Entrepreneur of the Week - Danny Boice

Pictured above: (from the left) Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, Steve Case, Danny Boice, and Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey

Danny is currently the Co-Founder & CTO of Speek.com running all things product, user experience and tech. Danny previously served as an Executive for The College Board running web, mobile and social product development. The College Board serves seven million students and their parents, 23,000 high schools, and 3,800 colleges through major programs and services in college readiness, college admission, guidance, assessment, financial aid, enrollment, and teaching and learning. Among its best-known programs are the SAT®, the PSAT/NMSQT®, and the Advanced Placement Program® (AP®). Danny’s responsibilities included driving technology innovation in the arena’s of web, mobile, social and other cutting edge digital domains across all of these programs and constituents.

Prior to The College Board Danny served as the Chief Technology Officer for CommuniClique where he lead the development of their cloud-based product while establishing and growing their Open API / Developer Community. He also served as Vice President at Pantheon leading several high visibility web and mobile product development projects for Fortune 500 clients. Danny joined Pantheon in 2006 when they acquired Jaxara – a company he founded in 2002.

Danny attended Harvard University as well as doing advanced studies at MIT.

CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Danny: Speek is fixing crappy conference calls once and for all.  Everyone knows the horrors of joining conference calls - you have to dial a phone number, a PIN and often more digits beyond that. There's bad hold music, cheesy audio tones and often some guy or girl on the call who forgets to mute their phone as they chew their food.

Rather than a dial-in Speek gives users a simple link that they can use for doing conference calls like speek.com/danny. You simply give out the link via calendar invite or email to anyone you want to do a conference call with. They go there at the time the meeting is set to start and can join the call using their phone or computer (VoIP). Once they're on the call they can see who's on, who's talking, and the host can add / remove / mute other callers.

Speek is ubiquitous in that it works via web and mobile browsers, SMS, native mobile apps, and more.

CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Danny: First - Cut ties with anything that may keep you from running your company full-time with little to no salary. Car payments, house payments, high rent, other material burdens do nothing but keep you from changing the world full time. Moonlighting and day jobs are for wantrepreneurs. Once you exit your first company you can buy all of the material crap you could ever dream of. Wait, it's worth it.

Second - Be a scientist. Maybe not literally, but figuratively. Use data, analytics, and experiments to make all decisions. This is what the Lean Startup methodology is really about. Think you have an idea for the next killer product or feature? Great! Now go figure out how to validate that people will actually use it with little to no money.

CIT: What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
Danny: When you have your initial idea for a startup or product immediately go through a Lean Startup Machine. This will help you scientifically validate that people will actually use, and pay for, your product idea. It will save you a lot of time and money building something nobody wants to use.

Once you're off and running here are a few events and web sites to check out:

  • DC Lean Startup Circle: Good pragmatic advice from other founders running lean startups. Run by locals (and members of Speek team) Rebecca Thorman and Steph Hay.
  • RunningLean.co: Website / blog / book with tons of great advice for running a lean startup.
  • KISSmetrics Blog: Great insight and blog posts into data and analytics that every startup should be tracking.

CIT: How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
Danny: It is incredibly important. I make it a point to contribute blog posts and articles every chance I get. I do at least a dozen talks per year at various conferences and events. I mentor at the Lean Startup Machine, for Acceleprise and other accelerators. I really make it a point to share as much as I can to give back to the community. NextGen Angels, which I am a part of, makes it a point to not just make investments but also open up their rolodexes for founders.

On the flip side I also leverage our mentors and advisors heavily. The great part about being a 500 Startups portfolio company is that we get access to dashboard.io which in turn connects us with every single founder of any other portfolio company and some of the best and brightest mentors in the world. I spent a lot of time collaborating with these fellow founders and mentors.

CIT: What makes your city's startup scene unique?
Danny: Our close proximity to Washington DC gives us unique access to potential enterprise customers, funding and talent. The federal government and government contracting mecca being right in our backyard presents many unique opportunities. There are also the seedlings of an incredibly strong startup community sprouting which we are lucky to be a part of.

CIT: Anything else you would like to add.
Danny: I would just like to personally apologize on behalf of Speek for my co-founder John Bracken "photobombing" of GAP 50 Entrepreneur of the Week Sid Banerjee's photograph on stage with Steve Case. He does that quite a bit actually. Internally, we have a theory that perhaps he was raised by wolves, or in a barn, or something similar which would explain a lot actually. Regardless of causation we'll try to keep John under better control in the future.

Contact Information
Danny Boice
Co-founder and CTO of Speek.com