Meet Nate Underwood, our new VP of Engineering. Nate (no relation to Frank) brings a wealth of experience—and a killer ping-pong game—to the Ticketfly team. Previously head of engineering at Livefyre and Sony, Nate will be responsible for leading our engineering efforts and helping Ticketfly continue to provide the best tech in the business. We caught up with Nate to ask him some of the questions on everyone’s mind:
Ticketfly (TF): Tell us about your background. Where did you join us from?
Nate Underwood (NU): I got my start in tech during the dot-com boom in the late 90s. When I graduated from UCSB, I got a job doing data center design and system/network administration at a startup in Los Angeles—this was when the LA tech scene was just barely getting off the ground. In my mid-twenties I started a security company called Cryptine Networks. After selling the company (and starting another business focused on data forensics), I ended up at Sony Pictures (Crackle) as a consultant, building its media delivery infrastructure. When they offered me the VP of Engineering & Operations role, I took it as an opportunity to experience business at a different scale than my start-up days.
Post-Crackle, I made my way down to Sony Network Entertainment in San Diego where I got to build out the PlayStation Network platform and teams, so I’ve played in the entertainment space quite a bit. I was taking some much-needed time off when I was approached by a former Sony colleague about Livefyre. The company was at precipice, ready take on its first major customer, and needed some advice about team and platform growth/scale. Within a couple of advisory sessions, I was asked to come on board as CTO. We grew the team from 6 engineers to 40, signed hundreds of customers, and eventually reached over 200 million users a day. Overseeing that kind of growth made me realize I wanted to remain in a growing startup atmosphere.
TF: What made you decide to join Ticketfly?
NU: It’s clear that Ticketfly is at an inflection point. We’re moving upstream, fighting an entrenched incumbent. That’s all great – and the space is much more “up my alley”. But the real reason for my move was the people I spoke with and what they hope to build—that got me here. I like to build and I like to enable success, and this place is poised for tremendous success.
TF: How would you describe your leadership style?
NU: I strongly believe that all business is people-driven. People are the factor that are going to determine if something succeeds or not. Brilliant minds working together are what create great things. As a leader, I try to spend a lot of time with my team. When I’m new, I make sure to get to know them, understand makes them tick, what inspires them, how they view their place in the organization and/or the team, and what they think about the business. Through that, you start to build a picture of what’s working and what’s not.
What I’ve learned is that it’s never about you—the leader’s—success. A boss tells you what to do. A leader inspires you to do your best and unlocks the tools you need to do it.
TF: What do you look for in engineers?
NU: I look for engineers who are very strong technically, have an innate drive to build and push boundaries, and who understand software development in 2015, as opposed to in 1999. I’m always looking for low-egos who understand that their contribution to the team is most important. I’m a no-assholes guy. If you don’t know how to push for team success, you won’t be the greatest fit.
The other thing I look for is team cohesion – and the interplay between different personalities all driving toward a common goal. You have to trust, respect, and ultimately enjoy the folks that you work with.
TF: Where do you see Ticketfly going?
NU: We’re going to continue building out a platform that addresses the needs of all clients—from GA standing-room only clubs, to the biggest arenas in the world. By continuing to move upstream, we have the potential to be a multi-billion dollar company. Right now, we’re the small and agile ship that can build quickly, adapt fast, and take the industry by storm. The larger, more entrenched companies are the cruise liners—it takes a long time for them to change course, and that’s in our favor. But, there are also speedboats out there and we need to watch out for those that aren’t constrained by overly complex process and products. We have to stay hungry, and from the real passion that I saw from my first conversations with Flyers, I know that we are.
TF: Speaking of multi-billion dollar companies, do you think we’re currently in a tech bubble?
NU: I think we’re in a different situation than the first dot com boom. Back then, the Internet was a new and magical thing. It was very nascent and frangible. Now, technology and the Internet are so ensconced and ingrained in our daily lives, it’s commoditized. While there will be constant shifts, they aren’t going to be near the scale that we saw 15 years ago.
TF: Now, for the most important question—favorite concert?
NU: Every Rush show I’ve ever been to.