography which is collected in my About page.

As our first China company, Xiaban.com, transitioned to becoming the local BBS web site, XMFish.com, my business partner Patrick Lee and I decided that we would pursue new opportunities that would allow us to return to my original passion of film and entertainment and to move to Hong Kong. We had witnessed how the social network Myspace had grown leaps and bounds faster than our former acquirer IGN Entertainment despite being acquired at the same time and for around the same amount of money and by the same owner, News Corporation. As a consequence, we partnered with the members of band Alive to create a new online community of artists, alivenotdead.com.

Patrick had been the primary investor and executive producer for the directorial debut of popular Hong Kong-based actor Daniel Wu (吴彦祖), The Heavenly Kings (四大天王). During college, Daniel was the co-founder of the University of Oregon Wushu Team and frequently came down to Berkeley, near his original hometown, to practice with us and Cal Wushu Team. Daniel and another Cal classmate of ours, Terence Yin (尹子维), were now successful actors in Hong Kong and presented Patrick with the idea of doing creating a boy band similar to F4 or the Backstreet Boys comprised of popular Hong Kong heartthrob actors. In reality, the boy band, named “Alive” and additionally comprising of actors Andrew Lin (连凯) and Conroy Chan (陈子聪), was a cover for a mock-umentary that they were filming that would expose some of the hypocrisies and urgent issues in the Asian entertainment industry. For a period of a year and a half, Alive recorded and released several songs and even went out on a concert tour throughout Asia in the guise of a boy band when, in reality, they were documenting the process for their film. When finally released during the Hong Kong International Film Festival in April 2005, the film and the fake band’s secret mission landed as a media bombshell (The Standard (HK), San Francisco Chronicle), but eventually went on to earn Daniel the award for Best New Director at the Hong Kong Film Awards.

Alivenotdead.com was the original web site for the Alive band and, eventually, The Heavenly Kings movie. It was created by the Alive boys as a place for fans to read their updates as well as connect with other fans on the site’s message boards. It also hosted fan boards for several of the independent Hong Kong bands that were featured in the movie and had accumulated an impressive 30,000+ registered members. As the promotion for the film was coming to an end, the Alive boys presented Patrick with the idea of converting the web site and it was eventually we came across the idea of building an online community similar to Myspace that would allow artists to connect with their fans. Patrick and I were primarily interested in returning to something entertainment-themed as this was my original passion; additionally, we wanted to pursue a model that could grow exponentially as Myspace had, but do it in Asia. Daniel and Terence sought to build a community that could support and largely run artists including filmmakers, musicians, and others.

As a consequence, we worked through early 2007 to launch a new alivenotdead.com in April 2007 with seven initial “official artists”: the Alive band, Daniel Wu (吴彦祖), Andrew Lin (连凯), Conroy Chan (陈子聪), Terence Yin (尹子维), world-famous Chinese action star Jet Li (李连杰), and Chinese-American actress Kelly Hu (胡凯莉). Jet and Kelly came on-board as initial artists on the site since we had been doing their official web sites for numerous years already extending back to our Design Reactor days.

The official artist membership rapidly expanded from the initial seven artists to it’s current roster of around 1,600 artists (as of January 2011) with primary coverage in Hong Kong, Singapore, mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, and Asian-Americans in the United States. Artists can publish and share blogs, photo albums, events, and maintain their own fan forums. For a while, we experimented with artist stores that allowed artists to sell merchandise directly from their profiles. Fans can also register and create their own blogs, photo albums, etc. and connect with their favorite artists and as of January 2011 we have over 600,000 registered members.

A lot of the work we’ve done recently on Alive Not Dead has been towards connecting artists with each other as well as with advertising brands as a way to generate revenue. With the financial crisis in 2008, we pivoted to expand our efforts on working with artists and advertisers on offline events in conjunction with online advertising. At the current time, we work with many top brands (e.g. Adidas, Nokia, Esprit, Diesel) to create online marketing campaigns that draw attention to artist concerts, art exhibitions, etc. which employ Alive Not Dead artists. We also host the most popular and fun annual, costumes-mandatory Halloween party (“Dead Not Alive” Halloween 2010, 2009 (another link), and 2008) in Asia 🙂 .

Working closely with artists, we’ve also expanded our alivenotdead.com platform to help some high profile Asian artists power their official web sites. We power the official web sites for Jet Li 李连杰 (JetLi.com), Jackie Chan 成龙 (JackieChan.com), and Karen Mok 莫文蔚 (KarenMok.com).

