Erik Hazzard is a man who goes for the (garnet and) gold. From his time at the School of Information at Florida State University to his leap to San Francisco and his start-up adventures – Erik is on the move.
Tallahassee to San Francisco
While studying in the Information Technology program at FSU, Hazzard worked for FREAC, the Florida Resources and Environmental Analysis Center at FSU. In 2009, he graduated the program and continued his work with FREAC. During this time, he wrote and published his first book, OpenLayers 2.10 Beginner’s Guide. The book went on to become Packt Publishing’s highest grossing book for two consecutive years.
He recently published his follow-up book, OpenLayers 3 Beginner’s Guide. The book talks about maps, GIS and web programming and will be available in February 2015.
In late 2011, Hazzard moved to sunny San Francisco to be the lead developer for Visual.ly, a data visualization startup. He gives credit to his best friend, Ian Johnson, for encouraging the jump to California. At Visual.ly, Hazzard designed and developed systems for creating infographics and building infrastructure for the site, which boasts 100,000+ unique daily visitors.
A Tool for the People
In 2013, he made another jump. Hazzard left Visual.ly and co-founded his own startup, Outline.com.
“Our vision was to give citizens transparency into public policies, including where tax money went and stimulating the financial impact of proposed laws,” shared Hazzard.
In short, a tool for the people. Hazzard and his co-founder successfully completed TechStars Boston 2013, a startup incubator. With the aid of Harvard economists, he developed new methodologies for running economic microsimulations using parallel computing techniques that brought processing time down from days to virtually zero, with more accuracy than existing systems.
Erik and his team went on to win first place in the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge on Open Gov in 2013 and secured funding for their idea. After their win, they competed at TechCrunch’s Disrupt competition, an annual startup competition that was parodied by HBO’s Silicon Valley.
Hazzard and his co-founder established a contract with Massachusetts and secured planned contracts with 20 other states. Soon, the two were at an impass after “a year stymied by politics” and “the slow pace of bureaucracy” it became clear to Hazzard that there was a different path for him.
“We realized we wouldn’t be able to realize our own vision,” Hazzard said.
An Outline for the Future
Outline was dissolved in 2014 and the duo took on their second project: Five.
Five Labs uses machine learning to analyze a user’s Facebook wall posts and generates a personality based on the way a user expresses themselves online. Within ten days, Five had over 200 million unique profiles.
“Some of the insights we learned are helping us share the current product we’re working on: a mobile, group-based, private chat application designed to mimic real life,” said Hazzard. “Five is a place to hang out on the internet.”
The team at Five, eight engineers and designers, launched a prototype in Malta to test assumptions. The app rose to to #1 in Apple’s App Store. The app will launch in the United States in March 2015.