As graduation from Lewis and Clark neared for Amber Case―a computer scientist turned sociology major who dubbed herself a "cyborg anthropologist"―a pang of fear struck: How would she continue a path of learning in a world not structured by course credits? To conquer it, she set up a semester-like timeline of goals to reach within five years. The first objective was perhaps the trickiest: Find a co-founder with a compatible personality and interests, but a diametrically opposed skill set.
"The way I found him was very anthropologic: I tried to calculate the possibility of him existing," Case said. "That was very low, because he needed to have characteristics of historically successful founders, like Larry Page or Sergei Brin. And he needed to be in Portland."
She triangulated likely places he might appear, such as expert talks and tech conferences. Serendipity struck at a company Meetup, when she was introduced to Aaron Parecki, a native son of Portland whose mother had taught him to program at age 6, and who graduated from the University of Oregon with degrees in computer science and graphic design.
As Parecki explains, "She was super excited to meet because of a project I'd been doing: I was tracking my location every five or six seconds continuously and gathering tons of data about where I'd been and how I move around."
Pareki had been working for a company doing intelligent home design, and had wired his home to turn the lights on anytime he entered its area, a technology he pioneered that's now widely dubbed "geofencing." He'd built and brought into reality concepts Case had already become a spokesperson for: That technology should be intuitive, and should make a human's interaction with devices simpler, less cluttered, and more useful.
"We just started hanging out like every day, getting off work, and saying, 'now, let's see what we can build!'" Case said. "It was like finding a duplicate of yourself with a different skill-set. You can suddenly do anything you wanted. We can produce, produce, produce!"
They were almost immediately inseparable, hacking together geolocation projects in the evenings. On weekends, they enlisted in―and won dozens of―hackathons, earning money to buy hardware and server space. They quit their day jobs, subleased office space, raised seed funding, and―there's a cherry on top―moved in together as a couple.
The company they started, Geoloqi, developed a proprietary technology behind a platform that manages location-based services for enterprises, app developers, and government services. If the GPS services by mobile-phone carriers were first-generation geolocation, this is a whole new generation. And unlike mobile applications such as Foursquare or Highlight, those built with Geoloqi's toolkit don't drastically drain a cell-phone battery.
The company is making deals with several mid-sized companies, and currently provides location-tracking of people in potentially life-threatening situations for a U.S. Department of Defense contractor.
Back before college graduation, Case had just a few other five-year goals on her list. Speak at MIT, deliver a TED talk, keynote SXSW, appear in magazines, start a company, be a CEO of a company with more than five employees, and get an acquisition offer. It's been just three years and she can check them all off.
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CHRISTINE LAGORIO-CHAFKIN is a writer, editor, and reporter whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, and The Believer, among other publications. She is senior writer at Inc. @Lagorio
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