"Challenge Our Comfort Zones, Indulge in Our Passions" Taylor Smith, Cofounder and CEO at Blueboard by@morganachaney

"Challenge Our Comfort Zones, Indulge in Our Passions" Taylor Smith, Cofounder and CEO at Blueboard

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Both Kevin and I experienced really crappy corporate recognition programs in our first jobs out of college. I remember a time at Accenture where I had just wrapped up a big project in Dallas; I had been flying out every week for months; I had gained ~20 pounds and hadn’t slept well in what felt like weeks. My manager called me into his office and told me I did a great job, and then handed me an AMEX gift card. It felt like a slap in the face. After complaining to telling Kevin about this experience, he told me that he’d received over $800 in gift cards from Pwc that year. We decided then and there that we should start a company that helped other companies thank their employees in a much more meaningful and natural way.

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HackerNoon Reporter: Please tell us briefly about your background.

My name is Taylor Smith and I started a company called Blueboard with my friend from third grade, Kevin Yip. When we studied abroad in Hong Kong in college, we were inspired by the energy of the city. People just 3 or 4 years older than us were starting fashion lines, restaurants, and investment firms. After a weekend trip to Vietnam with friends, we decided that the most meaningful thing in life was going on adventures and challenging your comfort zones with friends.

We decided that eventually, we’d start a company around this very concept -- Blueboard is that company. (Personal background: grew up in the Bay Area; my dad worked in the semiconductor industry so I’ve been interested in tech since I was a kid; studied engineering at UC Berkeley; started my career in management consulting; left Accenture to slang solar panels door to door, which slightly concerned my parents; started a diamond/fine jewelry company that eventually reached millions of dollars in sales; then sold that business to start Blueboard with Kevin in 2012)

What's your startup called? And in a sentence or two, what does it do?

Blueboard helps companies send their employees on adventures (think skydiving, couple’s massages, guitar lessons, or surf camp in Portugal) after they crush it at work. The name Blueboard comes from the “blue boards” on Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley -- they had a collection of all of the community’s activities and adventures. Our vision is to build a digital representation of these “blue boards” for every community in the world.

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What is the origin story?

Both Kevin and I experienced really crappy corporate recognition programs in our first jobs out of college. I remember a time at Accenture where I had just wrapped up a big project in Dallas; I had been flying out every week for months; I had gained ~20 pounds and hadn’t slept well in what felt like weeks. My manager called me into his office and told me I did a great job, and then handed me an AMEX gift card. It felt like a slap in the face. After complaining to telling Kevin about this experience, he told me that he’d received over $800 in gift cards from Pwc that year. We decided then and there that we should start a company that helped other companies thank their employees in a much more meaningful and natural way.

What do you love about your team, and why are you the ones to solve this problem?

Our team is a collection of adventurers and artists who truly live out the company mission: to challenge our comfort zones, indulge in our passions, and to try new things. Everyone at our company plays a role in helping tens of thousands of people get out and about into the world every year. People work their asses off to make this magic come to life, and we’re incredibly thankful and blessed to be surrounded by people who share our values and want to bring our vision to life.

If you weren’t building your startup, what would you be doing?

Trying desperately to make it as a music producer. Though it feels like my window is closing, I’m still hoping to play at a major festival before I turn 40.

At the moment, how do you measure success? What are your core metrics?

How many people are we sending #blueboarding. To date, we’ve sent over 60,000 people on adventures across the world, in over 50 countries. And the best part about all of this is that all of these adventures were covered financially by people’s employers!

What’s most exciting about your traction to date?

That so many diverse companies use Blueboard and think it’s the best way to recognize their employees. At first, we thought that maybe only tech companies in the Bay Area would pay for Blueboard. However, our clients have offices and locations in all 50 states and more than 50 countries! We work beyond just tech companies too - we include restaurants, property management companies, ambulance companies & manufacturers as clients as well.

What technologies are you currently most excited about, and most worried about? And why?

We’re interested in Apache Beam and the ability to switch between stream and batch data processing with the same code. In our tests though there is some magic going on so we’re trying to see how far Apache Beam deviates from standard python and whether it truly behaves the same in batch vs stream.

We’re also excited to move our application over to Kubernetes as we are starting to reach the point where we’re interested in hosting multiple services rather than a single monolith. What we’re most worried about isn’t a specific technology but rather making sure we’re only using new technologies for a specific business case rather than first using a new technology and then trying to appropriate it to a use case.

What drew you to get published on HackerNoon? What do you like most about our platform?

My cofounder Kevin and I first met David when he was running social media for SmartRecruiters back in 2014. Back then Blueboard was just the 2 of us and it was more of an idea than a company. As a fellow hustler in HR tech, David was always super supportive and had thoughtful feedback and ideas for us to consider. It has been really awesome seeing HackerNoon grow, and hearing about interesting content from friends -- and Blueboard has grown quite a bit since then too!

What advice would you give to the 21-year-old version of yourself?

You can accomplish anything you want in a lifetime, and the best time to start is right now.

What is something surprising you've learned this year that your contemporaries would benefit from knowing?

The benefits of living near (or taking time to recharge near) water. I made the move to San Diego earlier this year and instantly felt more relaxed and focused than I’d been for the last several years living in SOMA (SF). I searched to find the reason behind this and stumbled upon a book called Blue Mind. As it turns out, being near water puts your brain into “involuntary attention” mode -- as waves crash or ripples move, your brain engages, but only in a passive way.

These random but predictable movements actually help to replenish our brains. (Juxtapose this with the sounds and sights of a city; the chaotic and unpredictable nature of city surroundings forces your brain into “directed attention” mode, which fatigues you) I’d urge other founders and entrepreneurs to make time to recharge as often as possible because building a company is much more of a marathon than a sprint.

Vote for Blueboard for Startup of the Year, San Francisco

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