“I was an engineer by training. I like building things, and marketplaces are hard to get right. You have two sets of customers, and that makes it more than twice as challenging. Their incentives and what they want from the marketplace are not always aligned. The product is essentially the guardrails and rules of the marketplace. Figuring out one cohesive set that serves both sides well is really hard.

Most startups go after one vertical or service. When I joined Thumbtack, they were 20 people and they were already serving nine hundred and some service categories across the US. It wasn’t another SF thing. It wasn’t the textbook approach of get one market right and then scale, they figured out a way to let the demand guide the company where it needed to go. The engineering team is absolutely incredible. They realized early on that growth has to be product and data driven.

I would like to see Thumbtack be the destination for services the same way that Amazon today is the destination for products. I want Thumbtack to be that place where if you ever needed to hire a person to do something for you, you’d come to Thumbtack.”

Yue Zhao | Thumbtack

“Secret came out of another project to send anonymous one-on-one messages, so this idea of protecting who it was sending or receiving those messages was fundamental. We take a lot of measures so that the anonymity of the platform is really preserved.

It’s kind of been a game, people trying to out who various people are. For example, when we launched in Russia, some people bought 30 phones, registered a bunch of numbers and tried to triangulate user identities. It’s almost like they were creating a bot network, all to try to socially engineer and attack the product from different angles. We’ve built up intelligence and defenses against that.

Watching the way the product evolves, the way people use the product, it’s got a very distinct flavor to it that’s really fascinating. When you think about anonymity, you think about some of the negative behaviors, but to see the community turn against that and reinforce the positive has been really interesting.”

Matt Mihic | Secret.ly

“I wanted to make an Iron Man suit. That’s probably why I got into engineering. I figured I couldn’t actually get bitten by a spider and shoot webs out of my wrists, I felt that was an option off the table, but Iron Man seemed like a feasible task.

Last summer, I was looking for research, and my professor described this project to me, and of course I only hear the word - laser. I was like, that’s my project. I’m going to shoot lasers at things. I spent a fair amount of the summer taking apart coffee beans and firing lasers at them, in hopes to identify by the atomic and molecular makeup where in the world it was grown. NASA had agreed to fund it because it had the potential of being used on the Mars Rover to analyze rocks.”

Megan Conville