In October 2009, I decided to move from Hong Kong to Beijing in order to accelerate our expansion in mainland China. I personally wanted to return to mainland China where I had moved originally when I first came to Asia, and especially to Beijing which is the epicenter of the unique and tremendous internet industry in China. Additionally, Alive Not Dead had recently landed a partnership with web portal, Tom.com, that would allow us to begin hosting and promoting the alivenotdead.com community within mainland China with the help of a local partner. Since then, I’ve been working to reach out to other internet entrepreneurs and engineers, improve my Mandarin Chinese, and grow an online destination for a local Chinese audience.

Update: After departing Alive Not Dead in April 2013, the company was acquired by the Southeast Asian social networking company Migme in early 2014. Alive Not Dead continues to grow under Migme’s stewardship.

Xiaban.com (2005-2006)

Xiaban.com and XMFish.comNote: This post is part of an extended auto-biography which is collected in my About page.

After leaving my role as head of the recently acquired Rotten Tomatoes and a VP at the even more recently acquired IGN Entertainment, I rejoined my frequent business partner Patrick Lee in the Chinese coastal city of Xiamen, Fujian province, where he had teamed up with his original business partner from his first company, Jimmy Zhuang (庄振宁). Jimmy, a college classmate of ours, was originally born and raised in Xiamen prior to moving to California for high school and, eventually, university at Cal.

Our initial web site in China, Xiaban.com (下班网), was initially a customer loyalty platform for merchants whereby customers could swipe a loyalty card at hundreds of different participating stores and receive points which could be redeemed for prizes and discounts. Merchants could sign up to receive powerful, aggregated data about their customers including demographic data, spendings statistics, and comparison data with their competitors. Furthermore, we provided a way for merchants to target SMS-based ads to their customers — every time the card was swiped, the customer would receive an SMS confirming their points along with an advertising area for merchants that could be targeted by neighborhood, customer demographic, or store category. We rolled out this powerful platform across nearly a thousand stores throughout our Xiamen with plans to expand nationwide. When I came into the company as Chief Operating Officer (COO), I was additional tasked with redoing Xiaban.com as a Yelp-like web site that would help us rapidly expand our brand throughout China. Like Yelp, our site allowed users to find the best places to eat and shop from a comprehensive, nationwide database of merchants and share their reviews and tips with other consumers and friends. We further tied in these member services with data accumulated by using the Xiaban loyalty card so members could check and redeem points and prizes online. Unfortunately, the site’s traffic was leapfrogged by our rapidly growing competitor, Dianping.com, and at the end of 2006 we decided to pivot away from the capital-intensive loyalty card platform. Instead, we acquired XMFish.com (厦门小鱼社区), a rapidly growing local community web site in Xiamen. XMFish.com’s traffic was on a phenomenal growth path in the local Xiamen area and was already becoming the most important online destination in Xiamen. As part of the new company, we grew XMFish to become the most trafficked website in the province and a vital and positive community in the Xiamen area. By building online ad sales on the site, we were able to grow both the web site and company stably.

At the current time, XMFish.com has expanded to included neighboring cities and has even begun offering our loyalty card again in partnership with local banks including ICBC. The site has become the primary online platform for local advertising and has been extended to include services like group buying and an online shopping of local merchants with same-day delivery.

While I departed from my full-time position in December 2006, I continue to frequently return to Xiamen.

IGN Entertainment (2004-2005)

IGN Entertainment

Note: This post is part of an extended auto-biography which is collected in my About page.

After Rotten Tomatoes’ acquisition by IGN Entertainment, my business partner and Rotten Tomatoes CEO, Patrick, departed the company and I took over as head. For the remaining eighteen months at IGN/Rotten Tomatoes, I worked to further expand the Rotten Tomatoes traffic and brand. We developed the Certified Fresh seal as a way for movie studios to take advantage of positive film ratings on Rotten Tomatoes in their marketing. Furthermore, we did a tour of all of the marketing and online departments of the major studios to further cement our relationship with the industry we were covering. Finally, I worked closely with the IGN Entertainment team to integrate and expand our ad sales efforts with their more well-developed bi-coastal, ad sales force as well as merge our server platform into their hosting environment. Most importantly, though, I did my best to protect the Rotten Tomatoes brand and team and hire up additional team members who could continue to grow Rotten Tomatoes upon my own departure.

