In each installment of The 4-1-1, we interview a different member of the House Party Team, asking the big questions that are on everyone's minds. In this installment, we're chatting with Mike Hermus, House Party's Chief Technology Officer. Around the confines of the office he's endearingly known as Hermus, Herm or the Herminator. He's our resident random facts expert, learned tech guru, and master of martial arts. He also has the loudest and best laugh in the office. Bar none! Mike oversees all the technical development and features for our site, maps product strategy with the other members of the executive team and is directly involved in the experience that our community has when visiting our site, taking part in our campaigns and engaging with us in social media. Brian, our Social Media Director recently sat down to get the "inside scoop" on all things Herm!
1. Mike, you've had quite the background in the tech field. What led you to MIT and the tech startup world? When I was about eight years-old, I remember we visited Boston and we went to the museum of science, which had this big map of Boston with all the sights. One of them was MIT and I don't know how I even knew about it, but I remember I pressed the button and the map lights up and I said "I'm going to go there when I grow up!" And somehow, I was fortunate enough to make that happen. I was always into technology. I had a TI-994A computer, a Commodore Amiga, a Commodore 64, I had a voice synthesizer, a cassette drive, I started learning how to program when I was eight or 10 years-old - and I loved it! I was really fascinated by computers and programming was really fun for me. So, I was always into technology. I also grew up in the middle of nowhere, so there wasn't a whole lot else to do in upstate New York.
Once I graduated from MIT, the first thing I did was technology consulting, which wasn't terribly entrepreneurial. It was big corporate culture and I knew that it didn't really fit my personality. I had the opportunity through a friend who was starting a company in the financial space to jump in headfirst, and I did. While fun, it was high-stress, high-intensity, high-energy. By many measurements we were fantastically successful. We built the world's first after-hours equity platform. It was a stock exchange on a small-scale, a trading platform for retail investors to trade stocks after market hours. Now, most online brokerages give you online access through a number of different online exchanges, but we were the ones that came up with that. After that, I took a little break and did some consulting again with another friend of mine, but then I started another company. This one I joined right on the ground floor. It was a software company that was in a space that had been non-existent, environmental compliance software, which didn't exist at the time. We saw a big opportunity there, because there was a lot of pain there and we built the company and got a number of clients and it was, again, a success.
So then this opportunity came along at House Party. It's in a space that's relatively new in the domain of marketing and social media which is intriguing to me. I've learned a tremendous amount and I'm very much into it. I'm really glad I made that decision and I foresee myself staying in this space for the foreseeable future. In all my roles I've been more than just technology, in very small companies you wear a lot of hats - operating the business and selling. Here, at House Party, though it's been an opportunity to broaden my experiences and have a very significant operational role, also with the marketing and social media [aspects] of the business as well as executing the campaigns. That's been great.
2.In a House Party Official blog post this past February, you gave us some tips on smartphone apps and using them to organize our lives. But, if suddenly you had to part with ALL your apps except one, which one could you not live without? It depends on what you consider an app, like if the email client is an app that would be the one I would stick with.
Brian: Great point, Mike. (Should've expected that from a tech guy!) We're actually just talking about AppStore and Android market downloadable apps.
[Checks his iPhone...] I'm much more a user of the browser and email client. Hmm, I don't know. I'm telling you I could really live with just my browser and my email client and I'd be happy. So, I suppose I'm not going to really answer your question! [Raucous laughter]
3. Rumor has it you studied martial arts. What kind and how dangerous are you so we can make sure not to cross you on our way to get coffee? In my own mind, I'm tremendously dangerous. So you'd better watch your step! I studied Tae Kwon Do, Ken Po Karate and most recently a flavor of free-form MMA that's really based on simple street survival - but it has no specific name. I have not poured myself into it and wouldn't consider myself an expert of any sort, but I'm probably more dangerous than your average person...if I don't forget everything.
4. Coffee: Black? Milk, cream, sugar? What's in a perfect cup of joe? I like milk, not cream and I will go with 1% or 2%. I drink iced coffee on occasion, but I do also like black...in fact, I like it all, really.
5. There's a private plane fueled-up and ready to go for you. Where are you headed? I would probably head to central Europe. I'd like to say Hawaii or French Polynesia, because that's "exciting," but, you know, that's kind of a boring [response]. If I was going for relaxation I'd go to French Polynesia or Bora Bora. If I were really going for engagement and explore cities it would be central Europe.
6. Name your superpower. That's a good one. ESP. I can read people's thoughts.
7. You're a father, what's the best gift you've received from your daughters? When the kids are really little, the best gifts are the little pictures of you and them having fun and anything that says, "I love you, Daddy!" I don't have any experience with older kids, but I don't want any ties.
8. What's your favorite party memory, bar-none? I don't think I can answer that legally.
9. You're often in the office well before everyone else. What's the advantage of coming in to the party early? I primarily get here [when I do] to avoid traffic, because my commute is 45 minutes instead of an hour and a half. It's good, because you have some quiet time to actually be at the computer and doing things as opposed to you know constantly having meetings. Zen-time.
Have any questions for Mike? Post them here and we'll try and make him answer them!