Student Profiles

Startup CEO: Ian Monroe on Social Entrepreneurship, Startup Chile, and Building a Tech Team

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Ian Monroe is a lecturer at Stanford University, as well as the founding CEO of Oroeco, a company that’s gamifying personal sustainability (and seeking to incentivize the global economy in the process). It’s a big mission and I was intrigued by what his company is working on so I caught up with Ian to hear more about Oroeco’s trials and tribulations, as well as his relocation to Santiago for Start-Up Chile.

Dan Reich: When and why did you decide to become a social entrepreneur?

Ian Monroe: Well, I suppose my path to social entrepreneurship was part inspiration, part imitation, and part process of elimination.

I’ve spent most of the last decade bouncing around the world while working on projects related to energy, sustainability, and international development. I enjoyed working with non-profits and corporate clients, but I didn’t see many lasting impacts come out of my field research and report writing. I also enjoyed collaborating with academics and government, but the lack of information transfer from research to policy-making and public awareness got similarly frustrating.

As these frustrations were building up, I saw many of my friends start companies I’m convinced are going to change the world, like Lukas Biewald (CrowdFlower), the late Corwin Hardham (Makani Power), and Brent Schulkin (Carrotmob). Being surrounded by entrepreneurship mentors – where I live in San Francisco’s Mission district there are literally dozens in every direction – made the process of founding a startup seem less daunting and more doable. All I needed at that point was an idea worth dedicating a substantial chunk of my life to build into a business.

DR: How did Oroeco become the idea you decided to build into a business?

IM: Oroeco was born out of seeing both need and opportunity. Fundamentally, Oroeco is something I’ve wanted for my own life for a long time. Despite being a supposed “expert” in sustainability – to the point that I’m invited to teach courses at Stanford on the topic, speak at conferences, and contribute to industry certification efforts – I still can’t walk into Walmart or a grocery store and easily quantify which options are best for other people and the planet. And the choices I know make a difference – like driving less and eating less red meat – are often offset by my international flights.

What I’ve been missing is a tool that easily tracks all my choices, shows me how they compare based on the metrics I care about, and suggests and encourages improvements. Ideally this tool would be fun and social too, since it’s easy to get overwhelmed by data, while comparisons to friends are a lot more engaging.

I also found myself increasingly thinking an Oroeco-like service was needed to realign our economy for sustainability. Most large-scale social and environmental issues – like climate change – trace back to companies producing goods and services that ultimately get paid for by consumers. So informed consumption can drive supply chains to become more sustainable, but first we all need the information and incentives to make better choices.

The idea for Oroeco didn’t refine into a social business concept until I saw that technologies already existed to make it happen. First my environmental life cycle assessment research with Stanford and NRDC exposed me to a bunch of great data sets, which quantify sustainability impacts for most products and services. Then I saw technologies like make it easy to automatically track all my spending and investment in one place. And the last piece was seeing the opportunity to connect both of these data feeds to the growing ubiquity of Facebook and social gaming.

DR: What are the biggest challenges Oroeco has faced so far?

IM: The biggest initial challenge was building a great tech team. It’s funny, because I considered myself to be more of a “techie” than most with my science and engineering background, but unless you’ve got “computer” or “software” in front of your degree you don’t count as “technical” in the Silicon Valley.

Finding a team of solid technical co-founders took nearly a year. The process was made more difficult by the fact that Oroeco was entirely bootstrapping, so I was essentially only offering equity and enthusiasm for how Oroeco could change the world. On the positive side, we’ve now got a fantastic team that’s both highly qualified – most are startup vets from Stanford, MIT and UC Berkeley – and as passionate about personal sustainability and Oroeco as I am. I’m particularly excited that our primary engineering leads are two awesome women (Yang Ruan and Kirstin Cummings), which is a rarity in the startup world, and something that’s helping us incorporate gender-balanced perspective into design decisions.

DR: Chile is a long way to go for a startup accelerator, what convinced you to leave San Francisco for Santiago?

IM: We considered a few American startup accelerators, but by offering about $43,000 in equity-free investment, Start-Up Chile was by far the best deal we could find, as well as a great opportunity to connect with a network of international entrepreneurs who can eventually help Oroeco go global.