At IGN, I was elevated to a Vice-President position and, as part of my corporate duties, I asked our CEO for the opportunity to explore international expansion in Asia. At the time, IGN itself was preparing to go public as the largest video games content web site with the highest concentration of young male visitors online. It also had some great products such as GameSpy, the early, popular game matchmaking software and Direct2Drive, a video games version of iTunes. I wanted to explore how we might be able to partner or joint venture with companies to relicense and promote these properties in Asia. My former partner, Patrick, had already departed Rotten Tomatoes in order to startup another company  (Xiaban.com) in mainland China and I similarly felt that the growth opportunities in China at the time were enticing. As a consequence, starting in early 2004 I began frequently going to China and learning up on language, culture, and the Internet. Later on, as a part of IGN, I began visiting various gaming and internet companies and investors in preparation to create a representative office in Shanghai where IGN could begin partnering on expansion projects. The frequent visits helped cement my conviction that my next step after Rotten Tomatoes would need to take place in building something in China where the growth opportunities seemed as similarly exciting as the Internet Boom that I had taken a part of in the late 90’s.

In August 2005 and in the same month as it acquired Myspace, News Corporation acquired IGN Entertainment for $650 million. While the IGN’s acquisition was a really impressive feat by our CEO, I had only held a small amount employee shares in the company since our Rotten Tomatoes acquisition was done in cash. Furthermore, my efforts to help with IGN with opening it’s own Shanghai office were sidelined as all new efforts would be done in conjunction with the new parent company. I quickly made a decision that I wanted to return to entrepreneur life rather than working for a large company such as News Corp. and that I wanted to pursue my opportunities in mainland China. As a result, in December 2005, I left News Corp./IGN/Rotten Tomatoes and moved to join my former partner at his startup in China.

Rotten Tomatoes (2000-2005)

Rotten Tomatoes

Note: This post is part of an extended auto-biography which is collected in my About page.

In late 1999, despite having considerable success with our web design firm, Design Reactor, Patrick Lee and I were interested in pursuing a new venture that could have exponential growth like many of the new web start-ups that our friends had started rather than the linear growth of our current company. In addition, we wanted to be able to dedicate our hard effort towards creating a product that we could claim as our own rather than designing web sites for other clients.

We were incubating a new project by Design Reactor’s former Creative Director, Senh Duong, who had previously created a web site that aggregated film reviews from across the web and in-print and presented a film percentile rating in an easy-to-read page, Rotten Tomatoes. Senh had spent a brief amount of time developing the initial web site from home and I was helping in free time with setting up the site on the servers and providing technical assistance when needed. Unexpectedly, Senh’s novel garage project rapidly grew in popularity, especially during the critical summer of 1999 when viral hit The Blair Witch Project and Star Wars: Episode I were released. Site traffic and media exposure grew to the point where we invited Senh to return to Design Reactor where we could incubate the project and find a way for the project to run as a business. Eventually, we decided to form a company around Rotten Tomatoes and we raised a round of funding that allowed us to transition Design Reactor to a sister company while we moved our existing team to work on growing Rotten Tomatoes as an independent company. This allowed Design Reactor to continue growing and the current management team have added large tech clients such as Apple, Cisco, and AMD.

Very shortly after we transitioned to doing Rotten Tomatoes in April 2000, the dot-com bubble burst and formerly powerful internet companies around us began falling apart. Immediately, online advertising, Rotten Tomatoes‘ primary revenue source, began plummeting with effective CPMs dropping to as little as 1-2% of their former values. Like many other companies, we had to drastically cut back on our staff in order to stay in business, eventually ending up with as few as seven team members. On the flip side, however, we had raised our funding right before the bubble burst which meant that we were able to rapidly cut back on our expenses unlike our competitors and partners who were bound by many long-term, expensive contracts. It also challenged us to engineer novel solutions towards expanding the site more efficiently and finding alternative revenue streams.

As Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of the company, I managed the transition of the web site away from resource-intensive static HTML to a database-driven, LAMP-platform based web site. We developed our own, novel content management system named “Web Farm” that allowed us to rapidly expand our content to eventually comprehensively cover over 100,000 titles and hundreds of thousands of actors, directors, and other celebrities. Early on, Rotten Tomatoes editors had to read thousands of film reviews each week and extract a summary quotation and fresh/rotten rating from each one.. However, through a partnership with the the Movie Review Query Engine, we were able to comprehensively include millions of film reviews and ratings covering over a thousand sources automatically. Additionally, we developed our own system where film critics could register and login to our web site and assign their own quotations ratings and establish their own critics’ profile. In conjunction with our partnership with the Online Film Critics’ Society, an association of over a hundred of the Internet’s top film critics, we were able to greatly reduce the burden on our editors of comprehensively collecting film reviews by over half as well as play a vital role in promoting online film criticism.

