University of Chicago techies represent

November 26, 2005

I’ve been delighted but surprised to find some University of Chicago homies in the tech business recently — because tech entrepreneurship seems totally inimical to the values for which Chicago has always stood: devotion to the past, reliance upon primary sources or direct experimental data, the Socratic method, the ability to write reams of crisp expository prose on command, genteel leather elbows on a tweed coat academicism, political extremism (thankfully totally theoretical), and a general lack of contact with reality. I’d like to be able to say that an intense liberal-arts education prepares you for all things blah blah… but honestly, I would have to admit that the form practiced at Chicago prepares you for many things unrelated to getting a job in a competitive industry, working effectively in teams, or managing your fellow human beings.

For years the only other practicing techie alum I knew (besides my own Timboy, of course) was John Wiseman, who proved his great intelligence by starting grad school with Tim but then dropping out way earlier. Then at OSCON 2004 I met Ryo Chijiiwa, whose extensive Open Source social software experience eventually led to him joining the Yahoo 360 team. I’ve heard he’s already recruited another recent grad, Yitz, to join him there; and we’ve talked about non-time-consuming things we might be able to do to help alumni who might want to make the trek out here.

Then in the process of meeting venture capitalists recently, I was re-introduced to Lara Druyan of Allegis Capital — who was in the same freshman dorm as me! I actually know of two other Silicon Valley VCs from Chicago: Joi Ito of SixApart (I guess he’s an ex-VC now, and bizarrely enough I’ve never met him in person), and Tae Hea Nahm of Storm Ventures (although he’s Law School, so I dunno if he counts :-)).

Lara introduced me to Mark Goodstein, founder of the desktop search company X1 — we had lunch recently and a good laugh about some crazy Alpha Delts we had known. And at OSCON 2005 we met Alex Bosworth of Seattle software startup Sourcelabs, who runs the Open Source wiki called Swik. He dropped out of Chicago, so he lacks the full bitterness of the true University of Chicago grad; but I think I can still include him in this blog post.

Any other U of C alumni out there in the tech biz? Maybe we could scrape enough bodies together for a drinks night or something.

11 Responses to “University of Chicago techies represent”

  1. Dustin J. Mitchell Says:

    Uh, hello? You *got* me my tech job. Well, *two* tech jobs, really (counting a chapter of PHP4 Bible as a “job” might be stretching things).

    U of C in da house!

    I’m game for drinks — your coast or mine? 🙂

  2. Troutgirl Says:

    Haha! I thought you were a math teacher in South Carolina now??!?!?

  3. blueZhift Says:

    Heh heh! I think I met you maybe once or twice at a meeting of the U of C Science Fiction Club at Josh’s apartment. At the time, I was the Minister of Propaganda and put up wacky signs all over campus advertising the meetings. I’m the black guy who snapped your picture shortly before you left.

    My degrees are in physics, but now I work as the Informatics Core Manager at Northwestern’s General Clinical Research Center. Since I have a restricted budget, I use a lot of FOSS and I really think that the U of C education prepared me well for the kind of creative thinking I have to do in order to do my job, oh and the idea that no one is going to just charge in and save your ass! –Tom

  4. jfb Says:

    x94; I work with another Maroon — who actually graduated — at Apple, on the iTMS.

  5. I graduated in 1990 and in 1996 a friend and I started our own software company which is still going to this day.

    I found this site via John Wiseman’s Lemonodor Blog. I’m a big fan of Lisp (and lemonodor), use it every day.

    Some of my friends from the U of C have gone into biology and chemistry startups, where there is a smaller dot-com craze/boom/crash going on. Don’t know of any other Maroons in the computer field. (!)


  6. Bill Reardon Says:

    It’s not West Coast, but Townsend Analytics is a U of C tech powerhouse. Started by 2 U of C’ers (and, now, I believe 2 of the 50 richest people in Chicago), at least *half* the company was U of C was I was there. Actually, they might be west coast now, as, via their Archipelago ECN, I think they bought the Pacific Stock Exchange.

    In SoCal, there’s a bunch. At, about a quarter of our engineering team was U of C. I know at Yahoo today, there’s at least 3 others grad trolling around… two other engineering managers & one SA.

    Myself, I’m an engineering manager on the YPN/Content Match team (I think Jeremy even set up a meeting with us, but only Arnie could make it).

    Being a U of C techie is a bit like being part of an super-sekret, elite underground club. 🙂

  7. John Wiseman Says:

    Then, of course, there are the Bungie boys.

  8. Kovas Boguta Says:

    2002 woohoo.

    Working for Stephen Wolfram in the Boston area.

  9. I’m a U of C alum, not a techie but a journalist, would like to interview you for a story (career guide: on blogging about work. Please name a time today (Weds. 12/14) or tomorrow that works for you. 15 minutes or so.

    Thanks much,

    John Rossheim Inc.
    Independent Journalism Since 1999

  10. Patrick Paulin Says:

    This U of C techie would like your email address. I tried an old one, but had no luck.

    Take care — Patrick

  11. Ram Kelath Says:

    I know that attending the B-School doesn’t really qualify as being a real College alumnus . I just saw your blog today while looking for a PHP versus JSP debate!

    I’ve been doing web applications – mostly Cold Fusion but some PHP and ASP as well for the last 6 years in Boston – and it’s true – web coding may be looked down upon but it’s really cool.

    Over the decades(!) of my career I’ve been looked down upon by real (non-sotfware) engineers, fellow MBAs, s software engineers…the only thing that counts is finding a way to make your contribution.

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