Alumni Spotlight: Harry Raymond ’11

Harry Raymond ’11 could not have predicted that his junior year study abroad experience would eventually give rise to his career path after college. What began as drink-exploring adventures in London in the spring of 2010 is now Shindig, an iPhone app that creates a social network of drinkers enthusiastic about discovering new bars, restaurants and brews to share with friends.

While on his study abroad program, Raymond became immersed in the British pub culture and wanted to explore as many pubs and real ales as he possibly could. As he sampled the many different brews, he began to see a need for some way to record his pub experiences: from the atmosphere in the pub to the taste of the beers themselves – he wanted to capture his taste memories and develop his young palette.

“Why,” Raymond asked, “after trying hundreds of wines in my lifetime, do I still look at a wine list with bewilderment and order the second cheapest bottle?”

After graduation, he plugged into the New York City tech scene and got involved with a mobile meet-up group that held free monthly events to discuss mobile innovations.

“Mobile is the intersection of real-world experiences and technology and was the only way to conquer the problem of taste,” he says. “We graduated from the Colgate ENY (Entrepreneurs of New York) accelerator program and, last month, we were awarded top prize at a Google and Microsoft pitch event, taking home $45,000 in cash and services. We used that momentum to raise a seed round of financing so we can take the business to the next level.”

Since Raymond and two other co-founders launched the app, they have gained thousands of active users. My correspondence with him inspired me to begin a weekly column to profile recently graduated alumni who can inspire Colgate students to innovate and face both the challenges and triumphs of the “real world.”

1) What are some of the biggest challenges you have had in creating Shindig?  How have you overcome those challenges?

It’s been challenging to realize that most of my assumptions are wrong.

The first version of Shindig was a product very few people wanted to use. We made assumptions without talking to our potential customers. We’ve learned by building fast and then listening. It’s one of the reasons my personal phone number is built into the app (Call me anytime. Trust me, my girlfriend doesn’t mind.) Now, we have a product that people actually want to use. Learning by being wrong is not a tough pill to swallow at first.

2) What was your favorite part of your Colgate experience? Did it contribute at all to your post-grad work?

I enjoyed building different communities each with their own character and challenges: Theta Chi, club baseball, Entrepreneurs Club and the Maroon-News.I learned a lot from being a part of them. Now, I’m in the business of community-building so that early exposure to different communities was invaluable.

3) What do you love about working at a startup?

If you want to start your own company to be your own boss, you will be disappointed. My customers are my bosses and, if I do a good job at serving them, more bosses start knocking on my door.

I love going into work everyday and I love building something that thousands of people make part of their lives. I’m surrounded by passionate people who live to create. That kind of passion for “making” is motivating.

4) What is the value of a Colgate education? How has it helped you succeed?

Colgate taught me how to learn. You don’t realize how valuable a skill that is until you leave. We’re constantly learning something new everyday and Colgate prepared me to do that. Plus, it gave me a nice foundation of drinkers for Shindig.

5) What are your immediate next steps and where do you see Shindig in the future? Five years from now? 10 years from now? Do you see yourself leaving Shindig in someone else’s hands at any point?

We’re fascinated with the age of context. Advancements in mobile, data, sensors and location-based technology help us predict and analyze behavior like never before and, while creepy to some, we believe this will create a better world. In ten years, it will be weird if you walk into a new bar in a city you’ve never been and the bartender doesn’t know your name and what you plan to order.  

We believe the interest graph (what music, movies and beers you like) is the next frontier in digital and analyzing your taste genome will be a powerful part of a smarter world. Soon, Shindig will remind you it’s your friends birthday and let you order a bottle of whiskey we know they love. Later, you’ll walk into a bar and Shindig will tell you what to order based on your tastes. It sounds like science fiction but it’s not too far away.

Contact Emma Barge at [email protected].