With our ability to comprehensively and efficiently collect entertainment data, we began a data licensing program. We licensed our film data to numerous clients including Netflix and Microsoft. Because of Rotten Tomatoes‘ growing popularity, online partners such as Apple (integrated into the iTunes Store), Google (integrated into the first Google Desktop release),  and Ask.com (previously integrated into all movie keyword searches) have included our ratings system into their products. We also worked with both Hollywood trade industry magazines, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to include Rotten Tomatoes ratings as part of their regular film coverage which helped bolster the Tomatometer as a respected brand in the film industry. Data licensing became an important revenue stream as well as a means for expanding Rotten Tomatoes across other media sources.

Our traffic rapidly expanded to 6.2 million unique visitors a month (ComScore, January 2006 when I departed Rotten Tomatoes), largely in part to the intensive search engine optimization we performed on Rotten Tomatoes early on. While search engine optimization was still in it’s infancy in the early 2000’s, we worked hard to get Rotten Tomatoes film pages linked across various directories and link exchanges as well as optimizing on-page HTML code to rank highly on search engines. As a result of this work, Rotten Tomatoes pages have become reliably ranked within the first ten results amongst most Google-based film keyword searches. This increasing traffic helped monetize our online ad revenues to rebuild our primary revenue stream.

Another major revenue component was from partner affiliate sales. Movie fans coming upon our site were able to buy online movie tickets (via MovieTickets.com), posters (via AllPosters.com) and merchandise (via Sideshow Toy and others) from the films easily from the film pages. Additionally, we included comparison prices powered by PriceGrabber.com so users could find the most affordable DVD prices. Finally, we partnered with The New York Times and presented their film reviews in a highlighted position on our film review pages (although their ratings remained of equal value with all other reviews on the page as usual). These companies paid us every time a user clicked on a link or purchased and item and, with these partnerships, our affiliate sales grew to comprise a large fraction of our revenue, further stabilizing the declining revenue from online ads due to the dot-com bust.

In conjunction with our rapidly growing search engine-derived traffic, we also created the web’s first dedicated entertainment social network, The Vine. The Vine, launched on Rotten Tomatoes in October 2003, was modeled after a mix of Friendster and Xanga, and allowed people to easily share their reviews and ratings for all films, music, and video games. Other features which were ahead-of-their-time included structured ranking lists and customizable “groups” which allowed fans to create shared group blogs and profiles. We also leveraged this system and worked with all of the major and minor film studios and distributors to create mini-sites, sweepstakes contests, and more as part of rebuilding our online advertising revenue stream.

In addition to this early social networking system, we hosted a large film message board system. The Rotten Tomatoes forums eventually became the most active film forums online and developed it’s own unique community of film fans that went on to hold annual Las Vegas Rotten Tomatoes fans meetup events in Las Vegas (which I unfortunately never had the chance to attend). Fun fact: As far as I know, three weddings occurred from fans who met each other online in our formerly rabidly popular Rotten Tomatoes forums.

While the early years of Rotten Tomatoes and the dot-com bust felt like the online world was collapsing on top of us, eventually we were able to grow the traffic and our revenue to the point where Rotten Tomatoes was a stable and profitable company with multiple, growing revenue streams. By 2003, we were one of the few players in our niche who was able to claim profitability and the largest of the unacquired, independent film web sites. We were beginning to receive unsolicited acquisition offers from other companies, but turned them all down because we felt we had further work and expansion ahead of us. In 2004, we received a suitably large offer from IGN Entertainment, the largest video games web network (IGN.com, GameSpy.com), and Rotten Tomatoes was acquired in August 2004.

In early 2010, Rotten Tomatoes was sold by News Corporation and is now a part of Flixster, the leading movies social network.

Design Reactor (1997-2000)

Note: This post is part of an extended auto-biography which is collected in my About page.

Late in my senior year of college in 1997, I met with Patrick Lee, a college classmate who had similarly started a growing start-up (Human Ingenuity) and had hired Go! Designs to create his company’s web site. We had discussions about how we might be able to expand the web design work we were doing at Go! Designs. As a result, Patrick and I left our respective startups and forming a new partnership, Design Reactor. The first day after my graduation, we sealed our commitment by signing a lease to a new office on 2223 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley and got to work assembling a small army of designers and engineers from amongst our talented group of college classmates to expand the scope and scale of our web design work.