I’m the only Oroeco team member who’s spending a full six months in Santiago, while the rest of our team will keep circulating between the San Francisco area, Boston, and New York. While I’ve had the opportunity to work in much of the rest of Latin America on various sustainability projects, this is my first time in Chile.

On the more personal side, I’m fascinated by Start-Up Chile’s model, and getting a firsthand look at its successes and failures. The program is already being emulated by other countries, like Brazil. Start-Up Chile clones could catalyze entrepreneurship throughout the developing world, and the program is already sparking a tremendous amount of international networking and knowledge exchange.

DR: How has the Start-Up Chile experience compared to building a business in Silicon Valley? Has Chile succeeded in creating a startup-friendly environment?

IM: Overall, Start-Up Chile has been fantastic. The support staff and working environment are great. Santiago is an easy city to navigate, with public transportation on par with San Francisco and many European cities.

Navigating the Chilean bureaucracy has been a bit more challenging. Start-Up Chile has tried to streamline the process as much as possible, but there are still a lot of paperwork hoops to jump through. It took me nearly a month and more than a dozen signatures to open a bank account through a local Citi branch, then another half dozen documents to sign off on just to put cash into my account. In contrast, setting up a Citi account in San Francisco took about 15 minutes, and I’ve opened an account in Beijing in about as much time, despite my Mandarin being much worse than my Spanish!

DR: Oroeco’s mission is to fundamentally shift the global economy towards sustainability. But that task seems quite daunting, particularly for a little startup. What are your biggest challenges ahead?

IM: Our current challenge is to spread the word that we exist. Our big push now is to recruit our first beta users through our Indiegogo campaign – – which wraps up January 1st. So if people hear about us, like what we’re doing, and want to try us out, that’s the place to go. We’ve got a next to nil marketing budget, so we’re relying heavily on social marketing and word of mouth.

Over the longer term, the challenge is to simultaneously grow our user base while keeping our existing users engaged. There’s plenty of market research that shows most people want to live more sustainable lifestyles, and Oroeco can be a disruptive technology that changes how people and companies incorporate sustainability into decision-making. But for that to happen we need to scale to millions of users, ideally hundreds of millions, and these users need to be engaged enough by Oroeco’s user experience that our information and incentives factor into their everyday choices.

Our success will ultimately hinge on our user experience, since a compelling product will market itself. We think we’ll appeal to more users as we add societal, health and environmental impacts indicators beyond climate change, and we should appeal to even more users as we refine our social gaming and rewards. The challenge is to add functionality without compromising on design elegance, and to provide a flexible interface that can accommodate a wide range of user preferences.

A final challenge is protecting user privacy, particularly since we’re working with financial transaction data that can be sensitive. It’s important users trust us with their information, and have faith that we won’t create a great service that changes the rules of the privacy game once it hits critical mass. Users understandably get quite upset when this happens, which we’ve seen most recently with Instagram.

DR: Any parting advice for aspiring social entrepreneurs?

IM: It’s cliché to say, but the most important thing is to be thoroughly passionate about what you’re working on. And don’t be afraid to share that passion with everyone you know. Your honest enthusiasm is what will attract like-minded team members, as well as investors and users. It’s also ultimately what will make the bouncy startup journey fun and rewarding, even if you end up in a ditch.

I’m naturally a pretty laidback guy, with a tendency to engage in long-winded academic discourse, so infectiously exuding my excitement for Oroeco is a challenge. But I’m still happily working long nights and waking up excited, which is only the case because I still thoroughly believe we’re building something that will help craft a sustainable future. Sharing this passion with a great team and crew of awesome advisors has only magnified this feeling. Now we just need to demonstrate there are a lot of users out there who feel the same way.

Dan Reich is a tech entrepreneur and engineer. He has founded and sold multiple companies, the most recent of which was acquired by Buddy Media, which in turn was acquired by Salesforce. Follow him on Twitter at @DanReich.

