About Me

My name is Bob Neelbauer and this is my blog.  The views expressed here are are mine or those of the individual contributor.

I am a software industry consultant and operator who wears many hats including product manager + growth engineer + development manager + general manager + developer evangelist who has co-founded three software startups, advised several dozen software startups (mostly around the District of Columbia, but with significant operations in San Francisco and New York), co-founded one consulting firm and recruited/scaled/built all levels of teams for early stage startups (i.e. Seed, Angel, VC (typically for companies that recently raised Series A rounds involving  $10 Million or more, but also with smaller Series A raises and with much larger later stage raises) including key CxO level hires and team build outs of as many as 37 full time hires in a short time-frame. I some work with a US based startup with operations in the UK and South Korea and another with operations in China, but my experience has been concentrated in the US.

B2B and Consumer web and mobile apps are what I know best.  I have knowledge and experience with text parsing and analysis, information retrieval (e.g. ElasticSearch, Solr, Lucene) as well as CRM and SaaS products from having built two companies in these categories personally.  I have also worked in enterprise software and built enterprise software teams for early stage and enterprise organizations, but I enjoy startup companies the most.

I am an advisor, mentor and coach to dozens of other startups and to a growing number of growth and later stage organizations. Six of those startups have had successful exits in the last two years.  Two were acquisitions in the $50-117 Million range.  Two of the startups that I advise are raising Series A rounds now.  I recently served as the entrepreneur in residence for a mid sized company where I advised executives, division leaders, staff and select clients on everything from taking a new consumer Internet product to market to how to productize cloud computing services.

What is a growth engineer/what does one do?
I design, build and market mobile applications, web applications, websites, and custom landing pages to achieve optimal product-market fit, conversion optimization (i.e. optimize them to attract and convert users, customers and customers), and business scalability.  I code in Ruby (Ruby on Rails), JavaScript, jQuery, CSS3, and HTML5. I have spent some time with Go and Python, but I’m not proficient in either.  I have also been spending time with Docker, Vagrant and VM’s.  I look forward to spending some time with Ansible, Chef and Jenkins.

Where Am I?
I live and work in Bethesda, MD, one Metro stops from Washington, DC.  I spend time in Mountain View, CA and San Francisco, CA frequently.  There is a corner table at Red Rock that is often my corner office while I am there.  I have been to Austin for the SXSW Interactive and Music Festivals three times now and will enjoy spending more time there.

Why DC? Why Not The Valley?
I started programming games on an Atari 600 at age 7.  My education in computer science was during my Sophomore year in high school when I learned to program in Turbo Pascal.  Before the end of my freshman year in college I imagined that I would go to the bay area and join a startup, but I was also very interested in going to law school and in politics (my first job out of college was in Iowa if that gives you an idea).  Since I left the Hill to start a startup more than one well funded startup try to tempt me to move there.  You are welcome to try.  In 2015, I am open to trying something new.

I am a Texas ex, an eagle not a longhorn, who moved to DC to work on The Hill to make a difference in the world through politics.  I was an influencer in political tech circles for a while, but I recognized that I enjoyed spending time working on software and the company of developers and founders a bit more than the company of my Blackberry toting political colleagues who perceived their voice mail as high technology (back then, today things are a bit more advanced).  I departed he Hill after reading Michael Lewis’s book The New New Internet and watching Startup.com and convinced three other people to co-found a political technology startup and I have been working on startups or advising others who are ever since.  My first startup was launched during my freshman year in high school.  Every now and then I get mixed up in something political including two presidential campaigns and a number of House and Senate races so being in DC is more than just a nice zip code for me.


