September 06, 2018

Roll Call: Taralinda, CEO & Co-Founder


What is your role on the team?
As co-founder and CEO I do a little bit of everything, but in all seriousness I’m heavily involved in our customer development and customer success efforts, advise the data quality and product efforts, and take primary responsibility for the operation of the business.

What got you interested in entrepreneurship?
Dale, who is both my husband and co-founder of Curate, has always been actively involved in creating products or services that change how people use and view technology through his PhD research in computer science. Talking about ideas non-stop at home definitely got me interested in entrepreneurship, and this was solidified by earning my MBA to learn some concrete pillars of innovation.

What is something being CEO of a startup taught you about leadership that you never learned in a business class?
At Curate, we all take turns leading the company. In an established organization there is a well-defined hierarchy which I studied extensively in my MBA program. Here we all work together to move the company forward. It’s like taking a big road trip with your friends — we all take turns driving the bus. My goal is to make sure the right person is driving and making decisions at the right points in the road, and I’m humble enough to know it’s not always myself. When you surround yourself with incredible people you have to give them the freedom to be creative and solve problems.

If you could pause all responsibilities for two days and visit any place in the world, where would you go and why?
I’m very fortunate to have the freedom to travel now. My motto is “have laptop, will travel” and some of my most productive work at Curate has been in places around the globe. We’re a remote friendly office and I’ve taken conference calls in some odd places. That being said, I’d likely go off the grid and spend some time sailing in a remote location.

What has been your most memorable experience with a customer or potential customer?
Seeing our customers believe in us, our product, and our mission to change how people access valuable municipal information is all so exciting. Everything we do is driven and shaped by our incredible users  just last night someone called me about a research project they were trying to do and within an hour we were able to add a feature to the website to help them get information more easily. Hearing that “wow” from our customer makes it all worthwhile!

The startup environment is often described as “life in the fast lane” — before Curate, where did you learn this work ethic?
I’ve always had positions that required 110%. I’ve worked as a facility manager for an entertainment venue, as medical staff on the field for D1 sports teams, and I’ve been involved in hundred of weddings (a high-stakes event that has zero room for error!). But my work ethic really came from my first job out of college project manager for the construction of an almost $100M facility. During the busiest part of the project I started by day at 5am with the first construction crew and ended my days around 6 “relaxing” on the couch with my laptop, wine, and some nice emails. I loved every second of it. Still to this day I’m most productive between 6pm and 12 midnight!

What challenge do you face most often in what you do?
Most of our customers or potential customers have been in the industry for decades and are very experienced in what they do, and the process of finding projects has traditionally been a matter of talking to the right people at the right time. The challenge I face most often is debunking the stigma that our technology is replacing those valuable face-to-face interactions. We built our technology keeping the user’s network they’ve nurtured for years in mind, which is why Curate supplies each general contractor only the most relevant and lucrative information for their team. Never before has this kind of “tailor-made” technology existed for GCs, so once we defeat the stigma people are excited about the possibilities that have never before been possible!

What was your “aha moment” that made you realize something like Curate could be beneficial to those in the construction industry?
I knew that there is a significant challenge in how people find early and reliable information about future construction projects  I personally fielded many phone calls from vendors too late in the process. When we started building I had too many cups of coffee meeting people and hearing their personal feedback and experiences with public data and that has shaped the company we are today. (It also fueled a fairly significant caffeine addiction!)

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
There is so much planning that goes into building a product, but unless you are getting feedback while you build your product it could be useless. If you aren’t grossly embarrassed by your beta product, you’ve waited too long  trust me, I was horribly embarrassed at version 1.0 of Curate. But it’s the quality of the product that matters, not adding every last premium feature.

What motivates you to come to work everyday?
I’m always motivated by our mission to change how people access public data, our customers, and to be honest, the amazing group of people who are part of the Curate team. I feel incredibly lucky to work with such talented people who are committed to changing the tide in accessing public data.

September 05, 2018

Roll Call: Dale, CTO & Co-Founder


What is your role on the team?
I’m the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Curate. I work with our customers and employees to design and implement the long-term vision of the product. After the design is laid out, I also write the software and work with the rest of the development team to make sure we are creating the best product that we can.

You’re a professionally-trained chef, what made you pursue a degree and academic research in computer science before starting Curate?
It wasn’t an easy choice, and I love working in kitchens, but I’ve always been a huge nerd and super curious about everything. As I started to dive deeper into culinary I realized that many things we were learning about have been established for hundreds of years because that is the best way to do it. I wanted to work in a space that didn’t have an established “best way to do it” for everything, and that to me was computer science.

What is unique about being a software developer for a startup compared to an established company like Google?
I have seen both sides of this since I have worked for several startups and several large companies as well. I would say the biggest thing about working for a smaller company is how dynamic and nimble everyone needs to be. On a daily basis I might write programs in three to five different languages, because that is what is required to get the job done. Whereas working for a large established company, you only ever see a very small component that you make as perfect as you know how.

How would you describe your typical day?
That is a difficult question! Even if I plan out my days they don’t always end up the way I think they will, but I’ll give it a try. We start with our morning standup meetings where we see what everyone is up to for the day, from there if there are any high priority tasks I always try to work on those, which could be a feature request from one of our customers, or something internal that our team needs. After those tasks are out of the way, I focus on building features for the product, whether it is our website, our internal processes, our gathering software or something related to our artificial intelligence models.