3 Short Stories from 3 NYC Startups

New York City
New York City

This post originally appeared on

Our society celebrates the buzzy and bubbly – acquisitions, funding events, mergers, new hires. As entrepreneurs, most of the buzzy stories we read are rather useless. They serve no practical application to help grow our respective businesses. This is why great entrepreneurs get out in the field and engage in as many conversations as they can with those they respect. They want to hear firsthand how people have succeeded and how people have failed. They search for tried and true lessons so that they can apply the takeaways to their own ventures. And in this process entrepreneurs uncover key insights that may lead to a critical pivot in a business model or perhaps may lead to a simple validation of an already held mindset. From my vantage point, all of these little stories serve as an important backdrop for anyone looking to build a great business.

So here are three short stories from three up and coming New York City startups. Maybe you’ll uncover a gem of insight that will help transform your business or project.

“No Silver Bullets” by Aaron, CEO & Co-Founder of Tutorspree

The hardest lesson I’ve learned since co-founding Tutorspree is that there are no silver bullets – even when charting something as amazing as the future of one-on-one learning. It may seem a bit strange that I need that as a lesson when everything else I’ve ever done has required huge amounts of hard work. Intellectually, I had no expectation that a startup would be any different. But emotionally, entrepreneurs are continually confronted with stories in the popular press full of the one huge a-ha innovation/decision/partnership that “made” a company. While I know that those may be possible in extreme edge cases, that they’re nowhere near the norm, and they create an irrational expectation that one is just around the corner.

The truth is that start ups are hard, they’re a slog, they’re a huge amount of all consuming work – but that’s also why they’re amazing. You don’t find a single silver bullet – that’s the just the story people tell afterwards, you find a whole bunch of little steps and you figure out how to string them together until you have your success. And looking back, that’s a bigger achievement than a single fell swoop, which might be as much luck as anything else. That’s a lesson I take into work with me every day, and it is a critical piece of what makes this the life I want.

“Motivation by Inspiration” by Mike Dirolf, CEO of Fiesta

For me, motivation has been the principle benefit of working from a co-working space in New York City; collaboration is a distant second. It’s great to have smart people around to ask for help and feedback, but it’s far more important to see how hard those people are working and to be inspired to keep up. At almost all hours of the day the space is filled with people working as hard as they can to turn their fledgling companies into successful businesses. It’s impossible to walk into the place and not feel energized.

A little over a year ago I set out on my own and was ostensibly working from my apartment. The reality was that I had a lot of trouble staying focused. About a month later I moved into a co-working space; since then staying motivated hasn’t been a problem. Now that Fiesta is growing and I’ve brought on a co-founder that external motivation might be less essential, but I’m convinced we never would’ve gotten this far without it.

“Colloboration” by David Reich, CEO & Founder of Assured Labor (Disclosure: David Reich has no relation to Dan Reich

Our company, Assured Labor, is an unusual start-up. Started at the MIT MediaLab, Assured Labor connects employers in emerging markets with local sales, operations and administration candidates using cell phones and web technology.

We have a staff of 15 (including our outsourced engineering team) distributed between Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan, Nicaragua and of course, our headquarters in New York City at Dogpatch Labs. We’ve often been asked why we keep our headquarters in  New York while all of our operations are based in the emerging markets. The answer is collaboration. Our New York base allows us to collaborate with the world’s best engineers and business innovators, ensuring we can outcompete our local competitors. I’ll give an example of each.

Engineering. While we have been happily working with an outsourced technology team based in Lahore, Pakistan, we keep our senior technologist and product manager in the US. This is for two reasons: first, this is where the worlds top talent is, and second, to provide our talent with the opportunity to collaborate with likeminded entrepreneurs. In our incubator there is no shame in asking questions or fear that collaborators (from other companies) will steal our idea. This ecosystem allows our engineers to learn from peers other and build better services faster.

Business Innovators. Over the past year dozens of startups have come through Dogpatch Labs, each with it unique ideas on how they’ll monetize their business. I’ve seen Groupon models, Ad based models, Subscription models, Freemium models, Co-marketing models, and a dozen more. Each month notable experts come through Dogpatch to meet us, ranging from the Scott Heiferman of to Eric Reis the author of “The Lean Startup”. But best of all I’ve had the opportunity to learn from my fellow founders while sharing my opinions on what I’ve seen working both internationally and in the US. As technology is only part of building a successful startup these opportunities to collaborate with business innovators is a tremendous advantage.