About SocialMatchbox

Why Is The Name of The Site Called SocialMatchbox?
I started a blog offering tips, tricks and resources related to job boards (called JobMatchbox) that I had planned to turn into a job board, but two impulsive purchases and an event changed everything.  I became the co-host of a startup job fair after volunteering to make sure more than just 1 startup with an actual job showed up (unlike the first event).  Since I was co-organizing the event I signed up for Eventbrite and when it asked me for the event URL I decided it should be Social + Matchbox instead of Job + Matchbox and registered a new domain on the spot that I pointed to the Eventbrite page.  At the event I still used “JobMatchbox” for everything.  Then, en route to the event, I decided to splurge and get a used $35 pick up amp from Guitar Center and a $10 microphone from Radio Shack.  We announced to people arriving that we would be providing an open mic for companies looking for people, or whatever else (i.e. co-founders, investors, advisors).  Someone asked if we had a projector which the room at TeqCorner turned out to have so we said yes.  The next thing I knew, people were doing app demos and offering invite codes.  A few of our early presenters included Tim O’Shaugnessy and the co-founders of Hungry Machine (later renamed to Living Social) who met one of their lead investors at the event as well as the lead engineer from Positive Energy (later renamed to OPower).  While not everyone who presented IPO’d or raised more than $1 Billion in funding with the help of our scrappy event, the name  stuck and after a few events we started putting demos at the end and launches at the beginning.

Who Writes For SocialMatchbox?
SocialMatchbox.com is published by Bob Neelbauer and occasionally edited by Juliana Neelbauer.  More than a dozen contributing writers share their work with readers of SocialMatchbox. They are prominent venture capitalists, web developers and designers, web and software related community leaders, and most importantly: mobile, web and software company entrepreneurs.  We are always looking for new writers and contributors.  At least one  Contact me for more information.

Who Writes For SocialMatchbox? 

Having built four startups and working on several dozen others, you learn a few important lessons. One of the goals of this blog is to help other amateurs with expert ambitions to cross the finish line successfully.  Bob’s first had instant demand.  He was 14 but he did not have long term ambitions for it.  His second was like building a Space Ship to Mars.  There were four co-founders with great vision, but they failed to ship anything more than a website and a prototype that was not ready to be shipped.  Had that product shipped it would probably not have sold before the team all had to get jobs.  It was easy to get excited and set off in pursuit of something after watching a movie like Startup.com and reading The New New Thing by Michael Lewis, etc.  The third had demand before I started.  A widely read blog and a ton of time spent in the community helped with that.  The fourth was expected to be an instant hit, but it wasn’t…at least not initially.  It is profitable.

Who organizes and hosts SocialMatchbox events?
Since 2012, SocialMatchbox.com has transitioned from a blog + event series organized by Bob Neelbauer an Juliana Neelbauer with a team of ten startup founders who volunteered and contributed for around 5 years into more of a blog.  At some point events may be re-visited, but right now Bob and Juliana are busy working on their ventures and events are not part of the mix.  The core team who put the event together has has recently added a $10 Million raise for one of us as well as Googler status for another.

SocialMatchbox Events History?
This was written pre-2013 and has not been updated recently…SocialMatchbox.com began around 2001 as a list of jobs for friends.  Before that it was an email list and a social dinner for friends who needed help finding a job, primarily in the Washington, DC area.  In 2007 the organization evolved with the introduction a startup job dubbed Jobmatchbox.  “Job” was replaced with “Social” at the second event because the organizers decided to create color coded name badges to help people find what they were looking for at the event.  It turned out that our participants were not just looking for jobs, a few including some well known DC area founders were looking for funders, co-founders, and a lot more.  The fair quickly evolved into the SocialMatchbox Startup Launch Event Series in early 2008 after the introduction of a $35 Guitar Amplifier and a Microphone to go with the LCD projector in the Garage space at TeqCorner where the event was held.  The event series eventually outgrew the small Space at TeqCorner and was moved into a series of larger spaces including American University, a centrally located movie theater, and a large event space at the Navy Heritage Center three blocks from the White House.  Between 2010 and 2013 the event was put on hold while the organizers were focused on law school a few miles away in Baltimore, MD, and on building and then launching a new startup in College Park, MD.  A lot has happened in Washington, DC, and we have a lot of new friends and thoughts on what might happen in 2014.

What is Next for SocialMatchbox?
Our community has literally changed and we have too.  A ton of the people we knew who were starting companies have had really successful exists and are working on their second or third startup or MVP since the first event back in 2007.  A lot of these folks are now angel investors.  The landscape has also changed.  In 2007 Facebook changed the landscape by announcing F8 and Apple launched the iPhone and the app store.  Facebook and Twitter have both had IPO’s.  Apple is working on the an interface for cars.  Google is working on Glass, Tango, the next generation of AI and robotics, and on driverless cars.  And on top of that, DC has been filling up with co-working spaces and maker spaces.  The students are also getting in on the game and have launched very exciting spaces like Startup Shell in College Park and the DC Tech Student edition. There is even a new maker-coworking space hybrid space called ideaspace in DC near the ballpark that we are following closely.  There are also a ton of new and interesting people who have moved to town that.  We are taking suggestions and considering a lot of potentially interesting ideas.  We are also looking for potential partners who might be interested in helping mix things up now.

