“Build more, strategize less,” says Everett Harper, one of the co-founder of Tetherpad, one of the companies that helped save healthcare.gov, and one of our speakers at the upcoming HowTo conference.
By Betsy Mikel (Editor, Women 2.0)
Our HowTo conference is just around the corner! In just two short weeks, we’ll be bringing top tech changemakers to the stage to dig deep about how to succeed. You’ll have the opportunity to learn from their insight and advice and connect with fellow entrepreneurs, investors, tech innovators and doers.
On Day 2, don’t miss the Case Study presented by Everett Harper “How to Choose Good Partners (and Lose the Others).” Everett and his co-founders presented their startup idea for Tetherpad at Women 2.0 Founder Labs in 2011, and it was instantly a crowd favorite. But their idea — Tetherpad was initially a travel management solution for busy people — didn’t happen overnight. In “When Your Startup Idea Has No Game,” Everett previously wrote about many of the ups and downs the founding team experienced on their path to success. Today, Tetherpad builds scheduling, calendar and logistics software for mobile workers and Fortune 500 clients.
We’re so excited to welcome Everett to the stage to share some of the lessons he’s learned. Here’s a bit more about him:
Everett Harper is CEO and co-founder of Tetherpad (started at Women 2.0’s Founder Labs). In 2014, Tetherpad was an integral part of the tech surge that saved Healthcare.gov, and continues to modernize systems to increase access to healthcare. Everett’s expertise is customer development and mobile product, winning a Webby Honoree for the Bottlenotes mobile app.
He was formerly at Linden Lab (maker of Second Life) as head of Community & Customer Acquisition. Everett graduated with degrees from Stanford (MBA & Master’s of Education in Learning, Design and Technology) and Duke (Biomedical & Electrical Engineering) and won a NCAA National Championship in soccer. He has deep interest in the intersection of mindfulness, social psychology and behavioral data. Everett lives in Oakland, California, making limoncello when life hands him lemons.
Women 2.0: How do you typically spend the first hour of your day?
Check email/text for anything seriously urgent. I meditate for 10-15 minutes, then tackle the most important task requiring creative focus: writing or designing mostly. Otherwise, I’ll bear down on that hard task I’d rather avoid. Usually, it’s not as bad as feared and it’s a great momentum builder.
I’m a solo fatherpreneur, so there are two versions of my first hour. Daughter awake = work off, and vice-versa. The self-enforced discipline makes me more focused than I ever was as a 20-something.
Women 2.0: Who was an early role model who inspired your career in tech?
Carl Sagan and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, for using technology to pursue bigger questions. Afrika Bambataa and early hiphop DJs — OG hackers — inspired my brother and I to take apart our cassette decks and turntables to splice Mussorgsky with Thomas Dolby. (Should’ve kept at that one). Finally, my mother, who went from stay-at-home to “secretary” to computer programmer at IBM in the 70’s – 80’s. Imagine the challenges an African-American woman without a college degree faced back then, and you know why she’s an inspiration. #takesnoguff
Women 2.0: What do you love about your job?
There’s so many things to choose from! I love the trust developed with my co-founders Mark Ferlatte and Jennifer Leech — high ethical standards, brilliance and hard work is a rare combination. I love customer development — interacting with customers is the best way to regain focus, motivation and spark new ideas. Finally, I love the clarity of needing to be better every single day, across multiple skills (except when I resent it. #real)
Women 2.0: What’s one piece of advice you’d give your younger self?
Build more, strategize less. Follow your instincts, but keep testing them. Reveal yourself and ask for help. You will accelerate learning, and find the community who wants to see you succeed.
Women 2.0: What do you think the tech world will look like five years from now?
Wearables will be mostly generic, with one or two true branded winners. The real story will be the tension between individuals’ use of their own data to access employment, health care, public services versus overreach of institutions to limit and control that data. Actuarial expertise will be an underlying driver of successful startups. Bioscience, especially 3D printing of living cells will blow our minds.
I REALLY hope there is a breakout company led by a woman or person of color. The talent and the market opportunity is evident (don’t sleep on Africa, btw). That said, I don’t think the overall demographic of the funding and startup ecosystem will change more than a few percentage points, to its detriment.
There will be a serious reckoning with growing income inequality as long as jobs “eaten by software” is greater than jobs created by software.
Women 2.0: What are a few apps or tools you couldn’t live or work without?
Things, 1password, iPhone, Muji paper notebooks, Slack, Duck Duck Go, SleepCycle / Strava / Fitbit (I’ll keep trying until someone gets sleep, activity and biomarkers right), BrainPickings, Soundcloud, Nomiku, BrainPop (for the kid).
Women 2.0: What did you learn from your greatest failure? (And if you’d like to share what it was, we’d love to hear it!)
The lesson: Point toward big goals, then let them go. Fall in love with daily focus and persevere.
The story: I got dropped from the Duke varsity soccer team just before the NCAA tournament in my junior year. After the coach read the names — without mine — I walked off our practice field dazed, embarrassed and bewildered. That summer, I mentally quit for a week. Better use of time to focus on finishing my biomedical engineering degree and to have a life in my senior year, right? But I set a new goal: get my letter jacket as a momento of four years of hard work.
In my senior season, I became “microambitious”, focused on working hard at the next sprint, drill, or scrimmage. Free from the pressure to be “the man”, my performance skyrocketed. We won Duke’s first national championship that year, and I played every single minute in the tournament and the final.
I came back to this story during some dark days at Tetherpad, and our current momentum reminds me that the lesson still holds.