Beyond the opportunity to collaborate in engineering and business innovation the collaborative environment of our co-working space has provided us with introductions to investors, employees, interns and partners. We also lean on each other for energy and motivation, sharing in each other success. While few things can match the business learning that comes from sitting with your customers, few things can match the business building to be gained from collaboration with other entrepreneurs, in the trenches, working to change the world.

Do you have a great startup story to tell?

Connect with Dan Reich on Twitter – @danreich.

Badgers Building Startup Businesses in Madison, WI

Bird's-Eye View of Madison, Wisconsin, 1908
Image by Wisconsin Historical Images via Flickr

Madison, Wisconsin could very well be the next hub for startup businesses. When I was in school in Madison, I watched companies like Microsoft and Google open offices on campus in order to tap into the vast pool of engineering talent. The thing is, Madison goes beyond engineering and has very bright, motivated people looking to build the next “big thing.”

My friend Nathan is one of those people and he has had some nice success stories around building businesses. Moreover, he’s got a fresh outlook on what it takes to get things done, and more importantly, why he is doing what he is doing. This one will also be filed under “Student Profiles.”

Student Bio – Nathan Lustig
I’m the cofounder of Entrustet, a website that allows you to decide what you’d like to happen to your digital assets when you pass away. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2009 with a degree in Political Science. While I was a student, I started a tickets and textbooks trading website and grew it to 150,000 users and sold it to my ad network.  I also love sports, traveling, cooking and eating good food.

Dan Reich: Why are you an entrepreneur?
Nathan Lustig: I’m an entrepreneur because I learned at a young age that I really didn’t like the structure of school and being forced to do things that I thought were boring or useless. I was really bored in school growing up and always looked for interesting things to do. When most of my friends got traditional jobs in high school, I started reffing soccer when I was 12, cut lawns and figured out ways to make money. I was always starting things or looking for ways to improve existing products and quickly realized that I would hate living and working in a cubicle.

When I got to college, I bought and sold tickets my freshman year and realized that there was room for a well run website to organize the market. After being in business for a month, I knew there was no way I would be getting a “real” job anytime soon. I love the freedom, the new challenges every day and trying to create something that I know will help people in their day to day lives.

DR: What is entrustet all about?
NL: Entrustet is a free service that allows you to create a list of your digital assets (online accounts and computer files) and then decide if you’d like them transferred to heirs or deleted when you pass away. We came up for the idea after reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat. He talks about a US marine who was killed in Iraq and his family wanted access to his Yahoo! account. Yahoo! said no and after a court battle, a judge ruled that Yahoo! had to turn the contents of the Marine’s email over to his parents.

We thought this was crazy. You shouldn’t have to go to court to gain access to a loved one’s digital assets. We also thought that there may be some assets that you’d rather keep private. The court case showed that your online accounts and computer files are real assets that should be dealt with during the estate planning process. Fast forward to 2010. Domain names, blogs, family photos, email, contacts, twitter and other digital assets dominate our daily lives.

We also work with attorneys to teach them how to add digital assets to wills and trusts. A few months back, my cofoudner Jesse Davis and I were the first people in North America to execute traditional wills with our digital assets included. It’s fairly easy for attorneys to add digital assets to estate plans, but most don’t because they don’t know how to do it. We teach attorneys and then certify that they know what they are doing.

The last piece of Entrustet deals with websites. Websites have no idea when their users pass away and don’t know what they wanted done with their accounts either. This leads to poor customer service, wasted resources and potential legal liability from identity theft, among other things. For example, three Facebook users die every single minute and Facebook has no idea who they are or what they wanted done with their profiles. We help websites by notifying them when their users pass away and what the user wanted done with their account.

Our goal is to help people deal with digital death so that they don’t lose valuable digital assets when they pass away.