Past Partners
Our community partners include: The DC Association for Computing Machinery, The University of Maryland’s Mtech Venture Accelerator Program & Terp Startup Lab, The George Mason University Mason Enterprise Center, The George Washington University Office of Entrepreneurship, The Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at The University of Maryland, DCTechEvents.com, FounderCorps, The Entrepreneur Center at the Northern Virginia Technology Council, The American University Kogod School of Business, The University of Maryland, College Park Computer Science Department, Launchbox Digital, Affinity Lab, BaltimoreTechEvents.com, the DC Ruby on Rails User Group (DCRUG), the Business Alliance for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and many others that count emerging technology and startup people among their ranks.

Our objective is to provide some information that may be helpful to web and software product company founders, people who work for them, people who invest in them, people who advise them, and people interested in joining the ranks of the greater Washington area startup community.  As startup founders, advisers, and community members blogging about the industry, we consider ourselves amateurs with expert ambitions who really appreciate it when readers provide feedback on the blog through comments and an occasional email to contact@socialmatchbox.com, show up to events, and pay for a job ad every now and then.

Readership & Community
Over 70% of SocialMatchbox.com‘s 13,000+ member active reader community members (up nearly 200% in 2011) are local to DC, MD, and VA with friends in Baltimore, Columbia, College Park, and Annapolis.  We have growing pockets of readers in NC, GA, MI, NY, PA, TX and CA (Mostly LA, San Francisco City, and Mountain View/Palo Alto). Since 2007 the SocialMatchbox.com team and volunteers have hosted and co-hosted many of the region’s most talked about events by members of the community and the media.  Some of these include the SocialMatchbox Launch Event Series (past event video here), private events for founders and investors, and programming done in partnership with the region’s leading incubators and top universities including American University, George Mason University, George Washington University, and The University of Maryland College Park.

Members include founders, developers, product managers, marketers, angel investors, venture capitalists, advisers, attorneys, accountants and others directly involved in product oriented business ventures.  In direct contrast to most organizations that claim to serve the web and product startup community, we purposefully draw a line between service providers and product providers.  Whether it is an event or a topic discussed on the website, SocialMatchbox community members quickly realize that this is not a community for the service providers.  The only exception to this is when it comes time for event sponsors.  We do hand select a few service providers who are friends to web and software product providers and recognize them for their support of key events.

SocialMatchbox.com is supported thanks to sponsors, job listing revenue, and advertising revenue.  Our annual revenue is around $25-30k which goes into events facility rentals, event catering, event awards (e.g. trophies), event equipment rental (e.g. special lighting used for on site interviews), event post production (e.g. video editing), web hosting, and miscellaneous operating costs.  If we have money left over at the end of the year we buy dinner for event volunteers to thank them for their hard work.  When things get really busy for us we have hired part time and freelance help to keep things on the tracks.  In 2014 we are planning to update the look and feel of the site, make improvements to the job board (and maybe even have a related event), and would like to add some freelance reporters to the mix.  If you would like to help underwrite these efforts we would like to talk to you.  Send us a note via contact@socialmatchbox.com today.   One day we might make a profit off of the event or the blog, but that is not our objective at this time…we like our day jobs and this is a hobby.

Advertising & Sponsorships
If you would like to Advertise on SocialMatchbox.com or Sponsor aSocial Matchbox event send a note to contact@socialmatchbox.com with your name, organization, a quick summary of your objective and daytime contact information – if there is a fit we will be in touch.  Our events occasionally get a write-up in the paper and by a few decent bloggers for us, but the coverage is usually directed toward startups and startup founders who need it more than our event does.  A few people tell us that we put on the East Coast equivalent of Tech Crunch 50.  While we are not that big of a deal, we do have a really solid following and can help you get in front of some really influential people here in DC, MD, and VA.

2009-2010 – The SocialMatchbox team has been quoted in stories, but has focused on putting the spotlight on presenter companies, alumni, where the focus should be.  This has happened in large part due to the fact that SocialMatchbox.com has become a bit more of a journalistic endeavor than a project seeking publicity.

