On a spring afternoon last year at an outdoor café in San Francisco, two denizens of the tech community sketched out their strategy for a startup. Like most 28-year-olds in Silicon Valley, they had smarts and dreams. One was a passionate, fast-talking New Yorker, the other a shy computer whiz from Syracuse, New York, and together they formed the classic hacker-hustler team behind many of the valley’s Next Big Things.
They had been emailing each other about the idea for months, with growing conviction of its awesome potential. It addressed a well-known problem, one that afflicts the tech industry but also banking, media, advertising and film. Corporations needed it. Individuals would love it. It might even be disruptive, as they say. That afternoon, over lunch in the California sun, they committed to an ambitious business plan. That summer, they would keep their day jobs at media and advertising companies, but devote many off-hours and weekends to the startup. The savvy talker, who had worked in communications at Citigroup and Thomson Reuters, joined professional clubs, sought out older advisers, arranged meetings and worked at creating buzz that just might pique investors.