DR: Why are you trying to start a business in Madison, WI, and more importantly what’s the deal with your relocation to Chile?
NL: I’ve lived in Madison for the past six years now and love it. It’s got a great University and high quality of life. While I was running my tickets/textbooks website, I’ve gotten to know pretty much everyone in town, so it was natural that we started our next business in Madison. Plus, it’s really cheap. I rent a 3 bedroom with a lake view for $1050 per month, total, for all three of us, utilities included. We rent awesome office space just off the Capitol Square for $250 per month. The money we raise goes MUCH farther here than in NYC or San Francisco.

The Chilean government wants Santiago to be South America’s startup hub, so they are offering foreign startups $40,000 and free office space to move there for up to six months. I applied after reading about the program in Forbes and applied on a lark. We got picked and after talking with our advisers, partners and investors, we decided to make the move. We think the Startup Chile program offers us some awesome networking opportunities, plus I’ve always wanted to live in a Spanish speaking country to get fluent in Spanish.

My partner Jesse and I do most of our work online or on the phone, so we don’t envision all that much changing. Chile is EST+1, so the time difference is minimal and we’re a direct flight away from NYC and 1 stop from San Francisco.

DR: What are you thoughts on Madison, WI as a technology or startup hub?
NL: Madison is already a technology hub, but for the past decade or so, it’s been in biotech. Over the past six years, it’s becoming an emerging IT startup hub as well. Madison was just named the 7th most innovative city in the US and I think it’s what Boulder was 6ish years ago and Austin 8ish years ago. In May 09, I started an entrepreneur meetup group called Capital Entrepreneurs. We had 10 web startups at our first meeting and now we have 65 in the group. Madison is starting to get on the map, with articles in TechCrunch and Read Write Web and Madison companies like JellyFish, Networked Insights, Alice, Brazen Careerist, PerBlue, Asthmapolis and other getting national play. Here’s some other Madison startup resources:

1. Capital Entrepreneurs – Founders meetup group
2. Merlin Mentors – Pairs up successful entrepreneurs with people who want to start businesses
3. Burrill Business Plan Competition – UW student business plan competition
4. Entrepreneur dorm – Dorm floor at UW for students who want to start businesses
5. High Tech Happy Hour – Meetup for high tech workers
6. Forward Technology Conference – Mini SXSW held in Madison

DR: Are there any past projects you worked on that were successful? Failures?


  • Facebook Foodcourt – Tried to create an online ordering website inside Facebook in 2007
  • Madison Independent Realty – Tried to create a website that would allow college students at UW to find houses not owned by the big property management companies. Failed because we couldn’t get the property managers to pay us anything to list in 2005.
  • Segway Sharing – Tried to do a shared segway system on UW campus in 2008, realized it would cost too much and people feel self conscious riding them.
  • Mobile Tickets – I wanted to build a mobile app that would show people buying and selling tickets in real time, in your area. The tech wasn’t there in 2006/7, but it is now. Someone please build this. It would be awesome.

I’m sure there’s more, but those are the ones that are coming to mind right now.

DR: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
NL: I really have no idea. I’m sure I’ll be doing something entrepreneur related, but 5 years seems really far off. As you can see by the Chile move, I hardly know where I’ll be in 6 months, much less five years. I hope I’m doing something fun, interesting and useful. At some point I really want to work on something education related, but I’m not sure when.

Nathan blogs at

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Building Things For Your Pockets – A Unique Perspective On The Future of Mobile

There is no doubt in my mind that our dependency on mobile phones will continue to increase. I’m not going to try and justify this statement because this is quite simply a fact, and with that fact comes a tremendous amount of opportunity. A friend of mine has been digging into this space and I thought his current approach, tactics and projects were worth sharing.

David Alson shares his insights below in another post I’ll file under “Student Profiles.”

Student Bio – David Alson
David Alson was born and raised in the New York City area and is currently a senior at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with hopes to pursue a career in the technology industry after graduation in the spring of 2011.

Dan Reich: I understand you’ve developed some iPhone apps.  Could you talk a little bit about those, and your experiences in creating them?
David Alson: During the summer of 2009, I bought an introductory book on iPhone programming and started teaching myself how to build apps. I built some basic apps to get used to the environment and Objective-C, learn about the Cocoa Touch framework and experiment with features of the iPhone I have never programmed for before, such as the accelerometer, camera and touch screen.

