Collin, Great to finally catch up with you! What are you up to personally? Where are you residing now?
I have been staying busy. In the time since I left Tech, I built a few companies. Some of them have since been acquired, so now I am working on a new one. I live in San Mateo, California with my wife and two dogs (baby girl on the way). We like it here, but we are seriously considering a move to somewhere with lower taxes.
Looking back, where are you originally from and at what High School did you play Lacrosse?
I was born in Hanover, New Hampshire and later moved to Baltimore, Maryland when my Dad got a new job. My parents were in the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth when I was born, so I spent the early years of my life there in New Hampshire. Baltimore is where I discovered lacrosse. In high school, I played midfield for the Gilman greyhounds.
Your team had some great success in High School, how was that experience?
Honestly, Gilman was really humbling both on the field and off. I came into Gilman as a top student, with a scholarship to play lacrosse, so I felt pretty good about my skill level all around. However, Gilman was on an entirely different level athletically and academically. When I arrived, the starting lineup consisted of players Ryan Boyle, Andrew Lucas, Justin Redd, Jay Pfeifer and Kevin Boland, and I did not see much playing time. I had to work really hard just to keep up, and that experience taught me a lot about perseverance and tenacity. There was not much I could do to change my natural talents or experiences before Gilman, but there was a ton of ground that I could make up by just outworking the next guy. I found the same thing was true when I got to Tech.
What are you doing now career wise and what led you to this point?
I start and invest in technology companies. I started a company, FanGo Software Systems, in my senior year at Tech. In 2011, Grubhub acquired us to power their on-demand food ordering. We had created most of the technology that made it possible to bi-directionally communicate with restaurants. Most people recognize our technology as the tablets where restaurants receive takeout orders, something that is very common today, but it was very novel in 2011. After the acquisition I became the Head of Innovation at Grubhub, where I worked to build more technologies and keep us competitive. Mike Algozer (GT LAX '07) was part of our early FanGo team and also joined Grubhub as part of the acquisition. In 2012, I headed to California to attend business school at Stanford. I have been here ever since.
I spend a lot of time working on new companies, but I also invest a lot. Being out here, I see so many companies, and some of them have gone on to become very successful. I try to write some of the first investment checks for these companies, because the upside is huge and then downside is relatively small. Having been through the process of building a company a couple of times, I find the early stage is where I can help founders the most.
What are the special challenges with your current position and what do you enjoy the most?
So much of my role today means looking at the way that problems have always been solved, in a given industry, and seeing if there is a better way. Usually the problems are big and complex, so that keeps me busy. The trick is that you have to be both contrarian and correct to have the biggest impact, otherwise it is hard to make real structural change. If the changes you introduce are obvious, then bigger companies will come and take all of the upside. If you are just wrong, then there is nothing to gain there either. I enjoy the challenge of it. I get to work with some of the smartest people in the world on complex problems with multi-billion dollar implications.
I know you had a personal challenge to visit every continent on the planet, how are you doing with that goal?
At last count we (my wife and I) have visited 56 countries. We try to pick-up 2-3 new ones each year, but it has been tougher with work and COVID. Now that everything is remote, I literally run my companies from a laptop and smart phone, so we really could go anywhere, but we have a baby on the way, so that might keep us home for a while.
What are your top three places you have ever visited and why?
New Zealand - I actually discovered New Zealand with Mike Algozer when we were in the Pacific study abroad program. Since then I have been back 3 times. Every time I discover something new. Between the landscape, the outdoor activities and the history, there is something for everyone. I cannot recommend it enough.
Myanmar - When Myanmar (formerly Burma) opened up, I had to be first in line to see it. I spent a month in a place called Bagan, which consists of the countryside and thousands of temples as far as you can see. It is a place that has very few traces of the western world, and somewhere where you can find some inner peace and headspace.
China - I also did a program here with Mike Algozer, but my Chinese was not very good back then. Now I can speak it pretty fluently. I spent time there after business school, and I have also invested in a few companies there. My wife's family is Chinese, so there are a lot of connections. It has been amazing to see this country transform from where it was in 2005, when I first experienced it, to today, as they have emerged as a world power.
How has the Georgia Tech experience helped you in your career?
The experience was great! It was the perfect balance of school and extracurriculars. I learned a lot about the sport and a lot more about myself. Head Coach Ken Lovic was like a second dad and his wife Beth was my council when we sold our first company to Grubhub. Mike Algozer (GT LAX'07) was our VP of Operations, Garret Simmer (GT LAX'08) designed our app interface and first logo, so there were a lot of ties to Georgia Tech lacrosse that helped me.
How was your lacrosse experience at Tech and have any favorite memories?
I really enjoyed the experience and made a lot of friends for life. Tech lacrosse taught me a lot about persevering through adversity. Sometimes you do all the right things, and still don't get the outcome you want. I've come to find out life is a lot like that. I remember getting home late from a party freshman year and we were so terrified that we were going to oversleep and miss Saturday practice, so me Algozer and Jacquette (GT LAX'07) grabbed blankets from our dorms and just slept on the practice turf. It was so cold, and wet that we ended up barely sleeping. The added bonus was waking up to an air horn courtesy of Ken. Good times!
Been following the team recently and if so What do you think of the current team?
I am looking forward to things getting back to normal post-COVID. I have to imagine the guys are getting anxious to get back on the field. I hope they are staying in shape and practicing during this extended off-season. This is a great time to pull ahead while a lot of other players are probably getting fat watching Netflix. Let's go Jackets!