I’ve worked in tech for over twenty years, developing software and leading engineering teams. By nature, my work is pretty future facing and forward thinking. Sometimes it can feel a world away from where I grew up, on a small dairy farm in upstate New York.
Being a dairy farmer is a famously tough job. Every morning, my dad was out the door before the sun came up, usually by 4am, to start his work day. On top of the long hours and intense manual labor, small dairy farms like my family’s have had to compete with big, industrial scale producers from out of state, or even overseas.
While it wasn’t an easy life by any stretch, my dad’s hard work on the farm put four kids through college. Those early mornings and long days ultimately let me leave the farm to study computer science and become a software developer for both big firms and small start-ups. Pretty soon I was leading engineering teams, and eventually I became the CTO of an e-commerce site before co-founding a company called VTS.
At VTS, we built the most powerful asset management platform for brokers, landlords, and tenants. Think Salesforce but for commercial real estate. In my seven years there, I got to see the commercial real estate business from every angle and learned how technology can really drive efficiency in a legacy industry.
It was actually through folks I worked with at VTS that got me in touch with Kevin, the founder and CEO of withco. I was really inspired by his expansive vision and withco’s focused mission to empower small business owners by putting them on a path to property ownership. Even though withco doesn’t work with many small farmers today, there was something exhilarating about tipping the scales—the prospect of helping small businesses build intergenerational wealth and succeed against the big guys.
Kevin’s got a really ambitious mindset, and withco’s really looking to scale quickly and partner with as many small businesses as possible. I think withco’s got a great model with a lot of common sense appeal, but commercial real estate for small businesses is old school. To meet those ambitions, my team and I will have to work really hard to develop technology that’s precise, powerful, and user friendly.
To give you an idea of what we’re up against: there’s no one-size-fits all way to underwrite a small business, the datasets we’re working with are huge, and people are used to closing deals face-to-face or over the phone. Like any commercial real estate deal, these types of transactions involve lots of data and require precision. And with the amount of volume and impact we’re pursuing, we need to build technology to let us operate and make sound decisions on a massive scale. Most importantly, small business owners have enough on their plates already, so the stakes are high and seamless user experience is a must. In the immediate future, my team’s job is to help withco close 100 deals as quickly as possible.
When I was the CTO of VTS, I led a team that brought new efficiencies to the commercial real estate sector, which powered that company’s success and value to the market. Today at withco, I’m lucky to be working with a singularly talented and empathetic group of people where I can use all of my experiences starting and building VTS to scale our impact and fulfill our vision of making it exciting again to be a small business owner in America.
At the end of the day, I believe that what we’re building at withco will level the playing field to help small business owners thrive, and in turn pass on even greater opportunities to their children. One day my kids will grow up and I’m optimistic that through our work they will consider starting a small business as one of their most rewarding opportunities. And while it may not be a dairy farm, I’ll still be so proud. That’s what this is all about.