The first app that I released to the App store was a generic countdown to the 2010 New Year. I wanted to put something in the store so I could see first hand what the process was like and how the App store made and recorded sale transactions.

The second and third app that I put in the store was a game with a free version with ads and a 99-cent version called BallFall, which I decided to make for two reasons. The first reason was because I wanted to see how much I had taught myself about iPhone programming. I figured creating a game would be the most fun in the end and also be something that I would be willing to put in the store after it was done. The second reason was because the games category is the most successful category in the App store and I wanted to see how well ads do in free apps.

DR: What projects are you working on now?
DA: In addition to my electrical engineering course work, several projects I am currently working on include the Miami University App, Track ‘M, which will be integrated into the Miami App, and my first mobile game, BallFall.

The Miami University App was designed for current students, perspective students and parents, all Miami University faculty members, and especially new freshmen in need of a portable assistant to help with the transition into their new collegiate lifestyle. Some features of this app include a map of campus with building information, visitor parking information, dining menus to see what is being served in the dining halls across campus, sports and events news and a directory to search for contact information for all students, faculty and staff at the university.

Track ‘M is projected to be a live GPS bus tracking system for the Miami University transit system. This application is currently being designed to be incorporated into the Miami University App so those interested in accessing and utilizing the MU transit system will be able to access and view live locations of each bus and receive approximate bus arrival times at the desired destination.

Lastly, BallFall, which as previously mentioned, was designed as a personal examination of various aspects of the mobile market and a way to examine my own abilities with Objective-C. I am currently working on introducing an online leaderboard to feature high scores, which I decided to incorporate after taking a class on web services and SOA. I anticipate its release within the next couple weeks.

Those projects can be seen below.

DR: Where do you see the biggest opportunities in the mobile space?
DA: I believe there are two areas that have high potential for opportunity and growth within the mobile space—the medical industry and the education system. With a huge percentage of the population carrying mobile devices now, the medical industry has an opportunity to change how practitioners monitor and deliver vital information to their patients. After hearing about the implementation of mobile devices in the classroom resulting in higher engagement and participation levels, I feel the education system is currently presented with an opportunity to redesign traditional methods into a more modern system that is interesting to both students and faculty.

DR: What do you think about the current education system?
DA: I believe there is a technologic disconnect between students and educators. Many educators are resistant to having mobile devices in the classroom, while students are inevitably going to use them anyway, be it for texting or accessing the internet. Current students are growing up with mobile devices and the education system needs to expedite its transition into the mobile world of today.

DR: Do you teach things to yourself in order to get things done? If so, how?
DA: Absolutely. When there is a concept I do not understand, the first place I look for answers is the Internet. I feel it is the most efficient tool for finding answers because it provides a variety of perspectives on the subject.

David can be reached at

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I made $99,620.00 Yesterday Playing Poker

Well, not really. But this guy did.

I’ve been playing poker for quite some time now and what I used to consider a “gambling” game, I now consider a game of math, game theory, strategic thinking, science, risk assessment, and money management. I’m not the only one. In fact, there is an entire society called the Global Poker Strategic Thinking Society that was founded on this very theory.

Jesse Linker, who is one of my good friends and is someone I have known for a very long time,  has been playing online poker as a full time job for the past 2 years. The fact that he has been playing poker full time is not what is amazing. What’s amazing is, if you look at his earnings over time (see image below), you’d notice a steady increase. No real losses. All consistent earnings. Key word here being: consistent.

In shedding some more light on this topic, Jesse agreed to share some of his secrets below by answering some questions. He is also the first person to be featured in a new series of posts called Student Profiles.” These posts will profile individuals who are consistently looking to learn and get better at what they do. Jesse no doubt fills that profile.

Student Bio – Jesse Linker
Jesse Linker is currently 24 years old and graduated from the from University of Maryland in January of 2009 with a degree in Finance. Since graduating, Jesse has been playing poker professionally. He has tentative plans of attending law school and if asked, he would say his biggest accomplishment is being from the same hometown as The Situation (Manalapan, NJ.)

