By Chris Lundberg – “I wanted to be a rock star, but my pesky computer skills got in the way”
I’ve been encouraged to write up about a bit of background about myself, which always feels a bit contrived. I’ve always let others write my bio for me; bear with me…
A foreign service brat, my early schooling was British in Kenya, moving back to the US just shy of high school. I had the honor of going to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology – perhaps home page the top technical high school in the country. Worked on super computers and programmed TI-81 calculators for hobbies. I declined offers from CalTech and Cornell for college, to go to Virginia Tech — a fantastic school in its own right, but I went to …… well, to learn ‘social skills’. Got degrees in both Mathematics and Aerospace Engineering while working on some really geeky projects, including implementing a neural network for hypersonic rocket control. During the summers, I designed single stage to orbit rockets for Signal Corp; designed some communications aerostats based on a novel, low drag design; and implemented some parallel processing systems for the Navy, and multicast IP technology. Yep, you might call me a geek.
Accenture escorted me into the business world right before the dotcom boom and I lost a year of my life to Enterprise Telecom Software. I did manage to take away lessons on how many hundreds of millions of dollars could be spent on crappy technology, however. The siren call of the dotcom called out and I jumped to Opion, an online sentiment analysis engine with $12M of funding. Start-up mode was awesome! Really smart people working on really hard problems 24/7. I got to build genetic algorithms, 3d matrix visualizations, interfaces, you name it. Learned another business lesson: Companies need Revenue. We folded.
Met April. She thought I was an unemployed musician so I managed to lure her in. Working in the nonprofit space, she had a brilliant idea for a SaaS for nonprofits. I finally came out as an engineer. A match made in start-up heaven.
We had no money and no seed funding. I took a short-term gig at a company called Cyveillance — brand management via scanning the whole Internet for brand violations. Built great technology for digging into huge data sets.
We bootstrapped for a year working dual jobs to launch DemocracyInAction.org in 2003. We had big plans to democratize grassroots advocacy online. It was too expensive and too difficult for all but the largest organizations to do. We were young and idealistic, and “change the world” did not match up with “profit”. DIA was a 501(c)3 nonprofit — for the public good — and it also managed to generate revenue to support itself as a Software as a Service. We fought, bit, and scratched out an infrastructure and a client base, unfunded, to about 30 people on staff and hundreds of clients. Personally, I learned a lot about database maintenance and optimization. Folks would be surprised at how much data those little NGO’s generate. We collectively learned a lot about every part of a SaaS business.
The technology got traction among larger nonprofits and campaigns, but we were restricted as a 501(c)3, so we incorporated a new company, Salsa Labs (formerly WiredForChange), to provide our services more widely. Learned many lessons, including: With a solid brand, it’s harder to swim upstream towards bigger fish than downstream towards smaller ones.
April and I had a baby boy, Griffin Lundersen. Greatest accomplishment, bar none.
Grew Salsa Labs to about 70 people, learned a lot about power mongering and the deviousness of secret clubs. Got fired, despite record bookings and growth at Salsa. Doh. Lesson learned: Lust for Power > Lust for Money. And, always hire good lawyers who work for you!
During my first time away from the office in a decade, I helped Tim Kaine in his VA Senate race; developed some interesting geographic data visualizations; and thought. A lot. About what wasn’t working in Business to Consumer communications and marketing. About how far ahead Democrats were from Republicans in data technology, and frankly about how far ahead professional Organizers were from professional Marketers.
And so, armed with intellect, experience, connections, and just enough remaining naiveté to think we can change the world, we throw ourselves into the Frakture.