Entrepreneur of the Week - Andrew Montalenti

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

CIT: Tell us about you.
I co-founded Parse.ly in 2009 in New York City. The company was incubated at Dreamit Ventures, a startup accelerator in Philadelphia, and since then has raised $1.8M in venture financing.  Prior to starting Parse.ly, I was a technologist with nearly a decade of experience in software engineering. I earned a bachelor's degree in Computer Science from NYU.

From 2006-2009, I acted as a technical lead on a small software team within Morgan Stanley. The NY Observer wrote a nice piece about Wall St. technologists "fleeing for startup life" that included me as an interviewee, so you can get a sense of my experience on Wall Street there. While I was bootstrapping Parse.ly, I ran a software consulting firm called Aleph Point, Inc. We built large-scale web applications and systems for large clients like ThomasNet and Publishers Clearing House, as well as small startups such as Flavors.me, IRAmarket, and Tal.ly. That's how I honed my skills as a modern web developer.

Parse.ly has been a wild ride so far. In 2009, we were just three guys tossing ideas against a wall to see what would stick. In 2010, we found something that got some good traction and worked for a full year without outside financing to bootstrap the company and earn its first customers and funding. 2011 and 2012 have been periods of rapid growth. We grew from 6 employees to 12, and from tracking ~100K pageviews per month on a single site to tracking over 3.5 billion pageviews per month across hundreds of publisher domains.

Personally, I am a dedicated Pythonista, JavaScript hacker, and open source advocate. I enjoy reading and writing. I am also a media & news junkie.

CIT: Tell us about your current venture.
Parse.ly provides big data insights to the web's best publishers.  Our flagship product, Dash, helps publishers connect their readers with the most relevant, compelling content according to their interests, ultimately improving key performance indicators. GigaOM said it is "revolutionizing web publishing" and VentureBeat called it "catnip for editors".

We launched this product into general availability in 2012, and it has been doing really well. It's now used by top publishers like ArsTechnica, The Atlantic, US News, Dallas News, Sugar Media, among many others. We have an amazing team of engineers & salespeople who made all of this possible.

We also have an API that is used by product teams to build engaging site features, such as article recommendations, trending content widgets, and more.

Our company is run as a "fully distributed team," so I split my time between Charlottesville and New York. Our engineers are located all over the US and even the world -- Boston, Wisconsin, New York, Virginia, Montreal, Toronto, to name a few locations. We use the web to collaborate.

CIT: What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur?
Andrew: I distilled a lot of my advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in my contributed piece for The Next Web, called "Why Startups Die". In that article, I studied the various reasons I have seen startups fizzle out of existence. I wrote, "Studying failures is, in many ways, a positive instruction. It’s a map of the landmines. As for concrete advice, I can offer this one suggestion: Be persistent."

CIT:What events/meetup groups are essential for startups?
I think it's important to have a small, but trusted, support network of advisors and fellow entrepreneurs. But I would avoid the temptation to do an excessive amount of networking. Startups are a lot of hard work. Most of your time should probably be spent building your product, iterating your business vision, etc.

CIT:  How important is collaboration and knowledge sharing to you?
It's fundamentally important to have an open collaboration and knowledge sharing culture on your team.

I think learning some principles from distributed teams can help. I also tend to steal ideas from the way open source software projects are run, since the most successful among them are among some of the best run and best scaled creative collaborative pursuits in the world.

CIT:  What makes Charlottesville’s tech scene unique?
When I first moved to Charlottesville, I didn't really expect there to be a tech scene at all. But I was truly surprised to learn that not only is there a great, tight-knit community of professional software developers and a few local technology startups, there is also an awesome (and growing) entrepreneurial vibe running through the entire community.

For me, the pillars of Charlottesville's tech community are:
HackCville, which is where I work and contribute help to entrepreneurs as a mentor
beCraft, the local professional software developer meetup group
beSwarm / beCamp, its semi-annual technology conference
First Wednesdays, Charlottesville's monthly tech "drink-up"

Contact Information:
Andrew Montalenti, co-founder and CTO of Parse.ly
Charlottesville, VA