Dan Reich: How long have you been playing poker for?
Jesse Linker: I’m not exactly sure when I first started, but it was somewhere around 13 or so. I first played online when I deposited $50 into an online poker account almost exactly on my 18th birthday. One of my other good friends made close to $1500 in one night, which he used to pay for spring break. I remember thinking how incredible it would be to play a game that paid so well, and was hooked.

DR: How many hours per week do you play?
JL: It varies a lot, but on average it’s probably close to 35 hours a week of actually playing.

DR: Do you consider poker to be “gambling?” Why or why not?
JL: In the sense that nearly everything you do is “gambling” when your actions do not guarantee an outcome. As the financial recession has shown, there is huge risk inherent to investing. In poker you are immune to a much larger degree of variables, whereas in typical investing, you are exposed to the macroeconomic effects of the global economy and global events. Even taking a job in a large corporation which has traditionally been seen as a “safer” leaves you with little control. I engage in a zero-sum activity, where my income is directly tied into my work ethic and improvement, something that very few other jobs can offer.

DR: Is there a difference between playing poker in person and playing poker online?
JL: There is, but I rarely play in person so I’m not the most qualified to highlight the differences. In general I do not like casinos so I would much rather sit on my couch with a laptop.

DR: How do you minimize risk and maximize income?
JL: After I graduated in January of ’09 I began to exclusively play heads up (1 on 1). I used to play 10-12 tables at once of 6-max tables and would inevitably get sick of that grind and stop playing because I did not enjoy it. In heads up I can play 1-3 tables at a time and I do not burn out to the same degree.

There is so much information available, that it makes it easier to effectively minimize risk while not effecting your income to a large degree. There are websites that track players results, with relatively detailed information. The results are not exact, but they give you a good idea so even before I start playing a person I know the limits they usually play and how they do at those limits. In addition there is software that logs every hand I play on my laptop so I will have information on people I have previously played, which helps.

DR: Do you have a “secret sauce” for showing such steady growth in the amount you’ve made?
JL: I think a lot of people play as high as they can as long as they think they have an edge. It sounds weird but even though I just turned 24, I am old compared to a lot of successful internet players. At 18 or 19 I think it’s easier to take more risks, and I definitely did. Now with most my friends working and the economic recession, I have a greater appreciation for the opportunity that poker affords me. Personally, I have found a good balance where I can make an amount I am satisfied with without taking risks and experiencing downswings I am uncomfortable with.

DR: Do you use analytics tools to monitor your performance? Does it inform the way you play?
JL: Not really, playing heads up allows you to closely pay attention to an opponent’s tendencies and then tailoring a strategy that you think is most effective. I like to have basic information in order to have some ideas on how they play but past that I do not really use any. When playing 10-12 tables this was close to impossible, and your play is more robotic.

DR: Do emotions ever affect the way you play? Have you ever lost money because you were angry or upset?
JL: Of course, and its something that even the most successful players in the world are not immune to. You try to minimize how much it effects you, but pretending that emotions never affect you is probably more detrimental than acknowledging that they always will.

DR: What advice would you give to people that are currently playing, or are thinking about playing poker online?
JL: I think its considerably tougher now than it was a couple years ago to build up a bankroll. There are so many training sites out there such as that have made it exponentially easier to improve and become competent. I think if you are intelligent enough to start poker today and become successful you are probably better off focusing your energies somewhere else.

For people currently playing I would say the most important piece of advice is to be critical of yourself. There is a lot of information to process, and even when you make the best decisions possible you will often get a negative result. Its easier to blame things out of your control, such as luck rather than realize that even if you were unlucky you should concentrate on your actions and what you can do to improve. In the same vein, when people make a poor decision sometimes they are rewarded and again they are not critical of the actions they control.

This is why poker will always be profitable because it is a flaw universal that people by in large are far too results oriented. An NFL coach who goes for it on a risky fourth down play is largely judged on the outcome of the play, regardless of how correct or incorrect the decision was. Investors are similarly affected with the outcome being the source of criticism or praise rather than the soundness of the decision. Most decisions have a myriad of outcomes that are out of your control and all you can do is make the best one with the available information. Being too concerned with results makes it impossible to best focus on improving your decision-making.

(Snapshot Below: One of Jesse’s online poker profiles)

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