Connecting People with Knowledge
March 4, 2015. Toronto.
I'm pleased to announce that I'm joining Volley - a local Toronto startup that aligns perfectly with my long term FindNext project goals.
In 1999 during a co-op workterm I first developed FindNext. Search engines were a new idea - web directories were still commonplace. I had the idea to combine results from many search engines, reorder and optimize their relevance, and as queries took a long time to run, deliver the results by email.
Over time, as I learned other web and server technologies and how to optimize my own code, FindNext evolved too. Queries could be run in real-time and the user interface improved. FindNext was finding an audience, but mostly to break firewalls or run objectionable content queries. Paid content started to be given precedence in search engine results also, breaking my parser. It quickly became hard to maintain. I was very early in my agency career by this time and opted to shut down the site rather than solve these issues and rework the platform.
In the many years that followed, sparks of inspiration came and went - generally driven by new technologies and devices. I made good use of my codebase to learn these new languages and concepts. This served me well in my day-to-day work at several interactive agencies but I didn't put enough back into FindNext to turn it into a public product again.
In 2009 I attended WWDC. I had been doing a little bit of iOS development in my spare time but wanted to jumpstart my understanding of developing for the iPhone. I got a lot out of the conference - mobile development came more easily and I once more turned to using FindNext as a quick trial build platform.
FindNext at this point had moved away from its search engine beginnings. Thinking about how I'd regularly tap my friends for help with unsearchable topics that aligned with their interests, and how people would ask me about movies or photography (my main interests), I began to develop an API and platform to allow people to pose queries seeking results from those friends or members of the public that could help. The wisdom of crowds in place of 'lazyweb' shouting from the rooftops on social media or hunting for the right search keywords. I also thought of some unique onboarding concepts and ways to engage users (more on that down the road...)
Meanwhile, I had transitioned to iOS development full-time at my day job. In the process of developing several production iOS apps I learned about server security, building an API, database platforms, good UX practices, and many other technologies to support an app.
At the end of 2014 the agency I was working for closed. I began having conversations with companies looking for someone with my skillset. Many interesting opportunities in many locations - some nearby, others across the continent. Admittedly I didn't do a great job of communicating with everyone who reached out during that overwhelming process, but it became clear that a role similar to my last position wouldn't scratch the itch to build something myself.
I made the decision to reinvest in FindNext. I began looking at costing new servers, seeking office space as I don't work well at home, and doing some preliminary planning to shake the dust and cobwebs away.
At almost the same time, David at Volley reached out looking to have a chat, expressing his interest in what I was planning with FindNext.
"Volley is a community of developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and artists all helping each other make better things."
David and I met for lunch and had a good conversation about my recent experiences around the agency closure. Afterward we met with Mike in Volley's space at the Ryerson DMZ and continued our chat - me talking more about my FindNext ideas and learning more about Volley. It was a phenominal conversation and experience. I messaged friends and called up family to talk about it immediately afterward. During that conversation it had become clear that our goals were the same - connecting people with the knowledge they need by creating a human / technology bridge to help one another.
Our discussions continued over the following few weeks. My potential involvement in the company quickly evolved over that time as well - from an iOS development hire to talking and brainstorming on the platform and ultimately deciding to have Volley acquire FindNext and myself via a Co-founder and CTO position at the company. I feel this will be an amazing opportunity to build a platform while seeing some of my FindNext ideas through to fruition at the same time.
Over the last few days we built Volley's first office together. We took on painting, furnishing, designing, and even some demolition work. Mike, David and I are really proud of what we've built, and can't wait to put the same effort and detail into Volley in the months and years to come!