We're speaking with Linden Tibbets, whose startup has the potential to change the way we interact with online services.
Linden Tibbets is a former software engineer based in San Francisco. Following a stint with innovation firm IDEO, he is now in the process of building and launching ifttt with the help of his friend Jesse Tane.
Short for “if this then that”, ifttt is an application that allows users to automate online activities. The project was inspired by the everyday creativity people demonstrate when interacting with their environment; re-purposing everyday objects to perform new tasks. ifttt aims to enable a similar flexibility by building a logical structure that links online tools, eventually facilitating “event-driven programming for the masses”.
1. Where did the idea for ifttt come from?
The initial concept of applying “if this then that” to a wide range of situations struck me one evening out of nowhere. At the time I was doing a lot of event driven Flash programming for a personal art project. I was also interested in our ability to make small modifications to a physical environment to better suit our needs. My best guess is that it stemmed from a potent mix of seemingly unrelated ideas at the right time.
2. Do you think there’s really enough demand for “programming for the masses”?
Yes indeed! A huge slice of what modern programmers are doing today is about re-purposing, combining and connecting existing software to form something greater than the sum of those parts. At an abstract level it’s really no different than rearranging the furniture and appliances in your apartment, choosing an outfit, or using a combination of tools to spruce up the lawn. I believe everyone will want that same flexibility of choice and control in our digital environments, especially as the digital and physical environments converge. ifttt is not so much about what we traditionally think of as programming, but about enabling creative combinations of existing services, devices and information.
3. Can you describe a typical working day?
We are in the middle of a pretty intense design/coding stretch, so embarrassingly enough it goes a little like this: Set the alarm for 9am, wake up at 10, Tan myself in front of a couple of monitors for 3-4 hours. Lunch. Design new stuff with my partner Jesse Tane. Alternating focus between little bitty details and the big picture. Another 3 hour monitor tanning session. Quick dinner at 9pm. Code up new features while the Internet sleeps (well at least some of the Internet, Europe is just waking up!). I read a bit and then hop into bed around 2-3 am. Despite how it may sound, I am having an absolute blast.
4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on ifttt?
Exercise, time with friends and long aimless walks.
5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?
A passion for both defining a problem and finding an answer.
6. What drove you crazy when building your business?
We are still very much in the process of building our business. If there is something that I’ve struggled with thus far, it would be the tension between the desire to develop my own unique opinions and the lack of experiences on which to base them. I’ve quickly realized that this is the natural state of being for the entrepreneur. You have to embrace the journey into the unknown, constantly seeking new experiences and ways of thinking.
7. What motivates you to keep going?
When someone can be creative in a way that they weren’t able to before really gets me going. That and Dr. Pepper.
8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
More experimentation. Prototype early and often. There were long stretches of time spent heads-down, building something that in my bubble seemed to make perfect sense, but just didn’t hold up in the real world.
9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?
If you can verbally describe an event along with anything you want to happen when that event takes place, we want to help you make that connection. We will get there by building an organiSation that encourages experimentation and develops processes to refine those experiments into products.
10. If you weren’t working on ifttt, what would you be doing?
Designing video games that don’t require a couch and a TV.
11. Tell Springwise a secret…
I’m intercontinental when I eat French toast.
12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Take lots of small steps towards one big idea.
23rd May 2011