What is your favorite and/or most challenging feature you’ve built for Curate?
My favorite feature would have to be our customer-facing website. It is very rewarding to see our customers use the website and even start to see them use the site in ways that we didn’t plan for initially. Our most challenging feature would have to be what I call our “extractor”, which is a system I designed to take any website or PDF document and convert it into a standardized format that is easy to search through for our customers.

How influential is the feedback of customers in improving Curate?
Our customers’ feedback is probably the single most important thing that we have to help improve our product. I learned a long time ago that you should never build a product in “isolation”, meaning that we should always build a small version of a feature and then see how people react to it. Our customers’ reactions are what help us design future features.

What skills and/or experiences have you taken from the kitchen to Curate?
I would say there are a few major things I took away from culinary school: Preparation, also called “mise en place” — much of high-end cooking is creating many small components that end up being the final product, and seeing the vision of what it can look like when all you have is raw material in front of you is a learned skill. The second major skill I took from culinary school is the ability to multitask. When working in a kitchen, if you aren’t doing five things at once then you are moving too slowly. This is a skill I built up over the years in kitchens and I use it every day when designing our product and all the interworking pieces that need to come together at the right time.

What drives you to continue doing what you do everyday?
There are two major things that drive me today: 1) Working with our customers to build features into our existing system to improve it and make it awesome, and 2) thinking about future ideas and seeing where new, cutting-edge technology can take us to build a better product for the future.

September 04, 2018

Roll Call: Nirvan, Software Associate


What is your role on the team?
In a broad sense, I am a software developer and work on any problem related to software development. I spend a lot of my time developing machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology for analyzing data collected by the system.

What made you want to pursue this field of study and work?
Coding has always been a passion of mine. I have been working on projects related to software development over the past few years during my undergrad and at summer internships. The recent advances in the field of artificial intelligence and the large potential for growth is what inspired me to start working on AI-related projects.

What was the best part about living in Madison this summer?
Being an avid biker myself, I really enjoy the biking and general outdoor culture in Madison. Nothing beats biking along the lake at sunset after a long day of coding at Curate.

What is the coolest project you’ve worked on or are working on?
I find the entire system we use for language processing fascinating. Working on this system over the past few months and being able to see the results is gratifying.

What makes working at Curate different than any other internship you’ve had in the past?
There is a lot of freedom to try new things while developing software at Curate as opposed to a more rigid development approach I’ve noticed in my previous internships.

How would you explain what you’re doing to a group of non-techies?
When it comes to projects regarding language processing using AI, I am trying to use software to extract meaning — or context — and find similarities between text just like human readers do.

What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about artificial intelligence?
To sum it up in one word: Terminator. I feel this is the biggest misconception people have about AI. When presenting about AI technology, I have been asked if AI will take over the world or take away existing jobs. This technology, just like any other technology invented, is meant to aid and not replace humans.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?
The constant advances and the large potential for growth in not just the field of AI but also tech in general is what inspires me to continue working in software development.

August 31, 2018

Roll Call: Kevin, Data Coordinator


What is your role on the team?
I work as a Data Coordinator. Our artificial intelligence and web-scraping system is incredible, but it can’t do it all — yet. I intervene where it’s necessary to identify which results are future projects or useful information for our clients, and make sure they get accurate, timely data. I’m involved in website administration and onboarding, as well as providing constant feedback to our development team in order to continually improve our system, software, and processes.

What is the craziest adventure you’ve ever been on?
The summer after high school graduation, two friends and I headed West on a road trip. We left with a truck full of camping gear, some graduation money, and very loose plans. For two weeks we drove all over the Western half of America hitting sites from the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park in the Southwest, to Death Valley and Yosemite in Central California, up to Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore in the North. We tent-camped or slept in the truck every night, cooked most of our meals over a campfire, and bathed in whatever body of water we could find.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
One of my hobbies is to drum. In junior high, my friends and I formed a cover band, Kode Red, and played a few shows at our school and on a float in our town parade. During this time, I picked up how to play a djembe, a traditional African hand drum, which I still enjoy to dabble with in freelance music circles.

At what point will a customer meet you?
The first time a customer might meet me is during the onboarding and setup process. I collaborate with clients to ensure that all members on their team that want website access have it. I also work with customers to schedule 1-on-1 website training. We understand this data is most valuable to our clients when shared, so I make sure our users understand how to effectively navigate our website and share valuable information with other members on their team. Lastly, I’m available as a customer support resource if there are any issues, questions, or suggestions for new website features.

What was your first impression of what Curate does or of the Data Coordinator position and how has that changed?
When I joined, I thought I would be doing the same task daily and that it would be very similar to other jobs I’ve had in the past, but working at Curate is nothing like my past jobs. When working on such a small team with big goals, you have to wear a bunch of different hats to get things accomplished. I had thought I would only be able to provide value to Curate and our clients via a single, defined role, but the opportunities have proven to be many and varied!

How has this job impacted your perception of local government?
This job has taught me alot about the structure and nature of local government, and how they’re the first place the general public can be filled in on upcoming attractions to their cities. I’ve learned that some are structured much, much more effectively than others, and also that citizens have more rights than I previously considered to speak candidly about their thoughts of future developments and council decisions.

What drives you to do what you do everyday?
Being a valued member on our small team of driven individuals united and working towards the same goal. We all work very hard, and like to celebrate with each other when we hit milestones. Another source of fuel is receiving client feedback letting us know that they won a project they found in one of our reports, and that we’re helping them to grow their business.