When Your Baby Grows Up

My name is Jake Wobbrock and until recently, I was the founding CEO of AnswerDash. I have two children, a boy nearly eight and a girl nearly five. The cliche is true: They grow up so fast. I remember the day I left my son, then five, at his first kindergarten class. Walking away across the playground I let a single tear escape my eye, and although it was only one tear, it contained within it a mixture of pride and sorrow. On the one hand, I was proud of my little boy reaching his first day of school. On the other, I was sad because memories were already being made, and that meant certain stages were now behind us. He never again would take his first step or say his first word... or have his first day of kindergarten.

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Topics: University Startups, Company News

4 Things That Make Professors Great Startup Executives—And 4 Things That Make Them Terrible

Whether from computer science, engineering, biotech, or medicine, professors at major research universities live their professional lives on the cutting technological edge, teaching and doing research on the frontiers of their field, disseminating and advancing new knowledge that helps further the state-of-the-art. It is no surprise that many professors, at some point during their careers, hit upon ideas that can bring near-term value to the marketplace.

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Topics: University Startups

Introducing Kevin Knoepp, VP of Engineering at AnswerDash

We are pleased to announce Kevin Knoepp has joined the AnswerDash team as our Vice President of Engineering. Kevin will bring his extensive experience to grow our engineering team as we scale our innovative contextual answer technology.

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Topics: University Startups, Company News

From Research to Tech Startup, the “What if we?” to “How can we?”

Our founders Jake Wobbrock and Andy Ko were each invited to talk about tech startups at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute 20th Anniversary Celebration at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Topics: University Startups

How Technology Research Compares to Doing a Tech Startup

It isn’t too often that people mention technology research and tech startups in the same breath. After all, technology research happens out of view in university labs or corporate research centers and is published to a select few Ph.D. types. Tech startups, on the other hand, usually get the more splashy press with their billion dollar IPOs and their disruptive ambitions. How could any two things be so different?

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Topics: University Startups

What do Startup CTOs Actually do? We Translate.

CTO is a pretty glam but mysterious title. I can toss it around to friends and family for some easy “oohs” and “ahhs," but they have no idea what it really means.

When I first co-founded AnswerDash as CTO, I didn’t know what it meant either. I browsed around, reading the descriptions of experiencedtechentrepreneurs. The person they described seemed like a unicorn: a “kickass developer”, a visionary, a great leader, an excellent people manager, a product customer fit wizard, and business savvy. How could one person possibly be all of these things?

Over the past two years, it’s become a bit clearer. While a small startup CTO has to do many different things, most of these are about just one thing: translating ever evolving business needs into ever evolving software.

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Topics: University Startups

So you Want to Found a Startup? My Advice to College Students

Along with my job as Co-founder & CEO of AnswerDash, I’m also a professor at the University of Washington Information School, where AnswerDash was born. This week marks the return to campus for tens of thousands of eager students ready to sharpen their skills and take one step closer to achieving their dream.

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Topics: University Startups

What Startups Teach Us about Improving the Customer Experience

As an academic, I have studied, taught, invented and evaluated customer experiences for almost 20 years. I have had the privilege and pleasure of diving deeply into research projects and employing a rigorous scientific method for understanding what makes technology experiences successful, usable, appealing, learnable, and enjoyable. But an academic research lens, while essential for peering into fundamental truths, can also miss important lessons from lived experience. Startups are nothing if not crucibles of lived experience, and in desperately trying to gain customer traction, startups teach us three essential lessons about what’s crucial for crafting great customer experiences.

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Topics: Website Self-Service, University Startups, Customer Experience

What does a Startup CEO actually do? The CEO Six.

I often get asked by friends, professors, students, and even my family, “as a startup CEO, what do you actually do?" The question even comes from my own engineers, who ask the question with particular emphasis on the word “do.” As an engineer and former startup programmer myself, I can empathize with the question. While I built the product, I saw the CEO running around doing… what, exactly? I hadn’t a clue.

Now, before I give my take on the CEO gig, a few caveats. I have only been a CEO for just under two years, hardly long enough to consider myself an expert. I also have only been a tech startup CEO, and I doubt much of what I’ve learned sheds light on being the CEO of, say, a Fortune 500 company or a world-dominating multinational with private jets and invitations to Davos. My run as co-founder and CEO of AnswerDash has been from the inception of an idea to taking that idea through Series A financing from VCs and building a team of 10 people. That I’m not (yet) surrounded by multiple C-level executives like COOs, CFOs, and CMOs gives me an unprotected perspective on what the CEO role entails during the Series A stage of a company’s life.

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Topics: University Startups