April 6, 2009 – The Washington Post Story (Section A of the print edition and as a “Top Story” on the main page of WashingtonPost.com) titled ‘Geeks’ Meet Market Has Share of Success Stories’ by Kim Hart.  “Social Matchbox has a new vibe these days.  The networking event was first known as “speed dating for geeks” because start-ups could give three-minute pitches about their idea in hopes of finding business partners, landing customers or even securing a bit of funding.  Now many of those geeks are running full-fledged businesses, even if they aren’t yet profitable. … The entrepreneurs behind those companies now help make connections and recommendations for other, younger start-ups at the meet-ups.”

“I’d say the event is now more like ‘state of the start-ups,’ ” said Juliana Neelbauer, who hosts the event with her husband, Robert. The couple runs technology recruiting firm staffmagnet in Dupont Circle.

November 24, 2008 – The Washington Post Business Section cover story titled ‘The Download: Navigating the Downturn’ by Kim Hart.  Hart calls Social Matchbox Co-Host Robert Neelbauer one of the major connectors in the DC Web 2.0 and startup community and a leading networker in the region’s technology community.

November 17, 2008 – Mary Stevens offers a write-up on her blog, Iyvegyde.

August 15, 2008 – The Washington Post Business Section story, ‘Speed Dating for Geeks’ by Zach Goldfarb chronicles the Social Matchbox experience and contrasts it with the usual networking event by pointing out that the event makes it easier for participants and attendees to network with each other.

August, 18 2008 – Carfax CIO David Silversmith writes – “All in all, an interesting event – from geeks struggling to speak to marketers selling what is not yet there – it covered the spectrum of small company cultures.”

August 14, 2008 – Social Times write-up about Social Matchbox.

April 3, 2008 – Blogger Joe Logon writes about his experience navigating the big crowd with the help of our color coded name badges.

April 1, 2008 – Entreprenuer and Ex-Marine Anne Bernard writes that the lineup of presenting companies “impressive and honestly eye opening” and goes on to say that if you are curious about who’s who in the startup community then you should go to the event.

March 31, 2008 – Viget Labs write-up about Social Matchbox.  CEO & Co-Founder Brian Wynn Williams calls it a great way to check out some of the most interesting companies in the area.

March 31, 2008 – M. Jackson Wilkinson, a technologist, designer, speaker, educator and writer from Washington, DC provides  a write-up.

March 31, 2008 – Shashi Bellamkonda from Network Solutions offers a write-up and points out that “Recruitment of good talent is always a challenge for Small Business.” and that “Social Matchbox is a good way for Small Businesses, Tech start-ups, small to medium size companies to network and meet prospective partners or employers.”

March 30, 2008 – East Coast Blogging’s Jimmy Gardner offers a write-up of Social Matchbox.

February 3, 2008 – Mitchell Blankenship from Indiana, who could not make it, said “Man I wish there was stuff like this around here. I live in a small town in Indiana and it sucks for a geek like me. I don’t even have a local rails group or friends that understand even half of what I can do with a computer. It’s frustrating but I do like the small town life. I’ld like to get in touch with you some time about things you’ve done while writing your blog.”  Note to Mitchell: You are invited next time!

February 3, 2008 – Developer Brenden Collier from Morrisville, NC writes that “it was good to hear about local IT-related businesses that were doing something besides government contracting.  Also I was pleased to hear that a good portion of them were developing on a Rails stack.  Oh, and there was free pizza.”

February 3, 2008 – Intridea’s Theodore Nguyen Cao from Atlanta, GA writes that “it’s refreshing to see there is a startup community in the DC area, where it seems like everyone and their uncle work for the government.”

January 24, 2008 – *Clearspring’s Community Manager Justin Thorp offers a write-up of Social Matchbox.

January 17, 2008 – Dave Naffis from Intridea offers a write-up of Social Matchbox.

A few other places where you can find us online are: Facebook and LinkedIn.

Feedback, Suggestions, Idea, etc. are welcome and encouraged! 

We hope that you will take a moment to share your thoughts on how we can improve SocialMatchbox.com today by sending an email to contact@socialmatchbox.com. Thanks!

One Response to “About”