Just over a year ago, Found|READ contributors “Matt Brezina”:http://www.xobni.com/executive_bios.php#matt_brezina and “Adam Smith”:http://www.xobni.com/executive_bios.php#adam_smith took $12,000 dollars from “Y Combinator”:http://www.ycombinator.com/ and hunkered down in an MIT dorm room to figure out how to improve email. The result is San Francisco-based “Xobni”:http://www.xobni.com. They are now backed by “Vinod Khosla’s VC firm”:http://www.khoslaventures.com/ and “First Round Capital”:http://www.firstround.com/.
“We’re living the dream,” the pair “says”:http://www.xobni.com/adayatxobni.php. Matt wrote more about their experience “here”:http://gigaom.com/2007/06/19/and-then-there-were-four/. As we get so many questions from Found|READers about *’how to find a cofounder,’* we decided we’d ask this high-powered (and fun!) pair to tell us more about themselves as individuals, and as partners.
*1) Where are you from and what year were you born?*
*Matt:* I grew up 2 miles from The Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pennsylvania. I was born in 1981.
*Adam:* I was born in 1985 and grew up in Dallas, Texas.
*2) What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?*
*Matt:*Grab my Palm Treo from off the bed next to me. Sad I know.
*Adam:* I unplug my cell phone from its charger and start reading my email. I start thinking about what I want to achieve today.
*3) Tell us something revealing of your personality that you also believe has contributed to your success.*
*Matt:* I pride myself on the diversity of my friends and my deep relationships with them. For years I kept a fortune cookie paper in my wallet that said: “Your greatest fortune is the large number of friends you have.”
*Adam:* I try really, really hard. I’m not ‘successful’ yet, [but] persistence pays. For example, we got our VP of Engineering after a _seven_ or _eight_ month dialog. Just before he said ‘yes’ I was on red alert. If he had said ‘no’ I was going to be on the next flight to Zurich.
*4) What is your academic background? How does it relate to your business training?*
*Matt:* I did my undergraduate and graduate work in Electrical Engineering, specifically focusing on control systems in communication constrained environments. An engineering education teaches the discipline and problem solving processes needed for startups. The business stuff I learned by talking my way out of playground fights, organizing groups of people for sports teams, clubs and bands, and being forced into early entrepreneurship by being irritated by the minimum wage job offerings available to 14 year olds.
*Adam:* I started programming when I was thirteen years old. That same year I started an online shareware company, Vira Tech Development. Then I studied computer science at MIT. Making delicious software is our core expertise.
*5) Other than managing staff or fund raising, what do you spend most of your time doing as a founder?*
*Matt:* I spend a lot of time asking for help and advice. I’m busy calling college professors for referrals to good recruits, emailing other entrepreneurs for recommendations and background checks on lawyers, investors, etc, getting biz dev and marketing advice from advisors, and getting introductions from investors. On the flip side, I’ve started to spend more time giving advice to entrepreneurs earlier on in the game than myself.
*Adam:* Reaching out and being a missionary, both for Xobni and for the startup world in general. Part of it is spreading the word about Xobni and what we’re doing here. The other part is encouraging other entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs. The world could use more startups.
*6) Is there a leader whom you consider a role model, who is either not in tech, or not in business at all?*
*Matt:* I’ve always been impressed by “Oprah”:http://www2.oprah.com/index.jhtml. I swear the woman doesn’t see the obstacles other people do. She never let poverty, crime, abuse, race, gender, or lack of resources get in her way.
*Adam:* “Paul Graham”:http://www.paulgraham.com/bio.htmlis one of my role models. He’s incredibly smart, understands software, understands startups, and is far wiser than I. Most people haven’t heard of my other role models, though. It’s hard to have Bill Gates or Steve Jobs as role models, because you can only learn about them and how they act through the media’s filter. So instead I look up to the people around me who have been successful and whose style I dig.
*7) What is the least “founder-like” thing you do on a daily basis?*
*Matt:* I ride my bike to the office, weaving through traffic, feeling slightly jealous of bike messengers for both their relaxed lifestyle and the percentage of the day they get to spend outdoors.
*Adam:* I recklessly bike to work, speeding past red lights and woo’d ladies.
_(What a pair, these two!)_
*8) What is your most precious possession?*
*Matt:* My _passport_ and my backpack. My default state is to be traveling.
*Adam:* The people around me – employees, my friends, parents, and mentors. They keep me motivated, challenge me, and help me grow every day. Oh, and my _toothbrush_, it keeps me clean.
*9) We get a lot of questions from readers about how to find a co-founder. What was it about your co-founder that told you he was the right person to found your company with you?*
*Matt:* Adam and I met on “Craigslist”:http://washingtondc.craigslist.org/ as two summer interns looking for housing in DC. What impressed me about Adam was his dedication to and love of software and technology. The day he moved into our apartment we made a trip to Home Depot to purchase a 10 foot long piece plywood. We unloaded 4 monitors, 3 servers, a laptop and a desktop from his car and made a desk out of the plywood. That night he was hacking away on his personal software project: beating online poker.
*Adam:* Matt’s a tremendous evangelist for the company. He excites everyone around him. That was evident from the first night we met.
*10) Other than founding your company what is the most seminal experience you’ve had in life so far?*
*Matt:* Studying abroad. It taught me that I can adapt to any situation, deal with any type of person, and thrive in any environment.
*Adam:* My education at MIT was pretty demanding. It taught me to work hard, work smart, and reap the rewards of doing so. MIT also taught me to reach out to all of the resources around me. This used to [mean] fellow students and professors. Today it’s fellow hackers and serial entrepreneurs.
(_OK, I lied. We gave them 12 questions…What can I say, they got on a roll!_)
*11) What is your favorite book or film?*
*Matt:* My favorite *film* is _Back to the Future._ I’ve always wanted to do an electronic hardware startup. There is an untapped market in flux capacitors.
*Adam:* My favorite *book* is _High Stakes No Prisoners_, by Charles Ferguson. I first read it as an undergrad. It convinced me that I wanted to start a startup.
*12) How do you bond with your co-founder and staff outside the office?*
*Matt:* We all live in the same apartment building, so we get to spend even more time together than most teams. We enjoy watching movies, especially _Pirates of Silicon Valley_.
*Adam:* We watched a movie last weekend. After a long long week at the office it’s nice to just relax together.