Design Reactor's first office at 2223 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley
Design Reactor's first office at 2223 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley. We resided on the second floor above The Luggage Center (for that ever-present smell of old leather) and shared the subleased the additional space to our friends and fellow internet startups from Gamers Extreme (gamers.com) and Baycis Internet Solutions. Next door is our favorite lunch spot, EZ Stop Deli, home to the world's tastiest BBQ chicken sandwich.

During our first year, despite a slow beginning completing low-cost web design work for local tech companies, we were able to break the barrier and land The Disney Channel as a major client. Over the next two years, we were able to grow our relationship with Disney to become the primary web design firm for the Disney/ABC TV Networks as well as designing various Walt Disney Studios official movie web sites.

As the primary client manager for Disney/ABC, I’m most proud of the work we did to create and operate the online portion of Zoog Disney, the primary programming block on The Disney Channel and also Disney’s first foray into online, on-air synergy. The award-winning ZoogDisney.com was an ambitious web site for kids to connect with their favorite Disney Channel TV shows. While producing the ZoogDisney.com, we developed web sites for all of the Disney Channel TV shows and over 120 web-based games where kids’ fan messages and game hi-scores were posted each week on-air on The Disney Channel.

Other highlights of our work for Disney included creating ToonDisney.com, the official web site for Disney’s all Disney cartoon cable channel. As a measure of Disney’s trust in Design Reactor, we were the first web design firm permitted to animate the Disney’s Fab Five cartoon characters (i.e. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) online. Our work for Disney eventually resulted in us also becoming the primary web vendor for ABC. At ABC, we created the “Who Wants to Be Millionaire?” Online Game which, at the time, was one of the most heavily-played games online, as well as managed the official Oscar.com web site for the Academy Awards in 2000.

Despite requiring me to split my time between our Design Reactor team in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Disney Channel/Disney.com offices in Los Angeles, I really enjoyed my time building some really enjoyable web destinations and games for such a great client and feel blessed being entrusted with the large responsibility at such a young age.

Our close relationship with Disney provided us with the chance to grow Design Reactor to a team of 28 people and we were able to dedicate ourselves to becoming one of the premier web design firms in the entertainment industry. Here are some of the other fun projects that we worked on:

  • Leveraging the success with Disney, we were able to eventually work with many additional film studios (Warner Bros., Universal, Fox, Sony, Artisan Entertainment) to produce official web sites for many films.
  • Working with Warner Bros. Online, we participated in their “Entertaindom” project, WB’s first foray into original online web programming. We produced two original web series for WB including a Flash-based cartoon series we wrote with character design by the head animator of WB’s “The Animaniacs”.
  • My business partner, Patrick, and I originally had met in college as members of the Cal Wushu Team. Wushu is Chinese martial arts whose most famous practitioner is actor Jet Li. As a result, in 1999 we fulfilled our dream of meeting Jet in-person and were commissioned to create and manage his Official Web Site. Created as Jet was first entering Hollywood films, the web site allowed Jet to connect and grow a global community of fans and share his unique life perspective and philosophy. Even after departing Design Reactor, we continue to work with Jet and his various efforts online including his Official Web Site.

As one of the leading web design firms in the entertainment industry, Design Reactor gave me the opportunity to play a role in the emerging connection between entertainment and the Internet at a really young age and a chance to immediately work post-graduation with a great circle of smart friends and classmates from Berkeley.

University of California, Berkeley Days (1993-1997)

Note: This post is part of an extended auto-biography which is collected in my About page.

During college in 1995, I got hired for my first web-related job as the Site Architect and Webmaster for the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Besides being able to exercise my newly learned web programming skills, this job gave me a chance to meet and help business school faculty and students during the very beginnings of the Internet Boom, many who later went on to become internet entrepreneurs themselves. During my third-year of college, I also partnered with two friends to form Go! Designs, a web design boutique firm; we all moved in together into the same cramped Durant Avenue apartment and spent time away from class plugging away on assorted for-hire projects.

My senior year at Cal, between working a nearly full-time job at the business school and spending nights and weekends on my own web design firm, I had basically stopped attending college classes and let my grades pitifully decline, but the experience reinforced my conviction to continue a Internet start-up life post-college.