Fresh off a successful presentation at TechCrunch disrupt, Dispatch co-founder Alex Godin stopped by Lua HQ to talk about what he’s working on, how he found his way into startups, and what running a company has been like for him. Alex is a somewhat unusual startup founder, because in a addition to being a really bright and articulate person, he’s only 18 years old. He deferred his college matriculation to keep working on Dispatch and hasn’t looked back.
What is dispatch?
Dispatch is a way to have focused conversations around stuff you’re working on. And its connected to the cloud so your stuff stays up to date as it changes. So if I’m working on a project with you, we can have a conversation around all of the pieces related to a project, whether its a google doc, a link, a file I uploaded, something in dropbox or a note, and the conversation stays focused organized and connected to the cloud.
Where did the idea for dispatch come from?
We started at the Disrupt New York Hackathon about a year ago. We built a chrome extension that let you send stuff in Google Docs to Dropbox. It’s obvious that our stuff is moving to the cloud, and that Google Docs, Dropbox, and Evernote are awesome. We don’t have to worry about backups anymore, and sharing is simpler. There’s an opportunity to add value by sitting on top of these services. We started by building “finder in the cloud”, a tool that let you drag and drop between services like Google Docs and Dropbox. As we built out the product, we started adding sharing and conversation features. We found ourselves using the sharing stuff a bunch and as an experiment
When you’re working on a project it’s more than just a conversation, there’s stuff related to it. If you’re working on a design for instance, there’s the design file, the inspiration, the comments, and dispatch can bring that all together.
So at what age did you get involved in startups and how did that happen?
I was 17 when we started Dispatch. My cofounders were 23, 26, and 28. I’ve always been interested in the internet and internet companies. I started reading TechCrunch and being interested in startups pretty early on. I eventually decided to join a co-working space in NYC called New Work City. I went there, and was working on some homework and on some side projects. I was still in high school, but it was a good place to go and meet people who were really interesting. That’s where I met Nick and Jesse, two of my cofounders. I ran into them at a hackathon and we broke off and eventually started working together.
What are some other passions of yours?
I spend most of my time focused on work. I don’t write code all day, because I’m really bad at it, but I enjoy writing code, there are some fun aspects to it. I’ll never be a good developer, but I enjoy playing around with coding projects on the weekends.
What is your favorite part about what you’re doing with dispatch right now, or with working in the startup environment in general?
At Dispatch, I’m focused on working with the people we’re integrating with and all of these partners that we have to make sure we’re doing the best possible job integrating with these companies. I really like the space that we’re in. The time is right for the cloud and meta-cloud, the idea that there’s more than one cloud service that people are going to use. You’ll never put your pictures in Spotify, but it’s here to stay – our stuff won’t be in one place, and there’s a great group of people realizing that.
What was the TechStars experience like for your team?
Techstars was awesome. We actually had a sort of interesting experience for a few reasons. We did this hackathon, and when we were on stage, we got an email from Dave Tisch saying ‘let’s talk.’ He’s the king of the quick email. We were very early as a company when we got into TechStars. We got into TechStars with very little stuff done so far. It was amazing, it totally enabled us to raise money, and the connections we got – we’ve been out of TechStars for a year, and in New York, every time you go to anything theres somebody from Techstars there, its a really great network. The mentors are awesome, and they helped shape what went into dispatch a ton. We’re huge fans of TechStars.
Who are some of the people that you guys utilize in a mentorship role, or who have had a great impact on your company?
Our investors are all awesome. Through TechStars, it ended up being that our favorite mentors and people we were working with ended up being our investors in the company. So we’ve got a great group of about 6 or 7 angel investors that are really great people, and then Thrive Capital – all the people there are fantastic. There are also a number of people in the community, Phoebe Espiritu, who led the group of Hackstar program at TechStars is an amazing force and has been so helpful through the building of Dispatch.
What are your feelings when you think about going to college instead of working, or see what your HS friends are doing now?
I got into college, but I didn’t go, I deferred for a year. My friends from high school started college a month ago. I’m very happy with my decision. I got into NYU, so in September I can decide if I want to go to college or keep pushing it back.
What’s the hardest part about running a startup?
The hardest part about working at a startup is that there’s simply not enough people, yet there is so much to get done. That’s part of why startup people are so stressed all the time.
What’s the best part about running a startup?
The fact that you tackle interesting problems every single day, and it’s probably a problem you’ve never had before. It’s always a new challenge and it’s exciting. Also, the team you get to work with. No offense to anybody, but the team I work with at dispatch are just the smartest people I know. I love talking about these problems with them. That’s what I like most about it.